HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Educating the General Public about food INTOLERANCE


My dd's body cannot tolerate highly processed foods that have additives and preservatives. She is on the Feingold diet (you can google it if you're not sure what that is) and eats only whole food and foods that are all-natural if minimally processed (like crackers).

She is 9 years old and I find it really difficult to help others understand that her diet doesn't contain fast food, rice crispy treats, and confetti ice cream. She is a chowpup and enjoys food all all types and cuisines, but she's been eating it all of her life, both from choice and necessity. When she was breastfeeding, she had the same problems, and I had to go through my own elimination diet when she was just brand new to this world.

However, an intolerance isn't an allergy. It won't KILL her, but it makes her life miserable (headaches, bowel problems, horrible eczema). People seem to understand, for example, gluten or lactose intolerance and respect it. I don't see that same kind of response when I say, "She can't eat processed chicken nuggets and hot dogs. No, salad is not the answer unless the dressing is all-natural. Yes, she eats ice cream... if it's ALL NATURAL. No, the birthday cake with red frosting is NOT okay."

It's like a child who doesn't eat crap food (whether that is preference or need) is some sort of weirdo and most people I encounter don't respond well to it. She is going on a 2-day field trip soon and when I said she couldn't eat the processed food offered by the food court, they said it would be impossible. She would have to eat it. So, they are able to accommodate the kid with lactose intolerance, and the kid with gluten intolerance, and the vegetarian kid, and the child who keeps kosher and the one who eats only halal, and of course all of those with allergies... but you can't accommodate my kid.

So because her restriction is to eat only GOOD food, it's not something they can deal with. How can I explain that her restrictions are just as important as the kid who will be in the bathroom for 2 hours if he eats dairy? How do we educate the public that these are real issues, too... it's not a kid just being picky? (or, I guess, it would be the *reverse* of being picky because she eats everything from mussels to duck tongue and every fruit and vegetable in between, but can't/won't eat processed chicken nuggets.)

  1. Honestly, I think that the way you are wording it "only GOOD food" is unintentionally coming off as snobby, which might make people defensive and less likely to help/understand. I'm not sure what your doctor has said about all of this, but it seems to me like she IS allergic/intolerant to specific things, you just haven't narrowed down exactly what those things are, other than that they aren't present in most whole/homemade foods. I would probably try to word it as such . . . something like "DD has many allergies to preservatives and other food additives, and has a terrible reaction when she eats them. We are still sorting out which she is allergic to, but for now, unprocessed foods seem to be the safest option"

    'natural' is a very subjective and vague term, so it would probably help if you gave people more concrete, specific things for her to avoid (e.g., she can't eat anything with MSG, XYZ preservatives, etc.).

    2 Replies
    1. re: LabLady

      "DD has many allergies to preservatives and other food additives, and has a terrible reaction when she eats them. We are still sorting out which she is allergic to, but for now, unprocessed foods seem to be the safest option"
      I think that's a good strategy. No offense to the OP, but saying that a person is intolerant of all unnatural ingredients and additives doesn't quite pass the smell test. A person may very well be intolerant of a broad array of preservatives, food colorings, texture modifiers or other things found in more processed foods. But additives don't separate out into 'natural' and 'unnatural' quite the way the OP seems to think. To say that a person can't tolerate any amount of, say, citric acid when it's used as a preservative doesn't really make sense if that person can eat an orange with no ill effects.

      The Feingold diet is sort of a medically un-favored treatment of ADHD. I can see how it might also serve as a decent conservative approach to one's diet for a person who shows multiple intolerances to a broad array of processed foods. But it's pretty implausible that a person is intolerant of every single thing the Feingold diet eliminates - literally thousands of substances that have little or no chemical similarity to each other. Rather than saying that a person is intolerant of ALL of these things, I think it's better to say that a person has a complicated and tangled set of intolerances to some food additives, and adhering to the Feingold diet is a way of playing it safe with her health. I think people would be more understanding of that.

      1. re: LabLady

        I think the correct term is "Whole Food". This is a diet people should follow anyhow as eating whole foods is the healthiest diet available. I guess you could say using the term "good food" is subjective and could be insulting to someone who lives on a diet of processed food..but really..whole food is best.

      2. and saying "all-natural" doesn't cut it, either -- stinging nettles and poison ivy are all-natural, but you don't find too many folks wanting to rub them all over their body.

        *specify* what she can and cannot eat, and *specify* why she cannot -- if you have to go into graphic detail, then do -- but just saying "my kid only eats GOOD food" isn't helpful to anyone. (there are those who would swear on their mother's grave that Twinkies are GOOD)

        A note from her pediatrician would be a very good backup, by the way.

        5 Replies
        1. re: sunshine842

          True, but stinging nettles are eaten cooked.

          1. re: iheartcooking

            I know that...my point was that "all-natural" doesn't necessarily mean benign and healthy.

            1. re: sunshine842

              Nobody said that all-natural is always benign and healthy. Beef is all-natural, cream is all-natural, butter is all-natural... but if you eat them every day, they'll eventually probably kill you. But if you are going to eat a processed food and the ingredients are "potatoes, vegetable oil, salt", that is going to be a healthier choice than Doritos. Not just for my dd, but for everyone. In fact, a few of the items on my dd's list are naturally occurring items. When I say "all-natural", that means I still look to make sure the natural offending ingredients are not on the list either.

              1. re: velochic

                "all-natural" doesn't mean anything. Period.

                There are all-natural things that will kill you on the spot.

                The definition of "all-natural" changes depending on the time, the day, and which marketing yo-yo is writing the definition at this particular moment in time.

                Don't use "all-natural" when trying to describe your dd's diet -- it doesn't mean anything and only confuses everyone.

                1. re: velochic

                  <<Beef is all-natural, cream is all-natural, butter is all-natural... but if you eat them every day, they'll eventually probably kill you. >>

                  Science would disagree with you. There's nothing wrong with eating any of those 3 every day, as part of a complete diet.

