Thursday, November 13, 2014

Coping with Food Allergy Dilemmas at Thanksgiving




Just before Halloween, I read a post on a local parenting magazine Facebook page that went something like this: "I'm concerned about Thanksgiving and I need advice. My two-year-old is severely allergic to nuts and my mom insists that she have out bowls of nuts placed around the house and also in the foods served at the table. She won't listen to me when I explain the dangers. What can I do?"

My heart went out to this woman because after all, it's her own mother that is telling her "No, I won't accommodate you or my grandson." Ouch. Many commenters (myself included) told her that she's not alone in this whole food allergy holiday meal thing and that she has to do what's in the best interest of her son. Other parents on the page (guessing not those who have kids with allergies because, of course, it seems simple if you don't deal with it yourself) said things like "Your mom's house/her rules" and "Just don't give the kid any nuts and it will be fine."

Sound familiar? Therein lies the dilemma. Not everyone is going to understand your Thanksgiving food allergy concerns and most of us don't want to live in a cave far away from everyone. Is there a happy medium? More on that in a minute.

Getting back to the parent of the two-year-old's question "What can I do?" Well, here's the thing. If she's spoken to her mother, which we can assume she probably has, what can she do? You can't force someone to listen to you, understand or accommodate you. You can't enforce rules in a house not your own. So, sadly, that parent may have to keep her son away from this gathering simply for his own safety -- and her sanity. 

I don't suggest this lightly, because I know that Thanksgiving is a time for the family to be together. However, nuts in a bowl is a deal-breaker if you've got a two-year-old. Two-year-olds think they're supposed to put everything in their mouths, even dishwasher pods. And you can't reason with them -- they don't have a good enough understanding of their allergy at this age. Even with older kids and adults/teens with allergies, nuts in a bowl is easily transferable from the hands of the person partaking to surfaces and edible substances. If you bring a separate meal from home for the allergic person (a not-so-great but feasible solution if you want to be with the entire fam), there is still danger if lots of nutty stuff is around. 

What if your family doesn't understand this and doesn't want to? Then it's up to you to do the right thing to keep your child out of the ER that day. In cases such as these, I know there is no perfect solution. Nobody is perfect -- not your family, not you. So why do we expect the holidays to go perfectly smoothly -- especially with a medically necessary food restriction like life-threatening nut allergies? It's too much pressure. Take it one meal at a time, one day at a time. As you learn the ropes and your family begins to understand what's at stake, it will get easier.

 If you're new to nut allergies this Thanksgiving, I suggest you take a deep breath and be good to yourself this holiday season. State your case, of course, but stay cool. You don't want your child to associate holidays with negativity -- it can create anxiety later on. Offer to bring food and offer to help figure out the menu. Many times, families are reluctant only because they don't understand how to make things "safe" for you. Let them know how they can help and make sure they know that you will do all you can, too.

But what if, like the mom in the example above, you just can't get through to your family? Most of the time, if close family doesn't want to give a nod to your food allergy needs at the holidays, it points to a deeper issue going on with your relationship. Don't expect this to be resolved overnight and never let your child be endangered. Be strong and firm; be kind to yourself and to your family members. Food allergies are what they are; fighting won't make them go away. I have chapters devoted to communicating food allergy needs to others in my e-book, The New Nut-Free Mom. Click here to find it on Amazon; you can find other options for getting this book by looking at the right side bar of this site.

I recently came across this cartoon online. I think it sums up how those with food allergies feel about any family meal: "It's not so much what's on the table that matters, as what's on the chairs."


I say amen to that, but keep in mind that Thanksgiving foods are emotional for people. They want to be served what they remember and what they see as tradition. That's understandable but can be difficult to cope with when you're navigating a life-threatening food allergy. So if you find yourself in a situation like that, maybe you can start a new tradition of having people over during the Thanksgiving weekend, where you host and control what's served. Again, it's not perfect, but it's something.

Now, the bright side. Many of us have understanding families that help keep our kids safe at family meals. I'm fortunate that I'm one of those people, but it didn't happen overnight. It takes conversation, effort and time. So don't be hard on yourself if you don't have it all figured out immediately. Nobody does! :)

I have many posts about food allergies and Thanksgiving/holiday meals and I'll share those links at the end of this post. Plus, you'll find some of my favorite nut-free Thanksgiving recipes. Follow me on Pinterest to find more of those.

What about you? How have you found ways of juggling Thanksgiving food expectations with food allergies?

