Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Including Food Allergic Students at School September 17, 2018

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It’s the beginning of the school year!  Now is the perfect time to discuss best practices to keep kids with food allergies included in the classroom and beyond.  What are the best ways to keep a child safe at school?  How is teaching a food allergic child different from one without dietary restrictions?  How can teachers and parents better communicate to ensure a productive year together?

 

One of the most difficult and important places to manage food allergies is at school.  Parents, faculty, staff and administrators want and need to keep food allergic students physically safe during the school day – a place children spend the largest portion of their time outside the home. Inclusion at school is the “safe place” they need to develop psychologically and socially.

 

Where do schools begin and what factors should they consider?  

 

Education:  Not surprisingly, it all begins with EDUCATION.  Faculty and staff should be educated and reeducated about food allergies each year.  They should not only know:

but they should also learn about the perspective of their food allergic students who experience anxiety and exclusion at higher rates than their peers.

 

I urge all schools to consider adding Food Allergy Education to their Health curriculum.  Students are exposed to the idea of food allergies without understanding exactly what that means. Understanding food allergies is shown to build inclusion and community, stoke empathy and protect peers in students pre-K through high school.  In less than 20 minutes, a teacher can cover a basic lesson plan on food allergies and reap all of the above benefits in his/her classroom for the entire year.

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Exclude the FOOD (not the CHILD).

Eating In the Classroom:  Parties, holiday celebrations, and special events should be as inclusive and safe as possible.  I’ve heard from many families across the country whose children have been sent out of the room during class parties because their allergen was being served;  children who are sent to eat with the school nurse instead of their friends; children who are told to stay away from the group who are eating an allergy-laden snack while they watch.  When such a thing occurs, the message that student receives from their teacher is that their classmates’ enjoyment is more important than they are.  At such times, the student will struggle with feeling of self-worth and the [correct] impression that their teacher doesn’t know how to handle food allergies.

 

Eating Outside of Class:  Prepare for field trips by remembering food allergic students.  Snacks and lunches need to be safe.  And, don’t forget to bring emergency medication (and store it with a chaperone AT ROOM TEMPERATURE).  The best way to keep these special learning experiences special is with advanced preparation and by communicating with parents and the students directly to address concerns and implement solutions.

 

Think through the full school day for an allergic student.  How will they fare on the bus ride home?  What is the school’s policy on eating on the bus?  Is it enforced?  Is the bus driver trained and prepared to deal with an allergic reaction?  Is an allergic student allowed to carry their own epinephrine?  How does the driver handle bullying on his/her bus?  Addressing the entire school day from door to door will make a child with food allergies feel protected and looked after.

 

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Bullying by Peers or Adults:  Exclusion, name-calling or verbally doubting sets an example for the other students that such behavior is acceptable and results in stigmatizing the food allergic student. Bullying is another serious problem for all students but can have serious and even deadly results for students with food allergies.  Read the statistics here to understand the scope of the problem which is often based at school.

 

Uninformed Teachers:  Students with food allergies are savvy about their condition and quickly note when others aren’t as knowledgable.  Teachers who demonstrate a lack of knowledge do not instill confidence in even the youngest food allergic child.  Students who are concerned about surviving the day in their classroom, cannot learn.  Creating “safe zones” is psychologically beneficial to students with food allergies.  One such example is a peanut-free table or a classroom that bans a certain food for the health and protection of a student’s life. Another method is to establish a special line of communication between the teacher and student so they can express their concerns privately.  I recommend that teachers meet with a food allergic student and their parents to acknowledge that they understand the parameters of that child’s allergy, that they take it seriously, and agree upon the best method of letting parents know about upcoming events so that the family can prepare.

 

Solid and Protected Food Allergy Policies:  Schools must create a safe environment for students with life threatening food allergies. This protection begins with a comprehensive food allergy policy – one that balances safety with an emphasis on maximum inclusion.  The policy and procedures regarding food allergies need to be widely communicated, easily accessible, consistently applied and protected.

[Read: Food Allergy Policies at School (Aug. 14, 2018) – Considerations and Perspectives for more on what goes into a well thought-out policy.]

 


 

Inclusion means everything to food allergic students who already feel different from their peers.  Inclusion gives students a supportive platform from which to conquer the world.  Schools need safe places for kids to learn, socialize and play.   They are more than a place to grow academically; schools should be a space for students to blossom psychologically as well.  A lot of thought should go into how to include every child in the classroom – it might make all the difference for your students AND their families.

