Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Winter Travel Tips for Food Allergies

Have epinephrine, will travel? Before you go, be prepared.
I hope you all have had a wonderful holiday season so far! Maybe you're in the midst of traveling right now, or maybe you've got a winter getaway planned. Either way, I thought now was a good time to review some tips for safe travel with food allergies. Travel with food allergies goes much, much more smoothly if you have all your ducks in a row before you leave. Hey, you're packing for the kids anyway, so here's just a few more things to remember. If you're kids are old enough, be sure to include them in the process. It's good practice for them.

The important thing is to be prepared for anything, so with that in mind, here goes:

- Bring extra medication. Asthma meds, epinephrine auto injectors, etc. -- have extra in case one goes missing. Most airlines allow these items through security without but a doctor's note will ensure that you can bring these necessary items with you if you leave the U.S.

- Make sure you've got your doctors' phone numbers and info easily accessible. Program this info into your cell phone to make sure you've got it if there is (hopefully not!) an emergency.

- Bring your food allergy action plan. In the event anything goes wrong, having this doctor-approved plan will help you stay calm and take the right steps in the event of an emergency. FAAN has a link to this action plan that you can download for free. Make sure it's completed by your doctor. (This is a great document for any caregiver, school, etc.)

- Bring a small cooler with a couple of meals (for car travel) or at least one meal in an insulated lunch bag (if necessary) for air travel. Traveling with food allergies is like a box of chocolates--you never know what you're gonna get. Eliminate the need for possibly unsafe food by being prepared with some of your own meals -- and pack some extra items to allow for travel delays. You also won't be forced into feeding your child a restaurant meal from a place you haven't researched. If you aren't sure about the availability of certain foods once you reach your destination, you may want to ship a box of allergy-safe items in advance.

- Stock up on safe snacks. Crackers, allergy-friendly granola or trail mix (Enjoy Life Foods makes both of these free of most top food allergens), cookies from Skeeter Snacks (found at many grocery stores) would be some things to keep on hand. Fresh fruits, raisins and cut up veggies are also good, healthy choices. SunButter in small packets is great if you can have it. Whatever your kids like--if you have some nut-free options on hand it will be hugely appreciated when hunger strikes or if you face the inevitable delays that seem to happen while traveling. A few safe sweet treats on hand are helpful when kids can't have bakery items and other things that pose cross-contact risk.

- Bring a place mat. A washable place mat is a great way to cut down on cross-contact when feeding your child away from home. Or use a paper towel to protect the table.

- Make sure you've got a couple of safe restaurant options at your destination. A quick Internet search and a couple of phone calls will ensure less "dining out drama" on your trip. A great place to start your search: Allergy Eats. I recently used this online restaurant resource for food allergies and it was a huge help in pointing us in the right direction.

- The grocery store is your friend. Eating every meal at a restaurant, fast food or otherwise, isn't only costly, it adds to the food allergy risk. If your room has a refrigerator, the fixings of a sandwich, a quick breakfast or snack will take the pressure off so you can focus on enjoying your trip, not constant restaurant navigation.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Nut-Free Tips for a Stress-Free Christmas with Nut Allergies

You can make these little guys. See the recipe section at the end of this post!

Holiday parties are in full swing now so I know that many of us are wondering how to cope and have fun at the same time.
My best advice: Keep things simple and stick to your food allergy rules about eating no matter what. It’s not always easy but if you are trying to avoid an allergic reaction, this is the best way to roll.

Important:  Never leave home without your epinephrine. If you have an emergency, epinephrine is a lifesaver. Keep it close by your child at all times -- know where it is. Some kids wear it but it should never be further away than arm's reach. Have two epinephrine auto-injectors with you at all times.
For those of us who are new to dealing with nut allergies at the holidays, just remember that no one is born knowing how to deal with a life-threatening food allergy. It’s a learning process, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t figure out everything perfectly right away. You will learn some things this year that will help you next year. You may even find some solutions that end up being your go-to methods. This gets easier, the more you deal with it.
Don’t worry if your approach does not sit well with others at first. You know what’s best, so be confident in your desire to avoid an allergic reaction and trip to the hospital! Be as upbeat as you can, bring foods to share and remember that food isn’t everything. Celebrating does not have to be confined to food.

