Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

6 Tips for Traveling with Food Allergies March 7, 2017

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Spring break is on the horizon!  Can you smell the fresh air already?  Are you mentally packing your bags? (I am!)

 

Here are a few tips when traveling with food allergies:

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  1.  Call your airline and inquire about their food allergy policy in advance.  Ask specifically about early boarding and in-flight announcements.
  2. Most airlines will allow passengers to board the plane early in order to wipe down surfaces (this includes seat backs, seat belts, tray tables and knobs, armrests). Be sure to bring enough baby wipes or antibacterial wipes (such as Wet Ones) to cover all the legs of your travel.  Again, ask about pre-boarding at the gate.
  3. Carry your epinephrine auto-injectors and antihistamines ON BOARD.  Do not pack these away in your luggage.  [*ALLERGY SHMALLERGY TIP*: Zyrtec makes dissolvable tablets which eliminate the worry over bringing liquids through security as well as anything spilling in your bags.]
  4. If you’re traveling to a warm weather destination, you’ll need to remember to keep your epinephrine auto-injectors at room temperature – even while enjoying the beach or pool.  Pack a cool pack (like this one) and an insulated bag (like this cute lunch bag).  Store the cool packs in your hotel’s mini-fridge (who needs a $15 bag of M&Ms anyway!?) or plan on ordering a to-go cup of ice to keep the medicine cool poolside.
  5. A hotel or resort’s food services manager can usually help you navigate menus.  On our last vacation, the food services manager had food allergies himself and was invaluable in hunting down ingredients and safe alternatives for our family.  Befriend this fantastic person!
  6. If you’re planning on visiting an amusement park, taking a hike or being similarly active, consider packing a backpack into your luggage (or use one as your carry-on!).  You’ll need to bring your epinephrine auto-injectors wherever you go – especially on vacation when you’re away from home cooking, familiar restaurants and local knowledge of hospitals and doctors.  Backpacks can make carrying it easier depending on the activity – simply slip the insulated bag into your backpack and go!

 

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Two more notes:

  • Airline travelers should bring their own snacks/meals on board flights to ensure their safety.
  • Refrain from using airplane blankets and pillows as allergen residue may reside there.
  • Bring a baby or antibacterial wipe to the bathroom to wipe down door  and knob handles.

 

 

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Vote for Your Favorites! Best of 2016 May 5, 2016

All this talk of primaries and politics has gotten me thinking:  let’s vote!  But let’s vote for something a lot more fun and delicious:  allergy-friendly food!

 

Please take this incredibly quick survey and let me know what foods your family loves and I’ll share our collective favorites.  Maybe you’ll suggest a new product to another food allergy family – or maybe you’ll find a new favorite yourself!

 

 

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VDZMVHS

Thanks, everyone!

 

Lift Lines and EpiPens: Skiing with Food Allergies February 8, 2016

As I look out my window, I’m surprised to see green again. Grass is finally peeking through after we received nearly 30 inches of snow.  Even after all that shoveling, all I wish for is that powdery white.  When February hits, all I want to do is ski.  Maybe it’s a holdover from my childhood when we used to get a mid-winter February break – a kind of Pavlovian yearning to be cruising down the slopes this month. Either way, when I see snowflakes, I think trails.
When my food allergic son was old enough, my husband (an avid skier) was ready to enroll him in ski school.  But the idea of trying to manage food issues on a ski vacation seemed challenging.  For one, ski lodges never seem that organized.  I couldn’t imagine who I might track down to get ingredient information on their chicken nuggets, for example – especially at mid-mountain or higher.  Secondly, there’s SO MUCH gear, etc to bring to the slopes, how was I going to carry (and where could I store and easily access) snacks and lunch for him if we brought some from home?  Finally, could I reasonably rely on the ski school to look out for him at lunch vis-à-vis his food allergies?

Well, fast forward almost 8 years, and I can happily tell you that we’ve had a lot of success on the slopes.  Here are some tips I’ve learned over the past few years:

1. Call ahead – way ahead.  Ski lodges are not nearly as disorganized as I had thought.  They’re just a lot more relaxed.  But they take food safety seriously. Be prepared to leave a message and have someone get back to you.  There is typically a food services manager who is knowledgeable about the suppliers and who can track down ingredients for you.  Be sure to ask where kids in ski school usually eat and what kinds of food they receive (are they given snacks, do they have free range on the cafeteria line, etc).

