Individual eating habits

by Louise

This post has come about because increasingly we have to cook around whatever issues the adults in our family have with certain foods. These are not allergies, just that some foods don’t agree with them.  Then, there are my parents who would like to eat everything but cannot due to health reasons. It seems that as I come to know of and would like to try new things, my family is moving the opposite way, becoming more restricted in their eating. Totebaggers have mentioned various diets and I confess to be bewildered by them, since I am still following my everything in moderation playbook from twenty years ago. I don’t think I am alone. What have you learnt from your diets, cooking for a family with differing food tolerances and eating healthy in general.


108 thoughts on “Individual eating habits

  1. I’m with you on everything in moderation. I lost a lot of weight a few years ago on weight watchers and that’s essentially what it is.

    Our one dietary issue is that DD was diagnosed with celiac in February so we have to work around that. The one place we’ve found it to really be an issue is the occasions when we just want to grab some fast food on the way home from an activity. So much of ff is based around bread.

  2. I have a son who is a royal pita – he is picky to almost impossible – he loves my meatballs and spaghetti, lasagna and mac and cheese and steak. Other than that – lots of luck. My one daughter is vegetarian and trying to go vegan. Total pain for me. My other daughter is more well rounded and will eat most of what I cook though she doesn’t like pot roast and a few other things. My husband likes most things I make (I cook mainly to his likes and dislikes) though he won’t eat fish which I like.

    I decided for Christmas dinner this year I am going away from traditional – too many side dishes trying to please everyone – to making a lasagna, salad, homemade Italian bread and a couple of dishes for my daughter – she can supply me with recipes.

    Unfortunately, we all like dessert and I have noticed my vegan daughter will eat none vegan desserts.

  3. DD – the bread as holder is also the issue for one of my parents, who is a diabetic. But at my parents age they are not rushing here or there, so they can take the time to sit and eat right. After months of eating very plain food, they long to loosen the diet, but unfortunately their eating forbidden foods, is soon reflected in the medical reports so there is only a little bit of wiggle room.

  4. We don’t have anyone in our family who is picky or has food allergy/issues. I have a friend or two who are gluten free, but it’s more of a health choice than an actual food allergy or intolerance. We tend to try to stick to low carb eating during the week just because we feel better eating that way and then indulge a bit (a lot?) on the weekends. When we entertain it tends to be meat/fish, potato and veggie anyway so no problem fitting those foods into most diets.

  5. Fortunately, no medical dietary issues for us; just preferences.

    The variety of vegetables that are acceptable to me, while larger than the one kid still at home, is still pretty limited: Peppers, especially roasted reds from a jar or can, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, artichokes, zucchini, patty pan squash, spinach, raw carrots. And I’ve found myself being anti- asparagus, broccoli, green beans lately probably due to overkill. I am much more of a fruit person.

    For us/me it’s will power or lack that’s the issue in eating healthy.

  6. “What have you learnt from your diets, cooking for a family with differing food tolerances and eating healthy in general.”

    I have learned that you can go guano-crazy trying to make everyone happy and do it all “right” and still end up exactly where you started. :-) So I don’t work as hard as I used to to make sure there’s something that everyone likes — DH can suck it up and eat chicken if that’s what I feel like making; DS can just get some bread and butter; DD is going to have ramen or M&C later anyway, so who cares? And I’ve also lowered my own standards of acceptable dinner choices. E.g., last night, after 5 days out of town, I really didn’t want to get out of my comfy chair during the Ravens game. So Papa John’s it was — and I ordered extra and called it “grocery shopping.”

  7. My kids and DH have severe food allergies to walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, peanuts, shellfish, coconut, two fruits, and a spice that is in almost all Spanish and Indian food.

    DH will not eat mixed texture foods like casseroles or risotto, or fish, or any meal that does not include meat.

    DD will not eat beef, lamb, chicken, or turkey, and is under doctor’s orders to minimize eating out.

    DS1 only eats chicken nuggets and bread.

    DS2 will eat anything, whether it is intended for human consumption or not.

    As you can see there is basically no overlap in the Venn diagram here, so for most meals I wind up making at least 2 choices and sometimes 3 or 4. I’m trying to move toward a basic entree + add your own toppings plan, like taco night or pasta night with different sauces, but that still leaves DS1 looking for chicken nuggets.

    Just thinking about this is making me want to change my name and move to a Caribbean island :)

  8. Our family is lucky because we just have a bunch of picky eaters issues. I do feed some kids that have very serious health issues, and I am very careful with those kids. This applies to restaurants and our home. A couple of kids have the usual celiac or tree nut allergy, but we have one kid that is allergic to dairy, gluten, and peanuts. The parents usually bring or recommend certain foods, but I’m constantly reading labels when I’m with those kids.

    The usual kid friendly, pizza becomes a problem unless you can order gluten free pizza. I’ve learned that even that is risky unless the pizza is really made in a separate area or oven.

    The allergy issues for some kids can extend to other areas of your home outside of the kitchen. I’ve learned that certain soaps or creams in DD’s room can be dangerous for a child with nut/tree nut allergies because of the ingredients. I don’t know if this is popular in your area, but tween girls around here are obsessed with products from Bath and Body works. It seems harmless until someone visits with a severe allergy. It has gotten much easier as DD and her friends have gotten older because they know what is dangerous too. Even some “real” products such as Cetaphil or similar can contain ingredient that may cause an allergic reaction.

  9. @Sky — you sound like me a few years ago, except for the food allergy issue (well, turns out DS had a severe food allergy, we just didn’t know it). Per the above, I find lowering the bar very helpful to get through a week. . . .

  10. For fast food my relatives kids with allergies go to Chipotle. It seems that they can find menu choices they can eat. They also shop primarily at WF because there a lot of foods and snacks there, they can choose from.

  11. We only have to avoid all seafood (mom and I) and nuts (my mom). Both are easy because my mom’s nut allergy, while severe, isn’t so severe that she can’t be around nuts. She can hold them, make PB&J sandwiches, she just can’t eat them. That makes life a bit easier. Right now, meals are easy in our house.