                  It's statements like this one that leads to resentment and backlash from folks. You assume those things are bad for you, but in moderation, they're not. When you make incorrect statements, you're not likely to get understanding from folks when you have a legitimate issue.

          2. I hope someday they can figure out what the real issue is - like what chemicals or ingredients are the culprits. Good Luck!

            1. I do have a note from her pediatrician. It doesn't matter. It's not a life threatening issue, and is most certainly NOT an allergy. Calling it an allergy is disrespectful to those (like myself) that have true food allergies. This is the list that the doctor gave me of ingredients to avoid:

              Citrus Red 2
              FD&C Blue #1
              FD&C Green #3
              FD&C Yellow #6
              FD&C Red Dye #3
              FD&C Yellow #5
              BHA (Butylated hydroxyanisole)
              BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
              HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup)
              Calcium Disodium EDTA
              Calcium propionate
              Sodium Benzoate
              Benzoic Acid
              Sodium Nitrate
              Sodium Nitrite
              TBHQ (tert-Butylhydroquinone)
              Artificial flavoring, including “vanillin”
              Disodium Guanylate
              Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP)
              Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
              Nonyl Alcohol
              Polysorbate 80
              Potassium Bromate
              Potassium Nitrate

              The thing is, that if something has, say citric acid in it, chances are, it will have some OTHER ingredient that she needs to avoid.

              I do think that processed food is junk food. That's kind of the definition of it. I have never "presented" it that way. I always use the term, "processed food". Saying only that she cannot eat "processed food" *is* a generalization, but I find it necessary because teachers and friends are not going to pay attention to the actual details, let alone carry around the above list, like I do, to check against just for my dd.

              Ultimately, when I cook from home, I use only whole ingredients. If we eat something processed, the ingredient list is a list of whole foods. When I say all-natural, I'm assuming that people have the common sense to know that I'm not advocating adding poison ivy to her food.

              Some of the replies of this thread is exactly what I'm talking about. Citric acid and oranges may be similar, but one is found naturally, and another is cultured in a lab. So, according to that poster, I must just not know my child and her tolerances if she can eat oranges and not eat citric acid. THAT'S the attitude I'm talking about. That others judge what is OK for my dd to eat because her problem does not fit with THEIR logic. It doesn't fit tidily into a box like lactose intolerance. (Citric acid is not something we avoid, so that point is moot, but I'm just using it as an example.)

              15 Replies
              1. re: velochic

                You're expecting to "educate" people on something that defies definition. Labeling other people's food choices as "crap food" demonstrates a food "intolerance" of another kind on your part.

                1. re: ferret

                  I totally agree. Since having dd and learning about the processed food industry, I have developed a bad attitude about it. I am intolerant of what they are adding to our food and the marketing strategies to keep people from asking questions. I don't think it's healthy. I used to eat it often and do notice a personal difference since not eating it for 10 years. I absolutely, 100% agree that I have an intolerance toward the food industry taking the cheap route instead of the healthy route when it comes to the food that is on our grocery shelves. I think that it would be good, ala Michael Pollan, for all to learn that, yeah, all of those chemicals combine to provide sub-par nutrition, or, simply put, "crap food". And I would have expected that a place like this would understand that when you start with good ingredients, you get good results. You can shoot the messenger, but the message remains the same.

                  But I'm not out to change the world (or North Americans). I just want to figure out a good way to talk to people about the fact that for my dd, it's not just "not good for you", it's debilitating for her. Hand out the paperwork that the doctor gave us? That seems like overkill.

                  1. re: velochic

                    It's not overkill handing over the paperwork from the doctor. I have celiac disease and now lactose intolerance as well. :-( So, when I travel I must take restaurant cards with me detailing the fact that I cannot by ANY circumstances come into contact with gluten. EVER. My cards also specify information on cooking procedures (i.e. scrubbing the grill). They are especially handy when eating on in other countries. Out of necessity I must make extremely clear to the server and chef the severity of my diet restrictions. Same with airlines and so on. It is a huge pain (I detest having the focus on celiac when eating out so always call ahead) but as I have no choice it must be done. So, I advocate the use of a card with your daughter, too. It certainly can't hurt!

                  2. re: ferret

                    How does it defy definition to eat a diet that is free from preservative and chemicals?

                    1. re: BlueMagic

                      Define 'chemicals'

                      Which of the following substances would be considered chemicals?
                      Sodium chloride
                      Sodium bicarbonate
                      Potassium bicarbonate
                      Acetic acid
                      Lactic acid
                      Citric acid
                      Chlorogenic acid
                      Monosodium glutaminate
                      Dihydrogen monoxide

                      What exactly makes a 'chemical' added to food different from an 'ingredient?'
                      Not necessarily undefinable, but nowhere near as easy as you seem to think.

                  3. re: velochic

                    Maybe you don't understand, Oranges contain citric acid. Citric acid is citric acid, one being "cultured in a lab" and one being found in an orange does not change the chemical composition of the citric acid (C6H8O7). I know citric acid isn't something that you're trying to avoid, but your "understanding" of things seems to be off. You seem to come off as all knowing and act as if others don't understand what you do. I think if you presented it in the manner LabLady suggested, you'd have much more luck.

                    1. re: Rick

                      Of course I understand. I don't know how I come off as all knowing. My question is how to gently help others understand that even if it's uncommon, food intolerance is like a handicap. It shouldn't be brushed aside just because it's not the "usual" problem.

                      As for citric acid, the chemical composition may not be changed, but the procedure by which it is created in a laboratory is different than how it is created in nature. I'm sure you are aware of this, but there is a fermentation process for creating citric acid because it's used so abundantly. I guess that is what I was thinking of when I made the comment I did. Who knows, in the long run, how this eventually effects the molecule and if it's not the process of producing the citric acid that causes some sort of problem for how people metabolize it? Processed food is relatively new in our human history. Everyone has a lot more to learn about it... I, most of all. I don't think dd has a problem with citric acid, so I'm just continuing with that as an example, but it's a great example that we just don't know what effect the process of producing it in the lab may have on the final ingredient.

