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10 rules for allergy-friendly cooking

Introduction- Learn to Like it

rFor the first six months after my initial allergy diagnosis I spent hours in the supermarket and, more often than not, walked back

out again, feeling devastated about all the things I couldn’t eat. It takes some time, but gradually ridding myself of the stress of being sick after each meal became a huge motivator for me.

I used to cook some dishes for my husband with all the things I couldn’t eat and found I would end up feeling so irritated and deprived that I am now adjusting almost everything so we can both enjoy eating the same dish without me getting sick. Once in a while, however, I will make him his absolute favorite and eat something completely different myself.

1. Sugar and Spice- and herbs
Sugar, salt and spices are highly personal and you will have to play around with these to taste. I try to avoid sugar due to my allergies so that is definitely an area where you may need to adjust recipes.

Not all herbs are created equal – or go together. Taste and use what you like. If your family detest parsley then do not add that just because it says so in the recipe. Use another herb or use a spice instead. I don’t like oregano, so I avoid that in all of my cooking. If you love it feel free to add it to pizza or pasta or wherever you think it fits.

Spices and herbs help the taste and color, and I’m not talking about salt and pepper. Just remember a little goes a long way and you need to add a little at a time or you will ruin all your effort.

2. Changes to your allergies and recipes

Adjusting recipes and notes are so important: don’t rely on your memory. You will forget! Whenever your specific allergies/intolerances (or those of your family) change, or even different products, prepare to adapt

3. Guests

I very rarely cook food which my guests will enjoy but which I can’t have. If I don’t have a good idea for a dessert, I will serve a shop-bought cake or ice-cream. My philosophy is that I don’t enjoy cooking what I can’t eat. I work hard on designing recipes and combinations of dishes that can go from oven to table or can be prepared beforehand so that I can enjoy being with my guests and not be in the kitchen for the entire evening. I try to remember that people come to the company and a good meal is a bonus…otherwise they would go to a restaurant!

4. EARLY successes

You need to have some quick successes up your sleeve. If you’re good at baking, then congratulations – carry on baking! You really don’t need to be good at everything: experiment and have a few staples in your “successful” category in between experimenting with new recipes. And yes, keep a “Dial-a-pizza” number ready if it goes really wrong! My husband would love to tell you the story about my roast pork 25 years ago, or my chicken with bananas which not even the cat would eat! Rediscovering or learning the pleasure of cooking is about what could have been better or different or how you can change the recipe to better suit my tastes. Use these notes and tips and add more.

5. KEEP it simple

Make an omelette or a frittata. Don’t think you can keep up with creating innovative dishes every day when taking allergies, intolerances, and FODMAP into account. Keep some go-to recipes and staples easy and at hand, such as eggs, salad, carrots, and cheese.

6. Dial-a- pizza

Be ready to admit defeat if a dish does not work out. As you gain in experience you can salvage almost everything, but sometimes it just does not work out – see my blog entry about baking – so be ready to get take-out or a sandwich. When you have food-allergy issues, your health needs to take priority and stress does not help.

7. Read food labels- carefully

I try really hard to make all my recipes FODMAP-friendly and ensure I add a lot of details in my TIPS but I do suffer consequences, mostly when I buy something without reading the labels properly. We can dig into the chemical names of the additives and names, but I cannot really help you there. I am not a chemist or food professional, but I know that that bacon should not include E250, E316 and E252 like the one I got sick from when I did not read the food label before buying.

8. Think Global, buy local- as much as you can

The fact that there is a whole array of different cuisines is your opportunity. You have allergies and food issues. That’s hard enough but it does not mean you only have to limit yourself to only buying produce locally or only organic, etc. I use ‘clean eating’ as a base as far as possible and start my cooking with simple and basic ingredients. I will, however, use a yeast-free stock or an Arabiata sauce if it helps. The choice is yours, but my focus is on stress-free eating, so I don’t get sick.

9. Allergy is not fun, but it is an opportunity

Once you start on this journey you will discover that certain cuisines are better suited to your allergy than others. That’s how I originally started cooking Indian food, despite living in an area inspired by French food. You will sometimes have to be innovative with your ingredients to buy local as much as possible, but it becomes easier all the time.

10. something will have been missed