Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I'm Back...

Hello my long lost lovelies!

It has been quite a while since my last post and this one is way over due.  So much has been going on and I know I have been slacking...

First, I want to let you all know that the little 5k Run/Walk that I hosted turned out to be a HUGE success.  We had 160 participants and were able to write FARE a check for $3500.00.   Pretty awesome, if you ask me.  This year's 5K will be on September 20th.  If you are in the Central Illinois area and want to show support for food allergies, stop on by!  You can register at www.runspringfield.com/farewelltofoodallergies.  I am so excited for this year's event.  Our community shows awesome support and commitment to those living with food allergies.

Secondly, I want to inform everyone that we have added some new allergies in our house.  While we knew that egg, milk, and peanut were the foods Brady was to stay away from, blood and skin testing revealed last month that the peanut is way up from where it was at the last RAST test and his almond and tree nuts came back really high. I avoided tree nuts just to rule out cross contamination all along, but with additional allergies always comes additional anxiety.  And we all know how much allergy moms LOVE anxiety.  (Insert massive eye roll.)  Brady has also started to develop asthma due to his allergies.  This is another buzzkill.  As if anaphylaxis wasn't enough to freak me out, now I freak every time his breathing gets weird.  Thank God we have an amazing allergy doctor and staff that is very hands-on and could not be more supportive!

We tried a baked milk challenge, but that was unsuccessful.  We are trying an in-office egg challenge today.  Fingers crossed we can beat this one!!!!! Wouldn't it be nice if he could eat eggs ---hum that to the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and I bet you will smile.

With school starting all across the country in the coming weeks, I want to really get into the nitty gritty of how to manage allergies and stay safe at school.   This will have to be broken into a few posts as there is just sooooooooo much to cover.  Perhaps we should start with how to create a school health care plan for a child with food allergies.

As if sending your child to school for the first time wasn't emotional enough, sending a child with food allergies to school for the first time is downright terrifying. The responsibility you are entrusting to teachers, administration, and the school nurse is HUGE! Coming up with a plan is the best way to keep your sanity and make sure your child is SAFE. 

There are three types of plans that are most commonly utilized: Emergency Care Plans (ECP), Individualized Health Care Plans (IHCP), and 504 Plans.  Before a plan is in the works, it is a good idea to meet with the school's principal and teacher in person to discuss everything.  Together, you can work to create the plan that best addresses the child's needs. If possible, this meeting should be made before school starts.  To see sample plans visit www.kidswithfoodallergies.org.

The steps to the plans can be as simple or as complex as you would like.  Some parents feel that their school has a good grip on management, and do not feel the need for a 504 plan.  You should know that legally you are entitled to a 504 plan if your child has been diagnosed with food allergies or any other disability.

One of the first and most basic steps in creating a management plan for school is to create a Anaphylaxis Emergency Action Plan (and an Asthma Action Plan if necessary).  All allergy doctors should do this for each student.  This should be updated before school starts every year.  Next, all school staff that come into contact with the student should be informed of the child's allergies and how to administer epinephrine and where the EpiPens/Auvi-Qs will be kept.  Older students will be able to self-carry.  As a rule, I always keep two Epis in the classroom and two in the school office.  I meet regularly with the teachers to reinforce the plans as well.

Next, a letter from the school principal/nurse/teacher should be sent home to all parents in the class stating that there is a child in the classroom with potentially life-threatening food allergies.  It should state that there is a need for strict adherence to food allergy rules and guidelines.  The letter should specifically request that students refrain from bringing foods containing the student's allergens into the classroom and that any food brought in should require an ingredient label.   I know this is upsetting to those parents who like to bring in special treats they slaved over the night before, but let's be real...if your kid was standing in the street about to get hit by a car, I would run and try to save him and push him out of harm's way.  For my kid, it is not a car, but a peanut.  Get my drift? I get that your kid lives on PBJ, and that's awesome for them, but one little crumb of that sandwich could KILL my baby.  KEEP IT AT HOME!  I would do the same for your child, no questions asked. 

This letter should also contain the school's anti-bullying policy and make very clear that there is a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to food allergies and bullying.  This will be an entirely different post.

Another part of the plan should be continued communication with your child's teacher about projects, crafts, and activities in the classroom that may contain the allergens.  Fieldtrips should also be discussed. 

Another suggestion I have is that classrooms go food-free for holiday celebrations and birthdays.  This guarantees equal participation for all students, and no one is left out and feelings are not hurt.  There are several alternatives to food: fun plates instead of cupcakes, birthday
hats, stickers, a special game, and of course, still singing Christmas songs and "Happy Birthday". 