                      If people think that giving the list is the easiest thing to do, then I'll do that. I just thought it was overwhelming (it was for me, at first).

                      1. re: velochic

                        I agree with some of the other posters that, 1) your approach, and 2) your definition of a few issues could help things.

                        On your approach, I can understand the use lf "crap foods". I think a lot of people have used that jargon. But you're not likely to make much headway when you're implying that other folks let their kids eat "crap food". It just doesn't come off well.

                        On you definition, water that's a product of nature, or water created in a lab, is water. It's H2O. Ditto with citric acid. It is what it is. Saying "Who knows, in the long run, how this eventually effects the molecule and if it's not the process of producing the citric acid that causes some sort of problem for how people metabolize it? " is irrelevant, because that logic can be applied to anything. We don't make decisions on what may or may not be found in the future. We make decisions on what we know now. MSG is another interesting one - it's one of various forms of glutamic acid, an amino acid commonly found in nature. What does one do with that? If it's lab produced, it's not tolerable, but if naturally occurring, it's OK? That makes for tough logic.

                        As for processed foods, maybe that's something that you need to define a little more clearly, both for yourself and for others. Is cheese a processed food? Well, it's milk that put through a process. I know this doesn't apply to your DD, but what about wine? Beer? Ice cream is a processed food - all natural ingredients or not. It's milk put through a process, converting a set of ingredients from one form into another.

                      2. re: Rick

                        I am sure that the OP means citric acid as manufactured in a food laboratory...not citric acid that occurs naturally in citrus food..the two are completely different things.

                        1. re: BlueMagic

                          Are you sure the two citrus acids are not chemically the same rhing? I do not know for sure about citric acid, but I do know that nitrogen fertilizer is the same whether it is manufactured or come from livestock manure, both are nitrogen and the crops don't know the difference.

                          1. re: BlueMagic

                            No, they really are the same chemical. One is produced by one organism (a plant) while the other is the same chemical produced by another organism (a fungus). There are distinctions between the two that may be significant from an intolerance perspective - mainly, very low incidence possibility of extreme sensitivity to aspergillus, which as far as I can tell is actually less common than allergies or intolerance to actual citrus fruit.

                            Saying they're 'completely different' is both misleading and incorrect.

                            1. re: cowboyardee

                              Without sodium chloride (ie. salt) -- a preservative -- one could make the argument that mankind would never have survived this long.

                        2. re: velochic

                          I think carrying that list around on a laminated card and then showing it to the person preparing/serving the food ought to do the trick. All you really have to say is, "Eating anything containing these ingredients will make my daughter very sick. Can you guarantee that chicken nugget is totally free of all of these?"

                          In my experience, people don't really want or need to know all the details or symptoms. They just need to be told what's off limits. Your list is highly specific and will do the trick without the need for disputable terms like "good," "healthy," "junk," etc. Most people will be so intimidated by a list like yours they won't question you, but if you use terms on which people do not agree, they will. So be as specific as you can.

                          1. re: Isolda

                            >>I think carrying that list around on a laminated card and then showing it to the person preparing/serving the food ought to do the trick. << I highly doubt the food jockey's slinging out trays at food carts have the slightest clue what preservatives, colorings, etc. are in the foods they are dishing out. I don't know if they are required to produce ingredient lists. Perhaps. If you ask them if they can guarantee their nuggets are free of the offending ingredients, you are likely to leave the food court hungry every time.

                          2. re: velochic

                            "Some of the replies of this thread is exactly what I'm talking about. Citric acid and oranges may be similar, but one is found naturally, and another is cultured in a lab. So, according to that poster, I must just not know my child and her tolerances if she can eat oranges and not eat citric acid. THAT'S the attitude I'm talking about. That others judge what is OK for my dd to eat because her problem does not fit with THEIR logic."
                            It's not an attitude. I understand that the processes by which some food additives are derived can also entail higher concentrations than are found in unprocessed foods, or changes to their chemical structure, or added impurities tagging along from the derivation process, or even just lack of mitigating substances also found in the unprocessed food of origin. But your language has been very imprecise and it seems you think of derived citric acid as wholly different from that which is normally found in unprocessed foods, just as it seems you think anything and everything that has been manipulated by industry is completely different from everything 'natural' whether or not it's actually the same substance. That's not how medicine works and it's not how chemistry works.

                            I'll put it much more bluntly than I did in my last post: your explanation of your DD's problems (which I have no doubt are very real, btw) comes off as dogmatic rather than based on medical science. It's not your DD's problems that are in question but your explanation and understanding of them.

                            If you want to educate people about food intolerance, start with yourself.

                            That said, I wish your DD well and hope that people respect her dietary needs. I think people will have an easier time understanding and respecting her needs if you drop the dogmatic explanation and stick with a medical one.

                          3. First, I think you need to step back and take a look at the way you're presenting it. As I read through your post, all I could think of was that you're coming off as all-knowing and that other people *can't* understand (and are stupid for not understanding). You may not realize that, but rather than trying to worry about educating others, you need to figure out how to educate your daughter.

                            People are not always willing or able to watch out for every food allergy, preference, or intolerance, and honestly, far too many people are willing to make them up these days for whatever godforsaken reason they have. I am not saying that you are doing this, obviously, just reasoning as to why they might be less interested/willing to help. Or, they just might not be able to. You're asking a lot of one or two teachers. Vegetarian, kosher, halal, all are relatively common...even GF is common these days. But the ingredients that you're removing are in...almost everything. Processed foods are everywhere, particularly in fast food courts. The other kids should be able to find something, but it sounds like your daughter won't. So, these teachers might already be realizing that, and also realizing that they don't have the time or ability to go through every food stand and ask about ingredients.

