The Angels sang about allergen free!
I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks because my boys are visiting and we only have them two and a half months out of the year. It’s been lots of beach time, teaching them fun things in the kitchen, visiting their favorite restaurants, and seeing their friends still here on island. Quality time well spent with two growing teens. But with all the activities, meals have been a bit rushed. Grabbing something to go at the grocery store is always an adventure after a busy day. Spontaneous requires planning.
When you or a loved one has food allergies, the grocery store can be a minefield of possibilities and dangers. Organic and all natural are just buzzwords, and lately, GF and Paleo are becoming more prominent in the aisles as well, at least in America. In the rest of the world, it’s a bit harder to find products fitted to special dietary needs. Using Google translate is a daily occurrence and looking for the kanji for wheat 小麦 in the ingredients list of foods takes a bit of time. This week, in my search for tamari (a gluten-free soy sauce), I actually discovered a rare sight in Japan: a whole section of allergen free products!
From soy sauce to curry, flour to noodles and even confectionary mixes, this wasn’t a section I was use to seeing in the off-base stores. A couple of stores here and there have specialized in these products but haven’t lasted long. Most Okinawans tend to go to the farmer’s markets or buy from the “outside aisles” at the grocer. You know the ones: fresh produce, meats, and deli, instead of the prepackaged, full of preservative aisles.
Though some good can come of having more GF or allergen free products on the shelves, you also have to watch for added salts and sugars. Remember when everyone was all gaga over Snackwell’s cookies and 100 calorie whatevers? Those had some unhealthy preservatives, sodium, and sweeteners. I still avoid most highly processed foods but some things I can’t stay away from entirely. Like soy sauce. Regular shoyu is loaded with wheat though most people don’t realize it. The kind below is actually free of it and you can’t really tell the difference.
It takes so much time and effort to constantly have to cook my own meals and food prep for a week can take so many hours. A mom’s gotta have an easier way sometimes, you know? Luckily, I really only have to worry about myself and have gotten the hang of making meals that everyone can eat. Finding products that are single serving for me means I can basically eat the same meal as my family without too much extra prep time. Many of the items in the aisle are marked with the individual allergens that are excluded from that package. Those diagnosed with celiac or severe allergies should still do their homework and check if companies dedicate machinery to allergen free production. It’s still an emerging issue here in Japan. Other countries are embracing it though. In Italy, there are now guidelines for companies and so many eateries are sympathetic.
I’ll be grabbing some gluten-free noodles and rice flour for a few meals and I have a bunch of recipes to add soon, but for now, summer exploration is in full swing with these growing kids.Those sea urchins and creatures of the ocean aren’t going to discover themselves if we’re stuck in the kitchen!