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How These Myths About Meal Planning For Food Allergies Were Making My Life Harder

Any mom will tell you that getting healthy dinners on the table is a non-stop challenge.  As a food allergy mama, you not only have this challenge, but you also have major restrictions in food choices to deal with.  For example: 

As much as you love the idea of being free from the daily weight of thinking about food; when you do get a break, all that free time is spent teaching your friends or family HOW to cook safely and going over the ingredients of every dish.  

Meal planning is exhausting, not mention having to “convert” every good recipe you find into something that’s safe for your family.

Even though you long to be able to forget about finding and cooking safe food for a little while (even a weekend would be nice), you have nobody to take over cooking for you.  

The overwhelm with reading labels at the grocery store is real, and you would love to go back to the days when you could throw almost anything into the cart on a whim.

Do you wonder if this cooking situation is something that you have to accept as a food allergy mama?  Are you destined to suffer in silence when it comes to easily and safely feeding your family every. single. day?

If this is something you’ve questioned, why does the idea of using proven systems to decrease the weight of finding & preparing safe food for everyday meals seem like it’s impossible?

Let me guess…..

You don’t mind a little effort, but you have no idea how to successfully systematize your cooking to make it easier.

You know exactly what your family likes and you’re afraid that a system will force you to cook food that will be wasted and the kids will be looking for snacks an hour after dinner.

You want to live a normal life despite food allergies, but you feel like anything to do with food is now complicated and difficult.  You don’t have the time to get through the complications to create a system that decreases your cooking stress.

Busy moms like us don’t have a second to waste on things that don’t serve our families.  We have so many other things we’d rather be doing, but finding and preparing safe food IS NOT AN OPTION, whether we like it or not.  Which makes creating a meal plan so valuable for food allergy mamas like us.

In my experience, there are 5 major myths to blame for food allergy meal plans that DON’T work (and I'm guilty of believing all of them!)

Myth #1 You're afraid to move out of your food choice comfort zone.

It's so easy to fall into the trap of making only what we know our kids will like.  I do it ALL the time.  I mean, who wants to throw out the dinner you spent all that time and effort making with only grouchy kids that ask for snacks within the hour to show for it? 

Food allergies restrict our diets in so many ways, so keeping an open mind to new things allows us to focus on the huge variety of foods you CAN eat so you can create NEW family favourites.  If you don't try something, how will you know?  Not only that, but when you find those new foods your family absolutely loves, you'll have more choice and variety in your flavours and recipe options.  Who doesn't love a bit more creativity in their food choices?

HINT: While creating your meal plan, try a proven, pre-made food allergy recipe book & meal-plan (like THIS ONE) that will not only decrease your stress WHILE you create your system, but will also push you to try new foods that are just waiting for your family to love.

Myth #2 Finding safe food each day is separate and not part of a whole system.

Many food allergy mamas look at their food requirements for the day or week separately from what they need on a WHOLE.  They believe that thinking about “whats for dinner” today or this week is their main concern (and I do this too!) when in reality, it’s only a small part of the strategy or system.  By looking at the “what’s for dinner” question as a unified component of a whole system, we learn to save time and effort for many food allergy struggles, from the daily worry of what to feed our kiddos to preparing for social events and even travel too.  

A food allergy meal plan that really works is made up of 5 key stages: Learn, View, Prepare, Map and Create.  Each stage is important and combines with the other stages to create an easier, less stressful cooking experience.  

In short, a good food allergy meal plan is so much more than planning day by day OR week by week.  It’s many moving parts put together in the right way so it’s efficient and time-saving.

When all these moving parts are combined and aligned properly, you’ll feel prepared, in control and spend less time wondering “whats for dinner”; less time thinking about safe food; and less time in the kitchen.  Isn’t that what all food allergy mamas want?

Myth #3 Creating a meal plan that works for you and your family is a TON of effort and involves taking too much of your precious time.

True, creating a meal plan isn’t simple when your already bogged down with your every day food responsibilities.

But that doesn’t mean that the creative process can’t be a whole lot simpler with a guided map that shows you exactly what to do when (and how).

From showing you how to stock your pantry with the most affordable food allergy replacements to revealing what you can eat with hardly any label reading, a step-by-step map can take something that might be complex and tone it down for busy food allergy mamas.

HINT: Just to name a few, a few of my favourite resources for food allergy information & recipes are: Food Allergy Canada, FARE, A Virtual Vegan, Every Day Allergen Free, and Allergy Girl Eats.