Holiday Foods that are High-Risk for Peanuts/Tree Nuts 


Meat marinade
Pie and pie crust
Bread pudding
Gravy or sauces, sweet or savory
Turkey stuffing
Salads and salad dressings
Anything mixed: Casserole, stir-fry, sauté

Pannetone (Sweet Italian Chrismtas bread)
Dumplings or stuffed pasta
There are more, of course, so  it makes sense to be armed with safe food for allergic family members when you attend a holiday gathering.

Now here’s a big one, and it’s not very popular sometimes but it’s very important: Please avoid desserts that you did not make. Did you know that 43% of food allergy reactions are caused by dessert foods? No matter how good it looks, no matter how much your kids want it--if you didn't make it,or bring it, don't let them eat it. Desserts are so high-risk that it's just not worth it

It's difficult to have your child stand around and look at yummy-looking treats but a cookie or cake -- no matter how beautifully decorated -- is never worth a trip to the ER and a traumatic allergic reaction that threatens your health and life.

A couple of ideas: if kids are young, plan to entertain the little ones with a craft or game so that the focal point of the evening doesn't become a dessert table. Older kids can help you bake something and take pride in what they've created.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is to bring a dessert. If you go this route, keep it away from any allergenic foods and keep it well-covered until serving time. Serve your allergic family members first to avoid cross-contact.
If you are not a dessert person, bring some Oreos or some other safe store-bought treat for your child. You can always offer a special treat later at home. That was my method when my daughter was younger and it worked. Let them know there is a pot of gold for them at the end of the rainbow later on and bring something extra to tide them over during the party—you won’t regret it! Here’s a link to some supermarket treats safe for nut allergies.

Parties and dinners

Communicate and evaluate. When the party is given by your or your family, you will likely be more assertive about how to collaborate on an allergy-friendly celebration. If you get an invite from someone who is an acquaintance or casual friend, you can’t expect that they will alter the menus. In this case, you might accept but tell your hosts (in a very nice way) that you will bring food for your child and offer to bring something to share with the group. Plus, don't feel pressured to attend every event. Finding a sitter or even skipping a party with too many food pitfalls might be a lot less stressful in the long run.

Offer to provide safe alternatives to holiday favorites. Does someone always want to make pecan pie or peanut butter blossom cookies, or Chex Mix snack with peanuts? See if you can make or bring an alternative. Leave the nuts out of the recipe or use a replacement. You might just introduce a new recipe that will become a new family favorite.

Be careful at the buffet table. Buffets are generally not a good idea for those with severe food allergies. They may involve “pot luck” items brought by several guests (no way to know about the safety of those dishes) and they present a cross-contact risk. Bring your child some safe foods and serve them a plate in the kitchen if you know your family or friends are hosting a buffet.

Bring a backup meal or snacks for your child. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may not feel that a meal or snacks at a party will be safe enough for your child to eat. In fact, this is usually the case for most foods served at any party, simply because we can’t always be sure about the origins of a food.  To save stress and minimize any risk or reaction, bring something safe (and tasty) for your child and serve it to them without a lot of fanfare. If anyone asks, use the situation to increase awareness: "Due to Henry’s severe nut allergy, we have to be very careful with his diet, so we brought some of his favorite foods.”

Peanut-free, Tree Nut-Free Christmas recipes:

From Skeeter Snacks, fun ways to make their cookies look festive for the holidays:

From Food Allergy Mama: Egg-free, dairy-free, nut-free (and can be GF) holiday spice cookies:
From Sugarcrafter: Pecan pie--without the pecans. So popular with NFM readers!
From Just a Taste: Christmas tree cupcakes using ice cream cones for the tree:
From SunButter: Peanut-free blossom cookies:
From The Nut-Free Mom: A roundup of my favorite Christmas treat recipes, including the snowman cupcakes pictured above!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Food Allergy News: Nut-Free Christmas Treats at the Supermarket

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, so I wanted to re-post an article I wrote last year about supermarket-available Christmas candies that are free of peanuts and tree nuts. This is for those of you who haven't seen it already as well as those of you who could use a refresher.

