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My daughter started pre-school in 2011 when she was 3.  I wanted to give her a chance at pre-school, but I knew we would have to deal with “the elephant in the room” and make sure our school knew how to handle food allergies safely.  Just like all food allergy moms, I took the challenge straight on and did what I thought was best for my child.  And yes, she got through pre-school safely, and all the way up to grade 4 this year.  But because there's been so much trial and error, it wasn’t without a whole lot of stress on my part.  Honestly, a lot of the first few years of school with food allergies were grasping at straws, trying to figure out EXACTLY what needs to be done and HOW to convey information to the teachers.  I knew WHAT I wanted, but had no idea how to make it happen. 

Which meant I focused on the wrong things a lot.

I wasted many opportunities to educate our teachers, OR I educated when the time wasn’t right.  Each time HOPING that something would stick.  And each year, once I’d finally feel like we might have sorted things out, the year would end and I’d be back to square one with a new teacher.  

This may sound familiar to those who already have kids in school or daycare.

The first 5 years were rough, but they were filled with experiences that I learned from and used to make things better.  Looking back now, there are a few clear mistakes that I made that would have made life easier from the start.

Mistake #1 I Felt Overly Secure Because Our School(s) Had A Peanut & Nut Aware Policy.

Knowing our school has a peanut and nut aware policy has been a tremendous source of comfort for me.  Especially in the younger grades.  And even though it does offer some safety for kids with peanut & nut allergies (especially at the younger ages), I didn’t realize that these policies also have faults.

After several years of being in a school with a peanut and tree nut aware policy, I know that as much as the school tries to keep nuts out, there are always nuts there.  From PB & J sandwiches to Nutella snacks, my kids have seen them around at recess and in the cafeteria.  Unfortunately, unless the school is hyper-vigilant, this is the reality.  My kids tell me about this every once and awhile and we report it to our (awesome) principal.  At first, I thought they were rare events, but after happening several times, I started to realize that this was the reality and a constant battle.

Just like us, teachers also take comfort in the nut aware policy.  This is great, BUT for them, it often means that all they have to do is ask for “no nuts” when they’re planning a class celebration.  Except foods that are made in a home with allergens without knowledge of cross-contact and how to avoid it, are "may contain" and not safe for food allergy kids.  Which means there are 1-2 kids per classroom that aren't able to partake in the special food celebrations with their classmates and end up isolated and “left out".

Recently there was a study done examining whether peanut & nut free policies were effective.  There’s a lot to be considered, but in general,  the study showed that epinephrine use did NOT decrease when peanut and nut free policies were in place.  Even though I think there are few good reasons for this, it shows that we can’t solely depend on these policies to keep our peanut & nut allergic kids safe. 

And of course nut and peanut policies do nothing for our friends with other life-threatening allergies.

How you can avoid this
  • If your school has an allergy aware policy (or any allergy policy), don’t assume it works.  Find out how it’s enforced and whether the culture of your school causes compliance from other parents or resentment.
  • Create a solid plan with your teacher and school that discusses inclusiveness, staff & peer education and it’s importance.  
Mistake #2 I Trusted That Every Teacher Knew What They Needed to Keep A Food Allergy Kid Safe.

Wow, was I wrong about this one.  

We’ve had some awesome teachers who fully understand food allergies.  But I would say that 5 years out of 7 have not been this way.  Even the teachers that understood food allergies, didn’t really think too much about inclusiveness.  And I can say for sure that I’ve needed to teach every teacher at least one or two important things.  And don’t get me wrong.  If you don’t live with it, you CAN’T be expected to know everything.  Even teachers that live with it themselves may not know HOW to effectively deal with it in the classroom.  

This mistake plagued me for the first few years.  Instead of going over everything with every teacher, I usually focused on discussing things that the previous year's teacher struggled with.  This would usually start out ok only to find out a month or two later that I missed discussing something really important. 

These days, I still give teachers the benefit of the doubt, but now I assume that the teacher wants to help my daughter and assume they're doing their best.  I DON’T assume, however, that they know how to keep my food allergy kiddo safe and I spend time ensuring they understand fully.

How you can avoid this.
  • Assume the best of your teacher.  This will get you much further during your discussions and if difficulties arise.
  • Figure out precisely what your teacher knows about the food allergy basics like cross-contact, emergency plan, epinephrine use and safe foods.  
  • Fill in the blanks for them without overwhelming them with information.  I.e.  a binder filled with resources is too much!  It may get thumbed through or 1 or 2 pages read at best, but it will likely get shelved.  Overwhelm is real for all of us, especially an overworked teacher.
Mistake #3 Being completely clear about what I wanted for my daughter at school but having NO IDEA HOW to make It happen.

The biggest goals I have for my daughter at school is to avoid an anaphylactic reaction; to make sure my teachers know what to do if there is an anaphylactic reaction; and to keep her included.  

Sound familiar?  