In the lunch room, there should be an allergy-friendly table.  Most schools will do a peanut-free table.  Usually, the table is reserved specifically for lunch and not any other activities.  If your child eats in a cafeteria and they are not able to self-carry, Epis should be stocked in the cafeteria as well.  Ingredient labels should be mandatory for all items in the cafeteria.  Sending a lunch with your child is probably the safest option to lessen your anxiety.  It would also be a good idea to give the cafeteria manager and school administration a list of safe foods for your child to eat.  There should be routine hand washing and glove wearing (switched after touching allergens) by anyone handling food.  You may also want to find out if the ingredients in the food served by the cafeteria are available on the school's website.

If you have a child that receives a snack during the school day, it is best to bring in a supply of safe snacks in a specific contained labeled with your child's name and allergens.  I did this last year and it worked out great. 

While the school has a ton of responsibility when dealing with students with food allergies, parents also have responsibilities to the school.  As a parent of a food allergic child, you have the responsibility to inform any and all caretakers, teachers, and administration of the child's current health situation and management plan, as well as address any concerns you have or any problems that arise.  It is very important to stay in constant contact with the school staff to make sure the child's safety is the first priority.  You also have a responsibility to make other parents aware of your child's allergies, especially young children who play in close contact with each other.  No one would want to send their kid to school with peanut butter on his hands and later find out that it caused a reaction in a student with a peanut allergy which could have been prevented. 

Your allergy doctor will be able to help you with these plans and any questions or concerns you may have.  Make the school staff feel like you are all on the same team and everything will flow smoothly!

I promise my next post won't take 9 months to write:)

Last weekend I made my little man cherry cupcakes with lime frosting.  Brady loved them!  Here is the recipe:

  • ½ c. vegan butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 1½ c. granulated sugar
  • egg replacer equal to 4 eggs
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1⅓ c. soymilk
  • 1 (10 oz) jar, maraschino cherries, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. reserved maraschino cherry syrup (from the jar of cherries)
  • Lime Frosting:
  • 1 (8 oz.) pkg. vegan cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 c. vegan butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 4 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • a few drops of green food coloring
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line (two) 12-cup cupcake tins with paper liners. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl with a stand or hand mixer, on low, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. While still on low, gradually add the egg replacer. Add the vanilla and mix until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, while mixer is on low. Batter will be smooth and creamy. Measure out the soymilk, add the cherry syrup and stir. While mixer is on low, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the batter. Lastly, add the chopped cherries, and slowly mix just until evenly dispersed into the batter.
  4. Add the batter to the lined cupcakes and fill to ¾ full. Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean and free of crumbs. Let cupcakes cool.
  5. While cupcakes are cooling, mix the frosting. With a clean bowl and stand or hand mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Add the lime juice and vanilla, and continue to mix until smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar one cup at a time. (Do this slowly, so you don't end up with powdered sugar everywhere.) Frosting will be thick and creamy. Lastly, add a few drops of green food coloring and thoroughly mix into the frosting. Spread or pipe on to the cooled cupcakes. Top with an additional maraschino cherry with stem.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Honesty Is the Best Policy : Book Review of Jessica Alba's "The Honest Life"

I love Jessica Alba, so when her book "The Honest Life" came out, I had to buy it.  Not only is she gorgeous and glows from head to toe, she is also a very smart business woman who actually cares deeply about others and the planet.  Rare combo, right?!?!?!

In summary, the book is pretty much a guide on how to live a non-toxic, organic, affordable lifestyle while being true to yourself and balancing family and work.  Gosh darn it, Jessica Alba is just perfect! She even finds time to grow her own food.  She has her own product line, the Honest Company, which you can check out at www.honest.com.  I have been an avid customer for about 6 months now.  Love, love, love these products!  They are all chemical-free, all natural, organic, and reasonably priced!  Perfect for a mama with a food allergy kid that also suffers from really awful seasonal and environmental allergies. 

But...back to the book.

The first chapter Jessica writes covers food.  She knows the way to my heart.  She talks about the importance of eating organically, locally, and seasonally.  Honest Eating "is enjoyable, fresh and whole, mostly plant based, flavorful, lean, and made with love".  So this is how she gets her glow.  According to the Honest Life's principles, the diet should be free of processed and packaged foods.  GMOs are a no-no.  If you can't pronounce the ingredients, you probably shouldn't eat it.  Alba stresses the importance of eating tons of fruits and veggies, whole grains, and a little lean meat to get great skin and to have more energy.  She has several recipes that I cannot wait to try.  She also has a great seasonal fruit and veggie chart, as well as a list of what you should always have stocked in your pantry.  She includes a section on entertaining, one for kids and snacks, and one weight loss. 

