Food Allergies aren’t Fancy: Allergy Parenting on a Budget

We’re in the drive-thru line for McDonald’s again. “Hi, I’d like a four piece chicken nugget happy meal with white milk and no sauce and a large unsweetened iced tea.” Again. When we pull up to the window, the kid who takes my credit card compliments me on my sunglasses. He likes them, but he asks where my blue glasses are.

My McDonald’s guy sees me so often, he knows what color my eyewear is. That’s a really embarrassing thing to admit over the Internet.

I really wish that we didn’t go to McDonald’s as often as we do, but for $4.00 I can feed Eva protein and fruit and calcium that I’m 98% sure won’t kill her with a trace of nuts. Sure, I’m also feeding her fat and salt and reinforcing a deep love of fast food and basically I’m what’s wrong with kids in America, but it’s a four minute, four dollar solution to the constant exhausting problem of trying to feed a kid with allergies.

I am not the poster mom for winning at food allergies. I try, but realistically I don’t get home made bread baked every week and we can’t afford the expensive nut-allergy-safe brands all the time so chicken nuggets happen instead of sandwiches a lot. It’s also a better day all around when we don’t have the food battles. Eva doesn’t understand the emotional weight of “I spent four hours baking bread and whipped together this homemade mayo and bought the expensive meats and cheeses that won’t kill you with trace particles of nuts so EAT YOUR SANDWICH” exhaustion. She just thinks I’m a crazy person who puts her in time out over turkey for no reason.

I think there’s the occasional assumption that we are a nut-free family by choice, like it’s a lifestyle decision we made to set ourselves apart. Going nut-free overnight like we did when Eva was diagnosed with food allergies doesn’t mean that you fill your house with fresh produce and gourmet brands. It doesn’t mean you whip out the cookbook every night and serve restaurant-worthy substitutes to make up for not being able to eat out at restaurants. It definitely doesn’t mean that your toddler will become a micro-foodie who picks up on the joy that is grilled chicken and roasted carrots.

Well, it didn’t for us anyway. It meant the list of foods that we could afford and the list of foods that wouldn’t kill Eva and the list of foods that Eva would actually eat got together and duked it out and at the end of it all we had this stubby little list of stuff that was left over. It’s a fine list with most of the basics (produce, raw meats, rice, beans, eggs, milk, etc.) and I’m insanely grateful that we aren’t staring a milk, wheat, corn, or soy allergy in the face because you wouldn’t believe how many staples that knocks out. Still, the list is boring and Eva gets tired of it and then it’s all a battle because I can’t afford the expensive kid-themed nut-free products at Whole Foods.

So, McNuggets in the car. Never in the restaurant, where the peanuts from the hot fudge sundaes might be rolling around in the PlayPlace that Eva isn’t allowed to play on. Just nuggets in the drive-thru while Mom enjoys a large iced tea and a small prayer that the drive-thru window guy doesn’t think too badly of me because he sees me so often. And even if he does…c’est la vie. Today she’s eating. Today she’s not having an allergic reaction. And maybe tomorrow I’ll make bread or she’ll eat the roasted carrots or she’ll wake up and the allergies will have disappeared overnight and I’ll make PB&J sandwiches on store bread for her lunch every day. A mom can dream.

Food Allergies aren't Fancy: Allergy Parenting on a Budget


Disclaimer: We’ve decided that McDonald’s is a reasonable risk for our family, but be aware that the restaurant does serve and handle nut products. If you are dealing with a food allergy, always educate yourself about contamination risks and be prepared for an emergency before you eat at McDonald’s or any other restaurant.

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  • Reply Eunice

    Hey Carly! First, mad crazy kudos for you handling this like a champ. Honestly! Yes, Mcds feeding parents always get the judgemental side eye but screw em, they don’t know what you go through on a day to day basis. I’m sure being a parent is hard enough, I can’t imagine what it must be like for you and Kyle. Any day that you get through where Eva eats and doesn’t have any sort of reaction is a victory in my books. So hang in there we’re always rooting for you 🙂
    Second, i saw your insanely cute idea for cutting out letters from food, and that made me remember those bento food animal shapers. You can shape boiled eggs with them, an they have the cutest sandwich cutters like this:–4904705155309.html

    Just something I thought might help. Have a great day!

    February 9, 2014 at 2:50 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      So so cute!! Thanks, Eunice!

      February 9, 2014 at 7:15 pm
  • Reply John Kinnear (Ask Your Dad Blog)

    Beautifully written. Contrary to popular (uninformed) opinion, food allergies aren’t a matter of self diagnosed convenience for those rich enough to frequent Whole Foods thrice a week. Watching you and Kyle work through Eva’s food allergies has been a master class in Mandatory Parental Heroics. Keep up the good work, and keep writing about it. Posts like this help people.

    February 10, 2014 at 2:18 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Thanks, John!

      February 12, 2014 at 1:18 am
  • Reply Bryn McDougal

    The attitude that food allergies are a choice has always been insanely frustrating to me. I have a five year old with allergies. We worked dilligently with the allergist to help lessen his nut allergy by doing slow, over time exposures and building up his tolerance. We are LUCKY this worked for our child in the case of nuts. He can now touch peanuts without his eyes and worse, his throat swelling shut, but what an incredible task to undertake. Unfortunately the desensitizing has not 100% worked for his other allergies. Take Corn, for example, one day we will be eating hard shell tacos and it’s like the rash explodes across his face, but only some corn! He also has had bad reactions to milk, (once again his eyes start to swell, no throat reaction, thankfully) so we had to switch to raw milk at $8.50 a gallon!!!!!! I will say, raw milk has rocked for us! Some moms might not feel comfortable with it, and it may not help all kids, but it has been awesome for us. Needless to say, we ration the milk around our house. Anyway, with my child getting ready to go to kindergarten next year we have started prepping for snack time, lunches, angry parents yelling because their kids can’t bring certain foods into our child’s classroom, hopes that they listen, hopes that the tables will have been cleaned well enough in the lunch room between kids, warning my kids not to touch other kids at recess, showing him how to use the epipen on his own, telling him not to touch anyone else’s food, EVER! I feel the pain and I understand why some days it has to be Mcdonald’s Chicken McNuggets.

    February 10, 2014 at 4:41 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Oh, I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with multiple allergies on top of the nut allergy. I get so overwhelmed…I can’t even imagine if I was looking for a whole list of possible contaminants. Your poor guy. 🙁

      It does give me hope, though, that the exposure therapy has worked for you guys. Our allergist isn’t keen on it for Eva because her reactions are so bad, but since it’s the only treatment I’ve heard that’s working anywhere I might seek a second opinion as he gets older. Any increase in tolerance would be amazing!

      Thanks for commenting and best of luck as you go into kindergarten!

      February 12, 2014 at 1:18 am
  • Reply David Miretsky

    Thank you for sharing this great and interesting article, and also thanks for informations.

    March 7, 2014 at 4:47 am
  • Reply Liz Law Jewelry

    Thank you.

    April 10, 2014 at 4:01 am
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