I think its safe to say this is what every food allergy mama wants. But over 7 years I’ve learned that going from what I want, to it actually happening is really different.  For example, think about someone in your life that you can’t wait to hear from.  This would be someone you classify as “your peeps”.  Think about why you want to spend time with them.  How can you use these characteristics in your relationship with your teacher? 

I’ve learned it takes a lot more than just demanding a list of “wants” from my teacher because that’s what will keep my child safe.  If people don’t really understand WHY it’s important or HOW it affects them, they may not know to make it a priority, even if YOU know it’s super important.

How you can avoid this
  • Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can figure this all out on your own.  There’s no harm in using what's worked for others to be successful.  Why struggle for 6 or 7 years when you could be on the path to a more safe and inclusive classroom right in the beginning?

Although I made many mistakes along the way (these are just 3 of them), I’ve learned from these mistakes and used these lessons to improve my school allergy strategy every year.  I deeply believe that a good school allergy plan and a strong STRATEGY to create & implement one is super important.  Talking to your teacher and school about food allergies is A LOT easier when you have a strategy that’s more than a list of demands or requirements. 

To help you, I’ve created a list that will help you start your school allergy plan.  Download it to start your path to a more safe and inclusive classroom TODAY.

Download The School Solutions Guide
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Love is in the air! 

Who else is gearing up for Valentine's Day?  As we’re getting ready for the celebration of love, we might be thinking about how this celebration affects us food allergy families.  For example,  does anybody wonder:

1. Whether eating chocolate filled with our child’s allergen will cause an anaphylactic reaction if we kiss them on the cheek after?  

OR

2. If we have a great date with hubby and accidentally drip a bit of that allergenic dessert on our sleeve and then hug our food allergy kiddo after, will they have anaphylaxis?

Just to be clear, we’re talking about a contact reaction here, where none of the allergens actually get into our child's eyes, nose or mouth and the allergen stays on their skin.

Contact Reaction Risks

If you’re new to food allergies or you’ve been at this awhile, contact reactions are something that can get easily confused and stressful.  If you’ve been checking out allergy Facebook groups, you might have seen comments like this:

“My son is contact reactive to peanuts” 

OR

“My daughter reacts to milk on contact”.

When reading these statements it’s easy to think that kids will have anaphylaxis when they touch their allergen.  We may even begin to think that this could happen to OUR child if they touch their allergen.  But I want to put your minds at ease.  In reality, it’s VERY rare to have a systemic (anaphylactic) reaction due to touching an allergen. 

What Happens If My Child Touches An Allergen?

Even though touching an allergen doesn’t usually cause anaphylaxis, a localized reaction can happen.  Which means hives and itchiness in a small area at the site where the allergen touched the skin (usually an exposed area like arms or legs where clothing doesn’t cover).  But the important thing is that if the skin is intact, it should do the job it was made for and keep the allergen out of the system.  

But wait, you say; hives and itchiness are a symptom of anaphylaxis.  And you’re right.  If ANY allergic reaction happens (contact or otherwise), we need to WATCH carefully to see if the hives spread past a small area on the body to an area that wouldn’t have touched any allergens OR if there are other signs of anaphylaxis.  So if hives are showing up at all, we need to be vigilant and careful.  But there’s a good chance that localized hives (verses hives spread over a large area of the body), will just be a contact reaction.

The Importance of Washing Hands

Now, if that allergen is on hands and our kiddos don’t wash their hands before they rub their eyes, nose, mouth or the food they’re eating, it’s possible to get it into their system and THEN cause anaphylaxis.  Which is why it’s so important to teach our kids to wash their hands often AND not to touch their face during the day.  

So there you have it.  If I know us food allergy moms, we’ll be super careful no matter what, but I’m hoping that you’ll at least feel less stressed now that you know how to keep your child safe this Valentine's Day.  

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During a past meeting with my daughter’s school about food allergies, the principal commented that parents sometimes don’t tell the school that their kids have food allergies. I was a bit surprised to hear this and wasn’t quite sure what to think of it. 

Until now. 

Recently I read that in one US school study 55% of epinephrine auto-injectors supplied for general use were administered to kids who were NOT previously identified as being at risk for anaphylaxis.  Similar numbers were shown in an Australian study too. Of course, there could be a couple of reasons this happened: one is that an allergy JUST developed, and another is that the parents didn’t tell the school about the allergy.  Even if we conservatively assume half of these were new allergies, that’s a lot of families that didn’t talk to their school about their child’s food allergies.  

Given this number, I thought it might be a good idea to explain why talking to our school and creating a school food allergy plan is so important EACH & EVERY year.

Reasons To Create A School Allergy Plan

1. Peanut & nut aware schools don’t necessarily cover us:

If you’re a mom of a peanut or nut-allergic kiddo, you might be thinking that it’s not important to tell your school about your child’s allergy because your school has a peanut and/or nut aware policy.  But how effective is the policy?  Further investigation needs to be done, but a  recent study showed that peanut and nut aware schools did NOT decrease the number of epinephrine shots required in a year compared to schools without these policies.  I'm not saying we should get rid of peanut and nut aware policies because there's lots of good that come from them, but it's a bit of a wake-up call. 