Chapter 2 and 3 are "Honest Clean" and "Honest Beauty", respectively.  In these chapters, Alba discusses how to be clean without the use of harsh chemicals and detergents.  She goes into great detail on her own personal struggle with allergies and the havoc it used to wreak on her skin.  She discusses the hidden chemicals found in almost all shampoos, makeup, fragrances, and beauty products that are not certified organic and non-toxic.  I knew there were some chemicals in make up, but no idea the extent at which they were present in almost everything I put on my body and face.  (Side note: If you are on www.honest.com, check out their shampoo and conditioning mist.  I am a huge fan, it smells wonderful, and Brady even has his own).  She discusses the link between cancers/diseases with the toxicity levels of beauty and personal hygiene products. 

Chapter 4 might actually have to compete with Chapter 1 as my favorite.  Chapter 4 is all about style.  I have a passion for fashion...literally!  There is this awful assumption that when you become a mom, you lose all sense of style and fashion.  Well I am living proof that this is sooooooo NOT true.  Sure, you may not be able to spend $300 on a bag every month like you could pre-kiddo, but you can always find the time to make yourself look put-together and presentable.  Alba gives advice on how to accessorize and do so in an environmentally-friendly way, how to experiment and have fun with your style, how to stick to your budget, how to embrace your post-baby body and how to play by your own rules.  Have I mentioned how much I adore this woman? 

In Chapter 5, entitled "Honest Home", Alba talks eco-friendly design, cleaning, organizing, and remodeling.  She informs about practices that should be done every day in order to reduce mess and toxins/irritants.  She has a great cleaning guide and some awesome tips for getting kids to pitch in.  She discusses the importance of fresh air, how as great as some candles smell they are really not that great for you to be exposed to, and even gives you some steps for growing your own indoor garden.  (This would be amazing if I didn't have a black thumb...one thing I did not inherit from my mother was her ability to be a gardening goddess).

Babies, babies, and more babies: the subject of Chapter 6.  Another reason I think Alba is so great: she sounds like a down-to-Earth, normal mother.  I am not sure that this exists in Hollywood, but she sure makes it look like a possibility.  She tells how laundry detergents, lotions, diapers, wipes, and bath products all impact babies and toddlers.  She tells how to do a nursery remodel and what to do to make it safe.  She discusses many aspects of pregnancy, your new figure post-baby and how to embrace it, children's sleeping patterns, toxins you may not know can affect children and pregnant women, and expanding your family.  She details how to parent, what has worked and what hasn't, how to raise healthy and happy kids, play dates, and even children's rooms.  How does she do it all? 

Inspiration:  Chapter 7.  She gives keys to finding balance, what makes her tick, how she keeps her sanity, and what makes her laugh.  There are recipes for food, beauty scrubs, and beauty masks and rinses.  She lets you in on flea market finds, up-cycling, decorating, play...there is even a guide to finding non-toxic paint to make crafts with the munchkins.  She gives step-by-step directions on how to make a pirate ship playhouse (which I cannot wait to make with Brady). 

At the end of the book, Alba gives many shopping guides, suggested websites, and links to all of the places she obtained research from.  In addition to being Wonder Woman, she is also credible. 

If you get the chance to buy "The Honest Life", do so.  It is a practical guide to living realistically today while trying to manage a family, live a healthy lifestyle, and to save the planet.  Kudos, Jessica Alba.  You inspire me and you rock! 

Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing, Baby...Says Who???

One of the first things you have to figure out when newly diagnosed with food allergies is how and what to substitute.  Oh the endless possibilities...

What do you substitute for dairy (cow's milk)?  Soy milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, rice milk, etc.  My favorite is coconut milk (although it does have a hint of sweetness).  If you are making mashed potatoes or a cream-based soup, I would stay away from this one and go with rice milk or soy milk. If you need butter in something, Earth Balance makes a great vegan one that is my personal favorite.  It used to be hard to find, but I have been seeing it in all of my local grocery stores lately- even Target.  Like I needed another excuse to step foot into those endless isles of happiness.  LOL:)  If you need a substitute for buttermilk, mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar with 1 cup of one of the milks previously mentioned.  Make sure you let it sit for a few minutes to thicken.  (I really like this version when I make Brady homemade Ranch dressing).

What can you use to replace eggs?  My favorite to use in baked goods is EnerG egg replacer.  It is a powder that you mix with water.  It does not have any flavor, but it helps your baked goods to fluff up.  A box usually lasts about 2 months in my house.  You can also use flaxseed meal and water, or in cookies, I like to use a mashed banana or applesauce.  You can also use agar powder and water or...baking powder and water mixed with vegetable oil.

