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Category Archives: Eating Out

When soy and milk-free living is hard

There’s a benefit to being allergic to soy and milk (hey, we’ve GOT to see a bright side or else we will go crazy)…

What benefit could there possibly be to avoiding all our favorite entrees, snacks, and desserts?! …Your new diet will likely cause you to lose weight! I really am not on this diet to lose weight. In fact, I hardly think about that benefit, except that I’m suddenly having to pull up my pants all day long.

A year ago, when I learned my symptoms were caused by ingesting milk products, I lost 16 lbs over the course of several months. Mind you, I was also on the “divorce diet” so the stress kept off some weight too. Then, two months ago, when I learned I was allergic to soy, I more radically eliminated foods and lost another 5 lbs. Believe me – I eat three to five meals a day and mostly feel full after I finish eating my soy free and milk-free meals! Of COURSE I also want to eat all the bad-for-my-body stuff like ice cream, chocolate, cheese pizza, and fried foods…but I simply cannot. The motivator to resist is pretty strong: the consequence of falling off my diet means my body starts attacking my skin and then I’m miserable. Perhaps you have uncomfortable consequences too.

Surprisingly, I find myself at pre-baby weight (my “baby” is two and a half)…and almost pre-married weight too (ahem, I haven’t been that weight in 17+ years!). The trouble now is, people are beginning to look at me with concern – if I could hear their inner voice, they would be saying, “Go eat a sandwich.” Yesterday, someone I recently met said to me sweetly, “You have the body type of someone who can eat anything!” I wish! These newly purchased size 4 jeans were bought with a huge life change – diet, yoga (for the stress), and otherwise.

Like you, food has always been comfort to me. So, when I have a rough day…or even an overwhelmingly good day, I justify my choices to eat the stuff I should not. I think, maybe this one time, my body will not react and it will be ok. Or, I delude myself in thinking the reaction isn’t going to be as bad as I remember it will be. Next thing I know, I’m layering skin-numbing medication everywhere and because of it, I’m probably causing more damage to my skin in the process. I recognize my self-destruction when it happens, and really, in those moments I just don’t care. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this behavior!

How do we overcome these moments of cravings-turned-into-self-destruction? For one, we should make sure we have a well-stocked refrigerator with friendly and tasty alternatives and keep some snacks in our cars for when we’re out an about. I’ll be sharing with you my favorite snack finds soon!

I find myself breaking free from my former approach to food when I’m away from home, which was to only think about food moments before I get it. I would feel hungry and go on a quick mission to grab a meal, at the mercy of the closest restaurant I could find. Now, I think about my meals hours in advance, before I leave the house. I am educating myself about what I can eat at various restaurants to avoid allergic reactions when I go there. I often prepare my lunch at home.

Yesterday, I had an emotional trigger that caused me to make some dumb choices for dinner. I lost my iPhone in a public place…it’s not likely I’ll get it back. My whole life is on that thing! No worries, I activated an old phone and life will go on…but at that point I was tired from my earlier activities and extra emotional because I lost what felt like an appendage (and isn’t it though? Really, people. Some of us need an iPhone intervention – maybe this is mine). So, I searched for food near my phone company store and ordered take-out from a restaurant where I hadn’t looked up the ingredients for their entrees yet. I decided to take my chances on a chicken burrito – a mistake indeed.

Maybe there was another way to respond to my emotional trigger. I could have waited until I got home to eat and called a friend to vent on my newly activated old phone! Or I could have gone for a walk, pray, sing, paint, or anything that fills and comforts me and combats my rotten mood.

On the bright side (gotta see the bright side!)…it was a yummy burrito. I still fit into my well-earned size 4 jeans. It’s a new day, and I have forgiven myself. And, I have this blog.

In Wellness.

McDonald’s Soyland

McDonalds logo

What’s on the other side of those golden arches? McDonald’s Soyland. Yep. We who must avoid soy (and milk) will have trouble eating here.

The good news is…we can eat the oatmeal…but only the Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal..The Fruit & Maple Oatmeal is made with cream. I wish I had more good news. There isn’t much else we can order without significant alterations.

Here’s a snapshot of just one of the 33-page ingredients list for every popular menu item McDonald’s serves. I’ve highlighted in yellow all the soy and milk ingredients in those items. Notice how often you see that splash of yellow on the page…soy is in just about everything. The other pages look quite similar. I’m having an allergic reaction just reading this document.