Yes, pulling off a food allergy meal plan requires effort in the beginning… but as a food allergy mama, we know you’re willing to put in that effort for your kiddo.  You just need to know that what you’re doing is efficient so you’re not spinning your wheels in the long run.

Myth #4: I’m fine.  I’ll get product recommendations in my food allergy Facebook groups. 

Product recommendations from other food allergy mamas in the same boat as you are awesome, and they can decrease stress, for sure.  But you still have to string those products together to create a full meal every day, every week and every month, and that’s a big part of the stress.  Not to mention the expense of all those pre-made foods.  A good meal plan will decrease the need to check on the safety of a bunch of new products, decrease food costs, and decrease the label-reading burden. 

HINT: Focus more on finding one or two safe products that will complement your full cooking plan instead of relying on food allergy replacements as the centre of most or all of your meals. This way you can focus less on constantly finding new, safe products. 

Click here to discover how I create Simple Saver meals that are allergy-friendly and don’t depend on recommendations from your Facebook groups.

Myth #5 Food allergy cooking is just harder.  I'll just have to suffer through it.

I speak from experience when I say that food allergy cooking IS harder.  But we don’t have to suffer in silence!   

Many food allergy mamas feel guilty about getting help with creating meal plans because they feel like they "should" know how to do it on their own.  They feel guilty spending money for help even though a good meal plan will actually SAVE them money, time AND stress in the long run.  A good plan will: decrease unused food (saves grocery money), save you from buying expensive allergy replacements, save you time that you can use working on other important household chores, (or just having fun with your family), and save the stress of converting every single recipe you find into something safe for your family.  In short, it allows you to spend MUCH LESS time feeling stressed about safe food and more time doing fun things WITH your family.

So even though food allergy cooking IS more difficult; a good meal plan with a whole framework, proper techniques and solid strategies will save food allergy mamas more time, energy and stress, which means it’s all the more valuable!  So take control of your cooking and make food enjoyable again, despite food allergies.

Keep reading.  

Now that you know the 5 myths of meal plans, I’ve created a detailed, free cheat sheet to help you with your food allergy cooking.

My hope for you is to jump over the food allergy cooking ruts and avoid the stress that food allergy cooking can create for you and instead learn how to create a meal plan system that makes it feel like food allergies don’t exist in your home.

I’ve been a food allergy mama for over 11 years and I’ve been through the label-reading overwhelm, the cooking ruts and the 4 o’clock “what’s for dinner” struggles.  You don’t need to follow the same path!  I’ve made a list of my biggest food allergy cooking mistakes and how to avoid them.   Click here to download the list and learn how to avoid the mistakes I made. 

What about you?  How does food allergy cooking affect your life?  Have any of these meal planning myths tripped you up?

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There’s a question I hear ALL THE TIME:  What should I expect at the first Allergist appointment and what questions should I ask the Allergist? Of course, mamas want to be prepared and have all questions covered before the appointment.  So I thought I would write a post about what I think is most important to ask, and what to expect, now that we’ve been through 5 diagnoses and too many Allergist’s appointments to count.  

If you’re reading this and are not newly diagnosed, this post can help you too since there may be one or two things you may not have thought of.

What Can I Expect At The First Allergist Appointment?

First of all, make sure you’re ready with why you’re seeing the Allergist and the details of what happened.  Be as specific as possible, and a written outline is awesome! Be ready to explain specifically what your kiddo ate (if you’re not sure what caused the reaction, keep and bring ingredient labels from everything that was eaten up to 2 hours before the reaction), the symptoms your child experienced (in our case I took a picture of the hives so the doctor could see), how long the symptoms took to show up, and what treatment was given by medical team (if any).  Depending on the doctor, this appointment can take anywhere from 1-2 hours.

Our doctor’s office always asks us to discontinue use of antihistamines before our appointment.  Double check with the Allergist’s office to see if this is true for your child too.

Be ready for a skin prick test.  But don’t worry, they feel no more painful than a little pinch and they are done very quickly, so no big deal.  Our doctor does them on the forearm, but I’ve heard of them on the back too.  Wear short sleeves to make it easy.  Our nurse called them “popping bubbles” which was really popular with our girls and made it “almost” fun for them.  Bring some small toys or books to distract your child after the test because their skin may be really itchy and they shouldn’t touch the area so the doc can get accurate measurements.

Be ready to explain your child's environmental allergy symptoms and reactions, whether you have a pet, and if your child sleeps with stuffed animals.  These questions will all be part of the medical history.

What Questions Should I Ask The Allergist At Our First Appointment?

