I’ve Googled, “Is being a good cook genetic?” There was a time in my life when I would have sworn that my DNA lacked a certain genetic code acquired by most people at birth. Growing up the oldest of several girls in the family, it seemed that I was always more comfortable washing dishes instead of using the dishes to create foods and baked goods.
When I graduated from college and moved away from home, I looked for cookbooks with titles like, Where’s Mom Now That I Need Her? And The Kitchen Survival Guide, with chapters entitled; “How To Cope, A Battle Plan”, “Will This Fuzzy Green Stuff Kill Me?” and “Does the Catsup Go in the Refrigerator?”
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always believed in good nutrition and trying to stay in good health for my mind and body. I believed in eating whole foods, fruits, veggies, and exercising regularly. The only difference was I was fine making a soup on a Sunday night and eating the same soup into the work week. The soup was healthy, quite tasty if I do say so, but I never minded eating the same meal for a few more days. Pasta and veggies were a mainstay.
When I met the person who would eventually become my husband, I informed him (date two or three) that I did not like to cook and baking was not something that I tried to do more than once or twice every few years. When he asked me to marry him and be a stepmother to his two young boys, I said I would and nervously moved into a new home knowing that the time had come to face the kitchen.
I had an instant family who wanted dinner at the end of the day. The very first night I made dinner, I made a meatloaf, which was one of my specialties, and we all sat down to eat. After taking a bite, my older step son went to the sink and spit out the meatloaf. (I got the sense that he didn’t care for it). Needless to say, meatloaf was removed from my limited repertoire.
A year later, I gave birth to a little girl and felt like a pioneer woman, making things like applesauce from scratch. When it was time to feed her little tastes of solid food, I gave her yogurt and she had a reaction. Peanut butter, then hummus, sent us to the hospital. She was diagnosed with food allergies to dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, mustard and melon. Suddenly I felt that no one else BUT me could cook and bake for my daughter. When my son was born, four years later, he was diagnosed with food allergies too; wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, soy, egg, shellfish, mustard, melon, beans and lentils.
I began to research macronutrients; healthy options and substitutions for my food allergic children. I searched for recipes to bake a birthday cake for my daughter, instead of going to the local bakery, and when it was time for my son to celebrate his birthday with a cake sans wheat, soy, eggs, and dairy, and tree nuts, I researched recipes with abandon.
What helped me to think of the kitchen differently was to look at how food affects our bodies and our minds and to rethink what ingredients could do to make us healthier.
Because I was used to substituting ingredients for my two kids, I learned to use the most nutrient-dense whole foods possible, incorporating ingredients that would be safe. Unfortunately, healthy doesn’t always mean safe when it comes to food allergies and intolerances, but healthy substitutions are out there. I decided to look at the nutritional value of safe foods and substitutions to teach them (and myself) to look at what they could eat and not focus on what was out-of-bounds.
It wasn’t long before I became an AllerCoach ™, and then Nutritious Life Master Certified, because I knew there were other families and individuals struggling with the same challenges. Now I help people with food allergies and nutritional needs make the healthy and safe changes that are needed so that they can live their lives without feeling defined by their diagnoses.
Recently, I noticed my kids were watching a YouTube video on cooking and they were so excited, they got right to work in the kitchen. My son made salmon with sautéed broccoli and spinach and my daughter baked homemade oatmeal cookies. Helping them learn to concentrate on foods they can eat changed the way I feel about the kitchen, nutrition, and good health.
If you need help learning about safe substitutions for your food allergies or are looking for more nutrient-dense recipes, sign up for a free consultation and we can discuss ways we might work together to bridge the gap to good health.