    I’ve heard lots of reasons for an uptick in food intolerance and allergies. One is that we all eat too many processed foods and then can’t handle “real” food. Another is the antibiotics in our system – through dairy and meat we ingest antibiotics in addition to those we take when sick. That’s made our system “weaker” and we can’t digest certain foods because we don’t have the gut bacteria to do so. The rest of the reasons just seem to get crazier and crazier – mom didn’t eat the “right” foods during pregnancy, she ate too much of an allergen (like peanut butter) during pregnancy, etc. Though I have no research to back it up, I’ve wondered if we are a species are evolving… that our genes are mutating and we aren’t producing the right enzymes for digesting certain things.

    The only intolerance that makes sense to me is lactose intolerance. We are the only mammal that ingests milk after its weaned. We should be lactose intolerant, and we’ve changed to be able to digest lactose.

  12. I have a picky eater, but no major health issues driving the pickiness. Thanksgiving will be interesting because several members of my sibling’s family have gone vegetarian, and my mom seems to think this is kookiness. On the last visit, she kept offering my nephew meatballs. There are so many side dishes at Thanksgiving that they could have easily gotten by without my mom noticing, but the pronouncement means it will be a Topic. This benefits my son the picky eater, because I’ve told him that every time someone comments on him not eating much that he should say “Did you hear that Young Cousin is a vegetarian now?” to deflect.

  13. Well, since my father passed away last year, I don’t deal with this any more, but for years he was on this fad diet or that fad diet. For a long time he was doing the ultra low fat, but later on he and his wife started doing South Beach, and then no-carbing. When they came to visit, cooking for them was a total PITA. Sadly, I think my father would have been so much happier on a plain old eat in moderation diet – he loved food – but his wife was always into the fads.

  14. No allergies! Although my partner says our kids are picky – they are not. Everyone eats – beef, pork, chicken, eggs, bacon, most cheeses except cottage, and shrimp, potatoes (white and sweet), green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, mushrooms, carrots, lima beans, pinto beans, rice (white), pasta and limited amounts of quinoa. They will all eat casseroles and soups, but seasoning can be a make or break sometimes. Where preferences come in that at least one person likes enough to want quarterly are – sausage (no one really likes the same one), spinanch, corn, fish, okra, brussel sprouts, cabbage, and olives. I think that is a pretty short list.

    We have one child that doesn’t like chocolate, so we usually accommodate with another choice, but often vanilla ice cream is sufficient.

    I try to limit the carbs from starchy veggies, pastas and rice to lose and maintain a healthier weight as well as portion control overall. I am at risk of diabetes and have done the diabetic diet when pregnant. I didn’t find it that hard, because you can fit a few “cheat” foods in if you don’t go overboard on the frequency and portion size.

    I do have concerns about selecting restrictive diets based on preference vs. health issues. I have read that at least for some people, it is very hard to reintroduce those foods into your diet – gluten and red meat are the two I recall – if they have been removed for a long time.

  15. DS is allergic to nuts/peanuts. He is also what I call a “pickatarian.” He has been gradually starting to expand his range of acceptable foods to the point that I actually had a variety of meals everyone would eat. Until DD decided to go vegan (no meat, dairy, eggs). Argh. I’m now trying to cook at least one vegan meal and/or one stir-fry every week where I have both meat and tofu options. Due to DS’ nut allergy, anything with peanut sauce is sadly out (which is a bummer since I love peanut sauce).

    The thing I am looking most forward to about having an empty nest (which is not for quite some time) is being able to cook what I like and not trying to accommodate others’ allergies, preferences, etc.

  16. Agree that fast food can be hard when you need to limit the bread. In our house we preach, that you try everything you are served at someone else’s home. If you do not like the dessert, then you are too full, but thank you.

  17. MBT – LOL. I think DS (our picky eater) is enjoying no longer being the pickiest eater in the house now that DD is vegan.

  18. DH is an allergic person and seems to have passed on that gene to all of our kids.

    I followed all the then-current medical advice to prevent allergies – ate allergens during pregnancy, limited exposure when the kids were under 1, nursed each for over a year, did not keep a clean house and let them eat dirt ;) And we have a pet.

    The fates were not with me, however.

    More generally, the skin and blood testing available has a very high false positive rate (>50% for some allergens). So if a child has not actually reacted, the skin and blood test are a sign that a reaction is possible, but not that a reaction will happen or that it will be dangerous if it does. There are a lot of kids who have not reacted but are tested for suspected allergies who then test positive. They are told to behave as if they are definitely allergic by avoiding the food and carrying epipens, but about half of them wouldn’t react if they had a food challenge.

    Our allergist now strongly encourages a food challenge if a child hasn’t had a reaction.

    One of DD’s camp counselors did not believe in severe food allergies and tried to “test” DD by giving her the allergen. For the love of G-d, never do that to someone else’s child. There *is* a high false positive rate, but if the child really has the allergy – as DD does – the median time to cardiac arrest is only 15 minutes. (Luckily for me DD refused to eat more than a tiny bite, and was OK.)

  19. I can easily see DD turning vegan or vegetarian. I can sense her deciding whether to eat something right away or look at it funny for a bit. She eats avocado dip with chips, she will not eat a similarly prepared avocado salad (bigger cubes) at home.

  20. “One of DD’s camp counselors did not believe in severe food allergies and tried to “test” DD by giving her the allergen.”

    OMG — I assume/desperately hope that said counselor was immediately fired?

  21. I think something like gut bacteria treatment and supporting Ayurvedic or TCM type of natural medication may mitigate some allergies.

    DH and I are at risk for diabetes so we *try* to limit carbs.

  22. SKY – I’m with LfB! I hope that counselor was fired. Let’s also not forget that allergens can magnify over time… your DD may have had a mild reaction once, but that counselor’s introduction could have been enough for a severe reaction (this is how my seafood allergy was… mild reactions for a long while, then BAM nearly a hospital visit). How stupid can some people be?

    My mom loves to claim she’s vegetarian. And that she “doesn’t like” red meat. We eat red meat frequently, and she likes it every time I prepare it… meat loaf, pot roast, meatballs, tacos… I use the “if you don’t like it, make your own meal” tactic because she’s an adult. But I also want her to have some servings of red meat for the protein and vitamins she doesn’t get elsewhere. And it’s working – since I’ve been in control of dinner for her, she seems to be much healthier than she was when she was in control of all her meals.

  23. No allergies here, but I have complained before about my picky-eating DD. She will not eat peanut butter because she has been taught her whole life, through peanut-free pre-school and peanut-free rooms & zones at public school, that peanuts are evil. So when she doesn’t like something at home, I can’t just say, “well go make a PB&J sandwich.” In addition to nuts, she has friends with allergies to red dye and blue dye – it is almost impossible to buy grocery store cupcakes to suit everyone, so birthdays are a big PITA.