                            So, you need to either keep your child home (which I doubt you want to do), or, teach HER. She's nine, and probably quite capable of knowing (at least at the basic levels) what's good and bad. Find a list of the fast food chains in the court, and see what each offers. Can she get a salad and bring her own dressing kept in a small cooler that is refilled with ice as needed (hotels and restos)? Can she eat plain grilled chicken? Can she eat a plain hamburger? Can she eat...etc. Give her a list of what she CAN eat, not all the ingredients she can't. That's confusing even for most adults. It requires you to do the footwork, and will also help the teachers in the long run.

                            You're asking a lot. That's what I think is the problem here. There is no clear cut answer, like with vegetarians (can't eat meat), GF (can't eat gluten), etc. She has a wide range of foods that don't really relate in any tangible way (except for the processed, which...it would seem to many people that everything is processed).

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: milkyway4679

                              Keeping her home is an option.

                              Packing her food is another option.

                              How do you deal with the after-effects? Because she and her teachers are going to need to know if she goes...hopefully everything would be fine, but you *always* need to have a safety net.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                Of course. I'm not saying that the teachers shouldn't keep an eye on her, but at nine, she should start learning what works, what doesn't, and when to recognize she needs an adult's help for the situation. Mom should notify the teachers, provide a short explanation (on paper) along with the crazy list of what not to eat, and then teach her daughter to look out for herself, but to go to the teachers with issues.

                                1. re: milkyway4679

                                  yep. we're on the same page...but no matter how wonderful the intentions of everyone -- eventually this kid's going to eat something that sets off her intolerance, even if by an honest mistake, including her own.

                                  Telling how to deal with it also reinforces the idea that this is a genuine issue...because now they know what the consequences will be.

                              2. re: milkyway4679

                                Milkyway is right on many counts. It appears that you're taking the burden off your daughter's back and laying (VERY heavily) on everybody that doesn't eat the way you do. Which is a natural maternal thing to do, but I would suggest that you're not doing your daughter any favors with what appears to be the absence of responsibility for her own life and choices, essentially.

                                I agree with those who say that your choice of words hints at food snobbery rather than worry about your daughter's health. Let people know what she CAN eat.

                                1. re: EWSflash

                                  Agreed. I have a friend with multiple food allergies, including dairy, eggs and peanuts. She is always quick with suggestions of what she could eat, and I even eat out at restaurants with her with minimal fuss.

                                2. re: milkyway4679

                                  I know I'm asking a lot. And I realize it's a problem. That's kind of why I was asking. I had no intention of coming across negatively and I should have guarded my words better. I apologize.

                                  1. re: velochic

                                    No worries, I think the best options are those immediately above... take this opportunity to let your daughter begin educating herself and becoming more autonomous about her eating habits, since this is something she will have to deal with for the rest of her life. Then, teach her how to cook! Her life will be a lot easier if she knows she won't have to stress about what to eat.

                                    1. re: velochic

                                      I think the problem is, at a food court, what can she eat? That would be helpful to the teachers, not what she can't have since it's so limiting. If there's nothing, the only solution is for you to pack, or to go along. It's possible to find what "no meat" or "no nuts" means, but "no processed foods" could mean no bottled water (which can have preservatives). What's in the milk? It's processed unless they're serving raw milk. What about honey? I don't think it's so much that you're asking a lot--I think they need solutions. I know I'd be at a loss if I were the teacher. Good luck with finding a solution--it's just the start so this is a good beginning.

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        I can empathize that as a mother this must be beyond tough and frustrating. However, I must agree that you are simply asking too much of people. As a teacher, I would be petrified to let your daughter eat ANYTHING that she did not bring from home. Not only do I not want her to experience any ill effects, but would I want to be held legally responsible? Obviously not. Buy some laminated cards with a list of ingredients that your daughter cannot eat as a safety precaution and teach her her the foods that she CAN eat. Then. do not put the burden on her teachers unless they have CLEAR instructions on what your daughter can eat at the food court, without them having to guess. If I were your daughter's teacher, I would have you put it in writing on her school trip form.

                                      2. re: velochic

                                        Don't apologize. You're trying to protect your child, and that tends to make anyone sound a bit negative. :)

                                        I understand your fear, I do. I suffer from a chronic autoimmune disease (Crohns, specifically), and can have some pretty nasty issues from food. If I eat the wrong thing, you might catch me moaning from the severe cramps, with no warning of when I might need a toilet. So, I understand far better than most know. Which is also why I am a big time advocate for children taking control of their illness.

                                        If you don't start teaching her now, she might never learn. I've seen "kids" in their late 20's whose parents just kept feeding them the right things (but never taught them how), and now they're lost. She's probably going to make mistakes (in fact, I will guarantee it...everyone does when they're testing out their eating wings), but thankfully, they won't do much more than make her feel not so nice for a bit.

                                        I think that you need to figure out what the food court will offer (call them if needed), and figure out what's in what. Going from there, figure out what your daughter can eat. On top of that, write it all down, explain it to her, and make copies. Provide the teachers with copies, as well as the caveat that you don't expect them to babysit her, but, if they could just be prepared in case she accidentally eats something that doesn't agree with her. Does she normally use things like Pepto or some sort of anti-diarrheal (sp?)? If not, maybe speak with her dr about one of those to help minimize any issues so she doesn't run into too much trouble on the trip.

                                        I'm probably being repetitive from my earlier post, however, I hope that you'll consider my advice :) I've got this down pretty well by now, and don't run into too many issues when traveling (mostly because I know doom will occur when I eat fast food, and just deal with it because well...I enjoy it sometimes!).

                                        Good luck to your daughter and you. Hopefully as she ages, her allergies will begin to phase out as well.

