Making It a Family Affair
A change in diet can benefit not only the child with an allergy, but the whole family. Pascal's husband had high cholesterol before the family changed their eating habits. He has since reduced his cholesterol levels.
Even Gorab's doctor has commented on how well her family eats. "My doctor tells me that we will all be healthier," she says. "We eat less red meat, instead having chicken, turkey, vegetables, and rice."
Pascal has used the allergy as a way to introduce her children to a variety of healthy foods; for instance, the baked goods in her cookbook are vegan. "If you establish a wider palate, they think it tastes good," she says, noting that she does not deprive her children of the occasional treat.
Camplese tries to give her daughter a variety of foods as well, despite the severe food allergies. "We have tried to cook a wide variety of cuisines and use flavorings and spices in her food from the earliest phases, because I did not want her allergies to make her a completely picky eater," says Camplese. "She loves chicken stir-fry and cucumber sushi dipped in lots of soy sauce."
While it is simple when a child is younger to maintain separate diets for those with and without the allergy, once the child gets older, it is often easier for the entire family to eat the same thing. And a child who is singled out in the family for eating a separate diet may not be as likely to make healthy lifestyle choices or may view herself as being punished for having an allergy that is not her fault if the rest of the family continues prior eating habits.
This was true in Casey's case. "She wanted to know why we ate what she couldn't have," Gorab says. Yet parents don't want their child either to develop an unhealthy relationship with food or possibly to try to "cheat," which could be dangerous to his or her health.
"Madeline understands that there will be many times when people will be eating things she can't have—we can't protect her from that, nor would we want to," says Camplese. "We are far from perfect. But as a family, we are trying to first and foremost protect our daughter and then think about establishing healthy and varied eating habits for her. It is a huge challenge that, four years later, we are still trying to figure out."