Category Archives: Food Allergy & Families & Food Allergy Mama, Kelly Rudnicki

Kelly Rudnicki

Kelly Rudnicki is the author of the The Food Allergy Mama’s Easy, Fast Family Meals, The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book,  and Vegan Baking Classics. She’s also the creator of the award-winning blog Food Allergy Mama. Her blog has twice been named Babble’s Top Food Blog and ranked #6 in Healthiest Eating. She has appeared on The Martha Stewart Show, Windy City Live, WGN News, ABC News as well as in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Parents, Parenting, Shape, Family Fun, Woman’s Day, and others.

As the mother of five young children, one of whom with severe food allergies, Kelly also spends much of her free time advocating for food allergy awareness and improving school nutrition. She volunteers and speaks on behalf of food allergy organizations such as FARE, and helped write the food allergy guidelines for the Chefs Move to Schools Chicago, an initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama’s Go for the Gold campaign to promote higher standards for food, fitness and nutrition education. Kelly also serves as a Parent Ambassador for Healthy Child, Healthy World.

She lives in Southern California with her husband and five children.

Kelly, can you please tell us what food allergies you manage in your children and how you found out about them? My 10-year-old son John was diagnosed at age one with severe food allergies to dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, peas and legumes. The only allergy he outgrew was egg at age three after a successful food challenge confirmation. We found out about John’s allergy like many other parents of food allergic children, a scary reaction. John was nearly a year old and ate one of his first finger foods, a Gerber Veggie cheese wheel which actually contains very little veggies but is coated in cheese powder. He immediately broke out into hives on his face, started coughing and then vomiting. It was a horrifying experience.

Kelly Rudnicki cookbook

What was your inspiration in writing your newest cookbook, “The Food Allergy Mama’s Easy Fast Family Meals“? After the success of my first book The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book, many of my blog readers routinely wrote me asking for my favorite family meals that are fast and allergy-friendly. As a busy mom of five, they wanted to know how I get meals on the table day in and out. I realized that there was a real need to have a practical family meal cookbook that is no nonsense, easy to use and produces delicious recipes every time. The bonus of this book is that many non food allergy families love the book just as much!

What meal is your children’s favorite? My family loves pizza night!

Are there any budding cooks in your family? As a mother of four boys I feel it is equally as important to teach them how to cook as much as my daughter. It’s an important life skill that can easily be taught by mastering a few simple cooking techniques and recipes. Cooking is the epitome of inner creativity, and something that should be fun, approachable and not scary. When people say they don’t know how to cook it is usually because they made a recipe that failed them, not the other way around. It’s wonderful to teach our children to feed our bodies good food made from the heart. And in turn they will teach their own children the importance of family mealtime and cooking. The ripple effect is amazing.

With 5 kids, do you make safe meals that everyone can eat? Or do you ‘short order cook’ a safe meal and then a meal for everyone else? If I was a short order cook, I would lose my mind! It’s hard enough as it is to cook one meal on a busy weeknight! I choose to make recipes that aren’t fussy, complicated or require a ton of ingredients. They are crowd pleasers. However, one child absolutely dislikes the main dish I’ve made for dinner, oh well. They eat the sides and move on. Parents shouldn’t feel obligated to make everything perfect for their children, it’s really OK to serve one family meal and be done with it. If anything, it teaches children to “roll with it”.

Since Mother’s Day is this month, can you share with us any special celebrations that your family has for this occasion? I usually take the day to go for a run and reflect on being a mother and what it means to me. The day I became a mother I was forever changed. Having children forced me to get out of my comfort zone and challenge me to be the best person I could be. I wanted them to watch and learn from not only my successes but most importantly my mistakes. There is no greater reward in my life than my children. I also take the day to remember my own mother, who passed away 16 years ago. My heart broke the day she died, and I don’t think you ever fully recover from the death of your mother. But you do learn, grown and become a mirror of what she was to you.

What can you share with us about sending in safe school lunches – anything wonderful and new for kids tired of the same old thing in their lunch bag? I recently discovered the greatest thing about making safe lunches your child will actually eat and enjoy…have them either help or make their own! I admit I stumbled upon this concept out of part desperation, part selfishness. One day I was exhausted, running in a million directions and literally too busy to spend the extra few minutes to make lunches for my four school aged children. My kids were lounging around waiting for me to take them to school and I had an A-ha moment….have THEM make their own lunches. I had rules; make a sandwich or something with protein, a veggie and a fruit. Cracker and snacks were optional. It was a true epiphany! The kids took ownership in their meals, and were proud to make lunches THEY liked. And it was fun for them to be creative in what they packed every day. I do check the end result to make sure there isn’t just frosted flakes packed. But they’ve done a great job and I think they have really learned the value of making your own meals.

Thank you for including me!

Thank You Kelly and Happy Mother’s Day!


What’s Your Family Tree of Allergies?

When our son, Morgan, was first diagnosed with food allergies at 18 months old, we weren’t too surprised given the Family Tree of Allergies that exist in our family. Yet, I hear from some parents who have no one in their family with allergies, and can’t understand where their child’s food allergies come from. There are many more possible causes than just genetics for food allergies, which you can find on our website here.

The Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) states that asthma and allergies affect 1 out of 4 Americans, or 60 million people. Further, they report that allergies have a genetic component. If only one parent has allergies of any type, chances are 1 in 3 that each child will have an allergy. If both parents have allergies, the chances increase to 7 in 10 that their children will have allergies. Dr. Scott Sicherer, in his book, “The Complete Peanut Allergy Handbook” also states that “there is a 7 percent risk, or about ten times higher risk than normal, for developing a peanut allergy if one sibling has a peanut allergy.”

Allergies can be passed from parent to child. Children may inherit the tendency to develop allergies if either parent or any family member suffers from eczema, asthma, or food allergies. The specific allergy is not inherited from the parents, merely the tendency to be allergic. If neither parent is allergic research suggests that there is still a 5-15% chance that the child will develop allergies.

Research has also shown the children who have a genetic predisposition to produce excess IgE are at least 8 times as likely to develop food allergy when delivered by cesarean section. My son wasn’t delivered by C section, but out of four grandparents, one had severe asthma and hayfever, one has cold urticaria and hayfever, one had shellfish allergy as a child and one had no allergies. That’s a lot of genetics to overcome!

Between my husband and I, my husband really doesn’t have any allergies to speak of other than an allergy to cats. Me however, that’s a different story! I’ve been recently diagnosed with a mast cell mediated disorder. In other words, I have an abundance of mast cells in my body, especially in my stomach. I also have multiple IgE food allergies, environmental allergies and cold urticaria. Our college age daughter also has these same issues, so sadly I’ve passed my genetics on to her.

There’s so much more that our family understands now about allergies in the environment, food allergies and cold hives – so I don’t blame myself for my kids getting all these allergic issues. I do hope that someday we’ll find a cure, or at least be able to mitigate the most serious of allergic reactions, anaphylaxis.

In the meantime, at least I know what it’s like to have allergies and I can help my kids to stay safe!