1. Ask for an emergency plan.  Not every doctor gives one, but they are so helpful!  You can print one from Food Allergy Canada or FARE and bring it in to have your doctor review and sign.  Use this plan as medical proof of a severe allergy (not a sensitivity or intolerance).  Use it to show your friends, family, and school how severe the allergy is.

2.  If your child had a reaction to a nut, ask about whether you have to avoid all nuts, or just certain ones.  Since nuts are often processed together, you will likely need to find nuts that are not cross contaminated with other nuts, but knowing that you can eat some nuts is helpful, even if you have to be careful about getting “clean” nuts or washing them yourself. 

3. Don’t worry about the numbers.  In my opinion, there is no use in asking about blood work numbers.  Skin and blood tests can give false positives, and everyone’s system is different.  The Allergist may get skin tests and bloodwork done to establish a baseline for your child, but these numbers are not meant to be compared because they are specific to your child.  Also, don’t worry about tracking those numbers or whether they will tell you how severe the allergy is.  If your child has been diagnosed with a food allergy, the reaction could ALWAYS be severe (whether it is every time or not), and past reaction severity DOES NOT determine how severe the reaction will be in future.  So always be ready for the possibility of anaphylaxis with an epinephrine injector.  

4. Ask what anaphylaxis is and how much of the food your child needs to eat to cause anaphylaxis. Some doctors are super busy and in my opinion may not go over this well enough.  They sometimes prescribe an EpiPen (or another epinephrine injector) and forget to explain when to use it and why.  Anaphylaxis is the life-threatening reaction that can happen if someone is allergic to a food.  Food reactions do not always turn into anaphylaxis, but it’s important to know that if a food allergy is present, anaphylaxis is always possible.  Sometimes hearing this from the doctor is a little easier to believe than hearing it after the fact.  So I feel like its important to talk about this with your Allergist.

5. Ask for an epinephrine trainer so you and your family can practice.  Doctor’s offices usually have these to give away.  You can also get them from the provider’s websites, but you usually have to order them.  Keep the trainer to teach babysitters, daycares, friends and others how to use it.  Just make sure to keep them separate from the REAL thing so they don’t get confused in times of an emergency.

6. If you have questions, make sure to ask!!  Bring a list of questions and don’t be afraid to refer to it.  NOW is your time to fully understand what’s going on.  Don’t let your opportunity with the doctor pass you by, so ask, ask and ask some more.

What do you think?  Is there anything else that you would recommend asking the Allergist at the first appointment?  Share in the comments!

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With Father’s Day coming I want to celebrate all those great food allergy dads out there.  I've written this post with my hubby in mind, but every family has different roles and responsibilities.  I think we can all agree that food allergy dads are some of the best in the world and need a little recognition, and a lot of love!  So here goes.

 

Thanks for knowing your stuff about allergies and sometimes being the only one in our world who really GETS the stresses of keeping our kids safe.

 

Thanks for listening and hearing our every thought about finding food substitutions, helping extended families to understand food allergies and everything in between.

 

Thanks for being our rock when we’re off the deep end with worry.  There are times when we overthink and second guess ourselves about whether we should let our food allergy kiddo go to the party or, if that summer camp we researched relentlessly is ACTUALLY allergy aware.  Your level-headed, strong and consistent support brings us back to earth.  We don’t always agree, but having someone who understands means the world to us. 

 

Thanks for the lightheartedness you bring to our families and homes.  We want our homes to be safe and enjoyable, but it can sometimes be a struggle with the stresses of life and food allergies.  You bring the fun right when we all need it.

 

Thanks for enforcing good allergy habits. Sometimes this means hard decisions like turning around after driving three quarters of the way to a dinner across town because we need to enforce “no epinephrine, no food”. 

Thanks for being our partner when it comes to finding allergy-friendly snacks, gifts and goodies.

 

Thanks for helping to re-read labels and being that extra set of eyes. 

 

Thanks for hugging our food allergy kiddos when they don’t feel included and for hearing their struggles and comforting them as only you can.

 

Thanks for hugging our NON-food allergy kiddos when they feel worried or left out and hearing their struggles and comforting them as only you can.

 

Thanks for hugging us food allergy moms when we’re in the thick of worry or loneliness, or after we’ve seen that reaction that will change us forever.  

 

Thanks for being you.  No two food allergy dads are the same and maybe one or two of these seemed out of your zone.  No matter what your contribution to your family is or what your circumstances are; your kids need you (food allergies or not).  Thank you for stepping up and being one of the most integral and under celebrated parts of our lives.

