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Managing Food Allergies In the Snow November 30, 2016

winter sledding in the snow, winter break

photo taken by Kevin Jarrett

Winter is an important time to get outside. It leaves you feeling refreshed and invigorated. Winter weather invites us to engage in all kinds of fun and unique activities. Ice skating and hot chocolate go hand in hand. Snow days beg for sledding down sleek hills. Cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, and even hiking are fabulous ways to appreciate the quiet beauty of the season.

 

And, of course, there’s my personal passion: skiing.

 

No matter what your winter passion is, please read Let It Snow! (below) for some important tips on how to carry your epinephrine auto-injector and how to manage your food allergies in the cold and on the slopes!

 

See our story and read how to enjoy – not endure – the season in the Winter 2016 edition of Allergy & Asthma Today:

 

Allergy & Asthma Today – Winter 2016

Or read it here:

Let It Snow!  Managing Food Allergies In the Snow

Our family loves wintertime and winter sports – skiing, sledding, ice skating, you name it. My son has multiple food allergies, so we always carry epinephrine auto-injectors with us, even in the cold, and we make sure they are safe and secure.

 

Epinephrine must be kept at room temperature in order for the medication to remain effective. When you plan to go outside in the cold, carry your auto-injectors in the inside pocket of your winter coat.

 

If you have no interior pockets, or they’re not big enough, get creative. We made a holder for our epinephrine auto-injectors using a pencil case and a lanyard – anything to keep the epinephrine close by and at the correct temperature.

 

Gone Skiing

 

When my son was old enough, my husband – an avid skier – was excited to get him on the slopes. But the idea of trying to manage his food allergies on a ski vacation seemed challenging.

 

Who could I track down to get ingredient information for food in the ski lodge cafeteria? How was I going to store and easily access snacks and lunches that were safe for my son? Could I rely on the ski school to look out for him and his food allergies?

 

During recent ski trips, we found food service employees were knowledgeable about food allergies. Several of my son’s ski instructors needed no introduction to epinephrine auto-injectors – some had food allergies themselves, which made them even cooler in my son’s eyes.

 

The staff walked him through cafeteria lines, read ingredient lists, and helped him find safe alternatives for group snacks – all at 10,000 feet.

 

If you’re planning a trip to a ski resort, here are some food allergy tips:

 

  1. Call ahead. Ski lodge operations may seem relaxed, but they do take food allergies seriously. We spoke with a food services manager at one ski lodge who outlined their offerings, looked up food suppliers and tracked down ingredients for us – all before we stepped foot in the snow. Ask about the lunch routine during ski school and what kinds of food students receive. Are they given snacks? Do they have free choice in the cafeteria?

 

  1. Show up for ski school classes early with your epinephrine auto-injectors. Talk with your child’s ski instructors and if necessary, teach them how to use an epinephrine auto-injector – and when to use it. Remind them they will need to store it in an inside pocket of their ski jacket to keep it close to room temperature.

 

  1. Consider meeting up with your child’s ski school class for lunch to help your child navigate the cafeteria line. But don’t expect to eat with them! Skiing creates fast friendships and your child will have more fun hanging out with their ski buddies.

 

  1. Pack some safe snacks and store them someplace readily accessible. Kids are often hungry when they get off the slopes and ski lodge cafeterias typically close right when the lifts do.

 

Now … Bring on the snow!

 

 

Breathing Easy On the Slopes

 

Many people with food allergies also have asthma. When outside in wintertime, cold, dry air can be an asthma trigger. Wrapping a scarf around your nose and mouth warms the air you breathe and helps keep the rest of you warm as well. Tuck a quick-relief bronchodilator inhaler into an inside pocket of your jacket just in case you start to cough or wheeze.

Food Allergies

Enjoying a fantastic winter vacation. Skiing in Park City, Utah.

 

Stock the Shelves for Families with Food Allergies November 22, 2016

With the holidays upon us, gratefulness should be at the forefront of our minds.  It’s certainly on mine.  And, while I am so thankful for so many things, I can’t help but think of those who may be enduring hardship.