2. Reduce the chance of anaphylaxis at school

Ok mamas, are you ready? Sixteen - 18% of kids with food allergies experience reactions at school.  I find this number scary.  This stat alone gives me reason enough to talk to our teacher and principal about food allergies.  The BEST way a teacher can help our kids is if they KNOW there’s a problem.  And telling the teacher and school is only the FIRST step.  We then need to educate and WORK WITH them to come up with a plan that will work for everyone.

3. Save precious time in the event of an anaphylactic reaction

As shown by the stat in the first paragraph, in many cases where epinephrine was used at school, the school had no idea there was even a food allergy.  Imagine the confusion and possible time wasted trying to figure out what’s going on.  The faster epinephrine is administered in the case of anaphylaxis, the better.  Let’s not put our kids, teachers and schools into a compromised position right off the bat.  Let’s help the schools so they can help our kids.

4. Inform and educate about food allergies. 

A survey done in the 2014/15 year showed that 18% of schools recorded an anaphylactic reaction that year.  I know the LAST thing any teacher wants is for one of their kids to have an anaphylactic reaction on their watch.  Even in the MOST allergy aware schools, there are still many misconceptions about food allergies.  One of the biggest is being able to RECOGNIZE an anaphylactic reaction.  For example, many people don’t know that fainting or a sudden drop in blood pressure is an instant sign of anaphylaxis;  or that anaphylaxis can happen without hives appearing; or that anaphylaxis does not always mean difficulty breathing.  Taking the time to educate the teachers about these symptoms could save your child’s life AND it gives the teacher confidence in an anaphylactic event.

5. Prepares our kids for the difficult teen years

Teens who are not confident with their allergy may “hide” the allergy from their friends because they’re embarrassed by it and they don’t want to be different.  Because of this, they might be put into dangerous situations;  kissing someone who’s eaten their allergen; eating foods with "may contain" warnings, not carrying their epinephrine, or not teaching their friends what to do if they have a reaction. By creating a plan with our school while our kids are young, we can include ways to encourage peer knowledge of the allergy AND teach our food allergy kids how to take responsibility so this isn’t new when they get to the teen years. 

6. It begins the process of independence in a safe environment

We all know that kids need to learn independence.  The fear of an anaphylactic reaction at school makes this process much harder.  In fact, food allergy kids often don’t become independent from their parents as fast as non-food allergy kids.  By creating an allergy plan with our school, and including our kids in that plan with their own responsibilities, we’re allowing our kids to gain confidence and learn how to protect themselves in an environment that is still protected enough for the stage they’re at.

7. Decreases our stress (and our LO's too)

Letting our babies go out that door into the big world by themselves is HARD.  For me, adding the worry of an anaphylactic reaction while I’m not there brings me to my knees.  Creating a solid plan to keep my child safe and being confident my teacher & school will follow it is priceless.

Although schools are slowly increasing their food allergy awareness, it’s still mainly up to us parents to improve awareness and management of food allergies for our kids.  And we can do it: one teacher, one principal, one school at a time.

Starting Your Plan

Now that you have 7 reasons to create a school allergy plan, I wanted to share a free cheat sheet to help you with research for your plan. Click HERE to get the School Solutions Lowdown for school solution ideas that you can discuss with your school. 

Get The School Solutions Lowdown HERE
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Ok, so I honestly haven't heard of the Brotherhood of the World Blogger of the World until now, but I do have to say that I'm really flattered to be nominated!  I was nominated by a fellow food allergy mom and foodie, Kathleen from AllergyBites.

I was lucky enough to virtually meet Kathleen last summer when she was putting the AllergyBites card together (check it out if you haven't already).  I'm lucky enough to be one of the first businesses to be on the card along with a variety of other great allergy entrepreneurs.    Since meeting Kathleen, I've been able to get to know her better via email and Facebook messages.  She's a great person and has a talent that serves the allergy community well!  I'm honored that she chose me as one of her nominees.  

The Rules

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and post a link to his/her blog.

2. List the rules of the award and post a picture of the award.

3. Answer the questions from your nominator.

4. Nominate other bloggers and be sure to let them know.

5. Write a list of questions for your nominees to answer.

The Questions Kathleen Asked Me:

1. What's the #1 way your life has changed since the food allergy diagnosis?

Honestly, there have been so many adjustments.  Some were quick and happened right after diagnosis (learning about cross-contact, label reading etc) and some only showed up later (starting school with food allergies).  After 11 years of living with various food allergies, we've seen a lot of changes and have learned to deal with many of them successfully.

