Friday, July 27, 2012

Food Allergies and School: Resources and Links for a New School Year

My daughter, age 5, on her first day of kindergarten. She is now 12! Time flies....
For many of us, a new school year begins in August. Lots of you may be sending your child to a new school this year, or to school for the first time. Or maybe you are sending your child to a full day of school that includes a lunch period, when they haven't had that before.

No doubt about it. When dealing with food allergies, school can be stressful. We begin a new school this year, too, and of course there are always unknowns. However, I've learned a few things along the way that have helped our family. The links below provide my own blog posts and some great articles from others on how to deal with school and food allergies.

Before I give you the list of links, I think it's important to realize that your worry never completely goes away, but good preparation is key to success.

Just as you help your school to understand what is necessary to protect your child's health and you have a formal written plan (like an Individual Health Plan (IHP) or a 504), be sure you are working with your child so that they understand how to become their own best advocates.

Whether it is learning to refuse foods that haven't received your approval or simply making sure they wash or wipe their hands before eating, even little kids can learn about their allergies and help manage them  (though little ones need a lot of help from the adults, of course). My daughter's kindergarten teacher used to tell me that my daughter always questioned any foods -- even those that might have been OK previously. Your kids can learn to do this, too, and I encourage you to practice  the "when in doubt, do without" rule.

I will have more about school in future posts. For now, these links should be timely and helpful as you enjoy the rest of your summer and prepare for school.

 Nut-Free Mom's back to school posts:
Back to school with food allergies (includes several article links and a Real Simple magazine article link with my back-to-school advice)


Food Allergy Emergency Action Plan with a link to a PDF

Information on 504 Plans (a 504 Plan is a legal document outlining care for your child while at school):

504 Plan for Food Allergies by Dr. Robert Wood, author of "Food Allergies for Dummies"

The Food Allergy Initiative's page on 504 Plans

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Food Allergy News: Nut-Free Bakery Celebrating Christmas in July!

There was a LOT of buzz about nut-free bakeries and where to find them on my Nut-Free Mom Facebook page last week, so I'm very excited to share an exciting new promotion by one of my favorite peanut- and tree nut-free (egg-free and dairy-free) bakeries that ships across the U.S. (They also have a storefront in Los Ojos, California.)

Sweet Alexis bakery is celebrating "Christmas in July" by offering delicious and festive Christmas nut allergy-friendly cookies at a discounted rate of $19.95 per dozen (down from the usual price of $24.00/dozen).  This savings is available through e-mail reservation only, not available by ordering directly from the website. So you can reserve your Christmas cookies now at a reduced rate and Sweet Alexis will contact you the first week of December to get shipping information and payment info.

I love this idea from the awesome Michele Fellowes, owner of Sweet Alexis, because let's face it: when the holidays roll around, you're going to be very busy and in need of allergy-friendly sweets. Get it done now, and then you won't have to ask yourself later: what the heck am I bringing to that holiday party? You'll also save yourself some late night baking, panicked grocery shopping and stress. Works for me!

Here's how you can reserve your holiday cookies: Send an e-mail to and let them know how many 12-packs you would like to reserve and give them a reliable e-mail address where you can be reached. Then, sit back and wait to be contacted in December regarding shipping and payment. If you have any other questions about this promotion, please contact Sweet Alexis directly at The offer is good until the end of the month.

Best of all, these cookies are fresh, preservative-free, beautifully decorated and delicious. You won't miss the "missing" ingredients of nuts, eggs, or dairy.

Thanks so much to Sweet Alexis for this promotion and Merry Christmas in July everybody!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Nut-Free Ice Cream Recipes, including Blue Moon!

It's hot, and your kids want ice cream or some other frozen treat. Sound familiar? However, with peanut allergies and treat nut allergies in your life, finding "safe" ice cream isn't always easy.

The solution for many of us: make our own ice cream! It isn't as difficult as it sounds, especially with the easy-to-use and reasonably-priced electric ice cream makers available at any stores that sell kitchen gear.