 

cans-salvation-army-usa-west

unaltered photo from Salvation Army USA West via Flickr at http://bit.ly/2gcaVDo

 

In 2013 (and each year since), my sons and I have volunteered at a food assistance center in our area.  As I detail in my original post, Thankful (Nov. 2013), my eldest son – who is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds and dairy – took me aside as we were sorting donations.  “I couldn’t make a meal out of anything in here,” he whispered.  He was concerned that if a kid like him had to rely on a food pantry for his or her meals, they’d leave hungry.  In reality, his worry is not unfounded.  Food insecure families with food allergies are forced to make difficult decisions every day.

 

So, let’s try to make things a little easier for those with food allergies who are in need this holiday season.  If you can, I encourage you all to donate food allergy-friendly food to your local food pantry or regional food bank.  When you do, please attach the forms below to request that your donation be set aside for another food allergy family or individual.

 

AllergyStrong/Allergy Shmallergy Food Donation Forms

 

And, if you or someone you know works at a food pantry, please ask them to contact us at erin@allergystrong.com.  We’d love to work with local and regional pantries to help them support food allergy families year-round.

 

Some Suggested Items to Donate

  • Sunbutter, Soynut Butter, Wowbutter, or other alternative to peanut butter
  • Gluten-free Pasta
  • Dairy-free, long shelf-life Soy, Rice or Coconut Milk
  • Rice or Corn-based Cereal
  • Gluten-free cereal and oatmeal
  • Rice-based meals
  • Ener-G Egg Replacer
  • Gluten-free, dairy-free or egg-free baking mixes (muffins, etc)

 

 

Focus on Fun: Thanksgiving Games November 17, 2016


Thanksgiving and other food-centric holidays are tough for families with food allergies.  Traditional foods may not be safe and allergic family members sometimes feel excluded from the celebration.

 

Time to interject fun, family traditions that won’t fill you up and are cross-contamination free-guaranteed!

 

One of my favorite ways to do this is to have the kids go on a scavenger hunt.  If you have a small group dining, the hunt could be for objects in the house or yard.  If you have a large group, the hunt could be for answers to questions from family and friends.  [See attached.]

 

Download here:

Focus on Fun – Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunts

 

Pinterest also has a ton of Thanksgiving crafts that kids can complete while watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade and waiting for the turkey.  The art work could decorate the dinner table or the dining room!  This is a great way to get food allergic kids involved with the meal without worry about allergens.

 

Perfect for indoor or out!  Download the ready-made Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt here:

Focus on Fun – Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunts

 

Food Allergies at the Thanksgiving Table November 15, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 11:30 am

 

thanksgiving-table-satya-murthy

fantastic photo by Satya Murthy via Flickr

 

As hard as it is for me to believe, Thanksgiving is coming – and soon!

 

For most of us, Thanksgiving meals conjures up feelings of gratitude, warm memories of time spent with family, laughter and friendship.  But to families dealing with food allergies, large potluck style dinners sometimes look like a minefield. To them, Thanksgiving and other holiday meals are fraught with anxiety, awkwardness and a fierce sense of protection.

 

Food allergy families often feel out of control at large holiday meals, worried about ingredients in – and cross-contamination of – dishes, navigating the endless amount of preparation and education needed to keep their children safe, and ensuring their child feel included in the festivities.

 

So, what can food allergy families do to best prepare for Thanksgiving next week?

 

 

1.  If you are going to a friend or family member’s house, offer to bring a dish that would be the most difficult to find safely.  For example, my son can almost always eat the Thanksgiving turkey.  But desserts almost never show up peanut, tree nut and dairy-free.  So, I offer to bring Dairy-Free, Egg-free, Nut-free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (which both smell and taste AMAZING).  It’s fun to watch guests reactions when they hear what ISN’T in the cookies!

