chia seeds

New foods for a happy baby

Since we are heading out of the country, I wanted to try a bunch of new foods before we left, to maximize the options for P.

As you can probably imagine, I’m not really keen on the idea of trying various foods for the first time while we are oceans apart from our MD (and the coverage of health care).  I am bringing 3 epi-pens with me and I’d like to return with the same amount.  Benadryl can fill in the gaps if there’s cross contamination, but for the 2 weeks we are gone, I’m not going to press our luck with expanding his palate.

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In the past week he’s tried strawberries, pineapple, mandarin oranges, tomatoes, and chia seeds.

I know SEEDS!  I was seriously nervous feeding him chia seeds because we had been advised to avoid all nuts and seeds until he was 2 years old and was able to get re-tested.  I did a TON of research but couldn’t find a single scientific study or article that concluded anything about the cross reactivity of chia, flax, and/or pumpkin seeds amongst people with sesame allergies.  This is something that is likely due to the recent increase in prevalence, so I’m still hoping there will eventually be more information over the course of P’s childhood.  The reason I wanted to clear these in particular, though, was because several of the puree pouches that I was looking at had salba chia seeds in them.  I could have avoided those specific flavors, but the rest of the ingredients looked so nutritious and delicious and I wanted to have as diverse a range of options for him as possible away from home.

Anyway, I mixed a teaspoon of chia seeds into his oats with cinnamon and mashed up banana.  And I gave him a few bites.  He loved it and would have eaten a lot more, but I thought it best to go slow.  After he ate, I watched him carefully for a while – no rash, no hives, no labored breathing, no wheezing.  No change in demeanor whatsoever.  Sigh of relief.  I put him down for a nap a while later and even though I have a video monitor, I still put my ear to the door to listen for breathing a few times.  I realize I sound like a nutcase, but he’s my little everything and I don’t usually go against the MD’s advice.  I have since given him chia seeds several times without any reaction.  Hooray!  The pouches now have the green light.  Hopefully he won’t turn up his nose at every single one of them.

Strawberries and pineapple were less of a concern for me, since those seem to be more of an acidic issue than allergy thing.  He did get a little redness on his chin the first time he tried both of them, but he didn’t seem bothered by it.  Incidentally, both the strawberries and pineapple were a huge hit the first time, but he wouldn’t have anything to do with them the second time I offered them to him.  Weird kid.  I have since tried both a few more times without any luck in the strawberries.  Pineapple he refused a few times but then finally gave in…and inhaled them, so much so that he broke out in hives all over his hand and arms (due to excessive contact with the acidic fruit).  It freaked me out at first because the rash was bright red and raised, plus he was clearly bothered by it, scratching himself where the skin was inflamed.  But there weren’t hives anywhere else and as soon as I washed off his skin it went away.  I believe it’s purely contact dermatitis* given how quickly it resolved, but I’m hesitant to push pineapple (and any other citrus) much more.  For now, I don’t care if he eats these acidic fruits or not (they won’t go to waste on my watch!) but at least I know he doesn’t have an anaphylactic response when he ingests them.

He hardly ate the oranges and tomatoes I offered him, even though the tomatoes were cooked into his scrambled eggs, so I can’t be sure about his skin’s reaction to the acid, but he got enough to clear him from having an allergic reaction.  I may try tomato sauce on some gluten free pasta next to see if that’s something he likes or not.  Marinara could open a whole world of meals for us (him), although I will still have to be hyper-vigilent about any added ingredients because I think gluten can get hidden in there sometimes.  Maybe even nuts and/or seeds, too.

*ETA: He got the same hives (in the same location) after another meal that didn’t include pineapple, so I’m not sure what caused it but we now have more trial and error planned for the next few meals.  I need to buy stock in Benadryl. 

Next up?  Beets, kiwi, and maybe (but probably not quite yet) flax?

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Look at all these happy baby products!  I bought tons of flavors from a few different lines, including the starting solids (1), simple combos (2), homestyle meals (2), and hearty meals (3).

FYI, I emailed the company about what’s in the chicken stock just to be sure.  I have yet to hear back, but I’ll update once I do.

From the company “We use several different facilities for our products – most do not use peanuts, tree nuts or sesame, but a few do. Our Super Toddler bars are produced in a facility with peanuts and tree nuts present, and our Munchies Rice Cakes are produced in a facility with sesame present. Otherwise, the only tree nut used with shared equipment in our pouch production facilities is coconut.  Our chicken stock is made from chicken and water, there are no additional ingredients.”