2. If you're dealing with multiple food allergies, which one is the most challenging to live with and why.

We have had severe milk, egg, peanut, and tree nut allergies and now also have a gluten intolerance.  Each allergy has its own difficulties and it's really hard to say one is harder than the others.  Every allergy is challenging, especially right after diagnosis which is why I offer help for those who are newly diagnosed.  Then, once kids get to daycare/school age, there are a whole new set of challenges.  One thing I love about my job is helping people get over those "big" obstacles in life so those times don't need to be more challenging than they have to be.

3. What types of accommodation does a restaurant need to offer you/your family in order for you to feel safe eating there?

The entire staff need to be educated in food allergy safety from the front of house staff to the kitchen staff.  They need to be able to explain how they keep allergens and non-allergens separate.  If they can't answer these questions on the phone or when we arrive, we won't stay to eat.

4. If there was one thing you could ask friend and families to understand about life with food allergies, what would it be?

I would love for people to be open to learning about food allergies and the nuances.  For example, cross-contact and how it affects being able to eat food made in a home that has allergens in it.  If there are no precautions taken during cooking and the allergen is present in the home, there is a chance of cross-contact which is dangerous for people with food allergies.  But if people are willing to learn and ask questions, these things can be overcome.  It just takes a willing attitude :)

5. What inspiring person/book/organization has made life with food allergies a little bit easier for you?

In the early days of our first diagnosis, about 11 years ago, I remember pouring over Allergic Living Magazines.  They were fairly new then, but they continue to provide excellent material for those living with food allergies and I'm thankful we had that resource then and still have it now.

My Nominees:

1. Jennifer of First Step Nutrition

2. Lisa of Drink-Play-Love

3. Jody of Jody Robbins Travels With Baggage 

My Questions:

1. You might not have a child with a severe food allergy, but we all have our own stories and how they affect our lives.  What one difficulty have you had to deal with and overcome as a mom?

2. You've all had so many rich parenting experiences.  What's been one defining moment in your lives that has changed the way you parent? 

3. What inspiring book or resource has made life easier for you as a mom?

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Ever since pre-school I’ve been meeting with teachers and schools to talk about how to safely manage my daughter's food allergies at school.  In the beginning, I had no idea there were so many ways that food allergies impact school.  Of course, there are recess snacks and lunches kids bring, but depending on the classroom, there’s also food used in the class curriculum, birthday treats, bake sales, fall fairs, celebration days, field trips and more.  So as time went on, I not only realized how MUCH food is a part of a school, I began to realize HOW important those food allergy meetings were.  

 What Is a School Allergy Plan?

Over the years, I've become more structured and knowledgable about HOW I present food allergies to our teachers and WHAT our plan entails.  I figured out that to cover all the bases, we needed to go over the daily school routines and find all the ways that food impacts those routines and how to either create new routines or find ways to make the same routines safe.  And this is what a School Allergy Plan is: a DETAILED plan created with your teacher (and school) that keeps food allergic kids safe at school.  A similar plan can be created for any childcare provider, daycare, pre-school/junior kindergarten, and junior/senior high too.

 

Who Should Have a School Allergy Plan?

In short, any child who has a prescription for epinephrine should have a food allergy plan with their school or daycare. 

I know some of you aren’t sure how severe your child’s allergy is because even though you have a prescription for epinephrine, your child has never had more than a few hives when they eat their allergen.  If this is the case, you need to know: food allergy reactions are NOT consistent, and you can’t base future reactions on past reactions.  Having mild reactions can be misleading because the body can react severely at any time and you never know when or if it will happen. So, if your child has a prescription for epinephrine (or EpiPen), it means your child has the possibility of having an anaphylactic or severe reaction; and the BEST way to stop anaphylaxis is to completely avoid the allergens and traces of the allergens.  Which means you’ll want to make sure you have a School Allergy Plan.

 Benefits of a School Allergy Plan

So what does a School Food Allergy Plan Do?  First of all, it decreases the chance that your child will encounter their allergen(s).  If an allergen is encountered anyway and anaphylaxis occurs, a School Allergy Plan will improve the chances of the best-case scenario for your child.  There are lots of other benefits too:

1. Increases teacher & school awareness.  No matter how allergy aware your school might be, there’s ALWAYs something we can teach our teacher.  There are so many misunderstandings and misinformation about food allergies that working with each of our teachers to create a School Allergy Plan on a one-to-one basis WILL teach them something and increase their awareness.  That something might allow your child to feel more included in the classroom or even save their life.

2. Prepares our young kids to make better decisions during the difficult teen years.  Teens who are not confident with their allergy may “hide” the allergy from their friends because they’re embarrassed by it and they don’t want to be different.  Because of this, they might be put into dangerous situations;  kissing someone who’s eaten their allergen; not carrying their epinephrine, or not teaching their friends what to look for or do if they have a reaction. By creating a plan with our school while our kids are young, we can include ways to encourage peer knowledge of the allergy AND teach our food allergy kids how to take responsibility so this isn’t new when they get to the teen years. 

