Fun Finding ‘Free From’ Food In Florida! (Blog#11)

So, back to the story and it’s April 2008 and we have a trip to Orlando to go on. Obviously, when we booked it some 11 months earlier, we didn’t envisage that we would have to navigate a restrictive diet along with the regressive behaviour of our two year old daughter. It was a real worry thinking how Ellie was going to manage.

I remember doing a lot of planning!  Literally, organising food for every eventuality.   Hand luggage was full of treats, special sandwiches, plain crisps etc to keep Ellie busy on the flight.  We’d gone up to the airport the same day so didn’t have to worry about overnight food before the flight.

Before we went, we did some research looking for specialist stores that sold ‘free from’ food and located a Publix not too far from our appartment, where we stocked up on rice, GF pasta, crisps (potato chips!) and bread.

I don’t remember having any trouble with the flight, Ellie was still a lot quieter than she was before the virus and we kept her busy with comics, tv and food!

The shops in America were a dream come true in comparison to the poor selection we’d been used to at home.  I remember it taking so long to find all the products at the store because they didn’t have a ‘Free From’ section like here in the UK but instead stocked it with their counterpart ‘normal’ products – so going around the huge store took forever!

Everyday, we would load up with plenty of food for Ellie – either a GF pasta and tuna dish or a rice, ham and peas dish in our clever little tuberware ‘keep it hot’ lunch pot. If Ellie got hungry in the parks, she would have ice lollies and she even tucked into those huge Turkey legs! Huge packs of ‘potato chips’ were a godsend as well!

There was definitely sensory overload going on in the parks – so much was happening and so many sights and sounds, so there was a lot of moaning and crying from Ellie when she wasn’t coping.  Thankfully, we had my Mum and Dad with us to take the heat off a little.

Having to wait more than 10 minutes for a ride was a big issue. Thankfully, we went at a quiet time of year so it wasn’t too bad and we managed to buy a Fast Pass ticket in the Universal parks to get through the queues quicker.  On visits since 2008 (and having a diagnosis) we have had a letter from the doctor which has meant we have been able to get Assistance Passes for all the parks – but more about them in future blogs!

Even back in 2008, the parks were very helpful in terms of food for allergies and intolerances.  The best experience we had was at The Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom where you get to meet Winnie the Pooh and his Friends.  Once seated, the chef came out to see us and took us around the buffet bars letting us know what things we could give Ellie.  She was able to have quite a feast as so much of it was fresh and not processed junk.  It was Ellie’s third birthday and they made a real fuss of her, even giving her a special chocolate brownie cake and some soya ice cream which she absolutely loved. We were all beaming and welling up at Ellie really enjoying her food.

At the end of the meal the chef came out to us with a bag full of different flours and cake mixes for us to take away.  It was such a kind jesture and it really was a highlight of the holiday.

That afternoon we got to meet Mickey Mouse.  There was a long-ish queue for that experience which resulted in another meltdown (and that was just me!).  It’s the anticipation of what is going to happen which builds up and results in a meltdown. Despite the wobble, once we’d got into the see Mickey & Minnie, it really was magical.

Ellie had just turned three and at this point we were only a few months into this journey. Ellie wasn’t diagnosed with anything and we had yet to see a doctor who knew what was going on.

I remember whilst we were away, we all thought that Ellie had come such a long way since those dark days back in January and that she was really coming back to us.  It wasn’t until a few years later that we watched the holiday videos again and realised she was far from coming back to us.  There was a lot of smiling and pointing and a few words tagged together, but the chat Ellie once had was still a long way off.  I can assure you however, now at age 12, the speech is most definitely back…but that’s for another day!

Until next time,

img_9537-1Love & hugs xxx

We need more tests… The York Test! (Blog#10)

So, after our first experience with Kinesiology and being told that Ellie was having issues with her gut and that she was intolerant to wheat, dairy, cows milk, oats and potato we went hell for leather and took all of those things out of her diet.