I have come to despise peanut butter.  Actually all peanut products.  We buy a lot of SunButter (made from sunflower seeds) and WowButter (toasted soy).  Sesame seed butter (tahini) can also be used.  You can even get SunButter in individual portion packages and they make for great on the go snacks.  While some replacements or substitutions are not the same consistency as the real product, peanut butter replacements are the most true to form.  The taste is actually really close.  Who says the real thing is always better?

Have a gluten allergy or Celiac?  There are so many alternatives to wheat.  You can pick from about 15 different flours in the gluten-free section at the grocery store.  Brown rice flour, potato flour, coconut flour, tapioca flour, oat flour, etc.  You may have to play around with a few to figure out which one you like the best.  I know several people who combine various flours to reach their desired consistency.  A lot of times texture can be an issue as well when finding a flour alternative. Experimenting is probably your best bet.

The possibilities really are endless when deciding what to use as a replacement.  It really all boils down to a matter of what you prefer.  Make sure you experiment, and keep trying new things.  You never know what you can come up with!

Since tomorrow is Sunday and everyone in my house will be watching football, here is a recipe for a  fun snack that everyone will love! 

Potato Skins
8 small baking potatoes
olive oil (my friend Rini has the best from Spartan Valley Olive Oil)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 c bacon bits (not Bacos- ewww)
sea salt
1/4 c finely chopped scallions
1 c Daiya cheddar shreds
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2. Poke several holes in each potato and brush olive oil on the skins
3. Bake on the center rack for about 30 minutes (or until fork tender)
4. Once fully baked, cut into halves and remove most of the flesh (leave about 1/4 of an inch)
5. Lightly brush the halves with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic powder and sea salt
6. Place the skins on baking sheet and return to oven
7. Bake for another 5 nminutes
8. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheddar shreds and bacon bits
9, Return to oven and bake another 5 minutes until cheddar shreds are melted
10. Remove from oven and top with scallions
Optional:  You can also top with Daiya sour cream for an extra treat or salsa if you want to make them extra jazzy.
Enjoy:)  Go Cowboys!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Keep on Truckin'

Happy Monday night!  Last week I ordered from a food co-op for the first time in my life.  What an experience.  I am not sure what exactly it is that I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised. 

I decided after talking to my good friend Milk Allergy Mom (visit her blog at http://milkallergymom.blogspot.com) to place an order with Azure Standard. According to the company’s mission statement: “Azure Standard specializes in natural, organic, earth-friendly foods and products.  We deliver directly to customers, buying clubs, and retailers by semi-trucks and UPS.  As of May 2012, Azure is delivering to 27 states including Hawaii and Alaska.  Azure Standard’s mission is to help people throughout the county realize their greatest potential in abundant living by providing the products, information, and services they need to make healthy and empowered choices.”

 I will admit I did have the preconceived notion that I would have a limited selection of allergy-friendly foods that Brady could eat.  Not. At. All. What. I.Got.   I was really surprised when I got on their website (www.azurestandard.com ) to place my order.   

The first thing I looked for was some kind of sweet for B.  I typed in “dairy-free” in the search box and so many goodies popped up.   The next thing I did was to check the ingredients on the product label to verify there were no eggs or peanuts, and then checked to make sure there was no possibility of cross-contamination.  One product that I ended up buying was Enjoy Life chocolate chips.  The prices offered by Azure were about ½ the cost of what my local food specialty store sells products for.  I was really happy about this too!  And I saw where if you buy them in bulk, the price is reduced even more.

I decided to also check out Daiya products, as they are hard to find in my area.  I have found that the cheese melts much like regular cheese does.  The slices work really well for grilled cheese sandwiches (when Brady will actually eat one.  Ahhhhhh picky eaters, I digress).  They offer Daiya shreds, slices, and even cream cheese.  I ordered some of each. 

I got very excited when I found out that you are able to purchase books at discounted prices as well!  I purchased two new books.  One was on allergies and how they are an emerging disease.  The other was an allergy-free snack cook book.  I was so excited about the second book because I am always looking for new and creative ways to come up with fun snacks that Brady will eat and that I can send to school. 

Figuring out what I wanted to order was the easy part, and so was placing the order.  Azure gives you the option to either pay with a card at the time you place the order, or you can pay on delivery.  Not many places give you that option, and it is nice to have.  The shipping wasn’t too pricey either.  I received a delivery confirmation once I placed my order and got a “drop” date.  You are probably asking, “What is a drop date?”  A drop date is when the truck your order is arriving on stops at your designated “drop” spot.  Our local drop stop happens to be a church on the west end of town that is pretty easy to find. 