                                        1. re: milkyway4679

                                          This is great advice all around. Be proactive and do the legwork yourself, instead of relying on teachers to do the work since they won't have the same knowledge. It's one thing to say, "She can only have xxx, yyyy, and zzzz from whatever restaurant" takes the onus off the teacher who has so many other children to worry about.

                                    2. "when I said she couldn't eat the processed food offered by the food court, they said it would be impossible"

                                      Out of curiosity, what solution did you propose to the powers that be?

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Jen76

                                        take her to Chez Panisse while the other kids have fun at the food court? :)

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          I am honestly interested in what a realistic alternative would be other than sending food along. Perhaps unfortunately, our society's (U.S.) definition of fast food usually means highly processed food (i.e. lots of preservatives and additional ingredients to make the food last longer, look "better" and be easier/faster to prepare on-site). An overnight or multi-day school field trip is a situation in which the likelihood of having to eat such food is pretty high. If one is going to request accommodations be made, then realistic solutions should be presented. Were any solutions/alternatives presented to the field trip organizers, and if so, what were they?

                                        2. re: Jen76

                                          I only asked if I could pack a lunch for her to bring with her. - they don't want to deal with bringing it.

                                          1. re: velochic

                                            That's unfortunate, but understandable considering food safety issues with temperature and what-not. What restaurants are at the food court in question? Perhaps we could offer suggestions that would provide minimal exposure? (e.g. plain rice and the grilled chicken/steamed veg at a Panda Express type place?)

                                            Beyond that, if she really cannot eat anything at the food court at all, then pikawicca below may be right - this trip may be impossible for your daughter if the organizers will not allow her to bring her own food.

                                            1. re: velochic

                                              She can't have a back pack with a lunch that is safe at room temperature? Banana, homemade bread and cheese, homemade cookies, fruits. That should be fine for her. Not to get in their faces, but if they can't accomodate her food needs then they have to let her bring her own lunch.

                                          2. Rome wasn't built in a day; it is very difficult to educate the general public overnight, which I am sure you understand.
                                            Perhaps the best course of action is educating your daughter wholly first- if she is armed with the tools and intellect of what she can and cannot eat or should or should not eat, I think she can pay that forward to her peers and superiors.
                                            I understand she is young, but this is also the best time for her to absorb as much knowledge as possible. I'm a med student and in my "spare" time, I volunteer in the pediatric oncology wing to help educate the children about their personal illnesses. This helps them to cope and educate others on their lifestyle. Obviously, it is NOT the same, but they are armed with knowledge to help them navigate the world.
                                            Good luck!

                                            1. Rather than talking about intolerances or allergies, why not just say there are many ingredients that make your daughter "sick"? I also think she needs to be educated first, along with keeping a list, so everyone isn't guessing. Hopefully she will grow out of this and things will be easier for everyone in the future.

                                              1. Are any of the 'accommodated' children eating food which is also OK for your daughter to eat ?Vegetarian, Halal, GF, Kosher...one of those should have unprocessed items, as well as whatever dessert the lactose free child is eating.

                                                I don't think the public is educated about most other diets other than to know someone is ordering/buying something different. The people who have the intolerance are the ones who need to be educated about what they can and can't eat, the same as people with allergies.

                                                1. Just eat at home.

                                                  You're being unreasonable. And vague.

                                                  8 Replies
                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    You are the perfect example of what I'm talking about. Unreasonable to you is my dd probably being miserable with stomach pains, diarrhea, scratching all night and not sleeping, and not enjoying herself. If it were a tidy little, well-known and convenient restriction, then it would be okay, wouldn't it?

                                                    Is it really that unreasonable for places to offer fresh fruit, salads, vegetable sticks, cheeses, etc.? I would hope that everyone would WANT their children to be eating that, instead of calling it "unreasonable".

                                                    1. re: velochic

                                                      Pack a lunch.

                                                      Society caters to demand. There is no sufficient demand for what you are asking for.

                                                      Vegetarian fare was not a viable lifestyle many moons ago. Now it is. Why? Lots more people are vegetarians.

                                                      Same with celiacs. Markets now have "gluten-free" products on the shelves. 20 years ago? Not so much.

                                                      Sorry, but that's just the way the world works. Restaurants (like all ventures) are in business to make money, not to make one person, or even a small minority, happy.

                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                        I think there are plenty of places in which the OP can avoid the list of ingredients she posted. Look at that list again. It's full of nasties that you don't have in your own kitchen, I'm sure, and there must be others like you. (Or even if you have microwave popcorn containing diacetyl, you wouldn't serve it to someone who wants only food from scratch.) Anyone can make a meal without a single one of the "foods" on that list as long as they make it from scratch. I think that's really what the OP wants.

                                                        She may have to pay more eating out, because the better restaurants are the ones most likely to have foods that meet her standards, but her standards are not unreasonable at all.

                                                          1. re: Isolda

                                                            Anyone can make a meal without a single one of the "foods" on that list as long as they make it from scratch. I think that's really what the OP wants.

                                                            So just eat at home, or pack a lunch.

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                              It's not as simple as just eating at home or packing a lunch. The mental pain of not being able to go out and enjoy food when you wish (or must) is stressful. I have celiac disease so eating out is a rarity for me. I cannot eat at church functions, banquets, others' homes unless I take my own food or am convinced they have a 100% GF kitchen. There is far more to just eating at home and packing a lunch. Just imagine having to strictly plan every single morsel of food that goes into your mouth for the rest of your life without ever cheating. It is very tough socially as well so I can really empathize with the OP and her daughter. Those who cannot eat out much tend to be invited out far less, too. So, there is a lot more involved than what appears on the surface. Before my diagnosis I was unaware of all that goes along with such diseases and was frankly quite shocked at what I discovered about how important it is to break bread with others. :-(

                                                              1. re: chefathome

                                                                Well said, chefathome. Thank you for taking the time to illustrate how all-encompassing food intolerances or allergies can be.