2. Bring your epinephrine autoinjector and show up for ski school EARLY.  Meet with your child’s ski instructor – teach them how to use the autoinjector and WHEN.  Remind them that they will need to store it in an inside pocket of their ski jacket to keep it close to room temperature.

3. Find out where and when your child will be having lunch and consider meeting them to help them navigate the cafeteria line.  But DON’T expect to eat with them!  Skiing creates fast friendships and they’ll have more fun hanging out with their ski buddies – go have a lunchtime date instead!

4.  Pack some safe snacks and store them in your ski locker, car or somewhere else that is readily accessible.  Kids are STARVING when they get off the slopes and cafeterias typically close right when the lifts do.

 

Now we just need some snow!  Happy trails in the meantime!

 

 

Enjoy School with Enjoy Life September 11, 2015

This is a sponsored post.

 

It’s as if Enjoy Life read my mind.   I was just toying with trying a gluten-free diet (again) for health reasons – grappling with how to begin – when Enjoy Life contacted me to try out their new product line:  Pancake Mix, Pizza Dough, Muffin Mix, Brownie Mix and All-Purpose Flour Mix.  What better way to start a health kick than with easy to prepare mixes!  My son is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and sesame seeds and now must avoid dairy for EoE.   Enjoy Life’s new product line makes baking for our two different diets a breeze as all the mixes are not only gluten free, but dairy, nut and soy free as well.

These mixes will also make getting ready for school so much easier in my house.  Brownies can be sent in alongside a sandwich for a school lunch.  Pancakes can be made in one batch and frozen.  Pop them in the oven or microwave in the morning for a quick breakfast before your kids hit the bus.  Ditto for muffins!  Roll out some pizza dough, let your kids help you “decorate” the pizza and you have a safe and healthy weeknight dinner in under 20 minutes.

By chance, my kids and their cousins wanted to host a bake sale during their vacation together this summer.  The little entrepreneurs that they are, agreed on a high traffic time and convinced me to use our new mixes.  We made the Enjoy Life Brownies as well as two batches of Enjoy Life muffins: one with chocolate chips and one with blueberries and strawberries.  The bake sale turned out to be a fabulous idea in several ways!  Not only did we try samples, but so did half the island.  And, we got a chance to connect with families who otherwise can’t spontaneously partake in the fun of a bake sale (or a bakery for that matter).  In face, we learned that four of our neighbors are gluten free!  Plus, the kids decided to donate all their earnings to charity – which made for a very proud mama!

The results were unanimous!  Praises all around.  No one could believe the brownies were GF!  They didn’t taste dry or crumbly the way other GF mixes have tasted.  They were moist and filled with dairy free chocolate chips.  Next time I make them, I’m going to frost the top with dairy free frosting or drizzling it with dairy free caramel (yes, it’s a thing and I’ll blog about that later!).  Mmmm….

The muffins went so quickly, I didn’t even have time to taste the chocolate chip one.  But my neighbor did.  And, she sought me out later on the beach to rave about it!  She said she was craving more and asked if I could pass her the recipe.  Boy, was I pleased to simply pass along Enjoy Life’s name!  I DID manage to snag a slightly mangled berry muffin which was, again, moist and flavorful.

All the adults involved loved that these mixes are dairy free, soy free, nut free and gluten free – making them safe for nearly everyone.  Thank you to Enjoy Life for supplying us with these inclusive and delicious mixes.  My husband and I noticed how proud my son was to offer food that was safe for him to others.  And, even more proud when his customers beamed over how much they liked his products.

All in all, the kids donated over $100 to Alex’s Lemonade Stand.  My boys are already planning their bake sale offerings for next summer – which includes both the brownies and muffins.  And, we’re excited to continue experimenting with Enjoy Life’s mixes throughout the fall.
  
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Play Ball! How to Root for Your Home Team With a Peanut Allergy June 12, 2015

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Click on over to Content Checked to see my latest article about attending baseball games with food allergies.  There, I address the fears and realities of ballparks and peanut allergies specifically.
When my son was younger, we were shocked at how few options there were at stadium concession stands and how little people there knew about what they were serving.  When asked a question, they didn’t even know how to GET more information.  On more than one occasion, a leftover box of raisins bought us a little more time before mealtime meltdowns would begin.