3. It begins the process of independence in a safe environment.  We all know that kids need to learn independence.  The fear of an anaphylactic reaction at school makes this process much harder.  In fact, food allergy kids often don’t become independent from their parents as fast as non-food allergy kids.  By creating an allergy plan with our school, and including our kids in that plan with their own responsibilities, we’re allowing our kids to gain confidence and learn how to protect themselves in an environment that is still protected enough for the stage they’re at.

4. Decreases the stress of the food allergy parent & child.  Letting our babies go out that door into the big world by themselves is HARD.  For me, adding the worry of an anaphylactic reaction while I’m not there brings me to my knees.  Creating a solid plan to keep my child safe and being confident my teacher & school will follow it is priceless.

“Eighteen percent of schools recorded an anaphylactic event in 2014/15 school year.”

5. Increases the teacher’s food allergy confidence.  A survey done in the 2014/15 year showed that 18% of schools recorded an anaphylactic reaction that year.  I know the LAST thing any teacher wants is for one of their kids to have an anaphylactic reaction on their watch.  Creating a clear plan for how to avoid allergens, how to recognize the symptoms of anaphylaxis and how to use the EpiPen will give the teacher confidence to know what to do in an anaphylactic emergency.

 What Should a School Allergy Plan Cover?

As I mentioned above, food plays a big part of the school which means a plan can be quite detailed.  In general, it should cover; management of the allergen(s) and how to avoid them in the daily school routines & processes.  Staff & classroom training would also be discussed.  I always make sure that the teacher knows the symptoms to watch for and how to use the EpiPen too.

Want to know more details about creating a School Allergy Plan?  Find out where to start by getting your FREE School Solutions Lowdown HERE

What about you?  What is keeping you from creating a School Allergy Plan with your school?

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Its a cold and dreary January day here in Calgary.  This is the perfect day for a comforting, warm, healthy and delicious pasta bake.  It's this kind of recipe I go-to this time of year.  This is our first year with a gluten intolerance in the family so I haven't been making as many pasta dishes lately.  But the kids have been begging for pasta so I thought I better get to it.  And I have to say, this recipe doesn't disappoint.  The kids LOVED it! 

Healthy Additions

You'll notice I used cooked white beans in the recipe.  I usually cook a big batch of beans on the stove and then break them up into individual portions and freeze them so they're ready for recipes like this.  Pre-making the beans allows me to add the benefit of fibre and lots of other goodies while decreasing the "day of" cooking time.

I like to add beans whenever I can, but I know not every allergy family can eat legumes.  If this is the case for you, feel free to substitute the beans with pureed cauliflower to add that healthful punch us moms are looking for (or omit all together).  You'll also find other allergy-friendly options in brackets beside recipe ingredients.

Another healthy addition is spinach which is always a good idea, in my opinion (if you don't have an allergy of course)!

What's your favourite allergy-friendly, healthy comfort food on a cold day? Share in the comments below.

If you make this dish, let me know! Take a picture and post on Instagram and tag @friendlypantry.  Looking forward to seeing your creation!

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Many Christmas traditions involve food.  You know, building and decorating gingerbread houses, opening chocolate candy from the advent calendar, putting milk and cookies out for Santa.  I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but the food focus can be REALLY hard when you’ve got a child with food allergies.  So what happens if we don’t want to focus on food-based traditions?  Or maybe we just want something a little less intensive than Elf On A Shelf?  Well, I’ve got you covered!  I’ve scoured the internet for some fun, meaningful food allergy friendly holiday traditions & activity ideas and included a few of our own traditions as well.  Enjoy!

1. Gift wrapping party.  You can do this as a family or with friends. Find several colours & styles of gift wrap, bows, and ribbons so little minds can be as creative as possible.  If the kids are still too young to wrap, get them to draw and create cards to go on each of the gifts.  If you decide to invite friends to the party, have them bring interesting wrap and ribbons to share instead of food.  If you decide to serve food, keep it simple by serving one or two easy, safe snacks and one signature, safe drink.

2. Christmas light viewing.  Christmas lights are magical for any age (especially the littles).  In our family, this has become a slightly “botched” tradition.  It seems that (almost) every year we’ve tried to look at Christmas lights, we’ve been derailed.  Honestly, now it’s become a funny story and a memory we share every year:  “Remember when we tried to see the Holiday Train but when we tried to avoid traffic we got so lost that we missed it?”  Or most recently, "Remember when we went to look at Christmas lights but we went the day before they got turned on?"  Thank goodness for funny family stories!

3. Skating or tobogganing.  Getting active is a perfect way to boost moods and bond together.  Find your nearest outdoor rink or hill and go for it.  Don’t worry if you haven’t done it in years, your kids will admire you for trying.

4. Christmas ornament making/giving.  This can be done a few ways: 

  • If you’re a crafty type, you might want to choose an ornament that the family makes together every year.  OR,
  • Buy an ornament for each child that relates to them personally (like a hobby or something important in their lives, or a trip you all took that year).  After a few years, you’ll have a tree filled with memories and heirlooms. OR,
  • Have each child draw a picture or write a little about themselves on a small piece of paper (doesn’t matter if it's just scribbled).  Insert each paper into a clear Christmas ornament ball.  Each year, look at the previous year’s creation.  Again, the tree will be filled with precious memories!