 

How does your food allergy dad support your family?  Celebrate him and his contributions in the comments!  

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This post is sponsored by Handled With Care - all opinions are my own.

I was lucky enough to be sent a surprise box filled with allergy-friendly goodies from Handled With Care this week.  Handled With Care is a new, allergy-curated online shop that's perfect for food allergy mamas.  

This shop allows you to buy allergy-friendly snacks and products, even if you don't live near a big city centre.  Until the end of Sept. (during the launch period), shipping is only $5 for orders of $50 or more and free with orders of $75 or more.

To find out WHAT was in my box, and what you can expect to see in the Handled With Care shop, check out the Facebook Live video HERE.

The cool thing is that Handled With Care will be giving 3% of their sales to Walk For Andrea which is a charity that supports food allergy research at the Sick Kids Hospital and food allergy awareness. 

Make sure to check out this new shop soon!

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If you're a newly diagnosed food allergy family, you may not realize how much food allergies can affect your relationships both with your spouse and your friends & family.  If you've been at this for awhile, you likely know there are stresses, but you may not know exactly what they are or how to deal with them. As an 11-year food allergy family, I can say our relationship has definitely been tested by food allergies, but I feel like a little knowledge and planning, would have made a world of difference.  Which is why I wanted to write a post that might help take the strain off and give other food allergy families a "heads up".  

I am proud to say that the post was accepted as a guest blog over at Everyday Allergen Free!  So please head over there to read and share with other food allergy families.

Click to Read "Five Ways To Support Your Marriage After Your Child Has Been Diagnosed With Food Allergies"

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So I’ve been a food allergy mama for over 11 years, and although I know my way around food allergy cooking, I’ve often been in cooking ruts.  Last year, our food allergy situation changed because we added a gluten intolerance to our list of severe peanut and tree nut allergies (see my post about gluten here).  By experiencing a new food restriction after several years, I realized there are a few similar feelings that new food allergy mamas and mamas who’ve done this for awhile feel.  Let me know if you’ve ever experienced any of these feelings:

  • We feel overwhelmed with the time it takes to read labels in the grocery store, and we wish we could just run in and out instead of having to read every label, every time.
  • Our old recipe standbys we used to make are no longer safe, OR we’re just sick of what we always make.  We need something new and different that’s safe, easy, healthy and that our kids will love.
  • We feel a weight on our shoulders because we need to safely feed our family, but we either don’t know where to start OR we don’t know how to get out of our rut.  That weight doesn’t leave us because our family needs to be fed EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. 

Because I’m a food allergy mom & business owner, I find that I’m busier than ever.  I don’t have the time to go to the grocery store several times a week.  I also sometimes feel “stuck” and overwhelmed trying to think of new things to cook for dinner on a daily basis.  I’m not one of those lucky girls who has a hubby that cooks.  Nope.  He has many, many good qualities, but cooking anything other than bbq’d hamburgers or steak are not something that he excels at.  So cooking is my duty in our house.

My Food Allergy Cooking Solution

One of the cool parts of my job is that I get to find solutions to problems that I’m having and then SHARE them with you, because I know that a lot of the things I’m going through, you’re also going through.  In my business as a Food Allergy Consultant, I’ve been forced to create some pretty demanding meal plans for people who were facing several food allergies in their household.  Researching and creating recipes for these people got me thinking how I could help others (and myself) with quality meal plans.  It got me looking for alternatives that not only I could use, but my clients who were dealing with even more allergies could use.  As I was thinking about these meal plans, it became important that I followed a few objectives:

  1. Meals that can feed the WHOLE family so you don’t have to cook several meals to accommodate different allergies.
  2. A month of weeknight dinners, because one month should be a good amount of time to get out of a rut or find your bearings.  If not, then we can re-cycle through the month again!  
  3. To create a break from cooking - I included a whole week where every meal in that week makes a double batch so it can be frozen for busy days when there isn’t time to cook (or you don’t want to). 
  4. Delicious recipes that are top 10 (Canada) and top 8 (US) allergen-free or can be made that way using easy substitutions.
  5. Recipes that are or can be made gluten-free. 
  6. Recipes using simple ingredients so less time spent label reading.
  7. Recipes using regular ingredients so you don’t have to go to the expensive speciality store.
  8. Not all allergens are removed from all of the recipes because I not everybody wants to remove every allergen; BUT, if there is a top allergen in the recipes, there will be an easy & delicious replacement suggested.
Recipe Tester/Launch Group Open For Limited Time

With these objectives in mind, I set to work.  Creating and refining the recipes has not been an overnight process.  I started about a year ago with 1-4 months of dedicated time.  What I come up with has been tested & approved by my family, clients and friends.  Now I’m ready to get the next level of testers - you!  

