Famed professional quarterback Drew Brees, and his philanthropist wife, Brittany, joined the So Delicious Dairy Free team in 2012 to help spread the word about delicious foods for households managing food allergies and food sensitivities.
Drew and Brittany have a very active household with three young sons and spent time chatting with us about their food allergies. Below, Drew shares their personal story – how they found out about their food allergies, how he maintains optimal performance on the field, mentors young pros, and is a role model for kids who also suffer from allergies.
On Being a Professional Athlete with Food Allergies
Everything I do as an athlete, I think about maximizing performance. So anything I put in my body, I think about ‘how’s this going to help me perform at the highest level?” And, ‘how’s it going to help me recover the fastest?’ If you have an allergy to certain types of food and you are putting those into your body, your body is constantly fighting those foods as opposed to repairing muscle and helping you with recovery or performance. It becomes challenging because you want to make sure that you’re only putting things into your body that you know are going to help you perform at an optimal level and also help you recover as quickly as possible.
Brittany and I first got tested for food allergies back in 2004. I had started to feel really lethargic and just felt like I wasn’t operating at the highest level. That’s when we both went in for testing. We both came back allergic to dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt), gluten, and I was also allergic to some nuts. As you can imagine, I was shocked because I was consuming these things every day. And just to think how long I’ve had these allergies and had continued to feed these allergies. It was time for a change.
I think more and more people are aware of allergies now than they ever have been before. The biggest thing for us is that there are great alternatives to dairy milk, regular yogurt and cheese. For example, coconut milk products are an excellent alternative to dairy, especially if you have dairy issues like I think a lot of people do and maybe a lot don’t even realize. People are now a lot more health conscious and they are finding out about coconut milk products and all of the benefits – from the medium chain fatty acids to the great taste.
Role model for Kids with Food Allergies
You see kids mimic things that athletes are doing. I hope kids would be able to see a professional athlete like myself and say, “Hey, he’s got the same food allergies that I do and he’s able to be a professional athlete and play at a high level – that means I can too!” I believe a lot of it starts with education and letting people see what you’re doing and hoping that they will understand the value in the information, especially for those kids who suffer from food allergies. Whether it’s during an after school snack or after sports practice, kids and parents can manage food allergy choices successfully. For our boys, we’ll pack chocolate coconut milk single serves in their lunch bags or if it’s dessert time, we all love No Sugar Added Coconut Milk Fudge Bars.
Mentoring Young Pros
Guys coming in fresh out of college are used to going to the training table and eating and drinking whatever they’re given. I learned how to take care of my body over time. So I’d have to say most young players don’t come in with that mindset. In many cases, I see myself as a veteran player – pulling those young guys aside and, as part of teaching young players how to be a pro, talking to them about their diet, their sleep habits and their recovery. They’ll start to ask questions like, “Hey Drew, what do you do?” That’s when I explain to them the benefits of using coconut milk and almond milk products. Brittany’s even been known to trick them by sending me to practice with home baked cinnamon rolls or cookies with substituted coconut milk. And, they don’t even notice the difference!
For us, we love the taste and we love how easy it is to incorporate coconut milk and almond milk foods and beverages into our daily routine (from AlmondPlus in my recovery smoothies to Cookie Dough coconut milk ice cream straight out of the container). Bottom line: if you have a food allergy or sensitivity to dairy, or even if you don’t, between the delicious taste and the nutritional properties, So Delicious Dairy Free coconut milk and almond milk products have been a game changer for our family for years.