Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Teaching Teachers About Ingredient Lists February 29, 2012

I know that there’s an awful lot of extra things teachers need to do to watch over their kids during the school day.  In addition to instruction, teachers pay attention to physical and emotional health and socialization.  And, I hate to add to that list, but I think teachers need to learn to read food labels.


As we all know, food allergies are on the rise.  So much so, that in my son’s first grade class of 18 children, at least 6 kids have mild to severe food allergies not including his teacher who also is allergic to gluten.


In an effort to become more food allergy friendly, my son’s school began requiring parents to bring in ingredient lists for all food brought in from outside.  Whether it’s homemade or store-bought, all treats to be shared with other children (as in class parties, birthday celebrations, etc) need to be accompanied with a list of ingredient.  A good start, but who’s there to police it?  Parents are generally not given the “heads-up” on the food being served at these parties.  Therefore, it becomes the teacher’s job to read labels and ensure the treat’s safety for each child.  Imagine the job that is for my son’s class.  And, we have a food allergy-savvy teacher!


And, it’s not all about class parties. Take the case of the bird feeders (See Peanut-Free Bird Feeders: Lesson Learned) that our Hebrew school assured us were completely nut-free.  The administration sure could’ve used some lessons in reading labels!  Without the unprompted forethought from my son’s teacher, we would have assuredly had some problems.


Something about this system needs to change.  We need to either keep the party offerings to whole, healthy foods (and communicate with food allergic parents) or we need to teach the teachers how to read ingredient labels.  Or both.  It’s not hard to know what to look for when reading ingredient lists (we all learned!  See Food Allergies and Food Labels: What You Need to Know).  Plus, it could prove to be a valuable line of defense against a potential reaction.


And the Liebster Award(s) Go To…… February 23, 2012

Well, how much better does a day begin than with an award from a peer!   Anu Rao from Allergy Foodie kindly nominated me for a Liebster award, saying, “I have been following your blog since you were listed on the Circle of Moms Top Food Allergy Blog list.  I love your emphasis on keeping our joie de vivre despite food allergies.  And, that’s why you are one of the recipients of [this award].”  Needless to say, she made my day!


Liebster is a German word for “Good Friend”.  And how appropriate as I have found the food allergy community filled with them!


There are rules to receiving and accepting this award, and here they are:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

3. Copy and Paste the Award to your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the word and love to other bloggers.
5. Have fun.


With no further ado and in no particular order, I am excited to nominate the following blogs:


1. Food Allergy Family Fun:   Food Allergy Family Fun is a great resource for families dealing with multiple food allergies (like ours does).   Stories often accompany the easy to prepare recipes, reminding me (for one) that we’re not alone in managing with several severe food allergies.  Plus, Leigha solved a huge conundrum for me: how to make an egg-free matzoh ball.  And, for that alone I say you are a mensch!


2.  Living the Allergic Life:   Amy, mom of 3, has it in perspective.  Not only does she come up with mouth-watering recipes time and again, but she adds a real-life perspective that is refreshingly honest.  I appreciate her down-to-earth style which keeps me coming back for more.  That and those allergy-free Oreo cookie balls.  Whoa!


3.  Jeanette’s Healthy Living:  I stumbled upon this blog just recently and enjoy it immensely.  Jeanette focuses on food allergy-friendly (primarily dairy and gluten) recipes but also on recipes that contribute to overall wellness.  While incorporating whole, healing foods, her dishes are delicious, interesting and good for you!  Jeanette’s blog inspires me to cook more often AND eat better.


4.  Life with Both Hands Full:  This blog focuses on the life of Krista and her two boys.  But, it also centers around making things less complicated.  It mirrors the philosophy I try to espouse in my own life and here at Allergy Shmallergy. I love the great tips I glean from this blog from crafts to Totally Organized Tuesdays.  You never know what you’re going to learn, but it always makes your day a little easier.  And, that’s the point, right?!


5.  Pawleys Island Posh:  A girl can’t work all of the time!  And, when I need some inspiration I click over to Pawleys Island Posh for a fresh take on decor, fashion and a whole lot of other things.  Julia’s clean vision and vibrant color schemes leave me feeling creative and happy.  And, she’s funny!  Julia has it going on… I’d hate her if I didn’t love her!


Playdates: An Interesting Reminder February 20, 2012

Filed under: Preparedness,School — malawer @ 8:30 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

So, an interesting thing happened the other day…


My younger son (4), who has no food allergies himself,  had a playdate with his adorable friend.  While running from one room to the next, they found time to stop just long enough to eat some leftover Valentine’s Day Pez – a fact I didn’t know until the next day.


Although the food (and candy) in our house is always nut free and almost always dairy and egg free…  And, although this friend has no food allergies, it is still important that he learn to ask an adult before sharing.

This lesson has been long-ingrained in my older, food allergic son, but I think it will be important for me to re-state this principle with a new angle.  While we’ve been so focused on keeping my big guy safe from his many food allergies, we may not have emphasized enough the need to think of other kids and theirs.


Thankfully, it was Pez (sugar, unpronouncables, and dye but no top allergens) and no harm done.   But, we’ll be talking before our next playdate.