5. Kindness Advent Calendar.  Skip the food.  There are many kindness advent calendars available now.  What a great way to spread holiday cheer every day and teach your kids about loving one another and others too.  Pinterest has lots of ideas or you can purchase them online.

6. Twelve days of Christmas books.  Wrap 12 classic Christmas books.  Starting 12 days before Christmas, unwrap a book each night and read it with your child/kids.  

I wish I would have started this with our family earlier; but even though we don’t do 12 nights, we do have one or two favourites we read every year.  There’s one book in particular which brings back memories in our family because I cry EVERY time we read it (can I help it if I'm soft-hearted??).  It’s a bit of a long story so we all take turns reading a page.  When it's my turn, my family just watches for the tear(s) to roll down my cheek or the cracks in my voice! 

7. Get matching family PJs. Don’t forget to take a funny pic together every year by the Christmas tree!  The creativity of the picture is where you get the “activity” part of this tradition. We do a version of this every Christmas Eve in our "Sunday best" beside the tree before church.

8. Raclette.  Ok, this is food related, but it’s become such a favourite in our house and it’s allergy friendly so I had to share.  First of all, what is a raclette?  It’s a large grill/broiler that you put in the centre of the table and everybody cooks their own food on it.  The cool thing is that you can easily make the meal fit your family’s allergies.  For example, when we started this tradition, we only had tree nut and peanut allergies.  We made thinly sliced & seasoned tenderloin beef, peppers, onions, mushrooms, asparagus, bread and a variety of cheeses.  For dessert, we would grill fruits.  So yummy!  Now that we have a gluten intolerance in addition to food allergies, I’ll be baking a special bread and buying safe crackers to use as a base.  If you have a dairy allergy, skip the cheese or use your favourite meltable replacement.  My youngest was 6 when we started this tradition and she was able to cook with a little help.  If you have younger kids, you can let them choose WHAT to put on the grill and then an adult can cook it for them.  Keep in mind a raclette meal is a lengthy process so make sure to leave plenty of time!

How about you?  What food allergy friendly traditions does your family enjoy?  Share in the comments below.

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Our extended family isn’t going to be able to spend Christmas together so we decided to spend a weekend together AWAY in a hotel before Christmas.  We’re going to Kananaskis Lodge which is in the mountains and about an hour and a half from where we live.  It’s been YEARS since we’ve been there and they’ve recently done a reno, so our whole family is really excited.  But before we get too crazy, we need to pack.  And as we all know, packing for a food allergy is a lot more daunting than just throwing in a swimsuit and change of clothes.  So to get me going I thought I’d write everything down and share it with you!  *This blog contains affiliate links which means if you decide to purchase an item using these links, the company will share a small portion of the revenue with me AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU.  This helps keep the blog going.

Before you start packing:

Call ahead and find one restaurant at or near your location that “gets” food allergies and cross-contact.  I talked with the Food Manager at the hotel and the answers she gave me seemed to pass.  Because of this, we’ll be relying on the restaurants at the lodge for most of our meals, and I won’t be packing full meals.  I wrote a blog about how to plan full meals for a weekend trip which you can find here. We also have an alternate plan (see #10 below) just in case the restaurant is not as safe as it seems.

What To Pack For Food Allergy Kids

1. Epinephrine (EpiPens or whatever your Doctor prescribed).  I like to bring 3-4 on a weekend trip.  It’s possible to use more than one in the event of a reaction, and I like to have extra just in case of misfire or loss.  I keep them in groups of two in separate bags in case one group gets lost.  Make sure to check the expiry dates, and bring your emergency plan too!

2. Epipen carrier.  It’s winter so I usually keep the EpiPen in my inside winter jacket pocket (or my daughter wears it under her winter jacket).  It needs to stay between 15-30 degrees so I find keeping it close to the body works well.  When we're not outside, I'll have an EpiPen in my purse and my daughter will have one in her kid's purse or carrier. 

 

If it was summer, I’d recommend a cooler or Frio case to keep your EpiPens cool. 

 

 

3. Hand wipes. These are a given when it comes to travelling.  Not only do they keep your child safe from allergens, but all those bugs going around too!

4. Asthma meds.  We once went all the way to Palm Springs and forgot the Asthma meds.  We found out quickly that you have to see a Doctor in the US to get a new prescription, which was a BIG hassle.  Thank goodness we had friends who came a day later that graciously brought my daughter's inhalers.  

5. Eczema lotions and cremes.  I know my kiddo isn’t the only allergy kid with eczema.  Having the cremes will decrease the eczema itchiness and allow a better sleep (for them AND you), so I don’t leave home without them.