    DD’s biggest issue seems to be seasoning and sauces. She also doesn’t like anything mixed together (casseroles, soups, lasagna, etc.) so I accommodate by deconstructing recipes and/or serving her plate before the parts get put together. She gets plain chicken and green beans while I have a salad topped with chicken. She gets plain pasta with Parmesan cheese while I add sauce to my pasta. Etc.

  24. When I was in full family mode, my ex was the picky eater. When he ended up solo, he would go on crazy food elimination jags. But he appears to have mellowed and seems to eat most things now. However, for the children it made it impossible to enforce the just eat what is served rule. In hindsight, DS1 had sensory issues around food that should have alerted us to the possibility of other issues , but no one had heard of that stuff 38 years ago.

    But don’t think that when the kids leave you get to eat what you want. Middle age and its aftermath restrict food choices as well. RMS and I both cook for husbands with restricted diets, and eating out is a huge challenge.

    Reducing significantly the use refined carbs (we don’t have to go to zero on that one for his conditions) was a piece of cake compared to low sodium cooking, and not just because my cooking style took full advantage of the way in which salt enhances other flavors. (As Ving Rhames intones in the Arby’s commercial, Bacon is a present pigs give you when you’re good.) I have to read every single label, and not just for prepared foods such as sauces. We get two birds with one stone by eliminating bread products (the sodium is off the charts even in whole grain). The sodium content between one can of diced tomatoes, for example, can vary from 20mg to 800mg. And he is supposed to eat only 1500 a day. So when I find the right brand I have to stick to it, and get more organized in shopping because WF or TJs or Stop n Shop all provide one common ingredient or another. There are many things I can make from raw ingredients, but not all and certainly not in a cost effective manner. And I can use spices to flavor foods (I notice the missing salt and adding some at the table doesn’t give the same effect), but I run up against his “heat” limit as well. I am able to make sure his in the home foods all conform to his medically mandated diet, and luckily his conditions are such that he can go over on salt or carbs or even sugar a little when he eats out.

  25. Count my DD as another young woman who’s gone vegan (or sometimes vegetarian). And I found out our health insurance has generous benefits for nutritional counseling. You don’t have to be obese, but apparently consider yourself at risk or just wanting to improve your diet. I see a big growth potential for careers as registered dietitians . . .

  26. @Rhode – I read somewhere that older people do better eating with someone else vs. eating by themselves. They may also not bother to make nutritious meals because it is too much of an effort for just one person.

  27. Wow, Sky. I echo the comment that I hope the counselor was fired on the spot.

    My family is similar to Sky’s – husband has celiac, and I have one child with several (very serious) food allergies. Same kid is also a very picky eater – current repertoire includes nuggets, pizza, and grilled cheese, most dairy (including cheese and yogurt) and a decent variety of fruits/veggies. Kid #2 has no allergies and eats everything. I think it’s just luck of the draw, since I ate allergens during both pregnancies and introduced foods on the same schedule.

    While I sympathize with the advice to just cook what you cook and if they don’t eat it, tough, it doesn’t work that way for us in practice. The picky kid simply will not eat if he’s offered foods he doesn’t like, and he’s too young to be responsible for coming up with his own alternatives. Given that he’s very skinny (and for a time, the doc had him on nutritional supplements to gain weight), skipping meals isn’t an acceptable option.

    The net result is that I cook two dinners every night – one for the kids, and one for the adults (though Kid #2 often eats some of both).

  28. My lovey dovey 2 year old boy cat had a violent seizure this morning out of the blue. The vet (4 blocks away) said that it is probably a random event without specific cause, but since I can afford it and he was already made even more upset by a dog barking in the next examination room we did the optional blood work. I’ll know tomorrow if anything turns up. He already has a grain free diet and all natural litter, so not much more I can do environmentally for him.

  29. @SWVA — ditto on the PB. With my kids it’s not so much that it’s evil, but just that they never developed the PBJ habit, because it wasn’t allowed at school. Between that and the lack of tuna (which I used to have all the time, but which I never got in the habit of because we know so much more about food safety and I was too lazy to keep a freezer pack around), my kids’ lunch options are rather limited.

    Though, come to think of it, we do have Nutella, which I never had, and which is clearly much, much better than PBJ. If only I could have convinced MY mom that peanut butter and chocolate was a healthy lunch option. . . . :-)

  30. The counselor tried more than once. DD was in preschool, so I couldn’t rely on her to keep her lips clamped shut when offered candy.

    After a few days I went in and gave the counselor the “I am an attorney, oh and did I mention I am an attorney” line, and she stopped bugging DD. I hate doing that but I needed her to stop.

    She’s union; nothing would happen unless DD died.

  31. And speaking of kid party annoyances, I just spent part of the AM pricing out kid parties — holy cow! DS wants Dave & Busters; basic party package + some extra game play and bowling + some basic food for grownups = over $450!!! Biggest problem is that all of the packages assume 10-15 kids, whereas DS wants to invite only about half that figure, so instead of $15-20 per kid, it’s $30-40. Plus you’re paying for a bunch of food (entrees, fries, etc.), when we’re not really looking at a mealtime for the party — I’d rather spend the $$ on game play and just serve cake.

    So, yeah. I’m thinking this is a good year to teach the value of $$, a/k/a “would you rather have a big party (and that’s your present), or would you rather have cake and movies at our house and we’ll give you $100?”

  32. LfB – Why do you have to schedule it as a party with D&B? Just bring the 5 – 7.5 kids, give them each a loaded card, and set them loose for 90 minutes. Then you can either get some food there, or go somewhere else, or go home.

  33. LfB – Nutella has palm oil – THE HORROR! My anti- pbj kids eat Nutella frequently the time.

    My son seems to be particularly allergic to bug bites but otherwise OK. The other – tree pollen. Both are picky-atarians: One likes tomatoes, but only cherry tomatoes and not tomato sauce or ketchup. The other loves ketchup and tomato sauce but not tomatoes. And on and on. I think its more a texture thing than taste.

  34. My #1 child desperately wants to be allergic to *something* because one of her cousins has a very serious dairy and peanut allergy. We keep telling her that she is lucky not to have one. Luckily, the kids are not especially picky eaters – more of the picky depending-on-the-day eater variety. The elementary school allows PB so now I can make 2 PBJs and one sun butter & J for the preschooler.

