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Elizabeth Gordon Headshot

Hip Hip Hooray for Food Allergies!

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I don't know about you, but sometimes my food allergies make me want to throw a pity party for myself.

I know, it sounds ridiculous, but I live in NYC and hang with a pretty foodie crowd, so sometimes it feels unfair that I've been dealt this egg-free, wheat-free hand. But on the flip side, sometimes I think that I'm pretty lucky.

In general, I'm really not a half-full kind of gal. I listened to nothing but The Smiths as a teenager, for crying out loud. However, today I got to thinking about how lucky we, the food allergic, really are. Here's why: because of our food allergies, we can't consume half of the junk gracing the shelves of supermarkets nationwide.

I can't eat most processed food, because years of label-reading has taught me that virtually everything that isn't refrigerated or kept in produce bins is processed with wheat. Bye-bye rice pilaf mix. See ya later canned soup. Peace out soy sauce. Check you later goldfish crackers and Pop Tarts. After while Crocodile, cereal (even those with tricky names like Amaranth flakes or Muesli). I cannot eat these things and haven't been able to eat them in almost seven years. Never mind the piles of egg bagels, knishes, ice creams and pre-made quiches that are completely out of the question thanks to my severe egg allergy.

If you're severely nut-allergic, your options are far fewer than mine, since nearly everything is processed on equipment that processes nuts or in facilities that process nuts.

So, as a result, I started eating things that I like to refer to as "whole foods". These include things like quinoa and brown rice, fruits and vegetables and meat. I hadn't tucked into a good steak in years when I was diagnosed with these new maladies, but now I cannot live without one. I know, I know: meat is murder, but if I didn't eat it, I might starve to death.

Here's the crazy thing that happened after the doctor delivered the bad news: as I passed over the pre-made rice mixes and gallons of ice cream for things like meat, fish, vegetables and whole grains, my cholesterol went down and so did the scale. An even happier by-product of my diagnosis was that even though they don't eat a wide variety of foods, my children love vegetables and fruits and my youngest lives on yams and turkey. Of course they beg for treats (and get them), but they do not live on ice cream bars and Oreos the way that I did before my immune system turned on me.

So for that I am grateful. I am thrilled that I learned new habits and that my meals are much more balanced today than they were seven years ago. I am thrilled that the fruit basket is always full in the kitchen and that the lone bag of animal crackers that I bought for the girls two weeks ago remains 3/4 of the way full. It is proof that people can change. Yes, I had to be forced into this one, but it happened, and my entire family is nutritionally better off as a result.

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