Omni meal plans

I’ve been keeping up with weekly meal planning for almost a year now – with random weeks off due to travel/holidays/etc..  But for the most part, it’s been a very successful technique in keeping our food budget in check. 

I thought it would be way more expensive once we started including meat, but it hasn’t been too significant of a difference because the marginal increase in animal protein is balanced by the fact that we all eat the same thing (thus, a decrease in overall ingredients).  One meal as opposed to three.  At least for dinner.  I pack Kyle’s lunches and they do contain wheat and dairy and (until we run out entirely) nuts, since he’s not nursing and out of the house when he eats them, it’s no big deal.  Otherwise, we are a communal diet family. 

I slipped up a bit this week because I had some mad tempeh cravings, but otherwise here are the allergy friendly dinners we shared.

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Salmon burgers over a huge salad with TJ’s Caesar dressing.

I called and left a message with Trident Seafoods about their facilities and they called me back and were so helpful!  They are all peanut and tree nut free, and one of their two facilities is sesame and free and the other is not but they still clean it thoroughly between the use of sesame products.  The customer service rep showed me where to look up the ID number of the product (on the bottom of the package) to determine which facility it was made at.  We happened to get a package from the sesame free facility!  And since the package is already labeled as gluten free, we are in the clear.  Win! 

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Kale, quinoa and tempeh Caesar salad.

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I can’t get enough Caesar dressing lately.  TJ’s makes a non-dairy version that’s pretty great.  Unfortunately, it’s not vegan, but at least P was spared one allergen (the tempeh is soy, of course).  From now on I’ll probably nix the tempeh or use chicken instead, but since we are on a budget, I didn’t want to let the tempeh that’s been in our fridge for the past month go to waste.  I’ve been eyeing it for far too long and I finally caved.

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It was so good, but not worth the poor eczema flare P had as a result.  I had thought eating it at dinner and waiting 12 hours overnight wouldn’t be too bad, but I think it takes longer to clear out of my system.  At least in that amount.  🙁

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Home-made Chipotle bowl.

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For the rice, I mixed corn, cilantro, and lime juice into brown rice.  For the chicken, I cooked two breasts in the crock pot covered in salsa for 8 hours on low.  It shredded in 5 seconds and made for minimal hands on work.  Kyle demanded a repeat of this meal immediately, so I suspect it will be a regular.

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It was seriously easy so that’s fine by me.  I served the chicken and rice with romaine and avocado.

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I’ve made this broccoli salad previously (both times adding quinoa).  Just as good this time (I had two more huge servings and the leftovers for lunch the next day).

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I actually made us two separate meals this night because we didn’t have very much GF pasta after P ate dinner (his appetite keeps surprising me!).  So Kyle had wheat pasta with this pesto (frozen from our summer produce) and I had the (above) mish mash.

Since you probably can’t tell, it’s TJ’s pasta with kale and roasted veggies topped in an avocado/nutritional yeast sauce.  Despite appearances, it was delicious.

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Kyle’s dad was in town on Friday night (Valentine’s Day) so our romantic dinner was re-scheduled for Sunday.  I made a stew with veggies, kale, rice, and sausage.

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Saturday was P’s first birthday party, so we treated ourselves to sushi that night.  No pics because I devoured it superfast.  Avocado inari is my fave.

And here are a few more meals that I photographed from the previous week but never shared…

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Pasta with marinara and home-made lentil “meatballs”.  I made extra pasta for Kyle’s lunch the next day, as well as extra GF pasta for me & P.

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He loves pasta with olive oil or chicken broth.  Frankly I can get him to eat anything with chicken broth.  It’s how I shoved brown rice and squash down his throat just yesterday.

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This was a Sonoma “chickn” salad made from Beyond Meat chicken-free strips.  I love their products so much.  They are getting “beefy crumbles” soon which should be interesting.

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I basically tweaked the Whole Foods version of the Sonoma salad that first introduced me to Beyond Meat’s product – mayo, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, celery, salt & pepper.

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Served atop a salad (or on a sandwich the next day).

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In addition to Caesar I’m really into mayo these days.  It’s all about the condiments, baby.

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Rosemary and lemon chicken and red potatoes with mixed veggies.  We all ate this one, no alterations needed.

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Spoon Fork Bacon’s shaved brussel salad with quinoa instead of pretzel bread and bacon instead of pancetta.  So good we made it again for P’s birthday party.

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Brown rice, broccoli, and organic chicken sausage.  I wasn’t too keen on the sausage, to be honest.  The flavor was fine, but the texture weirded me out. 

So there you have it – an assortment meals for our omni family.