 

2.  Take stock in what will be served in case you need to do a little prep work.  Ask the host and consider bringing small portions of sides, rolls, etc to accommodate those in your family with food allergies.

 

3.  If you’re having your meal with family or close friends, consider sending an easy-breezy email offering yourself up to questions. Something like, “As you know, my son is allergic to peanuts.  If you could let me know what dishes you’re planning to make so that I can offer him a safe alternative, that would be so helpful.  And, as always, if you have any questions I’m always happy to answer.”  This may be enough to alert and remind others of your family’s food restrictions. I’ve even had friends offer to use dairy-free butter or omit nuts after receiving an email!

 

4.  Food is at the center of so many holiday traditions.  But it doesn’t have to be!  In order to make the holiday extra special for your family, create new traditions!  Pass out a pre-dinner scavenger hunt or a Thanksgiving dinner questionnaire.  Crafts are a fun way to get food allergic kids involved.  And, of course, donating your time to volunteer is a fantastic way to define the season and start a meaningful conversation.

 

5.  Don’t forget to bring your epinephrine auto-injectors to dinner.  They should travel with your food allergic child always and Thanksgiving is no exception.

 

If you’re looking for some delicious Thanksgiving recipes, try:

You’ll Never Miss It Dairy-Free Mashed Potatoes

Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Apple Crisp

 

Or, order now from one of the many fantastic allergy-friendly bakeries across the country, in Canada and the UK:

Allergy Friendly Bakeries

 

 

We All Need Help Some Time November 2, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 9:30 am

Remember back to that first day you or your child was diagnosed with food allergies.  What one word would you use to describe that time?  For me, that word is “overwhelmed.”  Upon learning that my toddler was allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, dairy, eggs, corn, wheat and soy, I not only felt overwhelmed – I felt alone.

 

Melting in a puddle of anxiety as I tried to anticipate the future based on my – then – very limited knowledge, my husband assured me that we’d make it work.  We would overcome the obstacles. We could create our own solutions. We’d find a work-around.  We were in control.

 

As concerned as I was about my son’s physical well-being, I was triply concerned about his psychological development.  My husband and I have worked very hard to manage his allergies in a calm way using simple, sane strategies to guide us.

 

I’ve dedicated the last 10 years of my life to helping and supporting families (like ours) with food allergies.  That journey began with an effort to keep my own son safe and has grown to include sharing these many life lessons living with life threatening food allergies with a larger community.  Along the way, I’ve been fortunate enough to help out family members and friends, advise schools, inform the media, consult to restaurants and share insight with businesses.  In an effort to help as many with food allergies as possible, I’m so happy to embark on this new endeavor.

 

AllergyStrong Consulting.jpg

I’m excited for you all to visit AllergyStrong Consulting.

And, as always, I look forward to hearing you guys!  Thanks for the support!

Erin

erin@allergystrong.com

https://allergystrongconsulting.wordpress.com/

allergystrong-consulting-home-page

 

Festive and Fun Snacks – Halloween Edition October 28, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 11:15 am

With only three more days until Halloween, I can barely contain my excitement.  I love getting creative with safe Halloween food for our annual Trick-or-Treating party.

 

In addition to the seasonal pumpkin seeds (see recipes for The Classic and Salty Sweet here) as well as the Skull and Crossbones Jello Bites, I also included a savory Black Bat Chip and Vampire Salsa Dip.  Sometimes, festive is all about presentation!

chips-and-vampire-teeth

2016-10-25-14-10-37

 

But my favorite treat of all were my peanut-free, tree nut-free, sesame-free, dairy-free Marshmallow Dippers.  True, these could be made for any occasion.  In fact, because we liked them so much, I may make them for ALL future occasions!  And, they couldn’t be easier.

