Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cooking for One

You may recall that our daughter had a wretched flu this winter, followed by months of stomach pains and vomiting. (And, incidentally, that aside from poking her to determine it wasn't appendicitis, the medical system failed her utterly and that we ended up in the care of a naturopath.)

Blood allergy tests done by the naturopath determined that a variety of foods were causing significant inflammation in her system. We were told to avoid these foods for a three month period, without being obsessive about it.

She went off wheat, dairy, sugar, eggs and peanuts.

A lot of people have been aghast at this diet. "What CAN she eat?" they say. A doctor in our life pooh-poohed the diet as unnecessary. But here's what I know: she missed a total of a month of school before we changed her diet, and now she feels like a million bucks.

We're through the initial three month period now, so we're at the point of reintroducing foods gradually. As we do this, I've been reflecting on the entire experience.

The new diet honestly hasn't been very hard for me to do. I have a huge jug of maple syrup in the fridge and I substitute it for sugar in baking. I've learned to eyeball recipes for moistness, as obviously syrup is wetter than sugar, and to adapt on the fly. There are more than decent flour substitutes out there. We've tested out different nut butters and her favourite is an almond-hazelnut butter. She was mostly off dairy before this started. We buy gallons of rice milk, which is tastier than cow milk and is fortified with vitamins and minerals to have the same good effects as dairy. We haven't found a decent cheese substitute (they all kind of taste like margarine and melt like plastic) but a sprinkle of parmesan has not thrown her off her diet. I still use eggs in baking, but she doesn't eat omelets or anything egg based. We eat pad thai, rice-based dishes, potatoes. She has a red lentil pasta which, if prepared correctly, actually tastes better than wheat pasta (something I can't say for rice or corn pasta). There's more she can eat than can't eat. While she was away at camp recently, we decided to eat everything we couldn't eat when she's here - and we ran out of ideas after four days.

All takes is a bit of a bigger food budget and mindfulness.

I realized this a couple of weeks ago when we were at someone else's house and were served wheat and dairy at every turn, even though this person knew of her diet's needs. That was a sparse meal for my girlie. And the other day I stood in line at Starbucks and realized there wasn't one thing available, other than possibly juice, on their menu that she could have. I have to think ahead. I sent her to camp with three full grocery bags of food.

I've been proud of my daughter in all of this. The kid has an intense sweet tooth and was accustomed to having peanut butter on toast for breakfast. She's adapted without self-pity or complaint -- because she feels great! I've tried really hard to normalize the experience for her too - finding treats she can have, cooking the same meal for all of us so she doesn't have to ask whether the food is okay for her. But the biggest part is how good she feels.

So, it's with both trepidation and a bit of a shrug that I'm reintroducing the foods that caused the problems. I don't relish the idea of her missing more school and us missing more sleep as we help her - especially when it hasn't been that hard to adapt. Our goal is just to know where she can cheat - can she participate in pizza day at school? does she need to be vigilant at parties? do I have to bring substitute foods? can we go through the Tim Hortons drive-thru?

The biggest thing I'm realizing is where the challenge has been for us in this. Adapting our diet has been a piece of wheat-, dairy- and sugar-free cake for me -- particularly compared to the enormous stress of not knowing what was going on in her body and not having adequate medical support in the process. THAT was more difficult than I can say. This only takes creativity.

Good health is something we all take for granted, until it's compromised. And that's the value of good health care professionals: they help us achieve and maintain good health. So, to our doctor and her receptionist who blocked us: please don't do this to another family. And to the naturopath who listened and supported us: thank you from the bottom of our guts.

1 comment:

  1. This is right along the lines with what I was thinking about today with the video I watched. I know I needed to cut out dairy after Alex was born and once you get used to it it really isn't a big deal. Hopefully I can adjust our family meals to be a bit more healthful to match how healthy I've been feeling with other adjustments.