Besides food allergy safety, there are so many side benefits to making your own ice cream. You choose all of the ingredients and can tailor most recipes to suit your tastes or your family's allergy needs. Most ice cream recipes call for simple, wholesome ingredients so your homemade ice cream will be tasty and healthier. If you want to add some allergy-friendly candies to your ice cream, try Surf Sweets, Divvies or Vermont Nut Free Chocolate "Skippers" (M&M - like candies).


I highly recommend an electric ice cream maker. My Cuisinart ice cream maker (retails about $50--it was a birthday gift years ago) churns the ice cream in about 20 minutes (with additional time in the freezer to get the right consistency). A blender comes in handy, too, for purees, etc.

Don't feel like ice cream or you can't have dairy? You can also make dairy-free sorbets, granitas and even dairy-free ice cream  in an electric ice cream maker or use a metal pan to make a granita. Use your imagination and have fun -- and make sure your kids lend a hand. In fact, it's a great summer project for bored kids.

I've included three recipes. Get ready for ice cream heaven!

Nut-Free, Egg-Free Vanilla Ice Cream

Break out the ice cream machine for this great basic vanilla ice cream recipe! Also known as "Philadelphia" ice cream, this traditional recipe does not contain eggs. Because of this, this ice cream tends to stay a little bit "soft serve" but it is delicious.

1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp pure vanilla extract (McCormick brand is what I usually use--Nielsen Massey is also great.)
4 cups heavy cream or heavy creamy mixed with half-and-half for a lighter flavor
3/4 cup white sugar, preferably superfine
Pinch salt

If using a vanilla bean, split in half and scrape out the seeds. (Keep the pod to make vanilla sugar, basically a vanilla bean placed inside a closed container of sugar for about a week. Wonderful in everything from cakes and cookies to coffee drinks.)

Combine all ingredients and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. Serve immediately or freeze about 2 hours for a firmer consistency. For optimum flavor, allow to soften slightly in the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.

Dairy-Free, Nut-Free Lemon Italian Ice (Granita)

1 cup sugar (use superfine if possible)
2 cups water
4 large lemons

1. In 2-quart saucepan combine sugar and water; heat to boiling over high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to medium and cook 5 minutes. Set saucepan in bowl of ice water to cool.

2. Meanwhile, from lemons grate 2 teaspoons peel and squeeze 3/4 cup juice.

2. Stir lemon peel and juice into sugar syrup; pour into 9-inch square metal baking pan. Cover, freeze for 2 hours and then scrape to break up the ice crystals. Freeze again at least 3 hours or overnight. To serve, let soften slightly and use a metal spoon to scoop up the ice shards. Transfer scoops of "ice" to dessert dishes and enjoy!

You can vary this recipe--substitute your favorite summer fruits, such as watermelon. Puree about 1 cup of the fruit and use it in place of the lemon. Or make an adult version of granita using instant espresso powder instead of fruit juice. Delicious.
Nut-Free Blue Moon Ice Cream

Blue Moon ice cream is a Midwestern favorite and its basic components are a vanilla ice cream base, blue food coloring and mini marshmallows (the "moons"). Usually, some type of nut extract is added, so I came up with the idea of using orange extract instead. It gives the ice cream a hint of a "Dreamsicle" flavor. If your kids don't like orange, use vanilla instead but be sure to try the orange at least once. It's my youngest daughter's favorite!

The addition of cream cheese may seem odd but the cream cheese adds amazing consistency and creaminess without being too tangy. Cream cheese ice cream is the basis for another of my favorite holiday ice creams: Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Ice Cream.


1 8 oz. package of cream cheese (pref. full fat), softened
1 cup whole milk
1 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp orange extract (I use McCormick's brand for both)
1/2 cup mini marshmallows (or more if you like more) I use Kraft brand.
Several drops of regular blue or "neon blue" food coloring (it should be about the color of a robin's egg, but go "bluer" if you like) Again, I use McCormick brand.


Combine cream cheese, milk, sugar and salt in blender until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, add extracts and chill until very cold.