For a limited time, I'm taking applications for my recipe tester/launch group.  If you want to test and be a member of the launch team, please click the button to apply.  If you're a food allergy support group member/leader you may be eligible to get a free copy to give away to your group too!  APPLY BEFORE JUNE 10, 2018!

Apply HERE

This meal plan has been awesome for me and I know it will be helpful for many other food allergy families too.  

Share in the comments: are you new to food allergy cooking or have you ever been in a food allergy cooking rut?  How does it make you feel?

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Teachers, we know what you’re thinking.  It’s dread.  The dread of having someone with a food allergy in your class.  We know it because we've felt it ourselves.  It was the same feeling we had when our kids were diagnosed with food allergies.  

We know you have other struggles.  You have 20-30 loved ones in your class and each of them come with their own special circumstances and personality.  Not only is each child special with unique needs; but you have the challenge of engaging each of them in sometimes uninteresting curriculum.  As if that isn’t hard enough, there are the parents of these kids too.  Each parent comes with their own set of demands and pressures which I’m sure border on outrageous at times.

We want you to know that food allergy moms & dads see this.  We know things aren’t easy and we understand.  You have a lot on your plate as an overworked and generous soul.  We want you to know that as food allergy parents we hate adding to your daily grind.  We want to be as helpful and understanding as possible, and we hope we can work together as a team.

So I’m writing this post to encourage you, teacher.  I want to replace the dread with confidence and a sense that with a little preparation, food allergies in your classroom will be no worse than playground duty on a cloudy day.

Why Teachers Need To Know About Food Allergies

First of all, why is it important to know how to handle food allergies?  There are a few stats I want to share with you, so bear with me here. 

Anaphylaxis is the life-threatening reaction that can happen when someone who’s allergic eats a food (or traces of a food) that they are allergic to.  Do you know where anaphylaxis is MOST LIKELY to occur at school?  IN THE CLASSROOMIn fact here’s a list of places it’s most likely: 

  • Almost 47% of anaphylactic reactions take place in the classroom
  • Almost 20% of anaphylactic reactions take place in the cafeteria
  • Almost 10% of anaphylactic reactions take place on the playground

This means that likely YOU will be the adult in charge if a life-threatening, anaphylactic reaction happens.  Now, I know you might be thinking; how many schools even experience anaphylaxis on a yearly basis?  According to one survey, the answer to that is 17%.  I don’t know about you, but if I knew that 17 out of every 100 schools experience anaphylaxis every year, and those reactions are happening in a place where I was the supervising adult, I would want to make sure I knew my stuff.  And there is an EASY way to do that.  The Allergy Aware Course (www.allergyaware.ca)* is FREE and designed for educators and only takes 30 minutes to complete.  Pretty great, right? 

Now let's get to those tips...

SEven Tips To Make Your Classroom Food Allergy-Friendly

There are also some other pretty simple things that will make your classroom safer and more food allergy-friendly.

1. Take the Allergy Aware Course described above.

Like I said, it only takes 30 minutes, but it will teach you SO much.  It will give you the confidence you need to handle a food allergy emergency, if you had to.

2. Meet with the food allergy parents at the beginning of each year (by this I mean in the spring or summer if possible). 

Read this blog post about WHY this is important.  Listen and ask LOTS of questions.  Asking questions will food allergy parents a sense of confidence because it helps them see this is important to you.  Don’t forget to tell them you took the Allergy Aware Course (and show them the certificate).  Taking the time to discuss these things now & increasing their confidence in your food allergy knowledge will cut down on the number of worried emails you’ll get throughout the year. 

2. Realize that small amounts of an allergen (so small that you can’t see) is enough to create a reaction. 

Because of this, food from bulk bins and homes that have the allergen aren’t safe for food allergy kids.  

3. Include the food allergy kiddo in all classrooms activities. 

This is as simple as focusing less on food-based celebrations and curriculum and more on experience-based celebrations & curriculum.  It’s as easy as finding ways for kids to bond that don’t involve food.  Ideas include creative games (both indoors and out), blowing bubbles, dance party, games, races, extra recess etc.  Check out this download where you’ll find 50 ways to replace the cupcakes.  A couple extra benefits for you: improved learning & less sugar-hyped kids!