For all of us dealing with the imperfections of life with a food allergy at the holiday, remember: you're not alone. Do the best you can and try to celebrate the joy of the season. Be grateful for the food you can eat and the health of your loved ones. I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Chicago-Area Friends: Halloween Candy Trade-In at Nutphree's Cupcakes -- Last 2 Days!


Hi everyone! I have a timely new mess
age for my Chicagoland readers! (And I apologize, I meant to have this up earlier. I've been light on the posts lately just due to life in general and the fact that I'm revising a book and trying to finish before New Year's. :))

Back to the news: The wonderful Nutphree's Cupcakes (one of my site sponsors) has this to say about all that candy the kids with food allergies may have collected a few days ago but can't eat: 

"We’re happy to be hosting our Trade Your Candy for a Cupcake program again this year. Kids can bring in their well-earned haul from Nov 1 through Nov 7 and take home a FREE cupcake or non-food treat! All candy collected will be sent overseas to deployed soldiers through Operation Gratitude."

Nutphree's is open until 6 pm tomorrow, so if you can, head over there! Check their web site for more info. If you've never been in this bakery, you will be amazed at the beautiful nut-free cupcake and treat selection.

I'm also happy to note that Nutphree's is bringing their cupcakes to several grocery stores in the Chicagoland area, including Whole Foods and  Mariano's.

THANK YOU Nutphree's for being such a caring (and delicious) resource to families dealing with nut allergies. Your baking creations are beautiful works of art and I appreciate all you do!

What if you live elsewhere? If you have a similar buy-back program for Halloween candy in your area or if you have info on nut-free baked goods available near you, we want to know about it, especially with the holidays on the horizon.

Which brings me to my next topic and one I will be covering with a new post next week:

Even before Halloween, I saw a post about nut allergy issues on a local parenting mag web site, so I will be addressing the issue of dealing with holiday, social situations and  nut allergies in the next few days on this blog. 

In the meantime, I've got lots of posts about Thanksgiving and nut allergies. Below you'll find two of the most popular; click the links below to read them. You can find even more articles, including nut-free Thanksgiving recipes, if you use key words in the search bar located in the upper left-hand corner of this site.



(Regarding this last post: Food labels can change -- at any time! Please always check labels/call companies if you need additional information on allergens.)

And of course, if you haven't already, check out my e-book for encouragement and advice on navigating life with nut allergies.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Halloween, Holidays and Nut Allergies: What's In Your Food?

That's Nancy Drew on the left. :)
It's official: we've embarked on the holiday season. How do I know? Well, besides the fact that every store is screaming Halloween, with some Thanksgiving and Christmas creeping in on those side aisles, Love Actually was on TV this weekend and the Hallmark network is starting their Christmas movie season on October 31st! Yep, you read that right.

I love the holidays but there is one thing that drives me a little bit nuts and that's, well, peanuts and tree nuts showing up in unexpected places. We can have lots of fun at this hectic time but we've got to be careful. No getting around it.

This topic is something I've covered in my e-book and also touched on in several blog posts, but I don't think it's something I've covered recently here, in detail, so please bear with me.

Basically, any food is up for grabs at this time of year.  Well, this rule holds all year, but the fall and winter holiday season is the time that people break out the tree nuts, in particular. Peanuts also show up in all sorts of Halloween and other holiday candy. You've got to be vigilant with all the tasty treats out there and that includes candy, baked goods, savory dishes -- you name it.

 This is the best thing you can do: if you don't know what's in a food or can't identify an ingredient -- SKIP IT! I know it's not always fun, but it's the safest thing. And take heart, because there are so many good things out there right now. I'll include a couple of Halloween blog posts I've written at the end of this one for ideas. I hope everyone who is in the Chicago  area is already partaking of Nutphree's awesome cupcakes (now available at Mariano's grocery stores). They will custom make stuff for you at their storefront bakery or buy ready-made at Mariano's. You can always decorate them. 

Remember, too, that all treats don't have to be sweets. This is a good slogan for the food-allergic and unfortunately, one I can't take credit for -- it was on the most recent Oriental Trading Company catalog. If you haven't perused that catalog in awhile, you can simply go online to their site for terrific non-food Halloween treats, party games and a lot more.

Another thing I want to point out to not only the nut allergy newbies, but to everyone: not everything that contains peanuts or tree nuts is going to be obvious. So even if you've been doing this for a few years, be careful.

