Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

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!

 

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Need to Whip Up a Last Minute Dessert? Dairy-free, Egg-Free and Maybe Even Gluten-Free Cookies November 26, 2014

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve realized my amazing dessert plan is too elaborate or altogether unnecessary for a big meal like Thanksgiving.  If you find yourself in a crunch (or if you’re just in the mood for a classic with a twist), check out this recipe originally posted in 2011.  The delicious hints of pie spice and pumpkin are reminiscent of a traditional Turkey Day pie but the chocolate makes it sooo much more satisfying!  My mouth is watering just remembering how good these were.  I barely have time, but I might just have to work these in tomorrow…

 

 These cookies are adapted from a recipe I found that was already egg-free (a great start!). But I’ve tweaked it to be dairy and nut-free and included a reviewer’s suggestion at the bottom for making them gluten-free as well! This recipe produces a ton of cookies, so invite the neighbors over about 5 minutes after they’ve cooled to help you chow down.
 

Ingredients (**see bottom for gluten-free substitutions**):

 
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free margarine
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour** (see below for gluten-free substitution)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
 

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

 

Cream the sugar, shortening, pumpkin and vanilla together. Mix until light and well combined.

 

Mix the flour, baking soda and pumpkin pie spice. Stir the flour mixture into the creamed mixture. Mix until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

  

Drop by teaspoons onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes or until set. Let cookies cool on a rack.

 
Makes 4 dozen cookies.
 
**To make them gluten-free, one reviewer commented that she substituted the following for the flour:
  • 2 cup rice flour
  • 1 cup soy flour
  • 1 cup tapioca flour
  • 2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  

I am thankful for these cookies!

 

How Allergy-Friendly is Your College or University? August 12, 2013

As many college kids prepare to head back to school in the next couple of weeks, it’s also a good time to know how food allergy-friendly your campus is.

Udi’s, the makers of gluten-free breads, compiled a list of the Top 10 Gluten-Free Accomodating Universities. You can read about what each school is doing to offer their students the best and safest selection of on-campus food here, but in the meantime, these ten universities deserve some praise:

1. University of Notre Dame

2. Georgetown University

3. Iowa State University

4. University of Arizona

5. Emory University

6. University of Connecticut

7. Ithaca College

8. Carleton College

9. University of New Hampshire

10. Clark University

It appears that many other colleges and universities are also beginning to tune into the needs of their food allergic students. And, while there’s no single method that appears to be used as a “best practices” model, there are a number of different variations of making dining food allergy friendly that schools are adapting. Be sure to check your school’s Dining Services information page for their specific guidance and policies regarding food allergies.

Schools have begun food labeling, placing “free from” icons at each meal station. The University of New Hampshire has set aside gluten-free pans for students to use at food preparation stations. Some universities (such as Franklin and Marshall), but not many, are making their dining halls nut-free. Colleges are stocking their shelves with gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free, and vegan groceries (as an example, see Cal Poly’s list here), a few offer pre-ordered allergy-free meals and others post dining hall ingredient lists online. In addition to the accommodations made by dining services, many universities offer access to staff dieticians who will work one-on-one with students to evaluate a student’s dietary needs, set up meeting with school chefs, and help navigate menu options.

Many schools are taking necessary and thoughtful steps towards protecting their food allergic populations and some have a ways to go. The best way to stay safe at school is to:

  • always keep your emergency meds with you and teach your friends how to use them and when;
  • learn about your school’s policy towards on-campus dining with food allergies;
  • put yourself in contact with the dining hall director, head chef and/or school’s dietician; and
  • ask lots of questions to ensure your food’s safety.

Here’s a great Washington Post article by Sloane Miller, who went through college with food allergies herself. In it, she offers a few more excellent suggestions to keep you on the right track at school: Managing Your Food Allergies in Dining Halls and Dorm Rooms.

There’s no reason you’ll need to miss a meal with friends in the dining hall if you’re informed and prepared!

 

Gluten-Free Products Deal on LivingSocial August 11, 2012

Look what I just saw in my inbox:  a LivingSocial deal for Gluten Free Products.   What a way to get your weekend started!

 
GlutenFreely.com
http://www.livingsocial.com/cities/1938/deals/418980-50-to-spend-on-gluten-free-products
 

French Meadow Bakery – Gluten-Free at your Fingertips April 19, 2012

I’ve noticed this little freezer in the bakery section in our local Safeway for a while but hadn’t had an excuse to explore it until this year.  My son’s classmate and teacher are both allergic to wheat.  So I’ve taken to getting a little something special for them for class parties and other school celebrations.

 

As it turns out, this freezer in our bakery is reserved almost exclusively for French Meadow Bakery products:  brownies, breads, bagels, cookies, pizza crust and tortillas – ALL gluten-free!  The beauty of these products is that they are frozen, so they have a long shelf life if you need them to.  For us, it’s wonderful because although we are no longer allergic to wheat, it’s nice to have these on hand for my son’s friends and other visitors who do eat gluten-free.

 

Available locally at Giant, Wegman’s, Safeway, and Whole Foods.

Gluten-Free Fudge BrowniesGluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Gluten-Free TortillaGluten-Free Pizza Crust 2-Pack

 

I Eat Park City: Last One (for now) – Vinto April 17, 2012

 

On our last night in Park City, we decided to try Vinto’s.  The decor and ambiance was bright, fun, and inviting.  And, having won so many dining awards, it was no surprise that the food was great!  What a fabulous way to end our amazing trip.

 

My boys decided to order something simple (plain pasta with olive oil), so it’s not fair for me to judge Vinto’s allergy-friendliness.  However, I will say that the fact that they have both gluten-free pasta and gluten-free pizza crust is a good start.  Plus, there’s sorbetto (sorbet!) for dessert….  Lifeis sweet in Park City!

 

I Eat Park City cont’d: Maxwell’s April 11, 2012

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Maxwell’s, known for their delicious NY-style pizza, was a *HUGE* find after a long, arduous afternoon tubing (yes, tubing!).  Reading through their hilariously named pizza options, I noticed they serve a gluten-free pie!   A cause to celebrate (and eat!) if you’re in the market for a GF dinner.

 

It’s a restaurant I certainly won’t “fugettabout” for next time.