Soy is in nearly everything at McDonalds

This is just one page (of 33) from the ingredients list for all the popular entrees McDonald's offers. Notice how many times you see "soy" appears to be in nearly everything they serve.

Let me summarize the McDonald’s ingredients list (so you don’t have to).

  • Each of the buns is made with soy; some also contain milk.
  • The bagel is made with soy, the biscuit is made with milk and soy, and pancakes/griddle cakes are made with milk and soy.
  • Each of their sauces, glazes, and salad dressings contain soy; some also contain milk.
  • All chicken meat and fish fillet are made with soy and are fried in soy.This means all chicken and fish sandwiches are a no-no, even if we asked for it wrapped in lettuce instead of the bun. Chicken salads are a no-no too.
  • The french fries are made with soy and fried in soy.
  • The “eggs” are prepared with “liquid margarine”, which contains 4 different soy ingredients(!!!).
  • The angus beef is prepared with “Angus Burger Seasoning” which does not list any soy ingredients, but it does list “natural and artificial flavors” made from “animal, plant, and botanical source”, which scares me a little.
These proteins are soy and milk free:
  • The hamburger patty is seasoned with salt and pepper.
  • The sausage patty is pork, water, seasoning, and preservatives.
  • The McRib patty is pork, water, salt, dextrose, and preservatives.

What soy and milk-free items can we order?

If we had no choice but to eat at McDonald’s (because in a weak moment we gave into our kids’ incessant pleas to play at McDonald’s play land), what could we order? We could ask for a hamburger patty (no Big Mac sauce) or a McRib patty (without the McRib sauce), and perhaps a tomato slice and pickle, wrapped in lettuce. And since this will be one dry “burger”, we may add ketchup and/or mustard (but not the honey mustard sauce which has soy). Instead of fries, order a bag of apple slices (sorry, the caramel dip is made with butter). The kids will want a toy – did you know we can purchase the toy separately? Even though we wouldn’t be ordering a kids meal, perhaps we could ask them to give us a kids bag for the protein “burger”, apples, and toy we order. For breakfast, we could order the Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal and a side of a sausage patty.

Sigh. This is getting ridiculous. My reader, Teresa, couldn’t have said it better. “I’m wondering WHY the heck people are adding so much soy into our food! Seriously! Is it really even NEEDED?”

What in the world is soy doing in all of our food? Until 2 months ago, if someone asked me if I ate soy, I would have replied, “only occasionally”. I thought it was something I had to order…a bowl of edamame or an order of tofu, etc. Who knew that the soy ingredient was so pervasive in our foods?!

I’m on a quest to find a restaurant with more soy-free and dairy-free choices. I’m tempted to send McDonalds, Jack in the Box, and Corner Bakery links to the blogs I wrote about them and ask them to consider removing soy from their entrees and/or provide more soy-free alternatives. Is that too much to ask?!

Wellness to you.

What entrees are soy and milk-free at the Corner Bakery Cafe?

Today I had lunch with a lovely former colleague of mine at one of my favorite places — Corner Bakery Cafe. I haven’t been there since I discovered my allergy to soy two months ago, so I decided I’d look up the ingredients of all the entrees from their website ahead of time (am I type A or what?). I was able to order my meal with confidence and without holding up the line by asking the employee one hundred thirty-two questions about each entree.

I did a google search on “Corner Bakery Ingredients Allergy”, and found this detailed nutritional guide and allergen and food sensitivity spreadsheet:

The first part of this document shows basic nutritional information. On page 5 was a chart that indicates which entrees contain the most common allergens/foods causing sensitivities. Thanks to the well-organized chart, I was quickly able to find every entree in the Corner Bakery menu that did not contain milk or soy products. Unfortunately, as I suspected, all my favorite dishes are not Rena-friendly (they are not soy and milk free). Drats. However, unlike at Jack in the Box (see yesterday’s post), there are actual entrees that can be ordered with little-to-no alterations. Hooray!

  • I ordered Mom’s Roast Beef on Sourdough bread, but with no mayonnaise (which contains soy). I asked for balsamic vinaigrette instead, which I just found out contains soy (sigh) – so next time I’ll have them add avocado, which is always a great substitution for cheese.