I remember last year's Halloween treats bag. My younger daughter got a bunch of those old-fashioned candies called "Bit O' Honey." I never knew that they contained finely ground ALMONDS and only discovered that when I read the minuscule print on the side of the candy wrapper. I'm so glad they listed it but I've known about that candy for pretty much my entire life and never knew it had almonds. Learn from me: never assume a candy is nut-free unless you've checked it out personally. 

Here are some other seasonal foods that make an appearance especially during the holidays, and that contain peanuts or tree nuts:

Marzipan  - this is an almond paste used to make candy but also to decorate cakes -- it holds its shape and you can make elaborate cake decor with it. There's nothing in the name to suggest nuts, but they are there.

Linzer Torte - this is a European fruit pastry (or cookie) with generally, almonds, in the crust. Avoid any torte for that matter -- "tortes" usually have tree nut flour as a large component of their ingredients.

Flourless chocolate cake -- again these cakes may contain almond flour in place of wheat flour. 

Imported candy - some imported candy can be safe for nut allergies -- Haribo brand gummy bears are one example. However, a lot of the cute, different and fun stuff you find at say, World Market, or other stores along those lines is going to have at least tree nuts in the ingredients, especially the chocolates.

Ferrero Rocher chocolates - these European chocolates have hazelnuts inside. Avoid them if you are allergic to tree nuts.

Nougat - nougat means nuts! Avoid any candy containing nougat.

Truffles - some delicious nut-free truffles exist, such as those from Dean's Sweets and Vermont Nut Free. (I recommend both companies for nut-free chocolate.) However, your garden variety truffle either contains tree nuts or came into contact with them. Avoid them.

Bags of assorted Halloween candy - check the labels. Your favorite brands sometimes package differently at Halloween to include a candy assortment that includes stuff you can't have. So what is "safe" may be alongside candy like Reese's, creating cross-contact risk. Stick to the bags of candy that are all "nut-free" such  as the assortments provided by  Tootsie Roll company. All of their candies are tree nut-free, peanut-free and gluten-free. Please also see candies like the all-natural, nut-free and top-8 allergy-free "Surf Sweets" candy. You can learn more about them by clicking the image with the Spooky Spiders to the right of this post.

This list is by no means complete -- you will have to look at everything you consume before serving it to a nut-allergic child or adult. However, I hope I've hammered home my point that many foods you or others might not think about may contain nut allergens and you can't ever assume that they don't without checking it out first.

Now for a few Halloween posts from years past. Click the links to go directly to those articles.

Nut-Free Haunted House Cakes and Nut-Free Candy Ideas - make an edible haunted house with a nut-free pumpkin cake recipe. Easy and delicious.

Halloween with Food Allergies: Thoughts from a Mom Who's Been There


If you're new to navigating life with nut allergies or just need a refresher, check out my handy guide: The New Nut-Free Mom. On Amazon, Nook or for your computer/iPad.

Remember to consider all of your allergy needs before serving any food to an allergic person -- you are the best judge of your exact situation. For accurate, up-to-date information on foods and food labels, call the company directly.



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's Nut-Free Candy Corn Time Again! Peanut-Free, Tree Nut-Free and Yummy

On my Twitter feed today, I shared a funny graphic featuring a burly Game of Thrones actor suited up for battle and posing with the caption: Brace Yourselves, Pumpkin Flavored Everything Is Coming!

Just as an example, I think Starbucks already has its pumpkin spice latte for sale (but don't quote me on that.) I just know that I read an article stating that treat is being introduced earlier than last year. And that's just the tip of the pumpkin spice-flavored iceberg.

When pumpkin-flavored everything is arriving in our stores and eateries, that means that it's time to start scouting out the NUT-FREE Halloween goodies available to us.

I have many posts on this blog that talk about Halloween candy safe for peanut and tree nut allergies (and I'll have more, of course as we get closer to the big day) but with the pumpkin spice invasion already underway, I thought it was high time that I talked about one of the trickiest nut-free treats to locate: CANDY CORN.

There are candy corn lovers out there and candy corn haters. For those of you who belong in the former category, or who have kids that do, I am happy to share a tip on one of my favorite sources for nut-free candy corn: A & J Nut-Free Bakery in Rhode Island. They make truly tasty and yes, NUT-FREE candy corn that is such a huge hit (probably at least a little bit in part to the loyal devotion of my candy corn-loving blog readers) that they are now offering this Halloween delicacy year round.



My daughter is already asking for candy corn from A & J's, so I figured some of you might be hearing the plea from your kids.