My highlights: week 6

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My little boy is no longer a baby.   Happy first birthday patty-cakes.  You are the biggest source of joy I have ever known. 

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Obviously the boxes and wrapping were more exciting than the actual presents.

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We had a little party with our closest family and friends.  It was pretty perfect.

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Pacman muffin. 🙂

I had the same breakfast 4 days this week thanks to these GF lemon streusel muffins by Udi’s. 

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Sorry for the hyperbole, but they are SOOO good.  I don’t usually go gaga for lemon things, but they actually aren’t mega lemon-y.  Nor is the streusel mega sweet.  It’s pretty much the perfect muffin. 

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Their fluffiest flavor by far!

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The one day I deviated from the muffin extravaganza was for these failed pancakes.  The good news is that as a chia pudding it was awesome.

It had chia seeds, mashed banana, desiccated coconut, coconut milk, cinnamon and stevia.  I ate the scrambled “pancakes” warm and the rest of the “batter” cold.  Good both ways!

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Not mom jeans.

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Rain rain go away.

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Pent up energy…and crappy weather…means chasing balls all over the house.  Kinda like baby Jillian Michaels routines.

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Our neighbor dropped these off on P’s birthday!!  How sweet!

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Afternoon smoothie obsession going STRONG.  This one had frozen bananas, frozen pumpkin (from a huge one I baked in Fall), coconut milk, Vega One french vanilla mix and ice.  No extra sweetener needed thanks to the super ripe banana and stevia in the vega mix. 

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Took advantage of the break in the rain to go on a morning jog. 

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My bestie came to town for Pacman’s birthday and we grabbed lunch at Crepeville.  Our $ allowance only includes one (non-dinner) meal out per week, so this was a great one.  🙂

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Packing up Kyle’s lunch.  This sando had salmon salad on one half (canned salmon mixed with celery, mayo, mustard, S+P) with smoked hummus on the other half.  Do you guys miss my work meal posts?  I do.  If you want me to share what I make for Kyle every once in a while let me know. 

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Because mine all look like this.  And sometimes they aren’t even plated!  Oh carrots, how I love thee.

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If life gets better than this, I can’t even imagine it. 

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Allergy friendly snack bites

More substantial than fruit and veggies, I need (quick) snack ideas that have both nutritional and caloric oomph.  Preferably ones with protein and fat (since carbs are easy to come by in my experience).

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Balls for the win.

These look so hideous it’s almost embarrassing to post.  It’s not a wonky camera mode, they are really that green color.  It’s because there’s green stuff in them.

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Frozen Green Chai Vanilla Bites [vegan, gluten free, soy free, dairy free, nut free]

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 tbsp protein powder of choice (I used Amazing Grass chai vanilla infusion)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds + 4 tbsp water
  • [optional] 1 tbsp liquid sweetener (maple syrup, honey, agave)
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

Add everything to a food processor and pulse until it all comes together and forms a large ball.

Roll into smaller bites sized balls and store in the fridge or freezer. 

Notes: the amount of sweetener is up to you and will vary based on what protein powder you use (i.e. if it is sweetened or not).

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The pairing of chai and vanilla and coconut in these is awesome.  I totally recommend Amazing Grass’ vanilla chai infusion.  It’s got that characteristic "green" taste (and color), but has a delicious unique chai flavor.  I love love love chai.

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Chia gel on the left, ready to roll on the right.

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Depending on the size, you should get ~12 balls. 

These are nutrient dense like whoa.  Thanks to the Amazing Grass powder, they have (rice and hemp) protein, plus the sunflower seeds, chia, and coconut offer fat (and a million other fantastic nutrients) as well.

More allergy friendly snack ideas:

  • dried coconut / dried fruit
  • banana chips
  • glutino pretzels with sunbutter
  • home-made bean dip
  • tortilla chips with salsa/guacamole
  • avocado on wheat free crackers*
  • pepitas / sunflower seeds
  • hard boiled eggs

As you’ll notice, several of these require you to make them yourself.  In the safety of your own kitchen, you have 100% control over what goes into your food.  Time consuming, for sure; but at least you’ll be less stressed because you will be sure of the exact ingredients. 

Other ideas??  Feel free to chime in! 

*If you are eating something pre-packaged, be sure to check ingredients lists carefully.  If it’s a gluten free product, it may still have some other source of allergen (case in point Mary’s Gone crackers, which are wheat/gluten free but do have sesame seeds).  Unless something is made in a certified peanut/tree nut-free facility, there’s always a risk of contamination.  I’ve called a few companies and so far everyone has been really helpful in making sure their customers are informed.  Be a responsible consumer – don’t be afraid to get in touch with customer service and ask questions!

