Now what do I do??? Please help!!!

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I am having a terrible time finding foods that my almost 22 month old can eat because of his allergies. Now that we've gotten back lists from most manufacturers for products that contain vanilla/vanillin I am having a terrible time finding foods that Matthew can actually eat. Someone had suggested trying organic since they don't use artificial flavors (which contain vanilla) so we went to Trader Joes and Whole Foods today in search of options. I found that almost everything in both stores that was vanilla free was processed on plants with peanuts or tree nuts. I couldn't find a single cereal, cracker, cookie, etc there that wasn't. Now what do I do?? Do I take a gamble with the peanut allergy???

He's such a picky little boy as it is his diet is down to cantaloupe and french fries right now since I've had to elminate most of his favorite foods. I am very worried about his nutritional status... especially iron (which is why I was looking for cereals since most are fortified).

How much of a gamble is it to let him eat stuff that "may contain" or is "processed in plants with nuts"???? His reaction was not severe (not that it was "good" either)... the ped called it borderline anaphalactic. He's never had a contact reaction or had problems with open bins of nuts in the grocery store or anything like that. He breaks out in hives with vanilla the same way he does with peanuts... so giving it to him really isn't an option.

I just feel lost now? I can't seem to find the best of both worlds here... something is going to have to give... but I don't want it to be his health!!!

On Mar 14, 2007

My response may not be the most helpful one, but I would encourage you not to offer him may contains, especially considering what you described as his reactions.

At least for a while I'd stick to nonprocessed food and try an iron supplement. But he's not allergic to any meat, right?

I think keeping it basic is probably best at the outset, and I do hope you can find someone here who also has to deal with vanilla who can be of help.

On Mar 15, 2007

I suggest that you get into cooking and baking and make everything from scratch. If you make it, you know exactly what is it in. If you work outside the home, it might be rough to find the time but perhaps DH can pitch in and you can spend a day cooking for the next week.

[This message has been edited by Adele (edited March 15, 2007).]

On Mar 15, 2007

You must be feeling so overwhelmed! I would also not try and gamble on the peanut allergy if at all possible.

Maybe if you list your child's allergies, we might be able to help find some specific solutions. There are a lot of creative people here.

Don't worry, you will get through this!

On Mar 15, 2007

Brown, I think you have to do what strikes the best balance between risk and living [i]for your specific child.[/i] Talk with your doctor about threshold and whether he/she thinks "may contain" is a risk.

I will try to remember to post some of the name brands from home for crackers and cookies. I'm not sure if Stella Dora has vanilla - I know they're milk and peanut-free (or at least have not been a problem for us). You'll find your groove! The toddler years are the hardest with regard to feeding MFA kids.

On Mar 15, 2007

Brown, It must be so challenging having to avoid peanuts....and then add vanilla to the list of avoids. What about plain Cheerios or Chex? Do they contain vanilla?

My DD is allergic to eggs and peanut/tree nuts, as well as cantaloupe and honey dew melon. I make all baked goods from scratch---I make batches and freeze them. I do buy crackers (Goldfish, Townhouse), but nothing else is processed. Egg is very limiting and at first it was overwhelming; we now do this as a routine and don't find it to be a big deal.

I wouldn't feed my child "may contains" or "processed on"---there was a study that "may contains" actually did contain detectable amounts of peanut 20% of the time.


On Mar 15, 2007

Brown1442-What is a complete list of your child's allergies? You sound completely frustrated as I can imagine. Hopefully with all this help here you can find safe things to feed your child.

On Mar 15, 2007

What about chicken nuggets, pizza, goldfish, ritz crackers, wheat thins, yogurt, cheese nips, gerber graduates mini fruits, cheese and the list goes on if your childs allergies are vanilla, peanut and treenut? My son is peanut but we treat as if treenut. All these foods do not have any vanilla, peanut or treenut.