    I have been eating ultra-low-fat for the past month because I had an attack, have gallstones, and will be having my gallbladder out next month. It is a huge PITA. I have been eating about 10x more bread and sour candy than usual but am still down several pounds (just estimating not weighing). Also I can’t eat many of the things that I love – no bacon! no cookies! no ice cream! no CHEESE, for the love of god! I am also reluctant to shop for foods that I can’t eat – like bacon, for example, or kielbasa – since my willpower on those things is limited. My DH says “this surgery cannot come soon enough”. LOL. Afterwards I will be able to eat everything again – huzzah!

  35. “My #1 child desperately wants to be allergic to *something* because one of her cousins has a very serious dairy and peanut allergy. ”

    My son desperately wants to go to speech therapy with his brother and other classmates because it is so much more fun than regular class (according to him). A few years back this same kid had a major meltdown because he couldn’t play in the sensory gym while his brother could. (It does look fun.)

  36. L – that was the worst for me! I had multiple gall bladder attacks but never knew what they were until I said something to my doc a year or so later. I just something didn’t agree with me and modified what I ate. Apparently all was not well. My gallbladder stopped functioning somewhere along the way. Though the gallbladder surgery is the quickest way to not lose weight… and once my body got used to not having a gallbladder life was so much better! Good luck! You’ll be eating all your favorite foods by Xmas!

  37. “Agree that fast food can be hard when you need to limit the bread.”

    Around here there’s a lot of fast food based on rice.

    Plate lunches (1 or 2 scoops of rice, some sort of salad (often mac salad, which may need to be avoided), and a main course, are very common. Korean places may be better for those trying to avoid gluten, as they usually offer a variety of kim chee as the salad, sometimes not even having mac salad as an option. Brown rice seems to be getting more common as well.

    And there are the ubiquitous spam musubi.

  38. “Until DD decided to go vegan (no meat, dairy, eggs).”

    Sounds like an opportunity to involve her in the meal planning and preparation processes.

  39. “But I also want her to have some servings of red meat for the protein and vitamins she doesn’t get elsewhere.”

    Also iron. I’ve read that anemia is relatively common among vegetarians and vegans, and that consumption of red meat aids in the absorption of iron from other dietary sources.

  40. @Milo — well, that is the new/backup plan. Honestly, I’ve gotten lazy on parties; the bowling alley does a “we take care of everything” for about $100, including pizza, video game tokens, goodie bags, etc., so I’ve gotten used to the “not have to worry about anything” bit. I knew D&B would be more, but I was thinking like $200 — and for some reason, hitting double-digits feels like a significant bday to me, so I was thinking, well, what the heck.

    Plus, well, I did think that with a designated party zone, the kids might stay more corralled, and I could, umm, err, watch the Ravens game. But for that amount, we could actually GO to the Ravens game. :-)

  41. We have it pretty easy so far. Husband will eat anyhting that I make. Kids will eat most normal things other than vegetables. I usually let them swap out the veggie for a fruit, or I give them carrot or red pepper strips, which they will eat. The baby got hives around her mouth the other day, though, so now she is undergoing allergy testing 😢. She actually hadn’t had anything to eat in 5+ hours prior to the hives, so I am hopeful that it isn’t food related (just seems weird since the hives were around her mouth). She is so different from my boys. They loved to eat and would demand food every 2-3 hours at her age. She eats enough to live and not a bite more.

  42. Finn – I was watching Anthony Bourdain in Okinawa yesterday and saw that “taco rice” is really popular. I had not heard of it before. It’s basically a pile of rice with taco ingredients, sans taco shell, on top, with a spicy sauce. Anyone come across this?

  43. ATM – not out in public… but that’s how I may taco Tuesdays happen when I forget to buy shells… I usually top with taco sauce or salsa.

  44. I make taco rice, or takoraisu. My family likes it, and it’s a good dish for entertaining. The whole “bowl of stuff” style of eating has become more popular at our house.

  45. I only saw a few minutes of the Okinawa Anthony Bourdain episode, so I missed the taco rice. ATM, are you as excited as I am about his soon to open food market in NYC?

  46. Coc – “whole bowl of stuff” – three of us, like to go to Chipotle for fast casual but DD had been so agitated about the burrito bowl of stuff and the mixing of meat/rice/veggie that we stopped going. I must bring it up again. She can get the quesadillas.

  47. CoC – Haven’t followed the Bourdain open market story other than to know it is happening. We’re fans of the show, so will I’m sure stop by the market at some point.

  48. Louise – for the Chipotle kids taco meal, they put all the ingredients in separate compartments. So my son first ate the cheese, then the sour cream, then the shell (he doesn’t like the other ingredients, yes I know a weird lunch.) Maybe they could serve your daughter in the same manner?

  49. I have two adult friends that are picky eaters to the point that I think they really just have some kind of food disorder. They aren’t even willing to try new or “weird” foods. They eat like 5 year olds.

    I have considered them as anti-role models for my DS (one of them even says “don’t be like me” to my DS).

  50. Still a huge proponent of Cooksmarts over here. It has made everything about meals so much easier, not only the meals I cook from the website, but all the others instead. Finally, cooking isn’t a chore anymore. It’s also made us healthier. We eat tons of salads, tons of veggies and a wide variety of veggies. Her dinners are real food: most of my shopping occurs in the produce aisle, a little at the meat dept, some dairy, some rice or pasta now and then and very little in the rest of the store.

    Our dinners are so much more satisfying now that we’ve pretty much stopped snacking in the evenings. Our ordering in/take out has decreased to 0 during the week because I’ve reinstituted our family dinners after the prior year (regretful, in hindsight) of being lax on those so the big kids could do their own thing in the evenings. Because my weeknight meals are so easy, I find myself more than happy to whip things up on the weekends now, so our ordering in/take out in general has decreased. Sometimes, I’ll take on some extra recipes of hers for the weekend but mostly, I whip up things from leftovers, either making something up or Googling ideas for how to make use of the items I want to use up. For a self-declared anti-cook, this is a huge turnaround.

    We no longer buy any prepared foods or junk food. We buy the ingredients The Lady tells me to buy, we add extras like milk, Lactaid and extra fruit, and we’re done. No chips, no ice cream. Now and then I’ll buy cookies or some kind of pumpkin loaf for the girls to make, and I’ll make bread or muffins or whatever. But no one is craving crap. (and/or the girls are getting their fill when they’re out with friends).