6. Other medications.  This includes pain relievers, antihistamines, anti-nausea etc.  I sometimes focus so much on what my FA kid needs that I forget the basics for my non-food allergy kiddo.  Mom-guilt aside, this once cost us huge. My non-food allergy kiddo suffers from motion sickness. So much so that she has a prescription med (Gravol won’t touch it).  Let's just say the plane ride and the whole first day of our summer vacay we spent a lot more time in the hotel room than we thought we would!

7. Breakfast foods.  My kids usually get up really early, and they’re usually STARVING.  So I like to bring some easy, safe, healthy breakfasts items like bananas, apples, oranges, granola bars or muffins.  If we have a fridge, I like to bring little yogurts too.  This will tide the kids and us over until everyone gets organized enough for actual breakfast or brunch.  Not only that, but I’m hoping these foods might allow us to decrease costs by removing one restaurant meal from the budget.

8. Healthy safe snack.  Whole fruit is easiest.  I also like to make a simple, safe trail mix (pumpkin or sunflower seeds, safe cereal, raisins or craisins) for re-fuel in between all the skating, tobogganing and swimming. 

9. Safe dessert(s).  Kids meals almost ALWAYS come with a dessert.  But, they’re ALMOST NEVER safe for my daughter.  So either nobody orders dessert and they all feel sorry for themselves OR I bring a dessert for my daughter that she can enjoy at the same time.  Don’t get me wrong, there are many times when the kids don’t order dessert; but because it’s our Christmas celebration, I think it’s nice to be able to have a dessert together. 

10. Car/Travel Snacks.  We only have an hour and a half to drive for this trip so we won’t need much of a snack.  But those of you with younger kids might want to pack something safe that will keep your LO’s busy.  If we were flying we would definitely bring something since plane snacks are usually not safe and it’s safer having your own food in the air.  Don't forget to think about the way home!

11. Backup meal.  I have a safe, dry “just add water” type of meal that I’ll bring in case the restaurant gives us a bad feeling.  I like to travel with at least one backup meal that we can safely feed our girl when were all starving hungry.  This allows us to fill up even if the restaurant lets us down and then find other safe food items at a grocery store or other restaurant.  Don't forget a set of plastic cutlery.

And that’s what I’m bringing specific to food allergies on our trip to the mountains.  If you want to know EVERYTHING I’m packing for my kids, get one of these full, itemized checklists you can use the next time you go on a trip with your food allergy kiddo: 

Get The List For Kids 0-4 Years Old Here

Get The List For Kids 5+ Here

What about you? Share your must-haves for travelling with food allergies in the comments below.

PS. If your child has several allergies, you may want to look into bringing an allergy card.  These are great to give restaurants to help them make sure they get your allergies right.  We do this on longer trips, especially if we’re in a country that doesn’t speak English.

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It’s that time of year!  Time to subtly hint to your hubby about what you want for Christmas.  Or maybe not? I was recently reading a marriage blog that said we shouldn’t be subtle (or expect) our hubbies to know what we want.  We need to be honest and tell them exactly how we feel (in a loving way), and take out all those unfair “read my mind” expectations.  And I have to say I agree.  Which means if you’re a Food Allergy Mom that cooks and bakes as much as I do, this post comes at the perfect time.  It’s full of baking tools that will make your life easier and you can forward it to your hubby or anybody else who needs to buy a present for you. 

Other than preserving your marital bliss, I also wrote this post to share some of the things that make my life easier when I’m baking.  Great kitchen tools are soooo important to make mundane kitchen tasks easier, quicker and give a better end product. So here goes….

*Please note, there are affiliate links in this post.  This means if you or someone you know use these links to purchase these items, I'll get a small part of the revenue, AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU (this helps keep the blog going, yay!)

Easy Food Allergy Baking Tools

1. Kitchen Aid Mixer.  This has to be my number one tool.  I’ve had this baby since our wedding (over 16 years ago), and this thing has not let me down!  I love how it will cream, whip, stir and blend all while I’m doing something else (i.e. kitchen clean up). I only wish I had the new "flex edge beater" shown below.

2. Cookie Scoop.  Look, this may seem frivolous, but, WOW.  I love how I can make cookies that are uniform in shape and cook evenly.  The large one is great for muffins.  Makes WAY less of a mess, and the product comes out “prettier”.  If you’re making meatballs, the small & medium ones work perfectly. You’ll want a full set of these (small, medium and large).

OXO Good Grips Cookie Scoop, Small, Stainless Steel

OXO 1189660 Good Grips Cookie Scoop, Medium, Stainless Steel

Oxo Good Grips Cookie Scoop, large, 1044082

3. Pre-cut Parchment Paper.  This stuff has changed my life!  All I do is pull out a piece, put it on my baking tray and I get a great non-stick coating, with the added bonus of little to NO clean-up of the pan.  And you can re-use this stuff too.  If you have a milk allergy, think, NO buttering required!

(200 Sheets) Non-Stick square Parchment Paper Baking Sheets Baking Paper Liners (8*12 inches)

4. Oval Measuring Spoons and Cups.  Oval ones are easy to get into the spice jar and any round container.  Need I say more?