On Mar 15, 2007

His allergies are... peanut, tree nuts (pistachios and hazelnuts were his worst reactions but had minor reactions to every nut they tested him for... allergist said to avoid all), vanilla, and peppers.

I've learned that artificial fruit flavors contain vanilla so that makes processed foods out for the most part.

Every yogurt manufacturer I've contacted said their products contain vanilla. I haven't asked Trader Joes or Whole Foods about theirs yet though.

He can have Wheat Thins... that is one cracker that I have found. Plain Cheerios are okay but he doesn't like them of course... I plain on continuing to try in order to get the iron in him since he won't eat meat.

I haven't heard back from Pepperidge Farm about goldfish yet so we are avoiding until we get a green light from them.

I think you all are right that I need to make the leap into making stuff from scratch!! OY!! What a daunting task!! I work part time but my husband is VERY helpful so I am sure we can get it done. Does anyone have any good recipes they recommend?

On Mar 15, 2007

I certainly understand the need to balance risks carefully when dealing with MFA. It forces you to make choices you'd rather not, that's for sure.

I just have a few bits of advice for you... first, a big hug!!

1. Nothing canned or boxed. This is harsh advice, I know, but you really can't know about the vanilla any other way-- as you've discovered.

2. Find out from your allergist whether you need to avoid "may contain" w/r to vanilla as well as pn. If your child has never experienced a reaction to eating a food that a test says "allergic" to, discuss doing a food challenge.

3. Begin calling manufacturers about "in a facility" and "shared lines" statements. Discuss cleaning protocols and batch testing to see if you're comfortable with it. If so, then you'll have to call and confirm every time, probably, but it will open a few options.

4. Peanut isn't one you want to take chances with. It is totally unpredictable, and there is no way to know what a "safe" exposure is on any given day. Personally, I'm a lot more conservative about that one than anything else. Regardless of severity of reaction-- at least with the others, they're fairly predictable. (Even if what I can predict is anaphylaxis... ) LOL!

Hang in there!! [img][/img]

And remember that most toddlers and preschoolers don't really care whether they eat a lot of variety or even "interesting" food-- so if he eats the same four safe things all the time, who cares? As long as he's getting adequate nutrition, it won't matter.

On Mar 15, 2007

Adequete nutrition is really all I am looking for at this point and really struggling to find. He won't eat meat or veggies although I am working on finding ways to hide them in foods (like sauces etc) so hopefully that will help. I was really relying on fortified cereals to get his iron and other mins and now I don't know how to replace them.

He does eat fruit... thats about it actually... I guess thats better than other options as at least it has vits in it!!

I am seriously not exaggerating when I say he's eating cantaloupe and french fries and thats it [img][/img] Not the greatest nutrition there.

On Mar 15, 2007

Brown, may I recommend my granola bar recipe? I like it because they're quick/easy to make and the bars travel well without crumbling - and you can add your favorite goodies to the recipe.

The basic ingredients are quick cooking oats and a can of sweetened condensed milk (which should just contain milk and sugar.)

Rather than grease the pan, I line it with parchment paper.

3 cups quick-cooking oats 1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk 2 tablespoons of butter, melted

Then the recipe calls for 1 cup flaked coconut, 1 cup sliced almonds 1 cup of miniature semisweet choc chips and 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries.

But instead, I add 1 cup of raisins, 1 cup sweetened dried cranberries and 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds. Last time I made this, I left out the raisins and added a bag of dried fruit bits that included apricot, etc.

David brand sunflower seeds are supposed to be safe. I found a bag of shelled seeds at Walgreens but I rinsed them first to get rid of all the salt.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (175 C). Line a 9 x 13 inch pan with parchment (including the sides)

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, sweetened condensed milk, melted butter - and all the other ingredients, until well blended. Press flat into the prepared pan. (I use a glass and roll the side of the glass over the mixture to really pack it down)

Bake for 20-25 minutes. I like them just lightly browned around the edges as this leaves the bar moist and chewy.