 

marshmallow-dippers-3

Fun & Festive Marshmallow Dippers from Allergy Shmallergy

Fun & Festive Marshmallow Dippers

 

Ingredients

Large sized marshmallows
Coffee Stirrers
Dairy-free chocolate chips
Toppings:
sprinkles
non-pareils
crushed graham crackers
crushed salted pretzels
crushed oreos
granola
coconut flakes

 

Prepare marshmallows by inserting coffee stirrers into one end until almost through the other end.  Place your preferred topping or toppings in a shallow dish.

 

Place 1/2 cup of chocolate chips in a glass bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds.  Stir and microwave again for 30 more seconds.  Stir and continue as needed until the chocolate chips are melted.

 

Dip the lower half or third of marshmallow skewers into chocolate to coat.  You may find it easier to twirl the marshmallow in the bowl of a spoon filled with chocolate.  Immediately dip each chocolate covered marshmallow into your topping of choice.  Place on foiled covered tray.  Repeat with remaining marshmallows.  Once complete, place marshmallows in the freezer to set.

 

marshmallow-dippers-2

 

These were so incredibly good!  My 8 year old loved the colorful, sprinkled varieties.  My personal favorite was the pretzel covered.  My husband loved “The Reverse S’more” – the chocolate dipped marshmallow covered in graham cracker crumbs.  We’re planning on making these again on Halloween using orange-colored frosting instead of chocolate to suit my oldest son’s taste buds.  It’s clear that these are going to become a new obsession for us.

 

 

I want to see photos of your Halloween table and hear about all the safe snacks you come up with!  Please leave a comment or shoot me an email with photos!  Happy Halloween everyone!

 

Erin
erin@allergystrong.com

 

Halloween Snacks: Safe and Perfect for the Classroom or Party October 27, 2016

full-table-halloween

I had so much fun prepping for our Day of the Dead themed Halloween party!  Not only was it fun to lay out the decorations and style the table, but I loved coming up with fun and festive food to serve.

 

I planned carefully to create snacks that reflect the season and are fun – food that fits right in the spirit of Halloween!  The Halloween table – like all dining tables – is meant for everyone to be included – for me, fun, festive and inclusive food is especially important because my oldest son’s food allergies sometimes leave him without a candy option as he trick-or-treats.  As such, I needed to serve things that are food allergy-friendly.  And themed, safe food can be hard to come by.

 

First, I put our pumpkin innards (“pumpkin guts”) to good use.  We scooped and separated out the seeds. In a bowl filled with water, we strained out the rest of the pumpkin core and dried the seeds in a kitchen towel.

2016-10-25-14-34-38

Above, you’ll see two versions of pumpkin seeds – both are nearly everything-free.

 

 

The Classic:img_5770

Pumpkin seeds (approximately 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
2 Tablespoons dairy-free butter, melted
pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 300 F degrees.

 

With your pumpkin seeds already in a bowl, pour the melted butter substitute over the seeds and stir to combine.

Arrange the seed mixture on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Roast the seeds slowly, stirring occasionally.  At 25 minutes, add salt.  Roast for another 15-20 minutes, bringing the total roasting time to approximately 40-45 minutes.

 

 

Salty Sweet Pumpkin Seeds:img_5775

 

1 1/2 – 2 cups pumpkin seeds
2 Tablespoons dairy-free butter
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

 

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

 

Combine sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

With your pumpkin seeds already in a bowl, pour the melted butter substitute over the seeds and stir to combine.

Arrange the seed mixture on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Roast the seeds slowly, stirring occasionally.  At 15 minutes, add sugar mixture and stir.  Roast for another 20-30 minutes, bringing the total roasting time to approximately 40-45 minutes.

 

 

Next, I threw together some easy, no-brainer jello.  Good ol’ fashioned jello.  But check these out…

img_3959

…using the Skull and Crossbones mold, I made fun shapes that my kids gobbled down.  Tip:  spray the inside of the mold with cooking spray before pouring in the jello.  Use a little less liquid than recommended to keep the jello firm.  My larger sized box called for 2 cups of water – I used 1 1/2 cups instead.

 

And, finally, my favorite snack of all….  Stay tuned!  It’s worth the wait!