Place mixture in electric ice cream maker. About 10 minutes into churning, add the marshmallows. Churn an additional 10-15 minutes or according to manufacturer's directions. Transfer to an airtight container and place in freezer to harden (about 2 hours; could be more). Before serving, let soften for at least 5 minutes.

Note: For any brands mentioned above, please consider your own allergy needs and check with companies if you have any questions.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Recent Food Allergy Study Finds That Caregivers Are Exposing Allergic Kids to Allergens, Despite Warnings

Parents of kids with food allergies know that it's tough to protect kids from reactions sometimes, even with full knowledge of the allergy. Mistakes happen: labels are mismarked or misread, previously "safe" foods change manufacturing practices, foods unknown to be allergenic are fed to kids. A recent study in the journal Pediatrics shows that this type of accidental ingestion accounts for 87% of allergic reactions. This is reason enough to reinforce a responsible, cautious approach to life-threatening food allergies. But wait, there's more.

This recent study shows another disturbing trend: some caregivers may be giving known food allergens to kids intentionally.

"Non-accidental exposures resulted in 13% of reactions. It's not clear why caregivers would purposely give a child a known allergen, maybe "to see if (the child) has outgrown an allergy, or how allergic he is," says lead author David Fleischer, a pediatric allergist at National Jewish Health in Denver. "  -- USA Today

Because an allergic reaction is unpredictable and can lead rapidly to a life-threatening situation, this type of  "do it yourself" allergy testing can land you in the ER -- or worse. This is why it's so important to keep in communication with your doctors about new tests or any questions you might have. Please don't try this at home.

I remember hearing a pediatric allergist speak at a recent FAAN conference about "trying out" his son's egg allergy at home -- something he strongly discouraged conference-goers from doing. He fed his allergic son some egg and soon found himself in a life-threatening emergency that he greatly regretted. The moral of this story: it doesn't matter who you are. If you give allergen to an allergic individual, you are risking that person's life and health.

Regarding accidental ingestion, the original Pediatrics study found that, most of the time, it was not parents causing accidental ingestion, but other caregivers.

Why are caregivers making these types of mistakes (besides being human, of course)? I can only guess, but I have a few theories. For one thing, the general public doesn't fully understand the dangers of food allergies. You have to be clear, vocal and willing to advocate for your child.

Please, whatever you do, don't fall into the "I don't want to be that mom (or dad)" trap because it's only going to leave your child more vulnerable in the long run. Repeat after me: "It's OK to tell people how severe my child's allergies are, that they have to be careful and that I have to show them how to do this." Repeat to yourself daily, hourly, whatever you need to do. Telling people about your child's severe medical condition isn't overbearing, it's necessary.  Of course, your approach matters. Be calm, matter-of-fact and kind to the person you need to help you and most of the time, you will be effective. Nothing working for you despite your best efforts? Then you have to re-evaluate this person as a caregiver.

Another possible reason why caregivers are exposing kids to allergens? It can be inconvenient to find safe food alternatives or activities and everybody is crunched for time these days. My approach has always been to help educate others and to make it easy for them to help you create the safe environment you need for kids. Partnership is my mantra and it works. In fact, much of my e-book is devoted to coaching you on how to educate and work with others with regard to your child's nut allergy. It is one of the most important things we will do to manage food allergies.

If you ever feel that someone is not taking you seriously, don't leave your child with that person. This is one of the first things that my doctor told me and I still think it's some of the best advice I've ever received. Do what you can to educate your circle, but follow your parental gut instincts. You have them for a reason, right?

Rather than being disheartened by this study, I've found new reasons to believe that a cautious and communicative approach to food allergies works. One new resource for helping others stay on top of allergies/emergency procedures is a new downloadable document created by the doctors at AllergyHome in conjunction with the Kids with Food Allergies Foundation. Here is the link. Thanks to both of these organizations for this resource!

What kinds of problems have you experienced as you try to help others learn about good food allergy management? What solutions have you found?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Food Allergy Awareness Gets a Boost from American Girl with Lunch Kits for American Girl Dolls!

Parents of kids who don't play with dolls-- please bear with me for a minute. This is news I simply have to share!