    No allergies here other than a few who can’t drink milk, but it’s easy to sub in Lactaid. My pickiest eater has flown the coop, so the rest of us are all happy to try whatever the dinner is and we are all of an age to eat it, whether it’s our fave or not. In a pinch, if someone really doesn’t like something, they can have leftovers from another night, or cereal, or they can make pasta. DH, who has amped up his clean eating and workouts like a madman lately, stripping 20 pounds in the process, skips the rice/pasta portion, if one exists.

    Best $8/month I’ve ever spent.

  51. BTW, I have all of you (and my family does as well) to thank for our new eating regime. Until you foodies started discussing meal plans and recipes and favorite cooking gadgets, I had paid minimal interest to my kitchen and everything in it. Over the years, you all have helped me stock my kitchen with the proper tools and have inspired me to make better meals, to plan meals and to find a way to enjoy the process. Someone on here mentioned meal planning sites, which led me to look them up on the Googles, which led me to my BFF, The Lady. I not only love how clean we’re eating because of this, but I love that my kids have seen me take an area of life where I had absolutely zero talent and skill and interest and chip away at it until I managed to develop a bit of skill and a lot of interest. It’s been a great life lesson for them.

  52. LfB, we did a D&B party last month. Bear in mind that you and your husband will be two of that minimum ten, and presumably your daughter will be along too, so you’re only looking at six guests to bring it up to ten. And you could let your daughter invite a friend if your son’s list is short. One of the grownups is supposed to be on the gaming floor when any of the kids are their; since they served alcohol up there I think this is a licensing requirement for them. We added the option to get unlimited non-ticket game play for the day on all the cards (i.e. you can play the games where you blast aliens or bad guys with your partner or do the roller coaster or driving ones till the place closes down, but for the toss-a-basketball-for-tickets ones you’re still limited to the tokens on the card). That was a good choice — I’m sure it made for much better marital harmony that when my husband and I teamed up against the aliens/terrorists/dinosaurs I could just swipe my card again every time I died (often) and rejoin the fight.

    On the whole, I don’t think it works to treat D&B like an older Chuck E. Cheese party where you order some minimal amount of pizza and try to zone out at the table while the kids shriek like banshees in the gaming area. It works best if you plan your dining schedule around eating cheeseburgers and fried stuff during the party time, and plan to hang out and play games yourselves. So if that’s not for you, maybe look into renting a mobile game truck that will come to your home instead.

  53. Our daughter ate Nutella every day of her like for 2 years. The she stopped for a month, then went in for an allergy test then tested as positive for Nutella allergy. It could have been a false positive, or there is a joker in the deck of modern life that causes allergies we have not found yet.

  54. Ris – can you send me a link or a “if you refer a friend” link… DH found out he needs to drop some weight (well he knew that, but our insurance guy pretty much said if you do it, you can get more insurance coverage for the same amount of money). I already food plan based on what I get through our CSA, but if I can get rid of more carbs in that man’s diet, he’ll drop the weight like a stone. If I can spend $8/month for someone to tell us what to buy, my life will be infinitely better.

    Grocery – DH’s family is like this. Like they put their nose up at cold pumpkin soup when they were in the south for a wedding. If it’s not what they are used to, they despise it. DH’s younger sister and DH have worked hard to forsake their mother’s food teachings. Thank goodness because my MIL doesn’t cook, she reheats and “prepares” prepackaged meals.

  55. ATM– I’ve heard of taco rice, but have not tried it. We have a large Okinawan community here, so it’s not hard to get, or hear about, Okinawan food.

    It does sound pretty good.

  56. @HM – Thanks — I actually enjoy D&B myself (or did until they replaced some of the fun games, like the “pretend your are skiing” game, with large-scale versions of the various apps I can put on my phone). So I was counting on having some fun myself, while still being able to watch football on the many many TVs throughout the area. I just don’t think I’d enjoy it $500 worth. :-)

    @Finn — yeah, I’m kinda pitiful that way. My third thought after this horrible start was “hey, maybe the PSL values will drop because they suck and I can buy season tix for next year.”

    (My first thought was “#&$$!))%%$@!. AGAIN.” My second thought was “why the $%&^!#! did I sit Steve Smith this week”).

  57. Fortunately, no picky eaters or food allergies in our house. I’ve been recently diagnosed with pre-diabetes, which totally took me by surprise. At first I thought it was a mistake but when I reviewed my blood work for the past three years, I saw that I was always at the high end of normal. I didn’t realize it was an issue, so I did nothing to change my eating habits until I crossed the line into PD territory. I don’t need to lose weight (doc noted that my weight is perfect) but I’ve lost 5 pounds just by reducing the carbs and sugar in my diet. My elderly parents don’t have diabetes but my uncle suffered terribly from it. We’ll see where this goes . . .

  58. I have noticed that whenever our kids are going through growing spurts, they become simultaneously incredibly hungry and incredibly picky. Not sure I understand that one. On the whole, though, I have a pretty easy family to feed. No allergies, no big aversions.

    I have a lot of sympathy for picky kids and bend over backwards if we have one with us. I was pretty picky as a kid, and eating at restaurants or other people’s houses was a big source of anxiety for me. But my parents never made a fuss over it, they just let me make my own “meal” (I think it was a bologna sandwich for 3 years straight) while everyone else ate a normal dinner.

  59. My DD has a severe allergy to milk (and milk protein), and it was quite difficult in “the outside world”. At home it was easy to make meat/starch/vegetable dinners and just put the butter on the rice or potatoes or whatever when they were on everyone else’s plates. Peanut butter, oreos, Dunkin Heinz brownie mix – there were lots of options for treats as well.

    Birthday parties, restaurants, etc. were always stressful. I would bring treats for her to have at a birthday party, and will always remember with gratitude the moms who got a package of Starbursts or Oreos for her to have since she couldn’t have the cake. She hated feeling different!

    I would definitely say that there are more options available to her – she can usually count on vegan food as being ok (we won’t forget the Eugene, Oregon cafe that made their “vegan” burrito with guacamole that contained sour cream!). Most Asian restaurants work, as well as fancy hotel restaurants.

    LFB – so sorry about the game – but we needed that win!!!

  60. I’m glad the win came this week against the Ravens vs. the magical ending the Giants ended with last Sunday.

    lets go Mets!!!!