We’d already asked at the doctor’s whether intollerance testing was available on the NHS – but it was restricted to allergies.  The difference between them is; an allergy will show up almost immediately (such as a rash or vomitting) but an intolerance can happen several days later, which makes it doubly hard to work out what nasty food caused it.

I can’t remember how we came across The York Test – whether it was Dr Hillary on Good Morning TV or if it was word of mouth, but we found ourselves Googling it and forking out the £200+ on this comprehensive intolerance test which looked at 113 foods from a small sample of blood.

So, we ordered the kit, pricked Ellie’s finger and sent the sample back.  The results took a few days to come back… and there it was – Wheat, Gluten (Gliadin) and Cow’s milk, with a borderline result on Beef and Yeast.

So, we continued with the diet and very slowly, we saw improvements from what we experienced in those dark winter months.  There was still such a long way to go.

I’m not going to lie, it was hard work.  Constantly planning ahead and taking a rucksack of food everywhere we went.  Watching Ellie’s every move – she was two, she didn’t yet understand that she couldn’t have the biscuits at play group and why did mummy have a special one.

The ‘Free From’ aisles were a lot smaller than they are today, and didn’t even exist in some supermarkets. There was very little ordering on-line – we weren’t that computer savvy back then anyway!  There was also very little choice if we went out for a meal – it was usually baked potato and beans as everything else would have some kind of a coating on them.

We were so lucky to have family on our side with these big changes to Ellie’s diet.  I’ve read stories where family members don’t get on board, not believing it makes any difference and sneaking little treats because ‘one won’t hurt’.  There were several occasions where it only took one little mishap for Ellie to be really poorly a few days later.

I know that back then I would never have done it without my mum’s help.  She was amazing.  She would be constantly researching, trying out recipes for biscuits and bread made of  different flours and scouring the supermarket aisles for foods that Ellie can eat. She would be so excited ringing me up to tell me that she’d found something tasty that Ellie could have.  I miss that so much.

Oddly, I seem to find myself in a similar situation right now.  Ellie’s behaviour has gotten pretty erratic lately – and whilst we’d been putting it down to hormones, grief and moving up to secondary school for the past year, something doesn’t sit right.  Call it Mother’s Instinct.   I’m now considering doing another York Test to see to what extent these foods are not agreeing with her… because its bloody hard finding Gluten free food without Rice, Corn and Egg as a substitute for a non-stop eating Tween!

This time, I have no choice but to do it without my mum.  I’m just thankful for how far ‘clean eating’ has come.  There is so much more out there – whether it’s on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest (I totally love Pinterest!) YouTube or Facebook.

So I’ve once again taken to the baking today… Cherry and Walnut Squares made with coconut oil, maple syrup, ground almonds, etc etc. I had to use an egg substitute and it didn’t turn out quite right… but practice makes perfect… or edible!

Until next time….

Love & hugs xxx

Ok, so they were actually pretty nice… they just didn’t turn out quite like the picture from the ‘The Foodie Teen’ book!!

Free From Everything Granola Bars! (Blog #9)

So, you may have read in my last blog that a Kinesiology test revealed that Ellie’s body isn’t coping too well with a whole host of foods including corn, rice, yeast and the usual wheat! Cows milk and soya were ok but I’m dubious to go too full on with them as we know it doesn’t take long for her to become intolerant to them too.

So today I made my first batch of treats from a book we’d bought for Ellie for Christmas; The Foodie Team.

See below my attempt at Date and Almond Granola Bars along with the recipe and what they should look like!!

They actually taste pretty good. I didn’t have any vanilla powder so used Almond essence and chucked in a few more sultanas for good measure. My son took to cutting it up when I wasn’t looking!

There will be more to come about our story soon; tales about doing the ‘York Test’ and ‘Free From’ & Autism Florida!

Until then, Love & Hugs xx

How to do it… and what it should look like!
Before… After & Ready to Eat!