Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trick-or-Treating with Food Allergies

Happy Halloween!

While almost everything American involves food, this is the one holiday that is all about the candy. Halloween doesn't mean much if you don't go door to door begging for treats. Yes, there's the costumes to look forward to, but again, what to you do with it if you don't go trick-or-treating?

Having food allergies makes a candy-centered holiday a bit more challenging, but not impossible. My kids don't know any different, and they know they can't eat what they collect.  Almost all of the candy collected will be dropped off at our local kids dentist office, then shipped overseas to our troops. The kids know that I have safe treats at home for them to indulge in. So, for them, trick-or-treating is literally just for the experience of going door to door. Not for the actual items collected. 

School Parade

There's also the school parties to navigate. Schools are getting better at recognizing food allergies. In fact, both GirlyGirl and Bubs have another child in their class with food allergies. The room mom for GirlyGirl's class sent out an email asking each parent to donate a food or tableware item, asking all food items to be nut-free. Even with the request, I knew some of the snacks wouldn't be safe, so I planned ahead and brought her a pumpkin shaped sugar cookie, pumpkin shaped brownie, and a mint candy. The room mom also sent me and the other food allergy mom in the class an email stating the the ghost pudding cups the kids would be making had all safe ingredients except for the candy corn pumpkin which has the "May Contains" statement. She also said she would bring all wrappers for us to read.  I love the attention to detail! I responded thanking her for her efforts, then ran to the Dollar Tree to buy a bag of safe candy corn so she could participate. 

Safe treats for GirlyGirl

Peanut-free candy corn

Ghost Graveyard

After hanging out with GirlyGirl for a while, I headed down the hallway to Bubs' class.  He is responsible enough to eat only what I send with him, so I knew I could show up later in his class.  I send with him a pumpkin shaped brownie and mint candy as well, and a small package of all natural gummy bears.  By the time I arrived, they were playing Halloween bingo.  He won a round, and the prize was a lollipop.  He politely said, "No, thank you," and didn't bat an eye.  I told him I was proud of him for being so polite and not making a big deal about it.  Then I told him he could have one of his safe suckers with all natural colors once we got home.  He was excited to get to enjoy a prize after all!  At the end of the party, they handed out Playdoh.  Did you know that Playdoh contains wheat?  I told him he could play with it, but that he would need to wash his hands when he was done.    

Classroom Games

After school we hurried home to eat an early dinner so we could head out to trick-or-treat.  I didn't have any special entrée planed such as brains (cauliflower) or maggot soup (rice soup), but I was able to throw together some cute fruit figures that I have seen going around on Facebook.  Easy and healthy!  In fact, the kids asked for more celery!  

Part of our Halloween dinner

We ended up with quite a load of candy.  Four kids with several stops makes quite a pile.  The hubs and I will sneak a few of our favorites, and the rest will be sent to our troops.  I'd say it was a successful Halloween!

Our candy haul!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Product Review: Gluten Freedom Project

If you are new to a restricted diet, or even if you have been on one for a while, you need to check out the Gluten Freedom Project.  Don't let the name fool you.  This free website is not just for people who are gluten-free, but for people who have a variety of diet restrictions.

The Gluten Freedom Project (GFP) is a website that was created by a group of health care professionals, many whom are dealing with  restricted diets themselves.  There are so many great tools available on this site.  Menu planning, recipes, a product directory, grocery lists, and so much more.

Menu planning a big part of dealing with food allergies or a restricted diet for other reasons.  It is hard to just throw something together on the fly.  It is important to have safe ingredients on hand for meal prep.  The GFP Menu Planner allows the user to select which foods need to be avoided and creates a menu for you.  Or you have the option to create you own.  There are tons of recipes to choose from for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and suppers.  The recipes are selected by your special diet needs.  It doesn't get much easier than that!