  61. Riley – thanks for the cooksmarts tip! I’m signing up for it as this is exactly what I need.

  62. To DD’s credit, she does take responsibility for making her own meals when the dinner I’ve made doesn’t have a vegan option. And she generally cooks dinner once a week. I’d be more supportive of her going vegan if she was doing it because she loves animals or thinks it’s better for the planet or something. But she’s doing it to lose weight and as I don’t think she needs to lose weight, I have a hard time being enthusiastic about it. That said, I am doing my best to be supportive (because I certainly don’t want her to continue being vegan as a way to rebel against me). And she is actually eating healthier than she was a year ago (much less crappy junk food).

  63. And Sky – that is appalling about the preschool teacher. Even though she’s union, I think that should be grounds for firing.

    I went through something a little similar with my MIL. She wanted to bake cookies with chocolate for DS as a birthday present. DS is allergic to nuts. MIL kept asking if it was ok if the chocolate had just a tiny bit of nuts. I said no – and I wanted to say that I didn’t think DS would appreciate having to go to the ER on his birthday (I refrained from adding this last part). WTF.

  64. seattlesoccermom – my own mother served dd a salad with blue cheese in it! I actually think she forgot to leave it off the salad until dd served herself, and was embarrassed. The salad had been tossed, so no cheese was visible, but after eating about two bites dd spent the rest of the evening up in her room, feeling awful. My mom said something like “can’t she even have a little bit?” – and since I knew she felt bad about it, I didn’t get angry (outwardly anyway).

    I sometimes felt like “one of those people” who always complains and is so persnickety, but when a waiter serves your child a hamburger with cheese, and you once more explain that she can’t have cheese, they just go back to the kitchen, scrape if off, and serve it to her again!! Grrrrrrr

  65. I come from a long line of picky eaters with possible/likely food allergies. When the kids were little, we focused on trying a food and/or coming up with a way of polite refusals. My son was allergic to red food dye. I am still allergic to red food dye. No, we can’t have just a little. For the most part, people were incredibly concerned and generous. At one birthday party, one of my son’s classmates asked the mom if there was something my son could eat because my son couldn’t have the cake. They were five or six at the time. DS knew enough not to try the cake and also knew there would be treat at home, because bday parties happen and you can’t expect everyone to know your food allergy. The mom was apologetic, but really, if you have a bunch of kids over, it is quite possible that you’ll miss somebody’s allergy. I felt worse for the mom than my son. We are all still friends.

    I think people have gotten better about other people’s weird food issues, and more likely to be accommodating. when I was younger people kept trying to get me to eat tomatoes. WTF? I never understood why it matters to someone else what I did or didn’t eat. I never, and still don’t understand how it affects them at all.

    My mom, my brothers, my son and I all have food we can’t or don’t want to eat. However, the way my son is treated is much kinder than the way the older generations were. Some of the increase in food sensitivities might be related to the fact that people are kinder about the inability to eat some foods and that it is ok to be open about the fact that eating milk or tomatoes or something else make you feel ill.

  66. DS has a friend who is not only allergic to nuts, he’s allergic to dairy, soy, and gluten. The poor kid – and his mom. For DS’ birthday parties with his friends, we’ve taken to serving a variety of ice creams and sorbets and then having lots of toppings that the kids can go hog wild on. You can always find plenty of candy that doesn’t have dairy, nuts, etc. I let the kids put on as much toppings as they want knowing that most of them will take more than they can finish. It’s just so fun to see their eyes light up at the prospect of unlimited sugar.

  67. Ris – on average how long does a typical meal from The Lady take to prep and cook? In our house we have about 40 mins M-F before we’re off to extracurriculars. Also, in the winter do you find the produce needed for her recipes to be hard to find or tasteless? Can you substitute frozen veggies?

    We had such great results with our CSA this summer that I need to get back to that level of fruits and vegetables. The last few weeks have been many chicken strips and tator tot dinners.

  68. Has anyone heard of kids growing out of allergies? Friend’s son who was like SSM’s DS’s friend started testing “not allergic to peanuts and wheat after he hit puberty. They don’t try to ingest those foods (and Sky, that counselor is insane and a lawsuit waiting to happen; I can’t believe no one fired her) but they at least feel more confident that he can be around such foods when someone else is eating them.

    We’ve watched with interest the skyrocketing incidence of serious allergies in the 10 years between our 25 year old and our 16 year old’s peer groups. It is incredible how fast we went from “I think I heard of a kid with a peanut allergy in the school” when DS1 was in kindergarten to “oh, we’re in the allergy class?” DS3 was one of 3 kids out of 16 in his K5 class who was NOT allergic to peanuts! What in the world happened?

    And while I’m wondering, what’s with all these young women like Rhode and L (and lots of other young women in my orbit), who have gall bladder disease? When did “fair, fat, fertile, and forty” become the territory of fit young women in their 20’s and 30’s? It is fascinating to watch and wonder about if you are not living it!

  69. According to this article, only 1 in 8 children who tests positive for a peanut allergy actually has a peanut allergy. Part of this may be a difference between an “allergy” and a “sensitivity” and how such things change over time and with exposure or nonexposure. I react to some plants badly when I’m pregnant or nursing. I get blistery rashes that I don’t get when I’m not pregnant or nursing. I think sensitivities/allergies are not well understood, especially how sensitivities can change over time. My nearly retired GYN, who is OK with my do-nothing philosophy on lots of things, told me he thought my symptoms were pretty common.

  70. Luckily, we are a food allergy free house. DH is a vegetarian, but the kids eat a wide variety of foods. I’m fairly laid back about making them eat what I cook, and there are always plenty of leftovers and other options. As long as people don’t complain, I’m ok.

  71. Even little kids are aware of food allergies now because so many of their friends have them. My preschooler knows who in his classroom is allergic to what and wanted to make sure I knew we couldn’t serve certain things at his birthday party because of the allergies. I think it is good because it both normalizes the allergies (so the child doesn’t feel left out) and makes other people look out for the kids.

  72. My DH was mildly allergic to a bunch of foods as a kid but he outgrew it all. My good friend’s oldest daughter is allergic to tree nuts but they’ve gotten her over a bunch of the nuts in that family (she can now eat nutella). This is actually the first year in ES (3rd grade) that my oldest has had a nut allergy in her class which seems unbelievable with the prevalence. It seems like a lot of what I read about food allergies has to do with your gut and the bacteria in it. Antibiotic overuse, processed foods, being super hygenic, etc. contributes.