If you're new to this whole nut allergy thing, you might be thinking to yourself "How hard can it be to find nut-free candy corn?" I hear you, but this is one of those tricky items that always seems to carry a nut allergy warning. That's why my family has become such A & J Bakery devotees--it's delicious, arrives quickly and it's produced in a nut-free facility.

I've also spotted nut-free candy corn at the Dollar Store, made by a brand called Sunrise Foods. I have not had a chance to re-check their packaging yet this season, so if any of you have, let us know in the comments.



Another seasonal treat that you may have spotted on the shelves: Spooky Spiders from Surf Sweets, one of my site sponsors. Spooky Spiders are an adorable and tasty organic gummy candy free of all the top allergens, gluten and artificial anything. Look for these at natural foods stores or order online from places like Peanut Free Planet.

Here are some more Halloween posts from The Nut-Free Mom blog that you may find helpful:

Halloween with Food Allergies: Thoughts from a Mom Who's Been There

Trick or Treating with Food Allergies?

If you're a nut allergy newbie, welcome! I hope you find this blog helpful. If you're looking for a short and easy to follow guide to navigating life with a nut allergy, please check out my e-book today: Find it on Amazon here, or you can also get it in other formats, including for your computer or iPad. Click here for more details.

You can find A & J bakery candy corn by clicking this link to their web site.

What about you? Any nut-free candy finds or tips? Share in the comments below!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Back-to-School with Nut Allergies: Nut-Free Foods & Resources


Back to school time is upon us – for some of us, it’s already begun. To help you get ready for school with nut allergies, I have a bunch of links that I will share at the end of this post.

In the meantime, here's a new list of resources and items that you will find helpful in navigating a nut-free school year.

http://www.ok2bpnutfree.com/
First I want to talk about the wonderful company, OK2BPNUTFREE, one of my site advertisers. Run by the parent of a child with nut allergies, the company offers eye-catching medicine kits to keep at school, allergy-awareness clothing and labels to help identify your food-allergic child’s belongings. Please check them out – I especially love the “shot kit” as it can be personalized for your child and will be easy to spot in case of emergency.

Now onto the nut-free food and snacks, always an issue at this time of year, what with lunches, after-school snacks, etc.  I’m always happy to find allergy-friendly foods on the shelves that clearly state “Nut-free” and that are made in a nut-free facility. Just kind of makes life easier. Luckily, those types of foods are increasing.

For example, I recently discovered the following:



Go Raw seeds. Most pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds contain frustrating statements about being processed on the same lines as peanuts or tree nuts. Not these: they clearly state NUT-FREE on the label. Plus they are “sprouted” seeds, so they are considered especially healthy to eat. Besides all that, these just taste great. The family is hooked. Please note that these seeds are not cheap; we paid $9 for a big bag at my local Fruitful Yield, a natural foods chain. However, they are an economical choice if you use them to create your own trail mix. I love prepared nut-free trail mix but it is $$$$!! (Seeds are not a nut, but please ask your doctor if your child can have seeds. Some kids with nut allergies are allergic to multiple foods.) www.goraw.com for more info. Nut and peanut-free, gluten-free, vegan.



Soy Wonder Soy Butter. I’m normally not a big fan of soy butter and have tried multiple brands looking for one I like – and then I tried this stuff. I love the crunchy version. This is perfect for cookies, nut-free granola bars (see my recipe) and of course, sandwiches. I generally prefer SunButter sunflower seed butter for just about anything, but Soy Wonder is a great choice for baking because you have no worries about the green color you sometimes get when using sunflower seed butter (due to the photosynthesis of sunflower seeds.) I found Soy Wonder at Publix in Florida; you can also get it at some Walmart stores and order it online from Amazon. It's peanut/tree nut-free, wheat-free, dairy-free and gluten-free.



Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Morsels. – Regular size. I spotted these babies at Super Target a few days ago. Hooray! First ELF made the mini chips, then the chunks – both are good and nut-free. But the regular sized chips? Imagine the possibilities. These add a nice dark chocolate flavor to your baked goods, or add them to your nut-free trail mix with the seeds above. Nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free.




Nutphree's Cupcakes. If you are in the Chicago area, you can now find these fabulous peanut-free/tree nut-free cupcakes at Mariano's grocery stores. Look in the bakery where they have a specialty section of prepacked Nutphree's goodies. Visit the Nutphree's web site for more info. Nutphree's is a longtime advertiser on my site and I've used their products on numerous occasions.

Going back to school with a life-threatening peanut/tree nut allergy isn’t only about the food and the gear you need. Please see my posts below for even more discussion about navigating nut allergies at school. And all the best to you and your family this year!!