Let cool for 5 minutes, cut into squares, then let cool completely before removing from the pan.

I wrap each bar in a piece of wax paper and put a rubber around it...then I put them in the freezer until I need them. They're a good emergency food for when you're flying or traveling and need something safe to eat.

Good luck. Before you know it, you'll be an old pro at dealing with all these food allergies.

On Mar 15, 2007

You can probably find a local organic yogurt producer that makes a totally "natural" yogurt... at the very least, if it contains live cultures, you can use it to make your own from fresh milk.

Dairy products contain enormous amounts of protein. (Which is probably the biggest concern given the cantaloupe and french fry diet. [img][/img] )

Don't worry-- we nicknamed DD "The Fruit Bat Baby" for the same reason. All she [i]would[/i] eat was fruit and homemade corn tortillas. She doesn't seem damaged for the experience, BTW. [img][/img] Quirky, yes.... but I don't think it is related.

On Mar 15, 2007

I make "egg" toast for my 6 year old who eats no meat, cheese, fish, etc. due to sensory integration issues.

Instead of with french toast where you add milk to the egg, I take one egg, mix a little cinnamon and sugar (or go without) and soak 1 piece of bread - I pour any remaining on the bread while cooking. Cook in butter and we top with more cinnamon sugar. (We add lots of cinnamon and sugar so his mouth can get impact)

My son's main protein sources are this one egg (which we do lunch or dinner) and pasta with butter.

Would your son eat homemade mashed potatoes instead of the french fries?

On Mar 15, 2007

As far as iron, will he eat eggs? When my husband cooks eggs japanese-style my kids gobble them up. It's not the healthiest preparation, since it includes sugar and soy sauce, but it does get them to eat the eggs.

As far as your son's pickiness in general, I'd keep offering him very small portions of foods he's rejected in the past, side-by-side with food he likes. Toddlers especially can switch from hating a food to loving it (and back again) without warning.

On Mar 15, 2007

You can always give vitamins. Our guy has used Poly Vi Sol with no problems.

I would email to make sure no vanilla and ask your pediatrician if appropriate to give.


On Mar 15, 2007

What about Farina, cream of wheat. I think this has iron. Pancakes too, they freeze well.

On Mar 15, 2007

My grandkids have always loved this way of cooking veggies:

I give the veggies a good scrub but don't peel them. Cut up red potatoes, carrots and sweet potato into a kid-size bite, pour a little olive oil over them and roll them around in the pan until they're all coated in oil. Then I bake them at 350 until they're brown and tender.

They also love edamame beans. I buy them frozen in the pod and cook them by bringing them to a boil in a bit of water. The kids enjoy popping them out of the pod into their mouths.

On Mar 15, 2007

WOW!! Thank you for all the suggestions!! You gals are WONDERFUL!! I am SOO glad I found this place!!

I am definitely going to try the granola bars and the egg toast (I bet with sugar added he'd eat that [img][/img]) I've never been able to get him to eat eggs in the past but soaked up in french toast like that might work!! Awesome idea!!

He's going to the peds tomorrow (for increased sleeping and oscillating back and forth between constipation and diarrhea) so I intend to ask about a vitamin because I couldn't find one that looked safe. I read the Poly Vi Sol label and it had artificial flavors in it too. I do need to ask them directly. I wonder if a pharmacy could compound one for me?? Hmmmmm something to ask!!

Thanks again for all your help!!!

On Mar 16, 2007

When my ds was first diagnosed with milk, egg, and peanut allergies, I'd never baked a thing. Literally. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

Fast forward 1 year, and I learned to bake alot. It's almost 4 years since diagnosis now...I'm always looking for new recipes, trying new things, and still learning, but you'll be amazed at how quickly you pick things up. Being able to use eggs in baking will make it somewhat easier I think for you since baking without eggs causes consistency/ rising problems.

You may also want to check out [url=""][/url] for recipe/food ideas. You may encounter others with a vanilla allergy who could give you some tips.