The day of the delivery, picking up my order was a piece of cake.  Everything was nicely packaged and ready to go in two boxes.  I told the coordinator my name, she told me where my box was located (they had laid all the boxes out alphabetically making it super easy to find), and then she checked my payment method and I was on my merry little way. 

This method of shopping beats hours at the grocery store any day.  While all of the products that I ordered were packaged and nothing I ordered was “perishable”, Azure does offer a huge variety of fresh produce and meat.   I cannot wait to try them when I place my next order. 

I was really happy with the products I ordered, the quality as well as the price.  I was also really pleased with the customer service, ordering process, and pick up.  I can foresee myself becoming a loyal customer. 

Here is a recipe from the new snack book I bought.   I can’t promise Brady will love it, but as the first attempt at making it, not too shabbyJ

 Double Delicious Bean Spread (AKA Kid-Friendly Hummus)


15 oz. can cannellini beans (rinsed and drained)
15 oz. can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
1 small clove garlic (minced)
¼ c lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp dried basil
Pinch black pepper


1.       Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth,

2.       Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve chilled.  Store in the fridge up to 5 days.  Serve with veggies or pita chips, or anything else you desire.


Could this be any easier????


Enjoy J

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Food Allergies Behaving Badly

The number of reported behavior problems in children with food allergies is on the rise.  A growing number of parents, pediatricians, and allergists are reporting connections between problems in behavior and the physical symptoms of an allergic reaction.  Not all bad behavior in all children is attributed to this, but there is a growing awareness that the two go hand in hand.

Let’s take a closer look.  Technically, children (and adults, too) can be allergic to any food or food additive (think preservatives, artificial flavors, and food dyes), but the most common 8 food allergens are: milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish.  Most allergy symptoms are caused by a histamine release within the immune system.  This release can cause inflammation, congestion, headache, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and swollen eyes, lips, and throat.  Severe reactions display symptoms including seizures, suffocation, coma, and anaphylaxis, which can be potentially fatal.

Imagine you are a small child just learning to communicate verbally and you are experiencing one or several of the symptoms mentioned above.  As an adult, we have learned how to respond when we don’t feel well.  We have established a vocabulary that allows us to describe how we feel and what our symptoms may be.  A small child has not yet learned this.  A small child becomes frustrated when they don’t feel well because they do not understand why.  They cannot grasp the concept of time and how long the symptoms/pain will last.  For children, the best method of communication is through behavior. 

Behavioral symptoms triggered by food allergies are: aggression, tantrums, mood swings, anger, depression, and inability to concentrate.  Many of these may be strictly related to the physical discomfort caused by allergic reactions, but some symptoms are present because of the existence of certain chemicals in the immune system which alter hormone levels and neurotransmitters in the brain.  One major cause of concern (which I recently learned about) is how toxic histamine releases can be.  I did not realize they directly trigger inflammation on the brain.  This can cause major behavioral and cognitive changes within children.  New studies also suggest that food allergies may imitate ADHD and other psychiatric conditions.

Again, I would like to clarify that I do not believe all bad behavior in children is caused by food allergies and allergic reactions, but I do believe that there is a direct correlation between the two and the research that supports this theory is advancing at a rapid pace. 

So what can you do as a parent to help with food allergy-related behavioral problems???  Well…

1.       Strict avoidance of all known allergens and intolerance is the key to great food allergy management!!!!!!!!

2.       Read labels and be meticulous.

3.       Strictly avoid all chances of cross-contamination.

4.       If you notice that certain behaviors present themselves during or after your child eats a particular food, seriously consider eliminating it from the child’s diet. 

5.       Educate yourself and anyone who comes into contact with your child, so that everyone is on the same page, and maintain good communication.

6.       Make an action plan.  Give everyoe who is caring for your child a copy!

7.       Make your family doctor, allergist, nutritionist, and other medical and professional staff aware of your concerns. 

Most importantly, do not let the child’s poor behavior make you behave like a child.  You are the adult, the care taker, the one in charge.  Ultimately, you can make or break the situation.  Do not give in to the bad behavior, but instead, do something positive to redirect it and to change it.  Get the necessary help to get the behavior under control.  Many psychologists and psychiatrists will agree that is almost impossible to get a child’s behavior under control If there are underlying medical problems which are left untreated. 

