Monday, December 1, 2014

An E-Book for Parents of Food-Allergic Kids

By Kelley Lindberg


If you or your child has just been diagnosed with food allergies, you probably headed straight for the internet to find out how to eat, cook, and live with this new challenge in your life. Fortunately, there is a massive amount of information about food allergies out there.
This new 28-page e-book is a nice intro
to food allergies

Unfortunately, there is so much information it can feel overwhelming, like trying to drink from that proverbial fire-hose.

That’s why it’s always nice to find a resource that distills all that information down into a nice, easy-to-understand overview to get you started.

That’s why I was happy to learn about a new e-book from Kathy Penrod and Mary Ellen Ellis, called An Overview of Food Allergies for Parents in Need of Answers. It’s short (just 28 pages), easy to read, and covers a lot of territory without getting too technical. As an introduction for the newly diagnosed, it hits all the crucial topics, such as what food allergies are, how they’re diagnosed, current and experimental treatments, how to avoid reactions, and tips for living in today’s world with food allergies.

The best part? It’s free!

This e-book would also be a great resource to share with family members, babysitters, or other people in your life who need to understand just how serious food allergies are and how to keep you or your food-allergic child safe. (It might be just the thing to finally convince that one family member to stop serving her nut-filled casserole at every family party. I’m just sayin’.)

The e-book is in .pdf format, so you can read it on your computer or tablet using a pdf-reader like Adobe Acrobat, or you can load it onto an e-reader (like Kindle or Nook). To download your free e-book, go to www.MyKidsFoodAllergies.com, then enter your first name and email address. They’ll send you a confirmation email (which you click on to verify you’re a real human), then they’ll send you another email with a link to the e-book, which will automatically download to your “downloads” folder. It’s fast, easy, and free, so check it out! 


Monday, November 17, 2014

Allergy-Free Thanksgiving Recipes, 2014

By Kelley Lindberg


Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching, and if you have food allergies in your family, you’re
Yes, it's possible to have an allergy-safe Thanksgiving dinner!
probably already wondering how to make the traditional meal safer. Every year I look for new recipes that are free from the Top 8 allergens, or can be made that way with simple substitutions. So here are some recipes I’ve found this year. (And by the way, when I’m listing all the things I’m thankful for, the internet will be on that list. I can’t imagine how much harder dealing with allergies would be without the internet as a source of support, education, and recipes!) I hope this recipe round-up helps simplify your holiday cooking!

Looking for more allergy-safe Thanksgiving recipes? Check out my earlier posts: Allergy-Free Thanksgiving Recipes 2013 and Allergy-Free Thanksgiving Recipes 2012.

Turkey:
  • First on the menu? The turkey, of course. Turkeys, especially the self-basting kinds, are injected with solutions that make them tender. However, those solutions can harbor allergens like milk, wheat, soy, or corn. So check labels before you buy. Read the very helpful article at about.com called “Before You Buy a Thanksgiving Turkey” for some great advice.

Stuffing:
  • Traditional Sage Stuffing: For all you traditionalists, this version uses olive oil instead of butter and skips the eggs. Use your favorite type of bread (sandwich, French, or gluten-free bread would all work just fine). 
  • Cornbread Stuffing: I come from a long line of Texans, so I love cornbread stuffing. This recipe mixes cornbread and white or whole wheat bread, but you can substitute your favorite gluten-free bread for the white/whole wheat. (My grandmother always used crumbled white biscuits—heaven!) If you need a good cornbread recipe to use in your cornbread stuffing, try this one for Albers® Corn Bread, which I’ve been using for years. However, skip the sugar (unless you like sweet cornbread—but I prefer savory, especially for stuffing). Also, you have to make two or three substitutions: replace the egg with Ener-G egg replacer or other egg substitute, replace the milk with a safe milk, like soy or rice (I use rice milk, and it works great), and you can replace the white flour with your favorite gluten-free blend. 
  • Quinoa Sage Stuffing (Gluten-free and Vegan): Dressing without bread? You bet. This one uses quinoa instead, along with olive oil, vegetable broth, and plenty of savory herbs.

Sweet potatoes:
  • Sweet Potato Marshmallow Casserole: The popular way to make them is to mash them with safe margarine and spices, then top them with marshmallows. This recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole II adds 3 T of orange juice for an extra little bit of flavor.
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes: Not a fan of marshmallows? Try these Twice-Cooked Sweet Potatoes—the recipe is much easier than it sounds! Just fry sweet potato cubes in safe margarine, then roast them in the oven with some brown sugar, salt, and sage leaves.

