Kids, parenting

How Food Allergies Changed How I Grocery Shop

I am not a huge fan of grocery shopping in general, but food allergies take it to a whole new level of unenjoyable. I have two children with food allergies. Brandon is allergic to peanuts and sesame and Olivia is allergic to peanuts. I literally have to check every single label on every single food item I consider purchasing.

Top 8 Food Allergies

In the United States, companies are required to label and write the ingredients in plain English for the top 8 allergens.  It’s the law. The top 8 are milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, wheat, soy, fish, crustacean shellfish. But, guess what? Sesame isn’t one of the top 8, and it is often hidden.  This makes it even harder for us!

So, what do we do?

Fresh Foods

We eat a lot of fresh food like fruit and vegetables because I don’t have to read a label for those things. I can also wash fruits and vegetables in a baking soda solution, which gives me peace of mind. 

Avoiding processed foods really makes things easier for me and saves a lot of my sanity.  We have certain brands and products that we know are safe that are our staples with bread and spices and seasonings and such. Even if we think we have found something safe, we ALWAYS have to read and double check the label because it can change at any given moment!

The rule in our home is to check the label when you want to purchase and then check it again before consumption. We have saved ourselves from a lot of accidents by implementing this rule!

Staying on the outer perimeter of the store really helps in lowering the amount of time I spend at the store, which is a huge plus when I’m toting two little ones with me.

Purchasing bakery items or things that are premade are a big no-no with food allergies. Most, if not all, of those products, are cross-contaminated.

Help from Others

I joined a Facebook group with other allergy moms and dads that are going through the same kind of thing.  We all try to help one another out and are able to search for certain brands and foods in our groups in order to keep our kids safe.  I have spent countless hours on the phone or writing emails contacting food companies to get specific ingredient lists and information about cross-contamination.  These kinds of groups save a lot of time, especially when you are in a pinch.

It can feel like every company processes peanuts, or whatever your allergy may be, in their facility. Many companies do not label well, and cross-contamination labeling is not required.  Believe me, trace amounts of peanuts can send a child to the hospital. It also isn’t uncommon for unexplained reactions to occur in kids with food allergies. Trusting anyone and anything is really hard!

When you go grocery shopping, make sure you have help! Maybe for you, it is having a friend or spouse there to back you up and help you read things or point out new foods or products. For me, it’s easiest to have my husband stay at home with my kids while I go out by myself.  Either way, make sure you have support and help!

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