Ten Reviews

Here are some products I’ve tried lately (or over the last few months…). Some were bad, some were okay, some were good, and some were awesome. So I figured I’d share. I have no affiliation with any of these brands. These are simply my honest opinions.

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1. Nama-Age deep fried tofu. 

I thought deep fried anything would be good, but this didn’t have any flavor.  Bland.  Lame.

I wouldn’t buy again.

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2. Puro Coffee

It’s organic and fairtrade and I have liked all the blends I’ve tried (and I’m picky about my java!).  I think you all should try to get your hands on some.  You can read about their social initiatives and how they’re saving the rainforests on their website.  I’m so into them – they have hot chocolate and tea too!

They need more distribution!

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3. Baby Gourmet perfect purees baby food.

These pouches are life savers when I’m traveling and on-the-go.  He doesn’t love the puree texture (prefers something with more chew), but it works in a pinch. 

Would I buy again?  I’d love to say no I’ll make my own, but let’s be real.  They’re so convenient.  Especially for travel with planes, trains, and automobiles. 

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4. Tasty Bite Pad Thai.

I got this a long time ago and since we are slowly working our way through the pantry (towards being a nut free household), I gave this to Kyle in his lunch.

We had just gotten home from a trip and didn’t have much in the fridge, so this was exactly what I was looking for as I scavenged the pantry. 

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It looked small for one portion (in my opinion), and a tad greasy, but he really liked it. 

I’d buy it again if we weren’t converting to an allergy friendly atmosphere.

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5. Hodo Soy five spice tofu nuggets

Love these.  Super flavorful and insanely easy to use in a meal – just throw on a salad, in noodles, atop steamed veggies, etc. 

I’m so mad at Costco for discontinuing Hodo Soy’s Yuba Strips.  If they get rid of the tofu nuggets too I’m going to have to write to them (again).  That said, I am really monitoring (read: limiting) my soy intake these days, on account of my little man’s allergies, so I doubt I’ll be hitting up Costco for soy products in bulk.

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6. Fresh ‘N Nova babaghannoush.

I had been working my way through all of Fresh N Nova’s spreads, until P had his little allergy scare.  Since then, hummus has been infrequently consumed (on account of the sesame) in the HHH household, which is sad considering how obsessed I am with the stuff.

Anyway, the babaghannoush has tahini too so I’m savoring these products on the late night after P is in bed and when I won’t nurse him again until the allergens are long gone from my milk. 

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I highly recommend everyone else stuff their faces with these goodies since I cannot.

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7. Natural Value organic coconut milk.

It’s hard to find coconut milk (or any non-dairy milk for that matter) without added thickeners and emulsifiers and stabilizers, but this stuff is pure.

Just coconut and water – in a BPA free can to boot. 

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It’s also the highest fat content I’ve seen anywhere (meaning it’s not as watered down as other canned coconut milk brands).  Unfortunately, it’s kinda pricey.

I found it at my local grocery store in the asian food section, but you can order it from amazon too. 

I combine one can with one can of water and use that in my coffee.  It’s weird seeing fat floating in my coffee but it doesn’t bother me too much since it tastes great.

Would I buy again?  I’m alternating between this one and the Trader Joe’s coconut milk.  TJ’s is cheaper, but more watered own (so I don’t add water to it).

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8. Tessemae’s lemon chesapeake.

My mom bought this as a fish marinade, which we tried on our salmon.  I like that the ingredients are clean and there aren’t any weird thickeners or additives, but to be honest, we couldn’t really taste it on the fish.  Maybe it would be better as salad dressing? 

Would I buy again?  Probably not this flavor, but I am curious about the others.  They have a ton that all sound really good.  I just wish they didn’t all have garlic in them.  🙁

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9. Sun Cups.

Oh my gosh, these are so good.  They are nut free and gluten free, meaning they are totally safe for me to eat around my little guy.  And that makes me very very happy.

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The mint is SO good.  It’s like a grown up fancy peppermint patty. 

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The sunflower seed one is great too, obviously.  I haven’t tried the milk chocolate ones yet.  I think I’ll let Kyle do the (dairy) honors.  I’m sure he won’t object.

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10. GT’s synergy enlightened black chia.

This was my first chia komucha!  I was nervous the texture would be weird for me, which is why I never bought one before.  I like chia seeds though, so even though it was kinda like drinking gel, it was still really yummy.

I’d buy it again as a treat, but I’m trying not to spend $$$$ on non-essentials.