If you take away one thing from this post, please let it be this:  Remember that it is not the child behaving badly on purpose if there is an underlying medical condition that needs to be treated.  The child is not deliberately trying to upset you by not brushing his teeth before school; it might just be that his mouth hurts from something he ate.  He isn’t trying to frustrate you on purpose by letting you know that he doesn’t want to go to school for the 100th time today; in reality he really probably does have a tummy ache from the abdominal pain caused by something that he ingested that he was allergic to.  More likely than not, the child probably just doesn’t know how to tell you that he doesn’t feel well.  Remember the last time you didn’t feel well?  How did you behave?  Put yourself in the child’s shoes and try to be compassionate. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

You Can Never Be Too Educated

I'm back!!!!!  After a temporary break caused by planning the 5k, working full time, a doctor's appointment out of town for B, and my newly-found ulcer, I am happy to be posting again.  I guess we all need to take regular breaks from time to time in order to refresh ourselves...


Tonight I want to talk about how to educate yourself on allergy definitions and to familiarize and make yourself comfortable with them.  There are so many medical terms and diagnoses that come with food allergies.  If you do as much research as I do, then I am sure you are fully versed in all of them.  If so, this should just be a quick refresher.  If not, you are about to get schooled.  My grandpa (the wisest of wise men that I have ever encountered) is famous for saying "You can never be too educated", and when dealing with food allergies, it is CRITICAL to educate yourself.  DOING SO CAN SAVE YOUR CHILD'S LIFE!!!!! (Or your life, or your friend's, or someone else you care deeply for).

So let us start with the most basic of definitions:

Food Allergy: A specific type of adverse reaction involving the immune system.  Eight foods account for almost all food allergy reactions: milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, soy, wheat, fish, and shell fish.  If you feel you may have a food allergy (or intolerance), consult your physician for blood and skin testing. 

Now that we have covered the most basic, I will alphabetize the rest for convenience if you need to print and refer back to various terms.

Adrenaline: (aka Epinephrine): The hormone given via auto-injection (EpiPen) for emergency relief of food allergy symptoms (mainly anaphylaxis).

Allergy Band: (aka allergy bracelet or medical ID bracelet): used to communicate medical issues or allergies to medical and emergency professionals.  The band should include medical alerts and if possible, contact information.  Check out this site for some really fun ones for children with food allergies www.allermates.com

Allergy Card: These cards look like a credit card and conveniently fit in your wallet.  They help to explain allergies with ease when dining out and to ensure safe dining.  The card can easily be given to your server and then given to the chef.  Sometimes these are also called chef cards. 

Allergen: A substance that can trigger an allergic reaction.  Common food allergens include: dairy, eggs, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, soy, and wheat.

Allergic Reaction:  The hyper reaction of the immune system after exposure to an allergen .

Antihistamine: A drug that blocks histamine released by the body during an allergic reaction, such as Benadryl.

Anaphylaxis: A severe, life-threatening allergic reaction.  Usually two systems of the body are involved, such as the respiratory and circulatory systems.  Symptoms of this type of reaction are difficulty in breathing and a drop in blood pressure.  (It should be noted that symptoms are not just limited to these two).

Asthma: A disease of the lung airways which causes swelling and inflammation of the airways and makes breathing difficult.  If someone is asthmatic and suffering from an allergic reaction to food, they are at an increased risk for a more severe reaction.

Auto-Injector (aka EpiPen): The medical device for administering adrenaline (epinephrine) to treat an allergic reaction.

Ok, I think we have discussed all of the "a" terms.  So onto the only "b" term I could come up with that is food allergy-related: Bullying

Bullying has become an epidemic in our world today.  It amazes me how cruel people can be.  Children, of course, but adults are often the ones partaking as well.  Bullying is defined as "When a person uses their power to control or harm someone by physically, verbally, visually, or emotionally threatening another person, either directly or indirectly.  The person has the intent to cause harm to the victim while creating a sense of power and satisfaction in the bully.  Bullying is abusive since the behavior can affect the victim over a long period of time and can be repetitive" (The Allergy Table).  It is my sincere hope for future generations that this type of behavior ceases and that people start respecting and caring for one another and live in peace. 

On to the rest of the terms which have been deemed necessary to be aware of in the food allergy world...

Celiac Disease: An autoimmune disease that attacks the small intestine after ingesting any and all foods containing gluten.

And one of my favorites, that so few people understand...Cross-Contamination: The transfer of a food allergen from other foods, cooking surfaces, eating surfaces, manufacturing equipment, utensils, etc. to another food.  Cross-contamination will be a post devoted entirely to itself.

Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA): An amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act which requires that the label of a food that contains protein from a major food allergen declare the presence of the allergen in the manner described by the Act. 

Food Allergy Action Plan: A specific action plan listing all allergies, reactions, and treatments.  A copy of the plan should be with the person at all times.   Specifically with children, copies should be on hand in the classroom, school office, with a school nurse, daycare, babysitter, family members, and on the bus or with a carpool parent. 

