Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bento Boxes and Food Allergies

Food Allergy Awareness Week

Living with severe food allergies can be difficult.  When my son 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.  He has also ended up needing his EpiPen with a subsequent trip to the ER due to cross contamination at a restaurant, and has reacted when I ate something and then kissed him on the cheek hours later.

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.  My prayers go out to all those families that struggle with that daily fear as they send their children to school.  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.  

Last year, we 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!!  

As the party was approaching, I had been making healthy bento lunches for my children for a long time, and they LOVED them!!  To this day, 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 our son to take to the party, 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 our son!

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 this boy'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.  

As you probably know, all of the bentos and recipes posted on this blog are peanut and tree nut free.  Many of them are gluten-free and/or dairy-free, as well.

I have several friends who make bento lunches for their food allergy children.  I know that if my children attended traditional schools, I would feel much safer knowing I was sending safe and fun lunches to school with them each day. 

Check out some of those friends' blogs here:


  1. The party bento is fabulous! Glad you were all able to have a good time.

  2. My kid is a big fan of Bento lunch. He is also one of food allergic children. God bless you all.

  3. What a great post, I think a lot of us forget how relentless dealing with food allergies can be - you never get a day off. What a lovely way to overcome the problem though, your bento is wonderful and I'm sure he loved it!
    Thank you for linking up at Fun Food Friday!


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