                                                                And while we all can probably think of people who wear their food allergies or intolerances like a badge of honor and love to call attention to themselves in that way, for every one of them, there are probably dozens (more likely hundreds) of people who would rather crawl under a table than have to call attention to themselves in this manner.

                                                                1. re: jlhinwa

                                                                  Thank you! Because I did not understand it until I was diagnosed I get how others cannot understand until you must go through it yourself. Another thing I missed that those with these food allergies/intolerances/diseases cannot do is enjoy food fairs and festivals. Sigh....my husband and I travel a lot and no longer can attend these events due to cross contamination (i.e. who knows whether that olive has touched bread/double dipping?). Try to have something decent to eat at airports or on flights! On our last trip we were stranded at the Frankfurt airport by a long unexpected delay. I could find nothing to eat that was safe except for an over-ripe banana. That was incredibly sad. Had to pass on a wedding reception this summer. There would have been nothing I could have eaten.

                                                                  I am one of those rather-crawl-under-the-table types because it is embarassing to draw attention to myself. It makes me feel sickly and demanding. I HAVE to get my order 100% right or I can suffer short-and long-term effects. I have had salads brought to me with pitas instead of croutons; croutons on the salads but then picked off (doesn't help me any). It goes on and on. When we have guests we have to go over a list of rules if they eat here - again, that unwanted attention. We try not to allow gluten into our home but sometimes guests will inadvertently bring in a doughnut then touch the counter without cleaning it. When I was first diagnosed I felt as though I was sentenced to prison without parole; thankfully things have improved but it still is, and always will be, very difficult to eat anywhere other than my home.

                                                                  You are so right - this is all encompassing! I so long for the days of eating freely what I wanted, where I wanted to. Now I have days of gazing into the fridge with a carb craving and cannot just order in. The whole foods (i.e. fruit, vegetables) just do not always cut it. No restaurants in our town are safe so if we eat out we must drive to the city three hours away. It really takes away all spontaneity and freedom, that is for sure.

                                                                  But I am truly thankful I love to cook as much as I do. It would be so much worse living with this and having no clue how to cook and suddenly having to! :-)

                                                    2. I think you should provide a list of acceptable foods for her to choose. Educating her on what she can and can't have is great but as we all know, you have no control over the ingredients used in a restaurant, someone else's home, or a school kitchen. It's a lot easier to keep a child who is lactose intolerant away from dairy products than to keep a child from eating all of the ingredients on that list when the food is prepared in a restaurant or home and the ingredients are not labeled. Thinking about school functions, many schools don't even allow homemade treats anymore and even if they did, you don't know what people are putting into those treats.

                                                      In all seriousness, I would like to know exactly how you expect them to accommodate your child's dietary issues on a field trip? The only way I could think of doing that with my own child on a family trip is to pack our own food. I don't see that being an option on a field trip but I may be wrong. Between space constraints and lack of refrigeration, microwave, etc, I don't see how it could be possible.

                                                      On the subject of all of the allergies, intolerances...I now have a senior in high school and a son in middle school and this is the first time in all these years that I have been told I couldn't bring certain snacks because of allergies. One child on one of my son's teams has an allergy to peanuts, apples, and nut trees. I have asked every single year and always been told there are not difficulties. I don't know if it's because parents of allergic children are handling the snack issues themselves or if there simply haven't been any children with allergies in their classes.


                                                      1. Not to go too OT, but I am flabbergasted that your school is:

                                                        A) Feeding its students out of a fast food court (that is what you are talking about, right?)
                                                        B) You are the only parent who has a problem with it

                                                        If this is something else, some sort of camp or something (you did say it was two days), then the place likely already has grappled with food issues and can help you out. Maybe you should contact the food prep people directly.

                                                        What sort of 2-day trip is this and what sort of food court is it?

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Cachetes

                                                          Here are the offerings at a typical suburban mall food court.
                                                          Auntie Anne's Pretzels
                                                          Currito: Burritos Without Borders
                                                          Cajun Grill
                                                          Charley's Grilled Subs
                                                          Jamba Juice
                                                          Japan Cafe
                                                          Panda Express
                                                          Quizno's Classic Subs
                                                          Starbucks Coffee
                                                          Taco Time

                                                          I can imagine a school field trip stopping at such a court for lunch, even if the destination (camp or some other school) provided the other meals. It would give the kids plenty of choices, without saddling the teachers with the management of ice chests and other food storage and serving duties.

                                                          1. re: Cachetes

                                                            Stopping at a food court on these kinds of school trips is quite common. I know someone who drives one of the big coaches and they stop at a convenient food court for one of their lunches on long trips quite often.

                                                          2. Could it be that there is a blurry line between her tummy's intolerance, and your mind's eye?

                                                            1. Are you saying that when you offered to send along food for your daughter for the field trip they said that would be impossible?

                                                              1. My children have packed food, for multi-day field trips, many times. Is there nothing available that is shelf-stable that your dd can consume? I'm thinking... organic granola bars (or home-made snack bars), dried fruit, tinned fish, fresh vegetable sticks, tinned beans (Eden brand have only EDTA and salt added, I think), fresh apples, oranges, or bananas. When I need to travel by air, I pack my own snacks, as many of the airline meals on long-haul flights contain items which cause me "gastric distress". 9 years old is not too young to learn the important skill of taking care for oneself.
                                                                ETA: when flying, there is the added constraint of no liquids or gels (i.e. juice!), plus consideration of import restrictions in the destination...

                                                                1. Velochic, you need to take control of the situation. You need to go down to that school and TELL (NOT ASK) them that:

                                                                  1. Your daughter has a medical condition and WILL be treated as any other student with special dietary needs and restrictions under the Equal Access laws

                                                                  2. You WILL send a cooler with your daughter containing any food she will need in order to equally participate in the field trip and that your daughter will be responsible for the cooler.