Of course, always do your own checking on any foods you will serve to your child with food allergies. But this post should at least get you pointed in the right direction.

Here's the link:
To this list I would add Andes brand candies (made by Tootsie Corporation--their candy facilities are peanut and tree nut-free, egg-free and gluten-free).
Though not a candy, I would also add Skeeter Snacks and Dr. Lucy's Cookies, two peanut and tree nut-free packaged cookie options with fabulous flavors. You can find Skeeter Snacks in many supermarkets; same goes for Dr. Lucy's Cookies.

Although I am listing supermarket finds for the sake of convenience,  I can't say enough good things about my site sponsors that have online ordering for all of your nut-free treats needs. Check the right sidebar for some terrific companies devoted to bringing you nut-free, food allergy-friendly treats all year long.

What are your nut-free candy supermarket finds?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Food Allergy News: FARE Day Fundraiser, December 14th, on Peanut Free Planet!!!

Just in time for your nut-free holiday treats, it's FARE Day on Peanut Free Planet.

Today you can support the leading food allergy advocacy group, FARE, (the new organization formed by the merger of FAAN (The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network) and FAI (Food Allergy Initiative),  by participating in Peanut Free Planet's FARE fundraising day.

Click this link for more details:

Today, December 14th, 5% of the proceeds from your purchase will support FARE. Plus, everyone who orders today will receive a goody bag with a selection of delicious allergy-friendly items from some of the event's sponsors. Participating companies below!

Peanut Free Planet is a wonderful source of one-stop shopping for nut-free foods. Many of my favorites like Surf Sweets and Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates are found there, too! Check out PFP today and you'll be amazed at what you can find!
Here's how to participate: Simply visit Peanut Free Planet today and order! 5% of your order will be automatically donated to FARE and you'll get your goody bag. So you'll be doing good simply by ordering great nut-free food. 'Tis the season, so head over there now!
Thanks to Peanut Free Planet for hosting this event today and FARE for their continued commitment to food allergy education, advocacy and research! I'm proud to be a media sponsor of FARE Day, along with the following media sources:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Food Allergy Live Chat on The -- Here's a Recap!

If you missed our live chat yesterday on The, you can still benefit from the discussion. Soon, a transcript will be available on The Motherhood site for you to use as a reference, but in the meantime, I encourage you to click the link and read the chat as it happened in real time.

Here's the link you need:[*]t-Understand

We had some great tips, questions and "been there" advice from our panel of hosts and co-hosts, including the always wonderful Lori Sandler of Divvies and Emily McKhann from The Joining us were Kelly Rudnicki of Food Allergy Mama, Kim Lutz of Welcoming Kitchen and Elizabeth Goldenberg of Onespot Allergy. ... blockbuster parenting web site!
Learn "The" philosphy here:

We also had some wonderful questions and suggestions from active participants on the chat and we had many more who were participating as viewers. We hope that this chat provided some help and encouragement for you, especially during the holiday season where food is ever-present and family dynamics are an issue.

If you're looking for some food allergy-friendly gifts, I hope you'll click the links for each person above and visit their web sites and blogs as many of them have written cookbooks or offer great products for those with food allergies.

One of the things we spoke about during our chat yesterday was the need to bring our own food and be willing to host others. If you're looking for prepared foods to serve at your party or event, I hope you will take a look at the right sidebar of this site.

I am so happy to have several site supporters who offer fabulous nut-free (and other "free from") foods and sweet treats to make our lives easier and more tasty: Nutphree's Cupcakes, Skeeter Snacks, Vermont Nut Free Chocolates, Dean's Sweets, Cakes for Occasions, Surf Sweets, Sweet Alexis. Plus, if you're looking for medical ID jewelry that is both safety-conscious and stylish for all ages, Hope Paige Medical IDs is a great site to visit. To visit the web sites of each of these companies, please click their respective images to the right of this post. Scroll  down and explore them all! Each of these companies supports people with nut allergies, so I encourage us all to support them.

