Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

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!

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Milk Alternatives -Best of the Best January 8, 2016

Getting the proper amount of calcium is a tough job for those with a dairy allergy.  There are many ways to incorporate dairy into your diet (see How to Get Enough Calcium When You’re Dairy-Free), but a nutritionist recently told me that the best way to get calcium is to drink it.  And, sometimes you just want something cold and delicious to pour on cereal.

I recently stumbled upon an article from Real Simple (April 2015) where their food contributors reviewed a variety of milk alternatives to come up with the best tasting among them.

Here’s the original link to the article:  The Best Milk Alternatives.  And, below are they’re declared winners.

Best Original Soy:  Silk Soymilk Original

Best Vanilla Soy:  Silk Soymilk Vanilla

Best Unsweetened Soy:  365 Everyday Value Organic Soymilk Unsweetened

Best Vanilla Almond: 365 Everyday Value Organic Almondmilk Vanilla

Best Unsweetened Almond: Almond Breeze Almondmilk Unsweetened Original

Best Rice: Pacific Foods Rice Non-Dairy Beverage Original

Best Oat:  Pacific Foods Organic Oat Non-Dairy Beverage Original

 

Now I can’t speak about the almondmilks since my son has a tree nut allergy.  I can, however, vouch for both the Silk soymilks and the Pacific rice milk.  He enjoyed them both.  But if he were to put in a vote for best milk alternative, he’d put two thumbs (and maybe a foot) up for Silk Very Vanilla Soymilk.  Tastes great and works fabulously well as an ingredient in baked good.

We’ve also tried Costco’s Kirkland Signature Organic Soymilk Vanilla which came in as his close 2nd favorite.

 

What kinds of milk alternatives do you use?  Any input on creamers, cream cheese, sour cream?  Bring ’em on!  The more votes the better!

 

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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PhillySwirl: Dessert for Everyone! July 28, 2015

This is a sponsored post.

Who doesn’t like something cold and sweet on a hot summer day (or in my case, everyday)?!  But it can be hard to find desserts that are safe for those with food allergies.  Nuts, dairy and gluten trip us up not only in the bakery aisle, but can be a cross-contamination risk even for simple concoctions like popsicles.

Enter: PhillySwirl.  Almost everything in their product line is dairy and gluten-free making them a safe AND delicious choice at the supermarket.

PhillySwirl recently sent me their gluten and dairy-free products.  My kids and I had a BALL trying and evaluating all the flavors.  They thought their birthdays had come early as I told them, “Kids, we’re going to have to try every flavor of PhillySwirl Italian ices.  Sorry.”  It was no chore for me either!  Here’s what we tried and our impressions:

SwirlStix

The classic popsicle – only tastier.  Arriving in six interesting flavors, we studiously “evaluated” (read: devoured) each one – giving each other tastes only when begged.  The SwirlStix were my personal favorite.  Easy to hold, neat to eat, and delicious.  Orange Dream was a favorite of my husband and Very Berry was mine (although a close tie with the Applelicious).

Swirl Popperz

My younger son and nephew loved the Swirl Popperz.  In fact, when asked for his thoughts, my son said, “These are excellente! [yes, inexplicably in Spanish] Tell PhillySwirl ‘Thank you’!”  Still dairy and gluten-free, these had a creamier texture to them which made them easy to push up.  I also liked them because the wrapper kept my preschooler from dripping popsicle around the house like Hansel and Gretel’s crumb trail.  My nephew was kind enough to let me taste his Rainbow flavored Popper which was fabulous!  I’d get these again – perfect for feeding a group of kids in the summer!

Swirl Cups with CandySpoonz

The Swirl Cups were a hit!  And, why wouldn’t they be when they contain delicious Italian ice swirls that you eat with lollipop spoons?!  A no-brainer!  Everyone had a different favorite.  What was great is that each flavor tasted like it’s name:  Cotton Candy tasted just like….Cotton Candy!  The Sunburst was a delicious mix of cherry, orange and lemon (yum!).  And the other choices were interesting, too: Cherry Melon, Hurricane (a cherry/lemon), Bluesberry Jam and Rainbow.  My kids and my niece and nephews clamored for these.  Buy two packs if you can store them – they go fast!

**My niece cleverly pointed out that the nutrition information was printed on each cup, making it extra fantastic for food allergic parents who need to read ingredients without access to the original box. Smart move!**

Thank you to PhillySwirl for good manufacturing practices that allow kids with food allergies (and sometimes adults without them) to enjoy such a fabulous, sweet treat!

 

Dairy-Free Substitutes April 30, 2012

A few friends of mine recently found out they were lactose intolerant and others have discovered their children are allergic to dairy.  In response, I sent them my dairy-free cheat sheet so they could eat without problems.

 

If you find yourself in the same position or know someone who is, here’s a list of some dairy-free substitutes to help you out:

 

Margarine (also use for baking, etc):  

Earth’s Balance Buttery Spread (or Sticks) or

Smart Balance Organic (the vegan kind seen here:  

Both taste exactly the same as margarine and work well in baked goods.