 

 

 

Visiting Amusement Parks with Food Allergies June 18, 2018

Headed to an amusement park this summer?  It’s a good time to plan your meals ahead so you don’t have a meltdown on your hands.  And, navigating an amusement park can be easy!  In fact, you may be surprised to see how many major amusement parks are well-prepared for guests with food allergies.  If you’ve recently visited an amusement park, please be sure to leave us a comment and let us know how it went!

 

Headed to an amusement park?  Consider these tips:

 

  • Pack (or ship to your hotel) snacks and hard-to-eat-safely items like breakfast, hamburger rolls, granola bars and desserts.
  • Bring a collapsible cooler (AND freezable cooler packs) to tote into the parks for the day.  They are great at storing safe food as well as keeping epinephrine auto-injectors cool during long, hot days.
  • ALWAYS carry two auto injectors.  Everyone wants to carry as little as possible to an amusement park, but two auto-injectors MUST come with you.  Consider a small backpack with a zipper so you’re not bogged down with a spillable purse or tote bag.  You’re going to need sunscreen anyway…!
  • Contact culinary services at least a week in advance to ensure you have a fun, easy and SAFE day at the park!

 

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Walt Disney World, Disney Land and Associated Properties

Disney is renowned for how it accommodates guests with food allergies.  They are truly the gold standard.  Guests can review menus and have access to chefs to obtain further information.  It is recommended that you discuss your food allergies with each server, as always.  There’s lots of excellent information and suggestions online, including contacting them prior to your trip should you have 4 or more allergens and how to bring safe food into the parks.

Disney Special Dietary Requests

 

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Universal

Universal Orlando recommends prepping for your trip by reviewing menus and discussing your allergies with a Guest Services advisor.  Plus, they outline how to bring your own food into the park should you need to!

If you’re headed to Universal Studios Hollywood, you’re in luck:  you can easily view what’s safe online.  Call Guest Services if you have multiple food allergies or further questions.

Universal Orlando Food Allergy info

Universal Studios Hollywood Dining Food Guide

 

Legoland

Legoland refers guests with food allergies to a Dietary Guide that doesn’t connect at the present moment.  They also suggest contacting  LLF-Food@legoland.com prior to your visit to answer specific questions.  Per their guidelines, outside food and drinks may be brought into the park for dietary needs.

Legoland Florida – Food Allergies

Outside Food and Alcohol Policy

 

 

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Seaworld

Did you know that Seaworld has designated dining facilities for visitors with food allergies?  There is at least one restaurant in each of their parks that is best suited to handle food allergy issues and preparation.  Click each link to read more about Seaworld’s food allergy preparations and policies.

Seaworld Orlando Food Allergy Info

Seaworld San Diego Food Allergy Info

Seaworld San Antonio Food Allergy Info

 

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Hershey Park

In addition to making allergen menus available at most of Hershey Park’s restaurants, dining for those with food allergies has just gotten easier with the addition of a gluten-free, nut-free, fish and shellfish-free restaurant.  Hershey notes that every nursing station is equipped with EpiPens, but – as always – remember to bring your own.

Hershey Park Food Allergen Information

Hershey Park Food Allergen Information

 

Sesame Place

Sesame Place keeps its allergen information to individualized questions.  They ask that guests ask specific questions to  AllergenfriendlySPL@sesameplace.com at least 3-5 business days in advance for additional information. A culinary representative will work with each guest to ensure a safe dining experience.  Guests with food allergies are allowed to bring in safe food.

Sesame Place Food Allergen Information

 

 

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Six Flags

Six Flags have a variety of restaurants at each park.  While you cannot see an allergen menu on their site, you may be able to get the name of food vendors and research ingredients that way (for example, Six Flags Great Adventure has a Panda Express that a visitor could research).  Should you have food allergies, you can bring food inside the park.  If you plan on eating at one of the parks’ restaurants, be sure to ask LOTS of questions about ingredients and prep including french fry oil and cross contamination.

Six Flags

 

Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens seems to take food allergies seriously.  They answers a lot of excellent questions right on their website and provide ways of obtaining even more specific information should it be needed. Busch Gardens Tampa even offers allergen friendly dining facilities.  Again, collapsible coolers are allowed for those with dietary restrictions.

Busch Gardens Tampa Food Allergen Info

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food Allergen Info

 

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Cedar Point

Cedar Point’s website identifies dining locations that serve certain allergens as well as a few that do not serve certain allergens.  If you have multiple food allergies, this may take a little cross referencing to find a few things that are safe.  They do not list information about brining in safe food from outside – so you may have to contact them directly.