Correction: Pizza Nut… I Mean Pizza Hut… February 18, 2012

Update:  While it appears that Pizza Hut has updated their allergen information to remove some of their peanut and tree nut designations on their menu, I was still surprised to see what allergens were present in non-obvious menu items.  For example, their sauce still contains egg, dairy, wheat, soy, shellfish and gluten.  The lasagna contains tree nuts.  I stand by my recommendation below to check their allergen list before visiting or ordering from a Pizza Hut if you have food allergies.

Updated Pizza Hut Allergen List


I had heard through the grapevine that Pizza Hut’s sauce is not safe for people with tree nut allergies.   Sure enough, if you check on their website, not only is Pizza Hut’s sauce made on equipment commonly used to manufacture tree nut products, but also egg, milk, wheat, soy and shellfish products.   If you frequent Pizza Hut, it might be worth it to check out their allergen chart as I found many surprise cross-contamination issues.


Peanut-Free Bird Feeders: Lesson Learned February 16, 2012

Filed under: School — malawer @ 2:13 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

So, I was contacted by my son’s Hebrew school earlier this week to let me know that they would be making bird feeders.  They were kind enough to email the food allergic parents to explain that they would be using Crisco to bind the seed to the feeder and have checked to verify that the bird seed did not contain nuts.


Well, that takes a load off, doesn’t it?!  After a quick exchange about having my son wash his hands afterwards, I put the whole thing out of my brain.


When I arrived to pick my son up, his teacher quickly pointed out that he made a bird feeder but not with bird seed.  (Oh?)  His very thoughtful teacher decided to double check the bird seed package and read that it did contain nuts.  She made a wise judgement that my son shouldn’t handle the birdseed and cleverly had him make what will likely be a super-popular bird feeder from crushed graham crackers.


I have alerted the school that this brand of seed shouldn’t be used in the future.  And, the lesson is:  it pays to double check the facts and ask the obvious questions sometimes….


Cupid’s Arrows: Valentine’s Day Fruit Kabobs February 13, 2012

Valentine’s Day is one of a variety of food-centric holidays that can be difficult for kids (and adults!) with food allergies.  With the abundance of milk chocolate, this makes Valentine’s Day a particularly tricky one for my dairy allergic son.


This year, I’m getting creative  (and healthier!) by making my boys an edible Cupid’s Arrow.  They already loved this test version.  And, if you’re planning a Valentine’s Day party for the classroom, this is certainly an easy, allergy-friendly way to include everyone.   And that’s always a “dew” in my book (honeydew, that is!).


You’ll need:

  • Fruit solid enough to be skewered
  • Preferably short Bamboo skewers
  • Small heart-shaped cookie cutters

1.  Thinly slice your favorite sturdy fruit (we used melon, but I would think you could use apples, pears, pineapple, etc if you preferred).


2.  Take the cookie cutter and cut out the hearts.


3.  Thread fruit onto the skewers and serve!


Managing Food Allergies: Learn to Cook! February 9, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 9:13 pm

So following last week’s post Food Allergies and Food Labels: What You Need to Know, I thought we should discuss next steps to more easily managing your or your child’s food allergy.


My advice is simple: in short,  get cooking!


When my son was diagnosed with food allergies, I was not a great cook.  Ok, I was not even a good cook.  I was a hit or mostly-miss cook.  He was originally diagnosed with so many food allergies, it was nearly impossible to go out to eat, so it was really baptism by fire.


I quickly found out that learning to cook taught me how to eat out more easily and eat in more comfortably.  Having tried my hand at every interesting recipe I’ve come across has not only helped me get familiar with what ingredients are typically in meals, but also with the process of cooking itself.


This helps in several ways:

  • Now, I can ask more educated questions to determine whether or not a dish might contain my son’s many allergies.  In fact, it was sometimes my amateur knowledge of cooking that helped avoid allergen-mishaps at restaurants – like, when I insisted that the waiter recheck his sure-footed answer that the lebanese sausage we were about to order did NOT contain pine nuts (it did!).   Or when, having cooked a similar meal myself the week before, I asked that the server to double-check his claim that their breaded chicken didn’t have egg.
  • It also helped me determine if an off-the-shelf product at the supermarket would be safe for my son.  He can now eat baked milk and eggs – a very exciting adjustment to his routine.  But it makes you wonder things like, could he eat cheese-flavored chips?  (Probably not, since the powdered cheese would be added after baking.) Or, was the chocolate covered cookie a safe dessert? (Probably not, because the cookie was likely dipped in chocolate after it was baked.)
  • Cooking also gave me the experience to realize that certain cuisines were virtually free of my son’s allergens (like Greek, for example).

Learning to cook has also allowed our family to try foods we would ordinarily avoid because of my son’s allergies.  Like Chinese food (click here to see some of our family’s favorite dishes), Korean or Middle Eastern dishes.  When my son is interested in trying a new cuisine, I now feel a little more equipped to give each new request a try.  Not only can I guarantee some of the trickier dishes are allergy-free, but they’re probably a lot healthier too – which is one of its own rewards.


The best reward, however, is a new dish or a new cuisine that wows my family’s tastebuds and expands my kids’ repetoires!