 4. Know that the way you communicate to NON-food allergy parents and students makes a big difference. 

For example: don’t apologize for not being able to do something because of food allergies.  This creates resentment in the non-food allergy kids & parents and a lot of guilt for the food allergy kids.  Instead, find common ground for all.  For example, foregoing cupcakes for birthdays is healthier, easier & less expensive and these are positive reasons that all parents can relate to (even if they don’t agree). Replacing the birthday cake tradition with a super fun  & special “experience” for kids will be no problem on the kid front.

5. Ask the food allergy parents for help with anything that relates to food. 

Food allergy parents do not mind at all!  For example, if there’s a curriculum item that you know is coming and you normally use food, talk to the food allergy family.  They might be able to find a safe replacement or suggest other options. 

6. Take the time in class to teach about food allergies. 

Explain why it’s important that kids with food allergies don’t share food or eat something that they’re not sure of.  Explain how they can help to keep the food allergy kiddo safe.  Also, one of the most helpful things for you as a teacher will be to let the kids “play” with an epinephrine training injector.  You can usually get one or two for free trainers on the injector websites (just ask the food allergy family which one they use).  By letting kids see what it’s like, the mystery will be gone and it will stop them from wanting the food allergy kiddo to “show it to them”.  Helping kids understand food allergies will increase understanding, empathy and kindness, which is something we all want, right?  

Dear teacher, we understand that food allergies add another “thing” to your long “to-do” list.  We also know that you care about keeping food allergy kids safe.  So I hope this helps you understand that small steps make BIG progress and it’s not as hard as you think.  Thank you for all you do!

*I have no affiliation with the Allergy Aware Course.  I just think it's a great course; and did I mention it's free?

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I normally write my blog for food allergy moms & families, but in the spirit of food allergy awareness month, I thought I would change my focus, just a little.  In case you didn’t know, I have a business degree and I love everything to do with business.  If you looked at my podcast library you might even decide that I’m a bit of a business geek.  So I love the idea of using my business & food allergy knowledge to explain how focusing on serving the food allergy population can and will help businesses like yours!  

 

Why Food allergies are important to businesses

For this post, I’m focusing on businesses that handle food and/or serve families or kids.  This might include family attractions, playgroups, birthday party locations, pre-schools, summer camps, ice-cream shops, private schools, kids cooking schools, craft/pottery studios, adventure parks, and more. 

If you own a business like this you likely come across food allergies on a regular basis.  Because of this, you might feel a bit pressured and a little fearful about HOW to implement proper food allergy procedures in your business.  I get it.  It’s a lot of responsibility and does take some planning and adjustments.  BUT IT CAN BE DONE!  Not only can it be done, but food allergies NEED to be addressed properly in your business because they're not going away any time soon.  Since you have to handle food allergies properly ANYWAY, you might want to think about how you can actually use them as a competitive advantage and increase your profits while you’re at it.

 

Impact of Food Allergies on Businesses

Two and a half million Canadians are self-reported to have food allergies.  Out of that,  almost 500,000 Canadian kids have food allergies.  That’s almost 8% of the population under 18 years old.  The numbers for the US are similar, but on a larger scale.  So how does this number affect a company who is serving the under 18 age demographic?  Here are a few ways:

Direct Loss of Business

First of all, there’s the DIRECT impact.  This means that if you don’t install confidence in the food allergy moms/decision makers, you will miss out on approx. 8 kids out of every 100 right away.

An example of this happened to us just this week. My hubby’s family has a tradition that they go to a certain restaurant after their first communion, and our niece will be celebrating her first communion in a few weeks.  Because of that, I called the restaurant to check how they handle peanut & tree nut allergies and gluten intolerances.  Although the restaurant acknowledged food allergies and said they could prepare the meal in another location away from other meals that might have peanuts, nuts or gluten, they use ingredients with “may contain statements”.  I learned early on that food with a label that states “may contain” an allergen is not safe.  Unfortunately, when I asked whether we can omit items that “may contain peanuts or nuts”, they said no.  Needless to say, with heavy hearts our family has decided not to go to the celebration because the restaurant does not know how to handle food allergies properly.  For us, it means missing a much-loved family celebration.  For the restaurant, it means 4 heads less that evening (and other evenings); and if we had been the hosts, they would have lost the WHOLE party.

Indirect Loss of Business

Many times, there are multiple kids in a family.  When this is the case, food allergy families will usually base their decisions on keeping the child with food allergies safe.  Which means if you don’t display food allergy knowledge and awareness, you will also lose the family members associated with that food allergy child. 