Food Intolerance: An abnormal response to a food or additive.  It is different from a food allergy because it does not involve the immune system.  The severity of the reactions are much less with a food intolerance versus those of food allergies.

Gluten: Foods that contain gluten come from the wheat family, also known as the Triticum spp. 

Hives: Itchy areas of skin or rash, raised above the surrounding skin.

Immune System: The system of the body which protects and reacts again infections.  In the case of an allergic reaction, the immune system mistakes the allergen for something that the body needs to fight against.

Lactose: Sugar found in milk.

Lactose Intolerant: An intolerance caused by difficulty ingesting lactose.  It is different from a dairy allergy, which can be life-threatening because it is not an immune system reaction.

Self-carry: A child that is old enough to "self-carry" has their meds with them at all times, a child that is too young relies on an adult as being responsible for the meds.

Hopefully these terms are now part of your vocabulary.  If not, re-read this until they are!  It is crucial to know these basic terms when you or your child have been diagnosed with a food allergy.  Remember, you can never be too educated:)

Here is a yummy recipe that is a cool weather favorite in our house (from Coffee with Us 3):

Slow Cooker Fiesta Chicken Soup
1 lb. boneless chicken breasts
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1/2 c onion (diced)
1/2 c carrots (diced)
1/2 c corn
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 10 oz can of Rotel Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles
1 14.5 oz can of chicken broth
1 lime (juiced)
1 c salsa verde
1. Spray slow cooker with non-stick spray.
2. Add all ingredients into slow cooker and cook for 6 hours on low.
3. 1 hour prior to finished cooking time, take out chicken breasts and shred.
4. Return chicken to soup and finish cooking time.
5. Optional: garnish with vegan sour cream and tortilla strips
Enjoy!  :)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

How Do You Handle a Jerk?

So the other day I am at a grocery store (which shall remain nameless) and it just happened to be Sample Saturday.  Now, 5 years ago, this would have been my favorite day to shop.  Who doesn’t love to try free samples of food?  Fast forward to 2013 and I normally refuse to go to the store on any given Saturday just to avoid the samples.  Especially if my son is with me.  Try explaining to a three year old that he can’t have something every time you pass by a stand with a cute old lady offering a sample.  You don’t know what is in the food.  You don’t know what she has touched that could have potential for possible cross-contamination.   It is just best to avoid. 

WELL…Here is the problem I faced when I went to the nameless grocery store.  I was running short on soymilk and needed to grab a few other things.  I had my little munchkin with me.  And there were 100 cute old ladies present passing out samples in every direction.  What to do?  On this particular Saturday, I guess there was really no by-passing.  I nicely said "No thank you” to each person offering some delicious little spinach artichoke tart or slice of pizza.  Until we got to this one lady.  I swear I cannot believe I remained as calm as I did and did not go off after this:  The lady offered my little guy a sample of a pop tart that was some peanut butter chocolate concoction.  I nicely told her that he has a peanut allergy among others so he can’t have it, and nicely said “Thank you”.  She looked straight at me and said “It won’t kill him.  Come on, let him have a bite”.  OH. MY. GOOD. GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I probably should have remained silent and walked away…but she caught me off guard, so I quickly remarked “You really should do yourself and society a favor and become educated”.  Not one of my proudest moments, but eh?  I could have handled it better, but I also know myself, and was quite surprised I didn’t handle it worse.

My other favorite type of “jerk” is the one who tells you that “Just because your child is allergic to a food doesn’t give you the right to inconvenience my child’s diet”.  GET REAL PEOPLE!!!!!! I assure you, no one is trying to inconvenience anyone.  We are all just trying to keep our kids alive, healthy, and safe.  Sorry that your kid can’t bring Reese’s Peanut Butter cups to a school party.  Keep them at home.  They can have them for an after school snack.  I am positive that person would feel differently if their child had some other safety concern that I deemed unnecessary and mocked.

So how do you handle the “jerks”?  Are they really “jerks” or are they just uneducated about food allergies?  How do we make those who are unaware, more aware?  How do we get the word out there?  How do you conduct yourself in a way when you encounter said “jerks” where you remain calm and courteous?  How do you deal with people whom you have personally informed of various food allergies that still refuse to accept that your child has a condition that you can’t make go away and won’t get better until there is a cure, and who still think you are being overly dramatic all because you are trying to prevent a potential fatality?

I have personally found that there are some people who just don’t get it and never will.  They try to make you feel bad for protecting your child.  They try to make you look like this crazy, overprotective parent who chooses to make unnecessary restrictions.  I honestly feel extremely sorry for people who are so uneducated.  No one would enforce these extreme restrictions if they were not necessary.  No parent would deny their child otherwise healthy foods if there weren’t severe consequences to eating those foods.  NO PARENT wants to see their child live life this way!!!!!!! This is not a lifestyle choice, this is a matter of life and death!  

