Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why "The Allergy Safe Kitchen"?

I love to see my kids invested in, and excited by their cooking! 
This is critical life-training for all food allergic children!

I've been meaning to write this particular post for a while now, but today I read an article that prompted me to sit down and devote some time to explaining why "The Allergy Safe Kitchen". The article was brought to my attention through Robyn O'Brien's "Allergy Kids foundation" FB page. In it, a 19 year old girl describes her life with a peanut allergy and how it has contributed to panic attacks, anxiety, and a battle with an eating disorder.  She equates food with possible death, and feeling empty/hungry with being safe.  She claims her parents didn't make her fresh food because it was too much trouble.  Which means that they also didn't teach her to cook safe food for herself.   She is being sent out into the world without the skills to keep herself safe and healthy. She is afraid of food. Is your heart breaking yet? Mine is. 

One of the reasons I started this blog, was to empower parents of food allergic children to cook - and to teach their children to cook.  Those with food allergies need the kitchen to be a safe place, a place of control, a place of empowerment - not a place of fear and confusion. 

My children walk out the door, and nearly every single place on earth offers a potentially deadly danger from substances that most consider highly nutritious foods.  Peanuts, eggs, dairy...we are told these are all fundamental parts of a balanced diet, thus, most families eat them.  That means every playground, every store, every public place and lots of private residences are places where my children could encounter an allergen.  The chance for accidental contact is high and often times overwhelming.  A good friend of mine is afraid to take her daughter to the grocery store anymore, because she has had such severe reactions from riding in the "kiddie carts" that are often available in supermarkets.  There is an underlying and constant, serious stress that lies in the hearts and minds of our food allergic children and loved ones.  Every social event is cause for them to go on high alert.  And that is why it is not enough for us to have just one safe counter space, one safe spatula, or one area of a pantry that contains safe food.  That is why we have chosen an "Allergy Safe" kitchen for our family.  A kitchen that doesn't contain foods they are highly allergic to;  a safe pantry, a safe fridge, a safe counter, and safe utensils.

"The Allergy Safe Kitchen" allows my children the chance to let go of that underlying stress that will accompany them everywhere they go in their lives.  It gives them a space to exhale, to feel safe, to feel confident in their health.  To borrow a phrase from Dr. Phil - it gives them a "soft place to fall." Our kitchen is a place of learning, of becoming "friends" with food, of feeling welcome, of time with family.  Our whole kitchen is a safe place for EVERY member of our family. An added bonus to having an allergy safe kitchen is that  my non-food allergic children are learning compassion when we explain that we don't have certain foods in the home in order to protect our loved ones.  Eliminating potentially unsafe foods from the home can be rewarding on many levels!

Parents - learn how to cook safe food for your food allergic children, and then teach them how to do it. Turn your kitchen into an allergy safe kitchen that is a safe and welcoming place for EVERY member of your family. If the grocery store is safe for your food allergic children, take them with you and teach them to read labels and become discerning consumers. Kids, teens, young adults, take charge of your health, learn to cook, become informed, and speak up for yourselves at social events and with your friends.

A final note to allergy parents: your children will have plenty of opportunities to navigate the scary world of possible cross contamination - don't let those opportunities be in your home.  Let your home and your kitchen be the places where they can exhale and feel the stress melt away.  A place for peace can be a highly impactful gift to your children.

 As always, from The Allergy Safe Kitchen, I wish you "Good Cooking, and Safe Eating"!

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