For example: If you run a kid’s day camp, you will likely lose ALL the kids in that family as customers since parents prefer to use the same company so they’re not having to drive all over town for drop offs and pickups.

To illustrate this point, here are the results of a poll taken recently in the closed group of food allergy moms called Friendly Pantry Food Allergy Community Canada.

So now you’re not only losing the business of the child with food allergies but their siblings as well.  If you happen to cater to WHOLE families, like an adventure park, you’re now losing the business of the WHOLE family (and don’t forget the friends/family that they would likely meet up with at the park).  

Long-term Business Gain:  

If a food allergy family finds a company that serves them well, they will come back; time and time again.  Why?  Because as Richard Kestenbaum, contributor for forbes.com says:

“True loyalty results from an understanding of customer needs, respecting customers, offering products that are relevant and good customer experiences that people enjoy and make them want to come back again"... “The result of loyalty is that customers continue to purchase and recommend a company to their friends."

Not only that, because there is a limited number of companies serving food allergy families well, you have less competition to fight for this market which means less advertising costs.  In fact, you may even gain this market using the same advertising budget you already have.

For example, a well-known Canadian airline recently announced they would be serving nuts in their Plus section.  We’ll call this airline “X”.  The reaction from nut-allergy families included comments like:

“This is super upsetting. We would always book “X” (even if it meant a higher price) because they were always so allergy aware. They will not be our first choice anymore.” 
Krystal Dee
“This is super disappointing. We always went out of our way to fly “X” because they were so allergy friendly and accommodating, even if their flight was more expensive or less convenient.” 
Breffney Kay

These comments show that when a company treats food allergy families well, they will indeed continue to use that company, even if it’s less convenient and more expensive.

Word of Mouth Advertisement

Because people trust their friends and family more than marketing, word of mouth is one of the most profitable, yet elusive types of advertising.  What gets customers to tell their friends about your company?  According to Pamela N. Danziger a contributor at Forbes it means:

“stepping outside your comfort zone and into your customers’ delight zone. It’s where they feel you have done something truly, uniquely, personally special for them.”

I can’t tell you how special food allergy moms & parents feel when they find a company that truly caters to their child’s needs.  By serving food allergy families well, you are doing “something truly, uniquely, personally special for them”  and food allergy families will be the customers that will tell people about it!  For example, when on vacation last summer, I did my research to find allergy-safe bakeries at our destination using some of the many Facebook food allergy support groups.  After hearing other mom's recommendations, we specifically travelled to each recommended bakery during our trip (and went to one more than once)!

As a food allergy mom & consultant myself who likes to travel and explore the safe options available to us, I can tell you there are not a lot of companies who are “delighting” food allergy customers at the moment.  Because of this, you can be one of the first to scoop up this market. 

 How Can Businesses Serve the Food Allergy Market Well?

This may be easier than you think.  Many food allergy parents are looking for a few key things:

  1. Willingness to be transparent when it comes to food, ingredients and processes.  This includes understanding labelling laws and how they affect food allergies & your business.
  2. That staff take food allergies seriously & can answer questions about how food allergies will be handled (in some cases, this can be a manager who is alerted by another staff member and comes to talk to the customer).
  3. There is a knowledge of cross-contact with allergens and how to decrease the chances of it happening in your specific business.
  4. There is a knowledge of the signs of anaphylaxis and what to do if it happens.  This is ESPECIALLY important if you run a business where the parents are not present with their kids like a day camp.

In general, food allergy moms & families just want to feel confident that your business has taken solid steps to keep their kids from ingesting their allergen, and that you’ll know exactly what to do if the allergen IS ingested.  After that, your business needs to communicate this awareness to food allergy families so they can trust you and feel that special experience so they come back again and again. 

The path to food allergy knowledge and using it properly is unique to each business, but I encourage you to work on it NOW before you find you’re the last in your market. 

 

What's the next step to increasing revenue & profits?

If you own or run a business that serves families and kids and want to find out how to serve food allergy families well AND how to improve your business revenue (while keeping costs low), I can help! 

Click HERE to schedule a free 30 min call to discuss!  I’ll help you flush out the numbers to see if and how your business can benefit!

Book your food allergy revenue explorer call  
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Our 2018 trip to Disney World was full of adventure and fun, and of course, we devoured the food!  We made it a plan to try one new snack each day and share our findings (tough job, right?).  If you follow my blog, you know that our family accommodates peanut & tree nut allergies as well as a gluten intolerance.  I wrote a blog about what we found for these restrictions last week.  You can find it HERE.  