I love the way Corner Bakery Cafe clearly shows all the allergens contained in the foods within this chart. Besides showing if the food contains soy and milk, it also shows egg, fish, peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts, wheat/gluten, or sulfites. I truly appreciate how this information is laid out — it was far easier to determine what entrees I’d be allergic to than it was at Jack and the Box.

Besides Mom’s Roast Beef, what other entrees can we order at the Corner Bakery Cafe with little-to-no alterations?

  • Oatmeal.
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup w/Tortilla Strips.
  • Mom’s Roasted Chicken on Harvest Bread (again, no mayo).
  • And that’s about it.

Of course, you can always have them deviate from the menu (they will help you as much as they can to accommodate your dietary restrictions) by making you some pasta with only olive oil, or the like. Just be sure anything you have added to the pasta is soy and milk-free. The Seasonal Fruit Salad Medley is safe. The sides of Baby Carrots and Pickle Spear are safe. All of their dressings contain soy, and a couple also contain milk. But, the Country Dijon Mustard is safe (they use it as an add-on for the Mom’s Sandwiches).

Next up…I’ll investigate what we may eat at McDonalds.

Don’t lose sight of our goal, folks. We’re after wellness here!

“Welcome to Jack in the Box. May I take your order?”


Jack (outside of his box, apparently)

After work today, I was hungry. It was the kind of hungry that could not wait and I knew with all the errands I was about to do I would not have time to stop at home for a snack. So I found myself salivating at the menu at a Jack-In-The-Box drive through.

“Welcome to Jack in the Box. May I take your order?”

I acknowledge what I was about to ask the drive-thru lady was somewhat unfair. I’m pretty sure I already knew the answer to this question before I asked. Speaking into to the Box, I asked it anyway, “Do you know if your crispy chicken strips are made with soy?”

Silence. Then I hear, “No”.

A moment of hope! She continues, “They’re made with chicken.”

“Right,” I say, “But, the breading on the outside…Is there any soy in there?”

Ok, people, stop laughing at me. I know I should have stopped after the first question.

“No, the breading is made with bread.”


“Ok, never mind. I’ll just have an order of fries.”

She gave me my total and as I waited patiently behind another car, I grabbed my iPhone and did a Google search on “Jack in the Box Ingredients.” I selected the appropriate link and a pdf of the ingredients list for every item on their menu appeared. After scrolling through several pages, I found the ingredients list for French Fries:

  • Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (Contains One Or More Of The Following Oils: Canola, Soybean, Cottonseed, Sunflower, Corn), Potato Starch – Modified. Contains 2% or less of Dextrose, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Rice Flour, Salt, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate Added To Maintain Natural Color, Tapioca Dextrin, Xanthan Gum. Cooked in All Vegetable Frying Oil (High oleic canola oil and dimethylpolysiloxane). 

Shoot. I’m likely allergic to their fries. By the time I got to the window, I didn’t care how my body will revolt against me. I wanted those hot salty fries and I wanted them now. And yes, they were finger-licking good. (Note: since then I have conceded it wasn’t worth it and my skin hates me. Sigh.)

Upon further investigation of the menu when I got home, the crispy chicken strips were indeed made with soy. Although…I should say there were two sets of ingredients for this – one recipe contained soy and the other did not – how do we know which one we’re getting when we order?! I’ll just assume it will be the recipe containing soy and avoid it altogether.

So, is there anything I can eat there? That is, may I order something soy and milk free? Am I the only one who wants to know these things?

Assuming I’m not, I’ll scour entire menu, categorizing the entrees into items that contain milk (no soy), items that contain soy (no milk), items that contain soy and milk, and items that are soy and milk-free. Please know that the menu may change at any time and I may misinterpret or overlook something. If you must eat something at Jack in the Box, please verify the ingredients list for yourself at

