Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bento Boxes & Food Allergies

Living with severe food allergies can be difficult.  When Super Tot was 2 years old, we discovered that he has a severe anaphylactic peanut allergy.  He has also tested positive on both the skin & blood tests to several tree nuts, so for now we avoid them all.  His allergy is severe enough that he has had a reaction even when eating a food that was processed in a facility that processes peanuts, even if the item itself did not contain any nuts.  

His pediatric allergist has told us that we are so lucky to be a homeschool family.  The biggest hurdle and concern for many families is school, and that is simply not going to be an issue for us.  However, we don't live in a bubble, and life in general presents plenty of challenges.  

When he was diagnosed, our family decided immediately to be fully supportive of him and his needs.  Therefore, all 4 of us avoid every item that he cannot have.  They are not in our house, and we don't eat them elsewhere.  Even when he is not with us, we simply do not consume them.  While we want him to grow to understand the severity of his allergy, the last thing we ever want is for him to feel different.  I guess it is natural and unavoidable that he will sometimes, but we are not going to be the ones to make him feel that way.  We basically all live as if we have his allergy, unless it is unavoidable.

As you can imagine, eating out is a challenge.  There are a few places we know are safe, but due to the issue of cross-contamination and ingredients possibly being contaminated long before they make their way to a restaurant, many places simply aren't safe.  We don't want to live in constant fear, but it also isn't worth the risk of being careless.

We have a system in place for playdates, church, etc.  I always wipe down tables and carts, with special wipes to eliminate any possible nut residue from a previous customer.  We avoid places where we know shelled peanuts are served (circus, baseball games, etc.).  Friends and family members know about his allergy and are generally very supportive and careful when we get together.  

We recently discovered a new challenge.  We were invited as a family to attend a party being hosted by a co-worker of my husband.  We realized as we planned our attendance that dinner would be served at the party.  We found out what the menu would be and decided it would be risky for Super Tot to eat at the party.  We realized, however, that in this situation, it might send the wrong message for the rest of us to avoid eating.  As I mentioned above, we try very hard to all avoid anything that he is not able to have.  This was a first for us, so we had to come up with a new plan.  As I prayed about what to do, I realized I already had the perfect solution...BENTO!!  

I have been making healthy bento lunches for Princess and Super Tot for awhile now, and they LOVE them!!  They are so excited each afternoon to see what is in their boxes, and they are eating so many healthy foods.  I realized that I could make a super fun bento for Super Tot, and he wouldn't miss out on anything.  In fact, HE would be the one with the coolest food at the party!  I created the fun Alligator Bento pictured at the top of this post and took it to the party.  Indeed, he was thrilled with his special meal.  He never felt like he was missing out, and he was excited about having a bento for dinner that day.  Of course, he was having so much fun at the party that he barely ate anything, but he certainly didn't miss the party food that was being served.  And the rest of us were able to eat without feeling like we were being rude to the hosts, or to Super Tot!

All this being said, I realize wholeheartedly that I am still not in control.  God is.  I am absolutely going to be proactive for my son, but I ultimately trust God to care for him and keep him safe.  I know that God chose us to be his family, and I trust that He did that knowing that we would do our part to keep him healthy and safe.  The biggest part of that, though, is trusting God to intervene and do what we cannot.  Food allergies or not, I am so blessed and thankful that God chose me to be Super Tot's mom.  

And on an obvious lesser note, I am thankful that I learned about the fun art of bento, and the blessing it has quickly become for my family in so many ways.


  1. What a great attitude about a tough situation. We have one with a peanut allergy and one who has celiac disease (no gluten allowed) and we too have found that eating anywhere other than home is pretty much impossible. I love your fun solution to the party problem!

  2. Love the colorful bento! Perfectly elegant solution to a difficult situation. I too grew up with severe food, pollen, and nickle allergies, living many years on a restrictive diet. Luckily, as I've aged many of them I've out grown. Still no shell fish or costume jewelery even now, but I have no problem living with that! I enjoyed the testimony of your sweet and lovely family. It's easy to see that everything is and will be just fine!

  3. Hi! I stumbled upon your blog via a link on Pinterest. You have great ideas! I just signed up for your newsletter by e-mail. I have two pre-school aged children. My eldest is allergic to peanuts (and maybe hazel nuts... to be confirmed at our next appointment!). Like you, our entire family of 4 avoids all peanuts and nuts. It's nice to read about someone else living the same thing :) My moms says to me all the time that God chose me to be this child's mom because he knew I could handle it and keep him safe. Same as you!

    We attended an outdoor party a few months ago and I packed my kids a picnic supper... they enjoyed the finger foods so much that they didn't even notice that they were eating something different than everyone else at the party!

    Best of luck to you & it was nice to e-meet you :)

  4. Have you ever heard of NAET? It's a non invasive technique used to help allergies. I really thought it was a complete hoax until we tried it with my children. They were allergic to milk and after a treatment, they no longer are. Maybe worth it to look into it? If it doesn't help, then no harm done. If it does work, then yay!

  5. I love this bento! I love how you made the alligator and the skill is incredible!

    And it is so nice to hear about other people's journeys with nut allergies. I'm so glad to hear your family and friends have been so supportive too-- that isn't always the case. My kiddo is allergic, and is super proud of it so I love how she is all about "not nuts" :)


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