I am a neuro-physio (I treat people with neurological conditions such as stroke, MS or Parkinsons), a full time mum of Zach – and a keen runner.
When Zach was diagnosed with multiple food allergies, my husband and I began the long, difficult and emotional journey of learning to live successfully with food allergies. It has been a struggle at times but filled with the fun of a little boy who is now very nearly three.
Before I had a baby, I wouldn’t say I was a cook. I could follow a recipe but didn’t spend my time cooking. Anyway, I had a baby and I thought, probably like some other parents, that I would learn to cook as the baby needed me to and would follow a weaning book, which told me what to do step by step. I liked the idea of baby led weaning, but having no idea where to start, I did just that, followed a book. But I soon realised that something was wrong. My son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies and I had to learn to cook, free from dairy, egg, peas and lentils pretty fast.
Having realised that food allergies and intolerance affect many parents, a friend and I started a blog (www.zachandcharlie.com), specifically designed for the parents of babies and toddlers to provide information, advice, recipes and support to other parents going through a similar experience. Since then, and with the support of Dr Adam Fox, Paediatric Allergy Specialist at St Thomas' Hospital, I have written a book ‘The Allergy Free Baby and Toddler Book’ which has just been published by Vermilion. It is full of parents' stories and experiences and advises on everything from medical stuff to help with hospital visits and diagnosis, to emotional and practical support. You can buy it in all good bookshops (ISBN 9-780091-954871) or on line here - cost £12.99.
Cooking and cleaning seem to have been huge in the last three years and, for me, learning to cook without allergens has been an adventure which has included a few laughs including the fruit cake I made using allspice for mixed spice, making butter cream with actual lard, and using normal coffee cups for the American ‘cup’ measure – well, no one told me! Thankfully for all my family and friends I have learnt a lot and my cooking has actually improved!
Like other parents, living with food allergies means that we generally don’t leave the house without a packed lunch. Even if we are going out to a restaurant or cafe for lunch, I always take a packed lunch as a back up. While it would be nice to just go out and eat once in a while, on the up side, it is cheaper and can be healthier. The biggest challenge is how to make it interesting, varied and appealing. This is about lunch box ideas. Below are four lunch box ideas that are healthy, interesting, easy, quick and dairy and egg free.
Charlotte's lunch boxes
Click on the lunch box to go to the recipes but, obviously, feel free to mix and match between the lunch box suggestions according to your own and your children's likes, dislikes and allergies!
Corn on the cob slice
Chopped apple with lemon juice
Heat the oven to 180°C (Gas Mark 5, 350°F).
Gluten-free pasta portions
Baked Mini Samosas
Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas mark 4.
Thai sticky rice
Add 225ml coconut milk to the rice and set aside for 30 minutes.
Use cookie cutters or buy sandwich cutters to make a sandwich shape. Sandwiches can be made two weeks in advance and frozen, then taken out on the morning of packing the lunch. They will just have defrosted by lunchtime.
Use mini biscuit cutters for the cucumber shapes.Mini Healthy Flans
225g plain wholemeal wheat flour or gluten and wheat-free plain flour
Sliced black olives
Dairy free cheese, grated
Sprinkles of basil
Filo triangles with beans and salsa
Makes 12 muffins
225g gluten-free plain flour
Cranberry, Apple and Cinnamon Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
225g gluten and wheat-free plain flour