                                                                  3. If they give you or your daughter ANY hassle about #1 and #2 you will raise holy hell starting with the school principal and ending with the supreme court if necessary (and follow through!!).

                                                                  I have followed this thread although I have refrained from participating because I knew I would have a hard time not sounding like a jerk about it. I grew up with severe epilepsy. I spent almost half my childhood in the hospital and I learned from my mom how to handle school staff that wanted to either treat me like a freak or push me off into a corner like a non-entity. These people are public servants who are paid by the tax payers. THEY WORK FOR YOU! Treat them with the same respect that they treat you and your daughter with, but let them know that your daughter deserves the same opportunities that any other student receives.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                    A confrontational attitude is in no one's best interest. Schools have legal requirements they have to follow. For special diets, that involves a special meals or special diets form. That form typically goes along with a doctor's prescription for a special diet, and a doctor's medical diagnosis.

                                                                    This has become a huge headache for lots of school districts, and as a result, there are some very straightforward hoops to jump through, and forms to have on record. They have had to do this because of unreasonable requests from unreasonable parents. Now, you need a doc to say your kid needs a special diet, and for a recognized condition. Given the entitlement attitude that many parents these days have, it would be impossible (and unreasonable) for schools to accommodate every request that doesn't have a legitimate need.

                                                                    The attitude that teachers WORK FOR YOU, that they are public servants, and that you're going to go to court if you don't get your way is not, IMO, a good way to proceed. If you want to build acrimony, then PotatoHouse's suggestions are a great way to go. If you want results without negative attitudes, many of the suggestions on this thread are a great way to go.

                                                                  2. To answer some questions. Yes, there are other kids who are having the same problem. However the 3 of them all have food allergies... one with a dairy allergy, one with tree nut/peanut and one with peanut. All of the kids will eat at the same place and to streamline the process they can have either the chicken nuggets or hot dogs (we order now) because this food was determined to be okay for the kids with allergies. (I totally understand why they are doing that.) When I asked at the front desk, I just said, "Hey, can't my dd just choose another place where she can get a salad or slice of pizza or a pasta dish or a 100% hamburger". Any of those would work just fine. There are TONS of quick foods that do not contain the foods in that list. HFCS is something we try to avoid, but it doesn't cause problems for her like some of the artificial coloring and other nasties.

                                                                    You'd be surprised that a lot of foods actually don't contain those ingredients a lot - or there is at least one option without them. In fact, I don't bake my own bread, I buy it. We eat out once a week and we never have a hard time finding something made from scratch. If nothing else, we can almost always order steak or pasta for dd and she does fine with it. Yes, we avoid chains, though.

                                                                    Also, as opposed to allergies, small amounts are not going to permanently harm her. She will be eating 4 meals on this trip. The only meal that is problematic is lunch the 2nd day. The rest are fine (a sack lunch I provide to eat on the bus, pizza dinner, bagel breakfast). My issue is that there are tonnes of options at the food court and I simply want them to allow dd to choose another option (pizza again would be fine or pasta or an all-beef hamburger). That would entail a teacher having to take dd around the food court to find a food and they don't want to do that.

                                                                    That is kind of my point. They have accommodated the kids with allergies because they really will DIE if they get an offending ingredient. They are protecting them and they should, but in the process, they've completely excluded what my dd can eat. But I want them to understand that my dd's intolerance is important, too, and it should not just be ignored because she'll only be uncomfortable and not dead if she eats the offending ingredients. It wouldn't take much to just have a teacher take her around to other parts of the food court to find something she can eat.

                                                                    As for her reaction to these foods. By FAR the worst is eczema, stuffy/runny nose (and therefore sometimes sinus headache) and sleep disturbance. She has to eat a lot to end up throwing up or on the toilet. She is 9 and I HAVE, for a few years now, put the burden on her to make the decisions about whether or not to eat the offending foods. Birthday parties, she ALWAYS chooses to eat the cake. And for several days afterward, we are slathering on the hydrocortizone cream and she is scratching all through the night. Her legs are already scarred and that is with her almost *never* indulging and doing so only a little bit. This is most definitely not a problem that is just in my head. You only have to see all of the band-aid on her legs to know this is real.

                                                                    She had the same problem when breastfeeding and when I went on the elimination diet, it all disappeared. Once she was eating a lot of solids, we were living in Europe. When we got back and let her eat some treats, it came RIGHT BACK. I kept a food journal for several months and when we talked with the doctor, this was the conclusion. We did the standard elimination diet with reintroduction to "test" and it was very conclusive. She was 4 at the time, and over the last 5 years, it has been proven to still be an issue over and over again.

                                                                    Thank you to those who have given helpful advice, especially PotatoHouse. I will take those suggestions to heart and I think you're right. I appreciate it very much.

                                                                    I'll bow out of the conversation now, as I've gotten some good feedback, but really can't stand anymore of the comments from those who, like much of the public, don't respect that these types of medical issues actually exist.

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: velochic

                                                                      I know you are bowing out, and I'm not sure if anyone else suggested it already, but have you approached the school nurse? Maybe she can help you with getting the teachers to understand. It seems to me that if you do the advance work of figuring out the food in the court, that it really is not unreasonable for a teacher to accompany your child there. Perhaps getting the nurse on your side will help to convince them.
                                                                      Good luck. (though I'm still flabbergasted that they'd go to a mall food court, though maybe my son's school is out of sync with the times)!

                                                                      1. re: velochic

                                                                        Velochic, my sympathies to you and especially your daughter. Reading your post took me back to my childhood where I had a number of food allergies (particularly dairy) that resulted in severe eczema. It was miserable. The scratching, itching, embarrassment of feeling strange and having people think I was a freak from the rashes, etc. No, not life-threatening, but very life-impacting and it is hard for most kids to be different in that kind of way.

                                                                        Thankfully, I "grew out" of those reactions around 10-11. Good for you for being such a strong advocate for your daughter.