I think there are a lot of people who don't understand food allergies. Before my little ray of sunshine was diagnosed, I was one of those people.  With the growing epidemic at hand, it's not something that we as society can afford to be ignorant about. We have to make ourselves and others aware. 

I think the real problem with society is that we have all forgotten how to be kind to one another.   So I am pledging to start being nicer, and next time I see the lady I was snarky to at the grocery store, I am going to apologize for being so quick to reply. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Food Allergy Financials

Read an interesting article in the LA Times Science section today called “Kids Food Allergies Cost U.S. Nearly $25 Billion a Year, Study Finds”.  OH.  MY.  GOSH. 

A few days ago I posted about having anxiety as a food allergy mom.  The financial aspect of raising a child with food allergies is overwhelming.  And what if you have more than one child with food allergies?

According to the LA Times article, in a study done by Dr. Ruchi Gupta (Chicago’s Northwestern University), doctor appointments, hospital stays, and ER visits account for $4.3 billion per year.  Parents lose productivity because of all these appointments and hospital trips.  That costs another $773 million annually.  To cover costs for special foods, allergy-sensitive schools, and special child care arrangements add an additional $5.5 billion each year.  Surprisingly, the area showing the biggest financial impact was in the parents’ careers.  When a child has food allergies many parents opt to stay home, do not take career advances, or have even taken pay cuts for fewer hours.  Then annual cost for employment challenges is $14 billion.

The total annual cost in the U.S. of raising a child with food allergies is $24.8 billion.  That is just for expenses surrounding food allergies.  The breakdown is $4,184 per child.  This does not include other costs of raising a child.  This is an extra $4k on top of that!!!!!!!!!!!

In our house, I feel every bit of that $4,184.  Maybe even more.  On average, I spend $75 a month on soymilk alone ($900 annually).  That doesn’t include trips to St. Louis to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.  I WISH our area had one or the other.  At least that would decrease the cost of gas to drive 75 miles. It is incredibly expensive to maintain a completely allergen-free home.  Then there are prescriptions every month, 4 Epipens that will expire within the year, snacks for school, special cleaning products, special laundry detergents and shampoos, and special air filters, just to name a few…

Every allergen-friendly food purchase is about 2-3 times more expensive than the food that contains the allergen.  For example, sometimes when on sale, you can purchase peanut butter for under $2 a jar.  When your child has a peanut allergy and you opt to buy sunflower butter as an alternative, plan to pay at least $7 a jar.  And that is in Illinois.  I can’t even imagine what it would cost in California.  You can buy Kraft cheese slices for about $1.75 for a package of 20 slices when on sale.  Vegan cheese slices are about $4.50 for 10 slices.  I found a vegan mac and cheese my kiddo loves, but it is $5 for a microwavable portion that is the size of a single-serve Weight Watchers dinner.  A box of Kraft is $1.  The costs are insane.

At this point, I couldn’t imagine not having health insurance.  I would never survive.  I do not know how people that have to pay 100% out of pocket do it. 

There has to be a more cost-effective way of raising children with food allergies.  I think you can write medical expenses off when you do your taxes, right?

A few suggestions to pinch pennies: 1. Epipen coupons are available.  Check with your doctor’s office or your local drug stores. 2. Car pool when you take an out of town trip to an allergy-friendly health foods store.  3.  Make meals in advance that are able to be frozen.  Not only does this cut down on costs because the meal is prepared in bulk, but it also cuts down on time (you just have to pop it in the microwave). 4. Save leftover ingredients for a later meal.  Remember that pumpkin whoopie pie recipe I posted yesterday?  You had half of a can of pumpkin left over – PERFECT for the recipe I am going to post below.  EnjoyJ

Penne with Pumpkin Sauce

3 tbsp coconut oil

2 tbsp minced onion flakes

1 ½ tbsp garlic powder

1 red bell pepper (pureed)

½ can of pumpkin

1 c organic chicken broth

1/3 c water

2-3 tbsp plain soymilk (or other milk alternative)

½ tsp nutmeg

1 box of allergy-friendly penne pasta of your choice

Sea salt and pepper to taste

1. Using large pan, heat coconut oil on medium heat.

2. Add onion flakes, garlic, and red pepper.  Cook until red pepper has softened.

3. Cook pasta.

4. In blender, add pumpkin, chicken broth, water, and soymilk. Blend well.

5. Add this mixture to pan and stir in remaining ingredients.

6. Use a whisk to keep the sauce smooth.

7. Once sauce is boiling and thickens, add pasta and combine gently.