A sample menu - just click on an item to get the full recipe

There are so many recipes to choose from.  Even with my family's diet restrictions, there are still several options available.  Each recipe has a picture, description, ingredients, and instructions.  And the variety is amazing!  I know we get stuck in a rut eating the same thing over and over again because it's easy, but the GFP has given us so many more options.  I love that I can select which foods need to be avoided, and it creates a recipe list to suit my needs. 

There is a detailed product directory that offers a comprehensive list of products and allows you to view the list of ingredients.  There is also an easy one-click Allergen Warning button for easy viewing of allergens in each product.  I usually stumble across products in the store, but this is a much easier way to search.  And this way I don't have to stand in the freezer section with the door open while reading labels. :)   There is an option to add these products to your Favorite's list, add to your grocery list, or order online (if applicable).  I love this feature!

Writing a grocery list is something I am hit or miss at.  Sometimes I do it (and stick to it), and other times I just wing it.  One thing I know is that I definitely save money and have fewer trips to the store if I have a list in hand.  The grocery list option on GFP is great.  You can create your list on the site while checking for allergens and print or e-mail the list to your phone or tablet.  You can also print coupons when available.  The list is organized by sections of the grocery store to make your trip more efficient.  And this list can be created as part of your menu planning/recipes.  So easy!

The Gluten Freedom Project also offers several other great resources.  There is a whole section dedicated to Learning.  Here there are weekly lessons which include the topics Getting Started, Eating, Safe Kitchen, Shopping, Cooking, Eating Out, Social Support, and Travel.  It is a great way to learn about diet restrictions without feeling overwhelmed.  There is also a library of great articles to help you learn more about food topics. 

There is also a great community of support on this site.  It is easy to feel alone when you can't eat like everyone else around you, but this support system can help you feel more confidant in your choices and your special diet needs. 

The one thing that would make The Gluten Freedom Project even better is if there were an app available for my phone or tablet.  I'm sure as this site continues to grow, an app will be on it's way. 

Give this FREE online tool a try!  You won't be sorry you did!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

School Lunch with the Birthday Girl

Today is GirlyGirl's birthday, so the hubs and I had lunch with her at school.  At her table, three children had sack lunches, and the other four had school lunches.

The school lunch was pizza and salad (or broccoli or green beans).

Here's what I saw in the sack lunches (there may have been other components to these lunches that never made it out of their lunch boxes):

1) Gatorade, gummy bears, Cheetos, and part of an apple (which didn't get eaten)

2) Juice box, Cheez-its, squeeze applesauce, and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (full size)

3) Juice box, chips, a bag of Keebler cookies, and something in a small container that resembled something like pita bread (but just a small bite's worth)

I let GirlyGirl choose her birthday lunch today. Here's what she chose:

Milk in her pink container, a tortilla wrap with hummus and cheese, green peppers with hummus for dipping, and a fruit squeeze up. 

I did surprise her with a Top 8 Free cupcake (it is her birthday, after all), so she had a bit of junk, but I was so proud of her choices, especially after seeing the kind of food that surrounds her at school. 

I was actually impressed with the healthy choices the school lunch offered. I can't say the pizza was the most healthy, but there were good veggie options. And most kids had plenty of veggies on their trays.  It seems as if it's the parents who are packing the lunches are the ones we need to work on. 

Apple Bread (Top 8 Free)

While I was at a scrapbooking convention recently, the hubs took the kids to an apple orchard to stock up on apples to can a bunch of applesauce. Once several batches of applesauce had been made, there were enough apples left over to make some apple bread. The hubs made 2 batches of allergy-filled bread and one batch of allergy-friendly bread. After comparing to two, they tasted pretty similar. Here is the recipe he used to make the allergy-friendly version. 
Apple Bread (Top 8 Free)
1 1/2 c gluten-free flour (He used King Arthur Gluten Free Multi-Purpose Flour)
1 tsp guar gum
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 c sugar
1 c peeled and chopped apple
1/4 c canola oil
1 egg equivalent (He used Ener-G Egg Replacer)
Preheat oven to 350º.  Grease a loaf pan.  He used canola oil in a kitchen spritzer.  In a medium bowl, combine flour, guar gum, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.  In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, apples, oil, and egg replacer.  Add dry mixture to apple mixture and stir just until moistened.  Pour into loaf pan and bake 55-60 minutes.  


Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Trip to the Allergist

It has been a while since Bubs and GirlyGirl have visited the allergist.  Bubs hasn't been for over 2 years since we got involved with his elimination/rotation diet (read about it here).  He had some blood work done then back when we started that adventure, so we knew his milk, egg, and peanut numbers hadn't come down.  And GirlyGirl hasn't been tested since her original diagnosis 2 1/2 years ago. 

When we first suspected GirlyGirl had a food allergy, I called our children's hospital allergy clinic, but it was a four month wait to see an allergist as a new patient.  So I took her to the local allergy clinic to get the diagnosis and EpiPen prescription.  And I just haven't taken the time to call the children's hospital again to get her in.

But I decided it was time to make the appointment and take them both in for a checkup.  We visited earlier this week and are awaiting results from the blood tests.  I'll be sure to post more when we know more.

In the waiting room there was a sign posted asking people to refrain from sharing or exposing food.  I love that!  I wish everywhere was so comfortable! 

A nurse did the initial questioning and asked about GirlyGirl's previous reaction to peanuts.  When I told her the reaction was actually to a walnut muffin and that walnuts came back negative and peanuts positive, she looked confused.  Maybe she isn't familiar with cross-contamination?

When the doctor was asking about Bubs food allergies, I explained that he is anaphylactic to milk, eggs, and peanuts, but that we are avoiding other foods for behavioral issues.  I showed him the three page list of results we obtained from blood work done by the naturopathic doctor and told him it was IgG and IgE testing.  He very politely explained that that is a different school of thought and that he was only interested in the anaphylactic foods.  I realize they are different schools of thought, and that these other foods won't cause him to die, but he wasn't even the slightest bit interested in hearing about it. 

Later, another nurse came in and was chatting with us, and I briefly mentioned Bubs' elimination/rotation diet.  She took great interest as her son has been diagnosed with ADHD, and she uses a combination of medication and diet to help.  I suggested she look into the elimination diet options further with the possibility of eliminating meds altogether.  She seemed genuinely interested in hopes that her son wouldn't be tied to meds for an extended period of time.  Really, who wants to medicate their children?

One thing I was really excited about was having the chance to play with the Auvi-Q trainer.  What a neat device!  It is much more compact than the EpiPen, but you would still have to carry two.  They should make a device that has two auto-injectors in the same case.  With today's technology, it shouldn't be that hard!  My hesitation for carrying and distributing the Auvi-Q is that it is not as common as the EpiPen, and others may not recognize it as my child's life-saving medication.  I have a mental image of the school nurse or other school staff opening the cupboard to get epinephrine and not recognizing the Auvi-Q, but looking for an EpiPen.  One more block/area of hesitatation.  I am planning on filling their Auvi-Q prescription and carrying it with me, but leaving the EpiPens at school and after school care.  At least until it is more mainstream. 

Another exciting thing that happened was my kids were selected to be part of an asthma research study.  They are comparing kids with allergies and asthma to kids with asthma only.  The study would consist of a few hours at the children's hospital where some histamine gel would be applied to their forearm.  An ultrasound would be used to monitor how the body's blood flow reacts to the histamine.  A skin prick test would also be performed testing 22 environmental allergens.  Finally a blood sample would be taken to test DNA.  In return, they would receive a $50 gift card to Walmart or Target, $10 for the skin test, and mileage reimbursement.  Sounds like a good deal to me!  The kids, on the other hand, are not so excited.  They are a bit hesitant.  I will continue to discuss the benefits of this study and how they can help others by participating, as well as the financial gain they will receive.  I'm not sure the bribe of money is enough to offset the cost of a skin prick test and blood draw in their eyes. 

I forgot to ask the allergist if their clinic is participating in any of the oral immunotherapy for food allergies.  I will be sure to ask when we call about the results.  I'll keep you posted!