My e-book is a user-friendly guide to educating others about nut allergies and right now, it's at a reduced holiday price. This concise guide can help see you through the "nutty" holiday season--I've had readers tell me that they are also using it to help friends and relatives understand life with nut allergies. Check  it out today by clicking here.

Thanks once again to everyone who made yesterday's chat happen! We will have more live chats like this in coming months, so please check back to this site often for updates.

This Friday on The Nut-Free Mom blog: A sweet deal from Peanut Free Planet!

Don't miss this Friday's post, where you will learn about a special offer from Peanut Free Planet...just in time for the holidays! See you then.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Food Allergy and Family: Join Us on "The Motherhood" for a Live Chat!

I am thrilled to announce a new "Navigating Food Allergies Chat" on The Motherhood! What is The Motherhood? It's a blockbuster parenting web site that offers community, interactive opportunity, live chats and up-to-date information from parenting experts on a variety of subjects.

Many of you have attended these chats in the past, hosted by the wonderful Lori Sandler of Divvies, along with a stellar array of hosts and co-hosts.

This series has covered some great food allergy topics and I'm very happy to be part of this latest chat, as it is just in time for the holidays: Navigating Food Allergies: When Family Members Don't Understand

You've asked about navigating family and food allergies and we've listened. This is a big topic that affects anyone dealing with a  life-threatening food allergy. Now is your chance to talk about how to manage family relationships while keeping your kids safe and happy. We'll talk about how we've coped over the years, the difficulties we've encountered and the strategies that have worked for us. And we'll probably share some laughs along the way!

Here is the description of the chat from The Motherhood web site. And a huge "thank you" to The Motherhood for allowing us to explore this very important topic!

Sometimes even the most well-meaning family members don't understand food allergies as well as we would like. When that happens, feelings and actions can truly run the gamut - from patience and humor to hurt and anger. Join hosts Lori Sandler, founder of Divvies, and Jenny Kales, founder of Nut-Free Mom, and their super panel of co-hosts, for a dynamic live discussion about handling situations when family members "simply don't understand."
Date: Tuesday, December 11th
Time: 1 pm EST
Click the link to register today[*]t-Understand

You can even submit a question in advance! If you can't attend, submit your question and then you can read a transcript of the talk at a later date. Links will be provided.

Our panel of co-hosts includes a trio of well-known food allergy advocates and experts. We are so honored that they can join us. Each is the parent of a child with severe food allergies/intolerance:

Elizabeth Goldenberg, Allergy Safety Expert, and founder of Onespot Allergy, an allergy-friendly company

Kim Lutz, Cookbook author and creator of The Welcoming Kitchen web site

Kelly Rudnicki, Cookbook author and founder of the popular blog "Food Allergy Mama"

Please register today! I hope you can join us and I look forward to your questions and comments!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Our Nut-Free Cupcake Winner from Nutphree's in Chicago, Plus a Nut-Free Holiday Cookie Recipe!

We've got a winner!!! Read on....
We've got a winner in the Nut-Free Mom and Nutphree's Cupcakes giveaway! Our winner is Michelle B. from Park Ridge, IL!!!

Congratulations, Michelle! You've got one dozen nut-free cupcakes coming your way with free delivery, courtesy of Nutphree's. This is a $45 value. Woohoo! Michelle B., please send an e-mail to me at with your full name, address and phone number and I'll forward your info to the nice people at Nutphree's Cupcakes.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this giveaway. If you live in the area and didn't win, do yourself a favor and go to Nutphree's storefront bakery in Mount Prospect, IL, to give you and your family the total bakery experience. Many of us have never been able to bring our kids to a bakery. As parents of a child with severe nut allergies, Nutphree's understands and they've got you covered. If you stop by, tell Nutphree's that I said hi!

For those of you who were not eligible for the giveaway, don't worry, we'll have more contests open to all readers very soon.

A BIG "thank you" goes to Nutphree's Cupcakes for sponsoring this giveaway and for being such a great friend of The Nut-Free Mom blog and readers. You guys are the best!!