                                                                        1. re: velochic

                                                                          I now more completely understand your situation. If your daughter's OWN teacher is on this trip, I cannot understand why she would not agree to do what you suggested in your last post. (Maybe it's not her teacher but administration that is refusing). I can however, understand why they wish to make only two options available, simplicity, etc. but you must convince them this is not simply a preference of pizza over hotdogs or chicken nuggets..

                                                                          1. re: velochic

                                                                            so you're now saying that kosher, halal, and vegetarian kids are being "accommodated"-- with a choice between hot dogs and chx nuggets. sorry to tell you, this just doesn't pass the sniff test. you've now made several statements that contradict your op.

                                                                            if you have real concerns, it's best to be proactive and pack your own food, rather than expect the rest of the world to meet your demands.

                                                                            it also sounds as if you spend a great deal of energy talking about how your dd "can't" eat foods like the birthday cake w the colored frosting, but meanwhile your dd is repeatedly eating these foods, given any opportunity. then you continue to complain that your child's teachers won't take you seriously. . . is it possible for you to take a step back from the situation and try to see this from their perspective? i'm not surprised that they are reluctant to take responsibility for your child's diet. what happens when they spend person-hours and other resources in order to bend over backward to accommodate her, and then your child goes ahead and eats a cookie offered to her by another student on the bus, and possibly has a reaction? do you still plan on derailing your school district's educators, starting with the principal, and then taking this situation to court, per PotatoHouse's advice?

                                                                            many restaurants work hard to work with folks' dietary restrictions. when those same customers (regardless of their age, sorry) turn around and eat the same foods that they just claimed they "can't" eat, it undercuts their credibility, and also hurts everyone else with restrictions. yes i'm very sorry for any suffering that your (or any other) child goes through. however it actually takes more energy to maintain a victim mentality than to be pragmatic and proactive. if your daughter connects her own eating choices to her later discomfort, she will be more empowered, than if she is led to believe that her symptoms are a result of someone else's actions/inactions, or that it is the world at large's responsibility to look after her personally.

                                                                          2. Maybe I'm missing something here, but in this case why not provide a list of foods that your daughter 'can' eat. If she is able to eat fruit, I'm sure that anyplace in a food court where they make shakes for example can give her access to lets say a banana for one.

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: lilgi

                                                                              I'm confused. Above velochic said she asked if she could pack a lunch for her daughter. Now she says she asked if she could just choose a different restaurant with different options. The OP made it sound like daughter couldn't eat *anything* at a typical food court, but now it sounds like she can indeed eat several options, just not the 2 options on offer. None of this was stated in the OP. I think that is what drew the harsher reactions/conclusions. Knowing all this now, I would say yes, the school is being somewhat unreasonable, but the way this thread started, I had a rather different opinion because it seemed like there was no real reasonable accommodation that could be made.

                                                                              1. re: Jen76

                                                                                I think this thread shows why some schools (most schools?) have so much trouble in dealing with dietary issues. Sometimes it's not clear what the parent wants. When it's an allergy issue, it's pretty straightforward. But when it's a "tolerance" issue rather than "allergy", it's tough going. The line between tolerance and "doesn't like it" can be thin, and if schools don't follow straightforward guidlines, soon, every kid will be having their own special diet. Parents simply demanding can't be a workable situation, because then kids deserving of accommodations don't get them while kids not deserving do. As schools are overburdened with lots of issues, this just makes things harder. There are procedures in place that the OP can use. But first, the OP needs to be clearer in what she is asking, because it does seem that some of the OPs posts were contradictory. That just adds to the confusion.

                                                                                1. re: Jen76

                                                                                  Indeed it seems that a lot more food is permissible than what was originally indicated in the later post. I agree that there are too many contradictions, and I'm left wondering if, as so many others have indicated if she's getting a negative reaction because of the way this is all being communicated. Again, they should have allowed her to bring her own lunch or accepted a list of foods that is permissible for her daughter at the food court. But I don't agree that a list of chemicals or ingredients should be left for caregivers to determine what foods 'might' be okay and might not. I agree with Nijchicaa and wouldn't want to touch that with a 12-foot pole, nope. And that's what I believe was being communicated at the beginning of this thread.

                                                                              2. velochic -- as an adult with multiple food intolerances, I feel for you and dd. I think it may be helpful to go to the teacher/school office with options. Something like, DD will become ill if she eats these selections. Which of these options will work to allow her to participate? 1) I approve a separate food option in advance, which an adult will purchase for her, but I take full responsibility for, or 2) I pack an additional bag lunch. Rather than putting the onus on the teacher/ supervisors, you are taking responsibility. If each child makes an individual request, it becomes very difficult for the teacher, and such trips are rendered impossible to execute. So for best result, offer a selection of reasonable solutions.

                                                                                1. As a teacher, I wouldn't touch that banned ingredients list with a 12 foot pole. Sorry, in this litigious society, I wouldn't want any part of trying to find your daughter acceptable foods.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: Njchicaa

                                                                                    I can totally see a very well-meaning teacher obtaining a package of apple slices for this kid, thinking he/she is doing a good thing, only to be attacked by mom, called into a disciplinary hearing, and having his/her job threatened, or worse getting fired, because the apples had been dipped in lemon juice (CITRIC ACID) to keep them from browning.

                                                                                    Giving the child oxidized brown apples would be a crime against nature, I'm sure...

                                                                                    There's no winning this one for the teachers, and they're smart to back away quickly from this one.

                                                                                  2. They are giving the kids the option of hotdogs or nuggets @ the food court? Assuming that they will be eating @ the food court and not somewhere else, I would tell your daughter to excuse herself to go the the bathroom and then just buy what ever she can eat. If she gets in trouble deal with it when she gets home.

                                                                                    1. As is often the case with this type of etiquette thread, there are a lot of very personal, unpleasant posts in this thread. Since the OP is electing to bow out at this point, anyway, we're going to lock this thread.