Best of luck! Meg

On Mar 16, 2007

Brown, does artificial vanilla flavor contain vanilla bean? I though vanillin was a chemical compound. My son is allergic to milk, so we literally have chemistry books explaining all these food additives. I know it's very complicated!

We buy Jewel brand (Albertson's) graham crackers - they have no flavorings at all. Also, you should check labels for Wheatables and Teddy Grahams. My kids also like italian breadsticks. Quaker makes a corn square cereal that's good as well. For cookies, we do mostly bake.

These are all milk-free - I'm sure there must be more options that are not milk-free as well. Look at generics because they're usually manufacturered from the cheapest ingredients possible. That means those companies are not going to waste money on the very expensive vanilla bean!

Finally, if you haven't done this already, I would be very aggressive about confirming the vanilla allergy. So many of these scratch tests, and even RAST tests, are false positives, and you do want to make sure your child is allergic before you change his life this radically. If your doctor seems clueless, request a consult with an allergist, or even a pediatric allergic specialist if that's what it takes. We see one of two in Chicago, and the guidance we get from him is very different than that we initially got from our regular pediatrician.

Hang in there. It's a tough allergy, but there are foods out there that you will find that will be safe. You do not have to cook 100% of the time just because you have an allergic child.

It's important IMO to identify at least a couple of standards, because kids these days are taught not to eat homemade food. I was shocked the first time my son's soccer team rejected the chocolate chip cookies we baked...but that's America today. Sad.

On Mar 16, 2007

[b]Finally, if you haven't done this already, I would be very aggressive about confirming the vanilla allergy. So many of these scratch tests, and even RAST tests, are false positives, and you do want to make sure your child is allergic before you change his life this radically. If your doctor seems clueless, request a consult with an allergist, or even a pediatric allergic specialist if that's what it takes.[/b]

Great advice! We had false positives to wheat and soy...and he had already been eating these without any problems. I'm so glad we didn't have to eliminate those too! Meg

On Mar 16, 2007

We already see a pediatric allergist... he's well known in this area but I am not sure country-wide or anything [img][/img]

When I called back to ask about vanillin they told me that vanillin can be made from vanilla beans or completely synthetically... the problem is that you never know which you are getting. So he said to avoid ALL vanilla AND vanillin at least until he's older.

I am guessing they will retest him for this at some point. They determined the allergy with a SPT but didn't draw any RAST for it... can you do a RAST for anything?? They only did RASTs for milk, egg, wheat, soy, peanuts, and I think corn (there were 6 total).

He's definitely having reactions... if its not to that I don't know what it is to but something is making him break out in hives all the time. Everytime he's eaten fruity cheerios or graham crackers he breaks out in hives on his face, neck, and upper chest... well I just found out this week both contain vanilla. In the past he's broken out in hives ALL over every time he's eaten ice cream. We always thought it was a peanut contamination issue but at least one of those times was on a labled peanut free carton!!

We actually had him at the Dr's today for a bunch of issues he's been having recently... going back and forth between diarrhea and constipation, sleeping all the time, no appetite, and of course continued hive break outs. They upped his daily Zyrtec and ordered a bunch of blood tests to look for anemia, celiac, and signs of colitis or IBS. I asked her about his diet while we were there and she told me pretty much everything you all have said here... totally eliminate anything processed from his diet and we'll go from there.

On Mar 16, 2007

No, they don't offer RAST tests for every antigen - just the common ones. These tests are run on big analyzers with standardized plates and reagents, so the more esoteric allergies (probably including vanilla) are not testable.

It sounds like you're doing everything you can do. Try the cheap Albertson's graham crackers - no flavorings at all! (Sawdust? LOL!)

On Mar 16, 2007

ImmunoCAP does have a blood test for vanilla:


Also, I just wanted to suggest that muffins and breads are a great way to hide vegetables. Either grate or puree vegetables or fruits and use as part of the liquid in the recipe.