Nut-Free Holiday Cookie Recipe

It's the holiday season, so it's definitely time to talk about cookies. I've had many recipe requests, so have I got a great recipe for you. Remember those Andes Peppermint Crunch Bits I talked about on Facebook? Recently, I added them to one of my favorite holiday cookie recipes and they were a hit!

Here's what the bag looks like. I found them at my local supermarket in a holiday baking display. Ask your store if you can't find them.

Andes brand baking chips are made by Tootsie Roll corporation so they are egg-free, peanut-free, tree nut-free and gluten-free. Please check the bag for more allergen info.

The following recipe contains egg and butter; if you want a dairy-free, egg-free shortbread recipe that is similar, then click this link for my candy corn shortbread. Instead of adding food coloring and shaping into a candy corn shape, keep the dough plain, roll into a log and press these baking chips into the top of each cookie before baking. Yum. For those of you who can bake with eggs and dairy, read on.

Nut-Free Peppermint Crunch Shortbread Cookies


  • 1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup sugar, scant
  • Yolk of one egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (McCormick or Nielsen-Massey brand)
  • White granulated sugar (for topping)
  • Andes brand Peppermint Crunch baking chips (to taste)

1.        Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and beat until combined. Mix salt with flour and add gradually to butter mixture. Add vanilla. Dough will be stiff.
2.     Roll into small balls, about one teaspoon and place on non-stick cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass, then press in several Andes brand Peppermint Crunch baking chips in a decorative pattern. Sprinkle with white granulated sugar or decorator's sugar, if you like.
3. `Bake 7-9 minutes or until bottoms are very lightly brown. Let cool on cookie sheet and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Nut-Free Mom's Peppermint Crunch Shortbread Cookies.

These would be great to bring to a party, or just to tuck into a lunchbox as a special treat. I hope you enjoy them! What's your favorite thing to bake at the holidays?

*Giveaway winner chosen using

Monday, December 3, 2012

Nut Allergy News: Nutphree's Cupcakes Sponsoring Chicago-Area Cupcake Giveaway!

Chicago readers: You could win a dozen of these delish cupcakes from Nutphree's Bakery.
Chicago-area readers: this one's for you. I have a special giveaway this week, provided by the one and only Nutphree's Cupcakes in Mount Prospect, IL.

This is a wonderful family-owned and operated bakery featuring peanut-free and tree nut-free cupcakes that are beautiful and delicious. Nutphree's Cupcakes storefront recently opened to much excitement in Chicago as they are the only nut-free cupcake bakery in the area that is a dedicated nut-free facility.

To show their appreciation to  Chicago-area Nut-Free Mom readers and to their loyal customers, Nutphree's is offering one dozen cupcakes plus delivery  to one lucky winner. This is a $45 value!!!!The only thing: you've got to live within an approximately 20-25 mile radius of their Mount Prospect bakery in order to be eligible to win.

While my giveaways are normally tailored to all readers, this one is very special because as the only nut-free cupcake bakery in Chicago with a dedicated nut-free facility, Nutphree's really stands out in my city. Don't worry if you aren't eligible for this giveaway--I'll  have more giveaways in the future!

Please note: these cupcakes are nut-free (peanut and tree nut) only.

To enter the random drawing for the Nut-Free Mom and Nutphree's cupcake giveaway, please go to Nutphree's Facebook and Twitter pages and follow and/or "like" them. Then, post a comment on this blog post giving your first name and initial, as well as your location. For example, Kerri P., Park Ridge, IL

What a great way to ring in the holidays--nut-free cupcakes. FREE nut-free cupcakes.

However, if you don't win and you live in the area, be sure to check them out either online or at their storefront.

The winner will be announced this Wednesday right here on the blog! So check back then and see if you've got a dozen cupcakes coming your way.

I will also post the name of the winner on Facebook and Twitter. If the winner does not respond in 48 hours, the prize will go to another random winner. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding!

Nutphree's Mount Prospect storefront. Have you been there?

Good luck to you all and thanks again to Nutphree's and the Walker family for your generosity!