  73. In the department of who eats what, I stopped by the Mennonite Grocery Outlet and observed a wall of matzo bread, matzo ball soup and matzo ball mix for sale at what appeared to be very low prices. We have a smallJewish population so this appeared to be the residual of a diversity effort by large grocery stores. I was particularly amused by the piped-in soundtrack, “The Old Rugged Cross.”

  74. I think DS was bothered by dairy when he was little – I won’t say allergic because it wasn’t anything like what his sister suffered – but he outgrew it by 4 or 5. He never drank milk though until high school, when he would occasionally drink chocolate milk after rowing practice. He will eat cheese or cream of whatever soup, but he doesn’t ever drink a glass of milk.

  75. Reading these comments has made me more sympathetic to real food allergy issues some parents are having to deal with.  I’ve been lucky in escaping that particular challenge.  However, the cavalier (and dangerous!) attitudes some of you have encountered can be partially explained by this rant in yesterday’s NYT.

    This Column Is Gluten-Free

    But of course the gluten-free trend is not just about multiplying celiac sufferers. People decide gluten must be bad for them because they see shelves full of gluten-free food at supermarkets. Forms of food intolerance, whether to wheat or dairy products or something else, have reached near epidemic levels among the global middle class.

    Special dietary needs are all the rage. Allergies, real or imagined, multiply. One in five Britons now claim some form of intolerance, yet a 2010 Portsmouth University study found the claims were often unfounded. The narcissism of minor differences finds expression in the food-intolerance explosion: Having a special dietary requirement is one way to feel special in the prevailing “me” culture….

    … something unhealthy is going on — and it’s going on most conspicuously in the most aggressive, competitive, unequal, individualistic, anxiety-ridden and narcissistic societies, where enlightenment about food has been offset by the sort of compulsive anxiety about it that can give rise to imagined intolerances and allergies.

    … Gluten has done O.K. by humanity for upward of 10 millennia. It’s bad for some people, but the epidemic of food intolerance has gone way over the top.

  76. I have a question that arises from my ignorance about mobile phones. Why would our phone company deliver my new iPhone WITHOUT a SIM card after having sold our family many phones in the past WITH SIM cards? Is there an advantage/disadvantage to buying a phone without a SIM card?

    I’ve been dealing with iPhone problems for about a month now, and have yet to get my problem-free new phone. My replacement phone came without a SIM card, and the rep started to give me instructions for activating it by taking the card from my old phone by using a bobby pin. I just said no, and please send me a phone with a card.

  77. This incident happenned at our house. There was a family function and niece & nephew who have multiple allergies between them decided to sleepover at our place. I had shopped at WF in advance of the visit – so I had the appropriate allergen free bread/bagels/snacks/ice cream for the kids. Come morning, I was busy and MIL calls out from downstairs that she will be preparing breakfast for the kids. I assume she is going to serve niece/nephew the allergen free bread/bagels/butter that I bought. But no. In an attempt to make healthy at home, made from scratch food, she serves all the kids savory cream of wheat prepared the ethinc way. Now, niece who has a gluten allergy, has a tiny bite and refuses. MIL keeps insisting. Niece says that her tummy aches. Luckily, nephew who is older, sees that his sister is turning red and having an allergic reaction so, immediately dials SIL/BIL who are staying in a hotel nearby. I think niece had benadryl though I wasn’t sure, in all the confusion. Luckily, niece threw up later and slept it off and we were able to get on with the function instead of going to the emergency room.

  78. Costofcollege: it is really easy to change SIM cards between phones (at least on the newer iPhone), and then your number comes with it. I would much prefer to replace my own card then have to call and activate.

  79. I think that limited exposure is related to some of the uptick in allergies. AAP, without evidence, told people for years to limit high allergy food exposure until kids were 3+. In the last five years, high quality evidence has emerged that early exposure prevents serious allergies. The current recommendation is that highly allergenic foods be introduced as early as possible. It will be a decade until this information trickles down to everyone.

    Anecdotally, my youngest got peanuts at 7 mos, and projectile vomited. A few weeks later, he broke out in hives on his face while gnawing on his sisters’ sandwich crusts. I talked things over with the pedi (who is progressive and evidence based) , and she said “you know that the recommendation is that you now remove all nuts from the home”. I said that I knew but I wasn’t going to do it – to logistically challenging with other kids in the home eating a lot of nuts, and I didn’t buy the science. I didn’t actively feed him nuts for several months, but he certainly had contamination from around the house. Just after a year, he ate a peanut off the floor and nothing happened. One experience, but reinforced the now current belief that small exposures may prevent allergy.

  80. Wow, what a column. “If people over 80 will eat anything, yet people under 25 are riddled with allergies, something unhealthy is going on” — really? How about: the category of “people over 80” is exclusively filled with those who did not die in childhood of undiagnosed or untreatable allergies? Or maybe it’s the antibiotics/gut bacteria thing; or maybe the rise in C-sections; or maybe growing up in a much different food environment (i.e., scarcity during WWII and the Depression). So many things have changed since these guys were 25 that it’s a false comparison. Of course, it’s also so much more socially acceptable to state preferences now than it was back then — I grew up with the enforced thank you for whatever you were served and just eating around the stuff I didn’t like; I was probably 35 before DH pointed out that it was ok to ask the restaurant to give me a different vegetable or something (because I am paying them, after all). But I still wouldn’t give a list of requirements to a friend who invited me over for dinner.

    I think a large part of the rise in diagnoses comes from the fact that we’re actually paying attention to this stuff now. When I was a kid, it was just a “sensitive stomach” and “picky eater”; to this day, I have periodic issues that have never been diagnosed, because it feels stupid to make a big deal out of minor gas and cramps and such. Now DS has a lot of the same stuff, and they gave him blood tests and figured out a number of allergies — some of which they’d never have caught otherwise, because he was avoiding the trigger foods (e.g. shellfish). My nephew has a lot of the same stuff, but worse. He has had test after test after test, and been put on several strong medicines, and they’ve never figured out a cause of his reflux and misery, and the medicines helped only a little. So is it all in his head? Making it up to get attention? That would have been the diagnosis IMD. Luckily, my sis now lives in Portlandia, and she found some alternative care guy who put him on a strict elimination diet — and his pain went away and he started gaining weight again. Now they are re-introducing foods, slowly (and both she and the boy are thrilled to have eggs and peanut butter back, as they were two major food groups before). She, for one, is thrilled to live in an area where people actually take this stuff seriously, and she doesn’t have to make every single bite of food from scratch to prevent her kid from throwing it all up later.