But these days, stadiums are doing a lot better on behalf of their food allergic and celiac customers.  At our beloved Washington Nationals’ stadium (Go Nats!), there’s a whole concession stand dedicated to gluten-free eating (section 114 and it includes beer!).  Furthermore, stadiums are playing host to well-known restaurants and chains – making it much easier to ask questions or do a little research ahead of time.  The Nats have a Shake Shack, a chain whose allergen menu not only labels for the most common food allergens, but sesame seeds, sulfites and cross-contaminated products as well (see Shake Shack’s menu).  This makes it so much easier to eat safely and confidently at the ballpark.  What a difference from a few years ago!

If you are allergic to peanuts, take the precautions mentioned in my ContentChecked post to guarantee a home run experience.  If you have other food allergies, a little research before you get to the ballpark can go a LONG way in enjoying the big game.  But in either event, get out and root, root, root for the home team!

 

Taking Food Allergies to School April 13, 2015

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Pop over to Content Checked’s Food Allergy blog today to read our personal narrative about the first day of school with food allergies.

Content Checked Food Allergy Blog

Starting school can be a stressful time even under the best of circumstances.  Starting school with a food allergy can put parents and students alike over the edge.  This post outlines how doing your homework by completing a few small steps can set you all up for a whole year of wonderful school experiences.

I’m about to talk about this very topic with a school locally.  What kinds of questions do you have about starting in a new school with food allergies?  Happy to answer!

 

Sweet Surprise Cake Cookie Sandwiches (Nut-Free) April 10, 2015

You guys already know this:  Desserts are tough to rely on for people with food allergies.  The typical bakery will almost never guarantee that your dessert doesn’t contain or hasn’t been cross contaminated with nuts and most are made with dairy, eggs, wheat, and even corn and soy.

So, every couple of weeks, I would spend an afternoon baking and frosting cupcakes for my son to bring with him to birthday parties, class celebrations, and dinners out.  Sometimes, he’d have the occasion to gobble up a whole batch (minus a few for Dad) before I could even freeze a few!  But I began noticing he wasn’t really eating the cake part.  Which started making my labor of love a lot less lovely.

“Yeah, Mom….” he began one day, “I don’t really like the cake part.”  I thought I would die.  Do you know how much time I had been spending baking cupcakes?!

Turns out he was just using the cupcakes for the frosting.  So, I had to find a new vehicle to get frosting into that kid’s mouth (but ONLY for special occasions, much to his dismay!).  Thus the Cookie Sandwich was born!  At first I used store bought cookies (influenced by my son’s inexplicable objection to my baking).  As they are, they are a humungous hit when I send them into school for both my boys’ birthdays.  And, it’s embarrassing when moms ask for the recipe because it’s so insanely simple.  But this week, the Cookie Sandwich has been upgraded.

Meet the soft, perfectly proportioned, Sweet Surprise Cake Cookie Sandwich:

 

And, may I point out that it’s frosting to cake ratio is ideal!  It’s just simple math.  These are perfect for taking with you to birthday parties, serving as class treats, and offering to guests.  I made them for my husband’s birthday this week and plan on making more for a May Day celebration.

Here’s how to begin (based on a suggestions from the Betty Crocker site):

1 box cake mix (I used Betty Crocker’s Rainbow Chip Super Moist Mix)

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 Tbsp milk

1 egg

1 can frosting

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients together until soft batter forms.  Scoop onto ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.

[Tip:  You want to remove the cookies from the oven before they begin to turn golden.  I took mine out at 8 minutes sharp.]

Cool completely.  Frost generously on the bottom of one cookie and top with the bottom of another.  Serves 12.

Notes:  I use Pillsbury frosting because it is dairy-free (a holdover from when my son was very allergic to dairy).  Although this recipe isn’t dairy free, I’m certain it would be delicious using dairy-free butter and very vanilla soy milk in lieu of regular.  As is, it’s good for kids who are approved to incorporate baked milk products into their diet.

Optional:  I liked mine with the sprinkles IN the cookie, but you would use another cake mix and roll the frosted cookies in sprinkles, chocolate chips or nonpareils to mix things up!

Quick someone get me a napkin, I’m salivating from TYPING about them!