Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Summer Camp With Food Allergies – Our Experience May 31, 2012

Filed under: Preparedness — malawer @ 11:25 am
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Last year, we enrolled my oldest son in Headfirst Summer Camp.  He was enthralled with the idea of his week at their all-sports program and even more ecstatic to be participating with one of his best buddies.


As excited as we were for him, I was – as always – a little apprehensive of sending him to a camp where lunch was involved.  Before enrolling, I called Headfirst’s administrative office to ask questions.  To my surprise, they couldn’t have been either more professional nor more prepared for handling food allergies.  Campers bring their own lunch – already a good start – and snacks were not served.  Phew!  There is a nurse on site (yay!), nut-free area for dining and the counselors carry each campers emergency medications (for us, EpiPens and Benadryl) in a fanny pack (poor counselors) or backpack with that child everywhere the child goes.  Headfirst was both prepared and thoughtful about food allergies (see the policy in their words) – I was impressed and happily signed him up!


We had one little snag for the whole week:  the camp wound up rewarding the kids with ice pops one afternoon – something that was not communicated to me, as a food allergic parent, in advance.  When my son came home and admitted to having the ice pop because he didn’t have an alternative snack and he was sure he had eaten the same kind before, I was concerned.  First of all, this wasn’t the protocol we taught him and secondly, ice pops occasionally contain dairy.  Thankfully, my son showed no allergic symptoms but I checked with the director before camp the following morning, confirming that the pops were, in fact, something my son had eaten before.  I let her know that food allergic parents should be made aware of this reward as they register on the first day of camp – giving them a chance to okay the product in advance.  She agreed and we both called the main office with this suggestion.


All said, my son had a fantastic week at camp!  The program suited my son (and his friend) soooo well.  They were excited going to camp each day and left wanting more.  And, I could send him off without worry knowing how well thought out the camp’s food allergies plan was.


What has your summer camp experience been like?


Chasin’ Tails…. Laissez Les Beignets Rouler! May 7, 2012

A new restaurant opened near us in Arlington, VA:  Chasin’ Tails.  And because I loved their sense of humor (their coming soon banner read “Chasin’ Tails… A Crawfish Seafood Restaurant” just to stay in the good graces of the neighbors as they built), I had to try it.


As usual, before we went I reviewed their menu online and phoned in with questions.  The manager was happy to hunt down answers to my many questions, and as a result we had a great experience.  This was a fun, casual, family friendly place that we can’t wait to return to.  Best of all, we had great success with my son’s allergies.


Here’s the skinny:

  • The manager checked the full ingredients of everything from the dessert (beignets!!!!!) to the breading of fried items;
  • He was quick to bring up issues, like the fact they use buttermilk to bind the seafood/chicken to its breading;
  • The chefs were willing to alter the way they operate in order to prepare food safely for my son.  For example, when he wanted chicken tenders, they used egg (thank goodness he’s now outgrown that allergy!) to bind the breading to the meat;
  • Their fry oil is a canola/soybean blend.  If you’re allergic to dairy, you may wish to check to see if the fries are fried with the buttermilk-bound seafood and, with the help of your allergist, determine if that is safe;
  • The regular fries are flavored with a cajun spice.  They are DELICIOUS, but a little spicy for the kids.  Like most items, you can order them without the spice.  (P.S.: The amazing sweet potatoes fries – of which I ate 2 lbs – come UNspiced);
  • The beignets are nut-free!  They are warm and they are yummy!

My son excitedly tried my lobster, my friend’s shrimp in addition to his own chicken tenders.  Everything we ate was so good, we are all talking about going back very, very soon!


Cava Continued March 24, 2012


Did I mention Cava has also marked gluten-free dishes? Again, so easy!

(Yes, I loved this place!)


Cava March 22, 2012



I just enjoyed a fabulous meal at Cava in Clarendon with some girlfriends the other night.   Not  only was the food delicious, but I suspect the menu would be pretty easy to negotiate with food allergies.  Although none of us were avoiding foods that night, I saw a number of dishes I would order for my son.  As you can see above, each menu item lists its’ ingredients – making ordering just a littler simpler if you’re avoiding certain foods.


Cava features Mediterranean fare – all of which was so good that I could barely choose one dish over the next.  Our waiter convinced us dessert was in our best interest (if we must! ) and he was right.  Warm, dessert-style French Toast was out of this world.  That said, we didn’t even see the dessert menu, so I’m not certain if the other desserts are particularly allergy-friendly or not.  Good news is that you’re in Clarendon and a safe dessert (if you need one) is likely just a walk away.


Cava also has additional locations on Capitol Hill and in Rockville and offers some recipes (great for checking for your allergens!) on their CavaFoods products website.


Great Harvest Bread Company Just Got Greater! March 10, 2012

Great Harvest Bread Co.

A fabulous friend of mine just called to let me know that the Great Harvest Bread Company near us sells gluten-free bread every other Tuesday (the next Tuesday is March 20th at their Alexandria, VA location).  Exciting!  Not only do they sell GF bread, but also GF cookies and brownies as well.


HOWEVER!  After making several phone calls , it appears that this practice varies widely from franchise to franchise.  So, I would definitely call your local Great Harvest before you go.  You could find that they offer GF products all the time!….or none of the time.  😦


If you’re lucky, you’ll land some amazing bread.  Check out these photos and review from Thursdays are the BEST at Great Harvest Bread Co in Hillsboro.


**Also, Great Harvest lists 6 of the top allergens on their website so you can figure out which of their amazing breads are safe for you.

**Great Harvest Bread Nutrition and Allergen Information**

photo of bread loaves


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.


Elevation Burger January 29, 2012

I was recently contacted by Elevation Burger execs with whom I had a fabulous conversation about their brand and food allergies.  They were so happy to hear about our great experiences eating at their franchises, re-emphasizing that [feeling well taken care of is] “definitely the mission that our brand tries to embody.”  Elevation Burger’s Managing Partner could relate to my post noting that he himself has a severe dairy allergy.  “I hear you loud and clear on that!” he wrote,  “It’s very few restaurants that take allergies seriously.  Since I’ve been involved with EB I’ve made sure our staff and franchisees are aware of just how serious an allergy can be and how we can, and should, accommodate our guests who have an allergy.”  


**CORRECTION:  Importantly, the Managing Partner noted that I had mentioned in my original post that their hamburger buns had dairy in them.  Well, turns out that Elevation Burger switched suppliers a few years ago and the buns no longer contain dairy (only vegan butter flavoring).  So, go out and get eating —  burger, buns and all!**


Ok, it’s hard for me to convey just how much I love Elevation Burger.  A fairly new burger chain, Elevation Burger’s hook is that the ingredients are so fresh and of great quality.  And, it is relayed in the way it tastes:  Heavenly…


Their menu consists mainly of organic burgers and veggie burgers with a smattering of other options.  Not to be missed are their “diet fries”.  Ok, they’re not really diet.  But they are heart healthy as the folks at Elevation Burger fry them in olive oil.  To justify their essential consumption, I think of them as “health food”…


But not only is Elevation Burger delicious, they were so great handling my son’s food allergies.  For example, several years ago Elevation Burger used buns which contained milk. (Please see CORRECTION above regarding EB’s buns)  At that time, they suggested serving my son’s burger wrapped in lettuce.  They’ve offered to give him Oreos from their milkshake station when his friends were eating the homemade variety they sell.  I certainly felt they took his allergies very seriously and I really appreciated that.  And, the limited menu reduces the risk of possible dangerous cross-contamination.


It’s lunchtime as I’m writing this… I might just have to go to Elevation now!