 

Ice Cream:

We sub sorbet for ice cream as it is nearly always milk-free.  We buy either Haagen Dazs or Ben and Jerry’s variety, although there are probably others that work.  There are also many places to find sorbet (restaurants, ice cream shops, etc) in our area and elsewhere (see  https://shmallergy.wordpress.com/tag/sorbet/).

 

Cream Cheese:  

Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese (tastes almost exactly like regular cream cheese).  Tofutti also makes dairy-free sour cream which mimics regular sour cream and dairy-free cheese pizza (found in the frozen food section).

 
 

Chocolate Chips:  

A great way to satisfy that chocolate craving is with Chocolate Dream chocolate chips which are dairy-free.  So are Guittard Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips.

 

Frosting:

Pillsbury’s Cream Supreme frosting is amazingly dairy-free.  So, if you’re not interested in making it from scratch, here’s a great off-the-shelf option.

 

There are a few things that are surprisingly dairy-free “naturally” (using that VERY loosely), like Oreos (all sugar! no milk!) and Nabisco Sugar Wafers.  You may be surprised at what contains and doesn’t contain milk, so I would start reading the backs of everything without assumptions!

 

Best of all, I have found all of the above products in our local Safeway, Giant and Whole Foods!  Convenient and dairy-free!

 

Now here’s where you help me:  We’ve tried tons of soy yogurts but still haven’t found one that tastes similar to its dairy counterpart.  Let me know if you all come across one!  Also, looking for a decent tasting dairy-free cheese.  Would love to hear if anyone has had any luck with that?

 
 
 
 
 
 

Food Allergies and Food Labels: What You Need to Know January 31, 2012

If you or someone you know has just been diagnosed with a food allergy, navigating the supermarket has probably begun to feel like learning a foreign language.  But, learning to read food labels isn’t so bad, as long as you understand what you’re looking for.  So, grab your reading glasses:  let’s get started!

 

1.  Since 2006, it has been much easier for those with food allergies to avoid their trigger allergens thanks in part to the FDA’s Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act.  That Act requires companies to label for the top 8 allergens, which are:  milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybean.

 

2.  The above Act requires companies to label not only for the top 8 allergens but any ingredients made with proteins derived from those allergens.

 

3.  This law gives manufacturers a choice of how they can label the food source allergen.  They can either:

a.  List the allergen in the ingredient list, such as “whey (milk), lecithin (soy), flour (wheat)….”; or

b.  Use a “Contains” statement, for example “Contains tree nuts, eggs and shellfish.”

So when reading a label, I first look for a “Contains” statement.  If you spot your allergen, stop and put back the item – there’s no point in reading further.  If you there’s no “Contains” statement, you will need to go on to carefully read the ingredients list.  I often read it twice.

 

4.  If, like us, you need to avoid a protein outside of the top 8 allergens, you need to be extra diligent when reading labels.  For us, sesame seeds falls outside of the top 8 allergens.  So, we have learned other names for sesame seeds in labeling, such as “tahini” (which is sesame paste and found in hummus).  And when we read labels we again begin with the “Contains” statement to rule out any of my son’s other multiple food allergies.  Next, we move on to the ingredients list and scour the list (twice) for other allergens that we need to avoid.

 

5.  As the FDA itself points out, “Contains” and “May contain” have two very different meanings…. with possibly the same outcome.

Manufacturers are required to identify the top 8 allergens in either the ingredients list or “Contains” statement as described above.  But, a manufacturer might use the same equipment to produce two different products, upping the potential for cross-contamination of ingredients.  In that case, if the manufacturer feels there is a chance an allergen may be present in their product, they can voluntarily put a “May Contains” statement on the label.  You may be reading a soy milk label which states, “May contain tree nuts”  since it was produced on the same lines as the company’s almond milk.  Speak to your allergist about “May Contain” statements and what they mean for your particular allergy.

 

6.  Manufacturers change their ingredients and production methods all the time and without warning.  So, it’s important to read the labels every time you purchase an item.  And, yes, this gets tedious. But, if you read my post about Silk Soy Milk, you’ll see it happens all the time.

 

7.  Save your grocery receipts for a little bit.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the ingredients list at the store (while also minding the kids or the time) and gotten home only to notice an ingredient or a “May Contain” statement that doesn’t gel with our food allergies.

 

8.  Now that you have your labeling skills honed and your groceries packed, you may wish to consider sorting the safe and unsafe foods at home using a labeling system.  By labeling your food at home, you’ll cut down a little on how many times you re-read an ingredients list while keeping everyone at home safe!

 

Look What I Found at the Market: Dare Foods – Peanut-free and Progressive! January 11, 2012

I am forever on the look-out for a Marshmallow cookie that is not only nut but also dairy-free.  I grabbed every box in the aisle and while I didn’t find a milk-free Mallomar, I stumbled upon these cookies.

 

As it turns out: Dare cookies, as well as many of their other products (such as crackers, etc) are made in a peanut-free facility. Yay!  And, they seem to label for, or the potential cross contamination of, sesame seeds and sulphites (which is not required by U.S. law – Thank you, Dare Foods!).

 
 

I plan to familiarize myself with their family of products.  Taking peanuts out of the picture?  Well, that’s certainly one less thing for us to think about!

 
 

http://www.darefoods.com

Chocolate Chip