Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Feingold Diet: Two Years Later

I'm a little late on this one! I realize Feingold is an understaffed volunteer organization, but I do wish they had a better notification system for the end of your subscription than "you know, I haven't gotten the newsletter in a while. I wonder..." Still, it has been such a blessing for us, that I really can't complain. 

I have noticed that I get a lot of visits to my site from people searching for Feingold information, but if you're unfamiliar with the Feingold diet (this also assumes you are curious about it!) here is a good place to start. If you're interested in reading more about our experiences with Feingold, I have talked about them here and here.

It has been a little over two years now, and we are all still following the Feingold diet. We've branched out a bit, and although we are fairly diligent, we have started experimenting with "unapproved" items here and there. We are still primarily eating stage one foods, because Lissie seems very sensitive to most salicylate containing foods in large quantities. She does seem to tolerate most, aside from tomatoes and apples, in small quantities, so we are happy about that.

If you are here because you are new to Feingold, I want you to know that as overwhelming as it was when we started, it is so easy now that I rarely give it a second thought. Please don't stress, you'll get there too! 

One thing that helps is that the Foodlists really don't seem to vary all that much from year to year. That makes it easy to keep track of acceptable brands. I wasn't much of a brand loyalist before Feingold, but still, I tended to buy the same products over and over. Now with fewer options, I just buy the same brands (of the same products) all of the time--which is actually easier in some ways! Of course, I do most of my own cooking. If you use a lot of processed products, then I can see where that could get boring after a while. 

Restaurants are a little trickier. You definitely have more options if you eat meat, so that's nice. Keep your restaurant guide handy when you travel! At home, I recommend finding a great local restaurant that actually makes the food. Go when they're not busy, and ask questions (you can always call ahead too). Get to know the people who work there. It might take a few tries to find "the one," but it's worth it. Seriously, we spent the first two years only eating at Panera or Culver's, but now we have three real restaurants we feel comfortable eating at, and it's so nice not having to suggest Panera for dinner with an out of town guest! Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against these places (though they obviously aren't the healthiest options), I just like variety. I am grateful for all of the companies that have gone through the effort of getting their products in the books, and I am happy to support them whenever I can.

Now that we have eating at home and eating in restaurants figured out, the part I hate most about doing Feingold is eating at other peoples' houses--but I love eating at other peoples' houses, so you can see my dilemma! Unfortunately, most people don't get it, or even if do they get it, they still don't quite get it. So that's an area where we tend to be a little more relaxed. I ask a lot of questions, and if something seems like it's probably okay, we eat it. It's generally fine, though not always for Lissie. Sometimes you do have to be assertive (and annoying). It sucks, but for us, the alternative is just not worth it. Maybe your reactions are less severe, and it is worth it. Lucky you! If you're not that lucky, I recommend, especially at first, that if you're going somewhere where you suspect that the food won't be okay, bring food. Pack a meal for the kids, or better yet, bring a dish to share. If that's not an option, feed them before you go. If neither of those will work, let them eat only the things you are pretty sure are okay, and stop for a burger on the way home (just don't tell anybody this is what you are doing!). Most people will understand. Even if they don't really understand. 

Now, onto our off-list experimenting. This is NOT something I recommend doing until you are comfortable with Feingold, your child has been on it for a while, and you know what reactions look like (don't worry if you don't know, you'll learn). Years ago, I read guidelines on how to test a wild food to find out if it is safe to eat (you know, in case I am ever stranded in the wilderness somewhere!), and I remember that it said that you should only test foods that are available in sufficient quantities to make it worth your time, because it is a process that takes several days and has the potential to cause severe discomfort. Are you seeing the similarities here? I try to keep those things in mind when we are thinking about trying something new.

When we try something that is not approved, it is generally something that is not listed in the Foodlist, or if it is, the approved brands are not readily available in our area. Occasionally there are things that are listed and available, but would be prohibitively expensive to buy in the quantities we'd like. If it's something I would only use a couple of times per year, we do without, but if it's something we'd like to use often, then it might be worth trying. Once we have identified a need, we look at the ingredients of the products that are available. Some foods are easier than others. Low or non-fat dairy products, for example, are things I wouldn't risk unless I was desperate. In a lot foods though, if you can find a product that "reads" clean, that's worth something. Of course, we Feingolders know to be wary of those tricky hidden ingredients. You might try contacting the manufacturer and asking about that type of thing (this isn't anything I have tried, but you could do it). If you do find an item you'd like to try, I recommend following the Feingold guidelines for reintroducing salycilate containing foods in stage two. My husband and I tend to eat more items like this, and only rarely allow the kids to try things. 

It's also helpful to remember that not everybody is sensitive in the same way. Just like some of us are more (or less) sensitive to certain salicylates or food dyes, some of us might be more sensitive to other risky additives. I have noticed that Lissie and I tend to share a lot of the same sensitivities (except, fortunately, I don't hit or bite people when I am reacting), so if we're considering testing something I can try it first. If I feel off after eating it, we've avoided a potential reaction in Lissie. This isn't one hundred percent effective, however. We've had a couple of bad experiences with products that look okay, and that I can eat without any problems, but that caused reactions for Lissie. I do wonder if Lissie might be less sensitive to preservatives than some other people seem to be, but maybe we've just gotten lucky in that area so far. "Natural" flavors, on the other hand, have been a big issue for us, so we're pretty cautious about those.

Photo licensed under Creative Commons
Photo credits:
Candy hearts: jamz196
Panera interior: ReneS'

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