    Yes, there are issues with overdiagnosis and entitled 20-somethings (the latter of which, of course, has always been the case). But 100 years ago, natural selection would have taken care of kids like me and DS and my nephew. And I’d rather have us all around, thanks very much, even if the price of that is a bunch of extra signage in stores and complications for restaurants.

  81. “it is really easy to change SIM cards between phones”

    I trust you are correct. However, for someone who’s never done this, the thought of taking a bobbie pin or paper clip to my functioning phone is completely unappealing. Especially when this directive comes from the people who have been unable to make my new phone work even after days/hours of troubleshooting. I’m fearful of ending up with no working phone for an extended period of time. Plus, I sense they sent me a phone without SIM card by mistake. I don’t know. Do most new iPhones come without a card?

  82. CoC,
    Take your phones to the store of your cell service provider and ask them to put the sim card in the new phone. I just saw them do this on our last phone, and it was not super hard but it is mildly spooky to open the phone.

  83. HFN – for me, my gall bladder disease was very odd. Most new moms need their gall bladder out (according to my doc) because the hormonal changes in pregnancy cause the gall bladder to stop functioning. Mine came out 2 years before I conceived. A new mom I knew told me that because I didn’t have kids, I didn’t have feelings. Since some new moms need the gall bladders out because they stopped working, I decided that the gall bladder was coming out to make room for the feelings.

    Ada – I can tell you my ped is all about exposure. I asked at our last appointment if DS can have nut butters and she said go for it. He’s 9 months. My mom does have a nut allergy, so I’m hoping DS doesn’t have it.

    CoC – if you buy an iphone from apple it comes without the SIM card (called unlocked). Verizon only sells you phones with SIM cards (called locked). The SIM card is what enables you to use your network of choice. My new iPhone 6 came with the SIM card from Verizon.

  84. if you get the phone directly from Apple, or if it is a replacement from your own carrier via mail – it might come without a SIM card. They probably want you to transfer it, but you can go to your carrier or Apple store to do the transfer.

  85. TCmama – hope it works as well for you as it has for me!

    lemon – I find the start-to-finish time takes about 45 min on average. This is longer than The Lady claims so it could be me. However, I don’t usually take advantage of her many advance-prep tips and if I did, I expect I could decrease my prep time by half. There is a LOT of chopping and of I did that on Sundays it would make a big difference.

    We have no trouble finding the produce she calls for year round so I haven’t had to sub in frozen things but I’m sure you could.

    There’s a CookSmarts Kitchen Heroes group on FB and ppl post that kind of question all the time – what to sub for what, what should I do with the 4 avocados a neighbor just brought me, how do I alter this recipe to accommodate x. Others in the group and/or The Lady and her staff always have good answers.

    Also, you can choose the Original option, or Paleo or vegetarian, if that helps. There may be a GF option too.

  86. Thanks for the update, Risley — glad it’s working for you, and I may actually try it for a month; been getting very lazy and uninspired lately (as I think is conclusively demonstrated by my “Papa Johns = grocery shopping” post above), and if they have a Paleo option, that sounds right up our alley.

  87. Many thanks for the phone comments, which help my understanding of the situation. We’ve never received any of our Verizon phones, which we always get by mail, without a SIM card. But this one is supposed to replace the new 6s that never worked, so maybe that explains why it came without a card. However, there’s no way I would want to take the card from the unfixable 6s and put it in the replacement 6s. And I don’t want to take the card from my current iPhone since I’d like to keep it as a backup phone.

    Mainly I’m resistant to following up on the “fixes” that Verizon or Apple now recommends because following that path has been a time sink of enormous proportions. Even when I went to the Verizon store to drop off my new phone as recommended, I was unable to accomplish that because their “system was down”. Another hour wasted. So I don’t want to waste more time and now just want a new phone that I can activate the way we’ve always done before, so I guess I want a phone with a SIM card.

  88. Rhode – mine is partly genetic (both grandfathers and an uncle had theirs out) and I guess the 3 kids puts me up there for risk too.

  89. My friend who has the kid with the tree nut allergy, I believe they have gotten her over some of the allergies by giving her tiny amounts of the offending nut and building up the amount over time. I dutifully was waiting until 2 to give my oldest peanut butter because that was the rec at the time and we went out and had a friend babysit her one night and the friend gave her PB ice cream not knowing. She was fine luckily. Then by the time DS was born it was give it to them at one and then when my baby was born it was, give her everything at six months when they start eating food.

  90. Is the recommendation for not giving honey prior to 1 year still there ? I used to think it very odd – because in the home country honey was given to babies in small quantities like a little dessert.

  91. “I think it is good because it both normalizes the allergies (so the child doesn’t feel left out) and makes other people look out for the kids.”

    I agree. We haven’t encountered tons of kids with allergies yet. One of DS’s friends has had a lot of allergy/health issues over the years and has done a lot of testing/elimination diets/ etc to try to get to the bottom of those issues. I am glad that it is taken seriously at school, and that he doesn’t have to feel like the “weird” kid for bringing his lunch when everyone else eats hot lunch. In general, it seems like there is a lot more acceptance among early elementary kids, teachers, and parents than I remember when I was growing up. And that’s a good thing.

    Louise – the honey recco is because of the risk of botulism in honey, not allergies. We didn’t 100% follow it because we do cook with honey. I don’t think 1 is a magic age, just an age when it can be more easily treated, right?

  92. The pedi told me the no honey thing before 1 was because of their immature digestive systems. Something about the fact that babies more easily absorb the botulism spores than older kids, so they have a much higher risk of becoming sick.

  93. Yeah — I think the 1-2 year rec for honey is because that’s when the babies’ digestive systems mature sufficiently to have a better chance to kill the botulism bacteria before they can multiply/cause damage (something healthy adult systems apparently do all the time). I think the issue with honey is that it is a very anaerobic environment (people used to use it for dressing wounds for that reason), so specific organisms that can tolerate that environment can stay in there for a long time, safe from all other potential environmental predators

  94. Coming to this late, alas. I’m a longtime vegan, so if anyone out there has questions or wants cookbook recommendations, let me know!

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