Disney Snacks for Peanut Allergy & Tree Nut Allergy

I was also able to do some research for our friends with a peanut allergy and tree nut allergy, and I've shared our findings in my guest post on the Disney Food Blog.  So whether you're planning a trip to Disney World soon, or you just need a little allergy-friendly snack inspiration, check it out HERE.

For our friends with other allergies, I hope to make another trip to Disney soon (when it's less busy), so I can research snack ideas for you too!

Food Allergy Kid's Packing List

Going somewhere soon?  Get your packing list so you don't forget something important!

Get the packing list for kids with food allergies age 0-4 here Get the packing list for kids with food allergies 5+ HERE
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I’m so excited to finally share this post about our spring-break vacation.  We went to Disney World!  I have to say that one week didn’t feel like long enough and if you’re planning a trip to Disney World I would highly recommend spending a little more than a week and at a less busy time than spring break, if you can swing it.  That said, we had a blast!

Before we left, we had to pack for our trip.  I'm so glad I wrote everything down in a blog I wrote a few months ago because it made packing for this trip SO much easier (and the FRIO case I mention in that post made keeping our EpiPen at the right temperature so easy).

If you have only a peanut & tree nut allergy, I did a guest post about snacks we found that were safe for you on Disney Food Blog.  In this post though, I thought I would share with you the safe snacks or treats we found around the parks for my daughter with a peanut & tree nut allergy AND a gluten intolerance. 

Allergy-Friendly Snacks at Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom has a lovely main street filled with nostalgic shops and picturesque buildings.  The food shops include the Main Street Bakery (operated by Starbucks), a Confectionary and Ice Cream Shop.  Unfortunately, none of these seemed to have safe snacks for our allergies.  In fact, we didn’t find any baked goods at any snack stand in any of the parks that were safe for peanut or tree nut allergy except for churros and pretzels.  And unfortunately, neither of these were safe for gluten intolerance.  So what did we find?  Read on!

Lemonade Slushy at Cheshire Cafe

We often find that fancy drinks are the way to go when we’re looking for a safe treat with these allergies and intolerance and this one was so refreshing and cool!  Both of my daughters LOVED slurping this lemonade up!  We found it at the Cheshire Cafe.

Day 2 at the Magic Kingdom we found a Disney classic: Dole Whip from Aloha Isle.  Yes, it’s peanut, tree nut & gluten free, YAY!  My daughter LOVES this stuff, but if you find the pineapple too strong (this is me), there is a vanilla/pineapple swirl version at this location too.

Rootbeer Float at Hollywood Studios

Again, the treat this day was a drink.  Honestly, these cool drinks are so refreshing and well-deserved after all the walking (we walked between 10 - 14.2 km each day!)   This time we found a root beer float with safe soft serve ice cream from Oasis Canteen.

We were actually talking about root beer floats recently so my daughter was really excited to find a safe one at the park.

 Pork Taco at Epcot

Epcot is known for its culinary treasures.  On this day we found a savoury taco snack from Jardin De Fiestas (near the Mexican pavilion).  This stand is one of the outdoor kitchens featured for the annual International Flower and Garden Festival (going on until May 28, 2018).  Given the higher end ingredients like goat cheese and apple relish,  I was a little worried it wouldn’t appeal to a nine-year-old’s taste buds.  But was I wrong.  Both my daughters declared this to be the best taco they had ever had and insisted on having another for her lunch.  That was easy!

Mickey Ice Cream Bar at Animal Kingdom

These little goodies were found everywhere in all the parks.  The classic Mickey Ice Cream Bar.  These are peanut, tree nut and gluten-free and have a thick and creamy chocolate crust surrounding a rich vanilla centre.  Perfect for the hot day we spent at the Animal Kingdom.

Writing this post has been fun because I was able to re-live our week at Disney World.   If you go, you’ll have a great time.  *Just remember to ask for the handy allergy binder at every food station before you order since ingredients can change at any time.

Have you been to Disney World?  What were your favourite allergy-friendly snacks?  

PS: For those friends who have other allergies, I apologize that I wasn’t able to research more snacks specifically for you.  I had full intentions of doing so, but the parks were SO BUSY that I wasn’t able to spend the time looking through the allergy binders for each allergy or wait in line at additional food stands.  I think this means we should go back and do more research soon, no?   Or if you go, let us know what you find in the comments!

Going on a trip to Disney or somewhere else soon?  Make packing WAY easier and don't forget anything important by downloading these packing lists.

Get the food allergy packing list for 0-4 year olds here Get the food allergy packing list for kids 5+ Here
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