Cedar Point Special Dietary Needs

 

Knott’s Berry Farm

Knott’s Berry Farms follows the same process as Cedar Point in identifying products and locations that use allergens.  They also identify certain locations and products that are free from specific allergens.  Again, they do not list if you can bring in safe food from outside the park. Contact them directly should you need additional information.

Knott’s Berry Farm Dietary Needs

 

Canada’s Wonderland

Once again, Canada’s Wonderland follows the same process as Cedar Point and Knott’s Berry Farm in helping guests navigate the park.  They list dining options by allergen, so if you have multiple food allergies, expect to cross reference these lists.  They do not state whether or not you can bring in safe food from outside of the park.  Contact them directly with additional questions.

Canada’s Wonderland Dietary Needs

 

 

 

Creative and Fun Non-Food Ideas to Fill Your Easter Eggs March 25, 2018

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Having food allergies can be limiting during food-centric holidays.  They are especially hard for kids during candy-themed holidays like Easter, Valentine’s Day and Halloween.  Children with food allergies are often left out or feel excluded from the goodies AND the fun.

 

But it can be easy to make sure Easter is enjoyable for everyone.  Many families fill the candy void by using non-food treats.  If you need some inspiration for how to fill your Easter eggs this year, look no further!

 

1. Glow Rings:  Boys and girls alike love glow rings.  They fit any finger and extend the fun into the night.  Maybe it will send the kids outside while you clean up dinner!

2.  Sticky Hands:  You can ball these up easily and fit them inside eggs.  Sticky hands are perfect – kids love softly slapping against windows and mirrors and stretching them as far as they can go!

3.  Squishy Animals:  I don’t know exactly why, but these little squishy animals are addictive.  They’re a great replacement for fidget spinners and fantastic for the kid who loves collections.

4.  Stretchy Ninja Flyers:  Okay, full disclosure… I want these right now – for me.  They look like so much fun! Small enough to fit in your pocket (or egg!) and great for an active kid.  Have a contest to see how far you can make your ninja fly!  Be the fastest to fling and retrieve your ninja!

5.  Emojis!  Everything emoji-related is so popular right now.  Yes, even the poop emoji.  Especially the poop emoji!

6.  Itty Bitty Nail Polishes:  This set of Frozen-themed nail polish could be divided and placed in a number of eggs.  It will be like finding a rainbow!

7.  Wind-Up Toys:  These are fun for everyone!  Plus, this pack comes with 28 assorted toys.  Use some now, save some for later!  And, these are fantastic to bring to restaurants or other places where your children might need a little diversion.

 

Happy Easter everyone!

 

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(Thank you in advance! A portion of the proceeds of affiliate links go toward AllergyStrong.org – an organization aimed at helping at risk families with food allergies.)

 

Allergy-Friendly Hanukkah Doughnuts: Buy Them, Make Them, Eat Them! December 12, 2017

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As a food allergy consultant to schools, I get asked all kinds of questions and involved in all sorts of projects.  Recently, I received a fun assignment!  My daughter’s school asked me to find a safe doughnut to help them celebrate Hanukkah while adhering to their strict nut-free policy.

 

Hanukkah is celebrated over eight nights – recognizing the miracle of the burning oil in the ancient Temple of Jerusalem.  Recognizing that miracle, celebrants everywhere look forward to the tradition of indulging in food fried in oil each night, including doughnuts!  I mean, if we must…

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Traditionally, Jews serve sufganiyot, a jelly doughnut during Hanukkah.  The Big Bang Theorys Mayim Bialik offers this awesome vegan recipe (which means it’s dairy and egg-free!):

Mayim Bialik’s “Unbelievably Delicious” Holiday Recipe – Hanukkah Sufganiyot

 

I will acknowledge, doughnut making can be time consuming and messy!  Preparing doughnuts from scratch is also tough if you’re trying to feed a crowd.  Krispy Kreme used to be the go-to Hanukah doughnuts for my own family as well as for the classrooms I teach in.  Now that Krispy Kreme donuts are decidedly not safe, where can you buy a nut-free doughnut?

 

Enter Katz’s Gluten-Free Donuts.  Sold in boxes of 6, these doughnuts are gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free and soy-free!  You can find them in the kosher frozen food section of the supermarket.  There’s no preparation necessary – just thaw.  Or, for a mouthwatering experience, heat up for a few seconds in the microwave.  (I’m drooling as I write this…)

 

 

Be sure to check out our list of Allergy-Friendly BakeriesDun Well Donuts, The Donut Pub, Brandon’s Best Allergen-Free Sweets ‘N Treats and Amazing Donuts are just a few bakeries on our list that make doughnuts reviewers rave about.  There may be a bakery near you!  (And, if your favorite allergy-friendly bakery isn’t on the list, shoot us a note!)