My daughters have been big American Girl ®fans nearly their entire lives and we've visited the AG Cafe in Chicago several times -- given advance notice, they've always been great with nut allergies. So imagine how thrilled I was to find food allergy awareness is now on the menu with regard to the American Girl accessory line for dolls. Check out this all new kit above!

 For those of you visiting an American Girl store this summer, this makes a wonderful treat for a doll-lover with food allergies. (Of course you can also order online. See link below.) Called the "Allergy-Free Lunch," the accessory kit pictured above contains cute doll-sized items that show what a "safe" lunch may look like. You get:

 - A pretend berry smoothie, container of vegetables and two sandwich skewers
 - A medical bracelet and allergy stickers to keep her safe while she snacks
- A faux allergy shot, just in case
- A fabric lunch bag to hold it all

Price: $28.
Late last year, American Girl® introduced a school lunch for dolls that had food allergy-awareness stickers and a healthy meal guide. I included that product in the gift guide I wrote for Allergic Living magazine this past winter; maybe you saw it. That one is adorable too; check it out. It's called "School Lunch Set for Dolls."
This kit has:

- A pretend croissant sandwich, raisin box, and container of applesauce
- A sheet of allergy stickers your girl can use to help her doll stay safe while she snacks
 - Healthy lunch tips, plus a sturdy lunch bag with a zippered compartment to hold it all

  Price: $28

I love both of these accessory kits and kudos to American Girl for making these available for their customers who deal with allergies each day.

What I love about the newer "Allergy-Free Lunch" (the first item pictured) is the doll-sized epinephrine shot and medical ID bracelet. This is a great way to demystify allergies for a young child and help them accept what can be a scary part of their lives -- that is, the possibility of needing a shot. You can even use this to demo how to use an epinephrine auto-injector on your child's doll (but of course, explain to your little one that it isn't the real thing.)

It may be only doll accessories, but to me this speaks volumes in how far allergy awareness has come. I couldn't have imagined anything like this 8 years ago when my daughter was first diagnosed. I remember my daughter asking me about something like this back then and I even e-mailed the company about it. Maybe it worked! I'm sure many of you had the same thought and may have gotten in touch with the company about offering these types of items.

When my daughter got Molly's (1940s American Girl®) lunch box for Christmas one year, it had a peanut butter sandwich. She called it a SunButter sandwich and that's how she referred to it. But to have something specific for kids with food allergies--that's something special, and I thank American Girl for their food allergy awareness. Could a "Girl of the Year" doll with a food allergy be far behind?
Note: No endorsement of this site by any third parties is intended or implied; this is my personal view of these products.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Food Allergy News: It's Too Hot to Bake, So Check out a Nut-Free Bakery Sale!

Our friends at Sweet Alexis nut-free, egg-free, dairy-free bakery wanted me to share some very special savings/news with you all! They've got a 20% off sale right now that you won't want to miss.

If you haven't tried Sweet Alexis, now is a great time to indulge with these great savings. Going to grandma's house? Camp? A hotel? Sweet Alexis will ship directly to your vacation destination. That way, no packing required. So convenient! Anyway, it's too hot to bake. Let them do it for you.

My family loves all of the goodies from Sweet Alexis bakery, and we don't have to avoid dairy or eggs, just nuts. I'm here to assure you that you definitely don't miss the dairy or eggs!The zucchini bread is a huge favorite and the cookies are all absolutely delicious, fresh-tasting and best of all, NUT-FREE (and egg-free, dairy-free). No calling customer service lines or straining your eyes reading labels to see if the cookies are unsafe. They are completely peanut and tree nut-free AND yummy.

Here is the sale info:

"Now through July 8th save 20% on all on line orders, including the gift packs which include a variety of treats including our "fantabulous" nut free cookies.

Use promo code: july2012

The Sweet Alexis Bakery and all of our products are not only 100% dairy free, egg free, tree nut and peanut free, but we NEVER add preservatives or fillers."

Everyone who tries Sweet Alexis goodies becomes a fan. Seriously good stuff! Look for another Sweet Alexis giveaway on this blog very soon. For more info on this bakery, visit their web site.