Cuisipro Stainless Steel Measuring Spoon Set

Cuisipro Stainless Steel Measuring Cup,Set of 4

5. Microplane Zester.  Citrus zest of any kind is a great way to add flavour to cooking or baking.  A good-quality zester makes the job of getting that beautiful coloured part off the bitter white part so much easier!  If you get one of these, you’ll be zesting into everything you cook or bake (lemon loaf anybody?)

Microplane 40020 Classic Grater/Zester, Black

6. Offset Spatula.  If you can believe it, I used to use a regular butter knife for frosting.  Honestly, I just could not after I tried an offset spatula.  I really like the smaller one because it’s easier to manoeuvre, especially for cookies but the big one would work well if you have a larger cake.

ORBLUE Angled Icing Spatula

7. Whisk.  There is something so satisfying when I’m stirring with a whisk.  It just feels so productive with all those wires working as a harmonic team.  Ok, maybe that seems dramatic, but I think you’ll know what I mean once you try it out!  I like to have 2 sizes here.  One for the bigger bowl items and one for nimbleness.

OXO Good Grips Balloon Whisk

Kuhn Rikon 2300 6-Inch Balloon Wire Whisk, Stainless

8. Fruit Slicer.  This is not only great for those fruit desserts but also to make healthy snacks for the kids.  And now that my kids are getting a bit older, they can handle one themselves so they can cut up their own pears & apples.

9. Breadmaker.  I know allergies often prevent us from having REALLY GOOD bread.  And I LOVE bread.  So I missed it a lot.  It took me awhile to take the plunge on this one because of the price, but I’m SO glad we did.  One bonus: the smell of freshly baked bread wafting into your room as you wake up in the morning.  Yum!

Zojirushi BB-PAC20 Home Bakery Virtuoso Breadmaker

So there you have it!  My favourite baking tools.  Also, check out my other post I did a little while ago  My Favourite Tools For Food Allergy Cooking.  Between the two of these posts, you’ll be decked out!

What about you?  What’s your favourite baking tool?  Share in the comments.

My Easy Food Allergy Baking Tools Which Are Great Gifts For The Food Allergy Baker - YouTube

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I used to think December was busy before we had food allergies in our house.  And then food allergies came along and all I can say is WOW.  With all the checking, explaining, RSVPing, extra cooking, extra baking, it can get to be a bit much!  

As I've settled into the role of Food Allergy Mom, I'm finding there are things that can really help decrease the load that Christmas and the holidays bring.

Seven Ways To Decrease Food Allergy Cooking Stress

1. Meal plan. Start with a good, solid weekly meal plan for December.  Know what you’re going to serve each day of the week, and have a grocery list written out. Then, as events get added, you can pencil in time to cook for those events and add items to the grocery list.  Another tip: make extra of what your child likes to freeze as individual leftovers.  Then when you’re going to an event, take those individual meals out and bring them along.

2. Pre-bake.  Take a November weekend or a couple of evenings to bake 2-3 recipes.  If you can get someone to bake with you (at your house with your ingredients) even better because you can knock out 2 recipes each and end up with 4 different sweets. Make sure they’re ones that freeze well.  These will be your fall-back sweets for those parties where you don’t have time to bake fresh.

3. Find quick & easy recipes that you can buy ingredients for and have on hand.  Think of at least one appetizer, one main and one dessert.  That way if you need to bring something and you run short on time, you have everything in your pantry to make something quick. 

4. Plan for intense cooking times early.  For example; Christmas Eve, Christmas Day & New Year's Eve/Day.  Who will be cooking for these events in your family?  Who do you need to inform about food allergies?  Decide if you’re able to trust those people with cooking, or if you’re not feeling comfortable with their food allergy cooking knowledge, think about what to do instead.  Will you supply safe food? Will you host? If so, go through and map out what you’ll serve NOW.  Pre-make what you can. 

5. Give yourself a break.  Cut corners where you can.  I don’t mean cut corners when it comes to food allergy cooking or safety.  I mean, use simple recipes.  Don’t go all crazy with the details, decor, etc.  KEEP IT SIMPLE.  

How To Decrease Food Allergy Cooking Stress This Holiday - YouTube

6. Re-use menus and cooking ideas in future.  There’s a reason Grandma always served the same thing every Christmas.  She knew what was delicious (and fairly easy to cook) and she re-created that every year.  We can learn from her and do this too.  Reusing what works instils tradition and makes our lives as Food Allergy Moms easier.  What could be better? 

7. Let things go.  If there are things that don’t directly relate to the safety of your child.  Let them go.  This includes family drama and events you just can’t fit in safely.  Do your best, but don’t overdo it.  The holidays are a great time, but can also be a HUGE strain on us Food Allergy Moms.  Learn to let things go when you need to, and don’t feel guilty about it! 

What are your favourite ways to decrease food allergy cooking stress over the holidays?  Share in the comments!

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