Allergy Awareness for Families in Victoria, BC

Published Aug 10, 2012

This past May, Anaphylaxis Canada launched the first ever Food Allergy Awareness Month. For those of us who have children with food allergies, we are aware and on alert every day of the year.

My daughter was 4 months old when we were thrust into a new world of allergy awareness. Her most severe allergy is all dairy (for which we carry and epi-pen), and her other allergies include eggs, strawberries, walnuts and cashews. As she ages and tries new foods we add them to the “do not eat” list.

We were a dairy-dependent couple before our daughter came on the scene. We had milk in our tea, cream in our coffee, yogurt for breakfast, cheese on everything. I scoffed at butter alternatives and anything with soy. The dairy allergy changed all that. I googled like crazy and bought a book from I saw a Naturopathic Doctor and started on an elimination diet to see if what I was eating was affecting my daughter via my breast milk. Turns out I had a major intolerance of dairy myself; chronic pain suffered throughout childhood had been mis-diagnosed as Fibromyalgia, and turned out to be a consequence of consuming dairy. Our house became a dairy free zone, my husband jumped on board and even though I’m no longer breastfeeding, our house is generally dairy free. The adjustment wasn’t even difficult. I like to cook and bake and anyone with Celiac will probably tell you the same thing – you just need to set yourself different expectations. Some recipes just won’t look or taste the same. Dairy, egg and gluten free has opened up a new world of food and cooking and baking challenges which I enjoy.

Adapting to our new diet was relatively easy, but anyone with severe and life-threatening allergies knows how difficult and frightening it can be to eat out. Some people just don’t understand the severity and some don’t care. We are so very fortunate to live in allergy-friendly Victoria. Having said that, the food industry still has work to do. Those with gluten allergies or Celiac are well taken care of in Victoria, with gluten free specific cafes and bakeries and Dairy allergies aren’t quite on the radar in the same way. Every time I go in a cafe and ask if they have anything dairy-free I’m inevitably pointed to their gluten-free options.

Whenever we go somewhere to eat, be it a cafe or restaurant, I start off with my regular spiel about my daughter’s allergies, and ensure they understand the issue. If they cannot accommodate we either leave or I usually have food I’ve prepared and I just tell them I brought food for her (as she gets older this becomes more difficult as she wants to eat what we’re eating).

If I don’t have the energy to venture into a new place, I head to my favourite spots where I know we can enjoy a safe snack. Usually this means Solstice Cafe on Pandora – they offer many delicious baked goods that are vegan, moist and moreish.

Apple Cafe within the Ingredients Health Food Store on Store Street has many dairy free and vegan sweet treats and vegan pizza. Everyone knows Crumsby’s Cupcake Cafe is the perfect place to enjoy a coffee in peace while your kids can entertain themselves and luckily for us they have one option we can enjoy, well almost. Crumsby’s Morning Glory Nantucket muffin is dairy-free but not egg-free so my daughter can only have a couple of tiny bites. This cafe will no doubt be harder for us to visit as my daughter gets older and wonders why she can’t have any of their scrummy and pretty cupcakes. Cue Origin Bakery for although they are specifically a gluten-free bakery, they have the most amazing vegan chocolate cupcake.

It has been without a doubt a big change for our family as we have adjusted our diets to accommodate for our daughters severe allergies. However, the experience has not necessarily been an unpleaseant one. If your family is facing new allergy challenges, or if you are just interested in making some lifestyles changes to your families diet- fear not. Anaphylaxis Canada Food Allergy Awareness Month is only the beginning, these kind of changes are becoming more common, and with a little ressaerch, and an open mind you can easily make a smooth dietary transition that the whole family can live by.

~ Julita

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