  • Jack in the Box items that contain milk (no soy): Shredded Cheddar Cheese, Provolone Cheese, Real Cheddar Cheese, Sliced Real Swiss Cheese, Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese, Chiquita Apple Bites with caramel, Coffee Creamer (Half & Half), Milk, Minute Maid Banana Smoothie, Minute Maid Mango Smoothie, Minute Maid Strawberry Smoothie, Sour Cream
  • Jack in the Box items that contain soy (no milk): Bacon Ranch Dressing, Barbecue Dipping Sauce, Beef Regular Taco, Bourbon Barbecue Sauce, Bakery Style Bun, Jumbo Bun, Regular bun, Julienne Chicken, Chipotle Sauce, Cinnamon Sugar, Creamy Italian Sauce, Creamy Ranch Sauce, Egg Rolls, Fill Fillet, French Fries, Hash Brown Sticks, Heinz Mayonnaise, Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce, Low Fat Balsamic Dressing, Mayo-Onion Sauce, Mini Churros, Mini Funnel Cake, Mini Pancakes, Seasoned Curly Fries, Secret Sauce, Bulk Secret Sauce, Sirloin Beef Patty Seasoning, Soy Sauce, Spicy Corn Sticks, Sweet ‘N Sour Dipping Sauce, Tartar Sauce, Teriyaki Dipping Sauce, Teriyaki Dipping Sauce, Teriyaki Sauce, Flour Tortilla
  • Jack in the Box items that contain soy and milk: Artisan Bread, Toasted Biscuit, Butter Flavored Vegetable Oil, Buttermilk Hous Dipping Sauce, Cheesecake, American Sliced Cheese, Cheddar Cheese Sauce, Sliced Swiss-Style Cheese, Chicken Fajita Patty, Grilled Fillet Chicken, Homestyle Fillet Chicken, Chicken Patty, Spicy Breast Fillet Chicken, Crispy Chicken Strips, Grilled Chicken Strips, Chocolate Overload Cake, Creamy Southwest Dressing, Croissant, Croutons, Fried Egg, Scrambled Egg, Ice Cream Shake Mix, Lit Ranch Dressing, Mozzarella Cheese Sticks, Grilled Onions, Onion Rings, Oreo Cookie Crumbs, Peppercorn Mayo, Pride Margarine Spread, Ranch Dressing, Sirloin Beef Patty, Grilled Sourdough Bread, Steak Strips, Stuffed Jalapeños, Sun Dried Tomato Sauce, Whipped Topping, White Cheese Sauce

So…what can we eat at Jack in the Box without invoking an allergic reaction? Are you really ready for this? Once you know, there’s no turning back…

  • Jack in the Box items that are soy and milk-free: Bacon pieces, Bacon slices, Black Beans, Blackberry Syrup, Broccoli, Caramel Syrup, Carrots, Chocolate Syrup, Roasted Corn, Cucumbers, Egg, Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Dipping Sauce, Grape Jelly, Sliced Ham, Hamburger Patty, Heinz Ketchup, Heinz Malt Vinegar, Hot Taco Sauce, Iceberg/Romain Blend Lettuce, Sliced Jalapeños, Log Cabin Syrup, Mango Flavored Syrup, Maraschino Cherry, Minute Maid Lemonade, Mustard, French’s Mustard, Sliced Red Onions, Original Syrup, Peach Fravored Syrup, Pepper Packet, Dill Pickels, Pita Bread made with Whole Grain, Pork Chorizo, Potato Wedges, Raspberry Flavored Syrup, Rice, Sliced Salami, Fire Roasted Salsa, Salt, Sausage Crumbles, Sausage Patty, Splenda, Spring Mix, Strawberry Jelly, Strawberry Syrup, Sugar Packet, Powdered Sugar, Sweet ‘N Low, Taco Sauce, Tomatoes, Sliced Turkey, Vanilla Syrup, Zesty Marinara Dipping Sauce, soft drinks
So wait. Did I just discover that those of us allergic to soy and milk cannot order any entree from Jack in the Box as-is?! The buns/croissants contain soy. The chicken is marinated in soy. The sirloin seasoning contains soy.
The good news is, we can have a lot of condiments. And lettuce. And a sugar packet. I can just see it now…

“Welcome to Jack in the Box. May I take your order?”

“Hello. Sorry, I’m going to be a problem customer…I’d like a hamburger patty. Yes, just the patty. And don’t season it. With anything. That’s right, I can’t have the sirloin beef patty seasoning. Maybe could they just salt it a little? Thanks. Also, I’m allergic to the buns. Do you think you can put it in a pita? Great, Thanks. Can you throw a handful of condiments in the bag? Oh no, no, not the mayonnaise. Never mind. One Catsup packet will do. May I have a side of Carrots? No, I can’t have the ranch dressing. Do you think you can give me a side of a couple Maraschino cherries? No, no. I’m not joking…yes, I’d be happy to speak to the manager.”