Cooking Up Confidence: A Food Allergy Family's Journey, By Tenia H. Skinner

October 24, 2019

I want to try and provide my son with a solid relationship with food. Whether that’s having him mix, pour, taste or just watch, he’s right there, having fun and learning, not just about cooking, but about his food allergies.

A short 3 years ago, I knew very little about food allergies and how they can impact every facet of a person’s life and the life of their families.  Although we knew of a few adults with food allergies, we can’t recall a time where we had a real glimpse into the food allergy world.  


When our oldest son was about 10 months old, he was diagnosed with life threatening food allergies to foods he had had multiple exposures to, without any issue, it wasn’t until about the 4th or 5th exposure that he started to have reactions. The first reaction, although thankfully mild, was our first indication that something might be going on, and we were sent to see an allergist.  Once we received the diagnosis, I was both discouraged and encouraged, I was happy to know we had some answers, but sad to know what this meant for him, for us.

After the shock wore off, and we were adjusting to our new normal, I told myself I’m not going to dwell on the diagnosis, and that everyone, every family has their challenges, and this is just ours.  

I vowed to do my best to ensure he is confident and competent when it comes to his allergies and food, I know there will likely be negative food associations as he gets older, but I want to try and provide him with a solid relationship with food. Some ways I have worked towards these goals were to continue offering him a variety of foods, even if it made me anxious for him to try new things, and, as he has gotten older, involving him in the grocery shopping and helping in the kitchen as much as possible.  

Whether that’s having him mix, pour, taste or just watch, he’s right there, having fun and learning, not just about cooking, but about his food allergies. If you were to ask him his favorite things to help with, he’d likely say muffins and smoothies, but he also enjoys helping with pancakes, homemade pizza, and anything in the food processor.  I’ve enjoyed coming up with ways to involve him and seeing him get excited to help in anyway he can.

The reality is that many events and gatherings are built around food or have a food component; our reality is that he will not be able to eat everything at parties or Holiday meals. Over time, he will be able to better understand his allergies and how to safely navigate social occasions in a way that allows him to participate, and that may often mean providing his own “safe” snack or dish.  My hope is that he will look back at our time together in the kitchen, and know that despite his food limitations, there are endless options for him to create and enjoy in the kitchen, and he doesn’t have to be limited and is always supported.  

Tenia Skinner

Tenia is a certified personal trainer specializing in geriatric exercise science. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and two children. To learn more about Tenia and her approach to family, food and fitness, follow her blog and on Instagram @turquoisebird85_2.0