I have become a bona fide expert at label-reading. In a few seconds flat, I can scan allergy warnings and scope out ingredient lists. I can confidently tell you if it's okay for my daughter to eat—or if it's danger disguised as a snack. And if there are ingredients on the label that I can't identify, or that have so many chemistry-laden syllables that they sound like they were concocted at Los Alamos National Laboratory, or one of those sneaky and nebulous ingredients like "flavor" or "modified food starch" (often gluten-in-disguise), then there is no way it's coming anywhere near my kid's plate.
But this confidence of mine has been hard won. There was a time not too long ago when the whole issue of food was laden with fear. When trying to eke out something resembling a healthy diet for my child seemed like an impossible, herculean task. When an innocent question, "How is your daughter doing?," would instantly cause tears to spring to my eyes and a painful lump to form in my throat as I tried to muster up a semi-normal sounding voice and say, "She's okay."
Because that wasn't actually true. She was not okay—and food had a lot to do with it. My daughter had a dietary "prescription" that had totally yanked the rug out from under me. It was a list of dos and don'ts that seemed impossible (and expensive) to accomplish: no eggs, no dairy, no nuts (especially peanuts), and most of all, absolutely no gluten.1