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Creating a Halloween for EVERYONE October 19, 2017

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Halloween is traditionally frightful.  Between the the ghosts and zombies milling about,  candy and party food shouldn’t be scary.  But the chaotic and exuberant fun of Halloween can be chilling for many families with food allergies.

 

Parents with food allergic children are justified in worrying when their kid comes face to face with his food allergy.  And, candy is full of allergens: dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, corn, egg…  It’s a wonder we survive!

 

Here are a few ways to keep your sanity during the craziest night of the year:

 

  1. Prepare your kids:  Remind them not to eat anything while they are trick-or-treating.  Reading ingredient lists on tiny packages in the dark is challenging (to say the least).  There’s plenty of time to taste test their candy when they get home.
  2.  Go with them to the front door:  Help little ones choose safe candy at the front door.  Your presence is also a good place to reinforce all those lessons on manners while you’re there.
  3. Cash in the allergens: Keep a variety of safe substitute candy or treats at your house.  Offer to trade your child’s unsafe candy for your pre-approved substitutes.  If you’d rather your child ditch most of his candy, The Switch Witch is a fun and magical way to cash his or her candy in for a small gift.

     

  4. Be reminded that sometimes ingredients and/or manufacturing practices change when candy is miniaturized.  Make sure you read ingredient lists of everything, including candy that has been safe in a larger size.
  5. Participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project:  You’re familiar with all those wacky blue pumpkins, right?!  Teal pumpkins mean that house has non-candy treats to offer for food allergic children. Move over orange, teal is the new black!  You can spray paint your own pumpkin or purchase one to reuse, like this one:

     

    • Teal Pumpkin Decoration For Food Allergy Awareness
    6.  Stock toys AS treats:  Instead of candy (or in addition to safe candy), consider stocking fun toys and tattoos.  Even kids might admit that there is a limit to the amount of sugar they can consume and something that will last past Nov. 1st will be fun!  This Halloween set gives you a variety of toys in one order – bonus!

 

  • 156 Piece Mega Halloween Toy Novelty Assortment; 12 Halloween Ducks, 12 Halloween Pencils, 12 Halloween Sticker Sheets; 48 Halloween Erasers; 72 Halloween Glitter Tattoos!!

7.  Don’t leave home without it:  Auto-injectors need to go everywhere with you – including trick-or-treating.  You know they’ll be carrying a bag!  Make sure that your child’s epinephrine auto-injector is in there with a flashlight.

 

8.  Allergy Shmallergy’s list of safe candy:  Sharing a holiday builds community.  Refer your friends and neighbors to Allergy Shmallergy’s list of nut-free candy to truly create an inclusive Halloween that EVERYONE can enjoy!

 

 

(Thank you in advance! A portion of the proceeds of the affiliate links go toward AllergyStrong.org – an organization aimed at helping at risk families with food allergies.)

 

New Snack Alert! Enjoy Life Granola Bars September 6, 2017

Note: Enjoy Life sent me their new granola flavors to sample.  I am reviewing because I truly enjoyed them and believe they are a good product for families like mine.

Your lunch game just got easier.  Enjoy Life recently released granola bars in a few new flavors – and they are anything but ordinary.  While on vacation with our extended family, we decided to have a taste test.  We’re a picky crew, because between us we are allergic to:  peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, dairy, eggs, pineapple, shrimp, salmon and gluten (celiac).

 

Amazingly, these were a big hit with everyone, allergic and otherwise.  Everyone had their own favorite flavor.  Mine was the Caramel Blondie.  Sweet and buttery, the caramel tasted fantastic dotted with chocolate chips.  Why hasn’t this flavor been created sooner?!

My cousin, a chef, loved the Carrot Cake granola bars.   The cinnamon-y, pumpkin spice flavor was just right balanced against the sweet carrot taste.  Your kids will LOVE eating their vegetables this way!  If only it counted towards their daily intake!

Her daughter, 6, preferred the Lemon Blueberry Poppy Seed.  What a sophisticated palate – clearly the child of a cook!  These were moist and delicious like the others.  The blueberry and poppy tastes were complimented by the citrusy lemon.  Yum!  I’d eat these for breakfast!  Is that a thing?!

 

Best of all, as always Enjoy Life is free from: gluten, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, soy, fish and shellfish and are Kosher and Halal and non-GMO.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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