Potatoes:
  • Mashed Potatoes: Use any basic mashed potato recipe and replace the butter with a safe margarine and replace the milk or cream with rice milk or soy milk. Or, ditch the whole butter-and-cream idea completely and use chicken broth instead to flavor them. Here is the super-simple recipe from Campbell’s Kitchen for Skinny Mashed Potatoes
  • Garlic Roasted Potatoes: Simple and flavorful! 
  • Vegan Scalloped Potatoes: This recipe calls for flour and soy milk. I wonder if it would work with a gluten-free flour blend and another type of safe milk. If you try it, let me know!

Gravy:
  • Allergy Free Gravy: I post this recipe from EatingWithFoodAllergies.com every year because it’s simple and it works. It explains the steps well and you can use either regular flour or gluten-free flour. YouTube has lots of videos showing how to make turkey gravy if you’re not sure of the process.

Cranberry Sauce:
Sure, you can dump it out of the can. (And let’s be honest, we like it that way!) Or you can try these versions:
  • Traditional Cranberry Sauce: The easiest recipe is the one printed on the bag of Ocean Spray cranberries you pick up in the produce section. Water, sugar, cranberries. Boil for ten minutes, and voila! Cook it up a day ahead and refrigerate it. Perfection! 
  • Cranberry Strawberry Relish: Add in some frozen strawberries, and you’ve got something a little bit different and even more delicious. 

Green Beans:
  • There are a gazillion delicious ways to make green beans that don’t involve cream soups and French-fried onions. Here are a few:
  • Bacon-smothered Green Beans: I mean, really. Bacon-smothered. What more do you want? 
  • Green Beans with Ham: Okay, ham is good, too. 
  • Green Beanswith Caramelized Onions and Tarragon: Can’t do pork? Here’s a meatless version that looks lovely and elegant on a platter.


Pumpkin Pie:
  • It’s just not Thanksgiving without a pumpkin pie on the table. So here’s a recipe for Vegan Pumpkin Pie that looks delicious! You can use a regular pastry pie crust, but I like a graham cracker pie crust for my pumpkin pies.
  • Gluten-free Pastry Pie Crust: If you need a gluten-free pie crust, try this recipe. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Allergy-Safe Trick-or-Treating Tips

By Kelley Lindberg


It's all about the adventure, not the candy!
Trick-or-treating can be one of the scariest aspects of Halloween for parents of food-allergic children. But for the kids, it’s one of the most fun parts. So what should the parent of a food-allergic child do? For most of us, our first instinct is to keep them home, period. But our second instinct is often to find safe ways to help our child experience life the way “normal” kids do, rather than letting food allergies define or limit them.

So is it possible to make trick-or-treating a safer activity? You bet.

First, remember that for kids, while they get excited about all the candy, it’s really the adventure of dressing up and going door-to-door that’s important. So help them focus on the “adventure” part of the night, not the candy, and realize that you CAN make trick-or-treating safe.

Here are some tips for safe trick-or-treating:

Tip #1: No nibbling until you're home!
Before going out, remind everyone that no one eats anything until everyone gets home and the parent reads the label on every piece of candy. That way, no one is eating unidentified foods and having a reaction while you’re out in the dark a block away from home. Make sure the kids agree, understand, and agree again. No one sneaks anything (not even Dad).

Tip #2: Wear gloves.
If your child is super-sensitive to an ingredient, have them wear gloves with their costume, so that any allergenic candy that touches their hand on the way into the bag doesn’t cause a skin reaction. Toss the glove in the wash or in the trash when you get home.

Tip #3: Only eat candy with labels!
Unlabeled candy is assumed to be unsafe. Period. The only exceptions are brand-name candies that you are already very familiar with and know are safe. (For example, I know Starbursts and Skittles are okay for my son, so I’ll let him keep those.) If there is a type of candy that he’s particularly interested in, I might promise to look for it at the store the next day, and read the ingredients there. But it goes into a separate container until we’ve seen it at the store and verified its safety. See my post from Oct 20, “Allergy-Free Halloween Candy Round-Up 2014, Part 2 (Local Stores),” for a list of many Halloween candies and their ingredients – it might help you sort through what isn’t safe.

Tip #4: Plan a few “safe houses.”
A day or two before Halloween, try setting up a network of “safe houses”—families in your neighborhood who will agree to have some “safe” candy or non-food treats to give to your child. (You can even give them the safe treats to give to your child!) Most neighbors would be more than happy to accommodate your child if they know ahead of time. No one wants to think they’re ruining a child’s big night. You’d be surprised how willing most people are to help. And with this year’s Teal Pumpkin Project going strong, look for those teal pumpkins that indicate they have non-food treats available. See FARE’s website for more info about the Teal Pumpkin Project.  

Tip #5: Take epinephrine autoinjectors with you.
Not only do you need to make sure you’ve got your EpiPens or Auvi-Qs immediately available for obvious reasons, but making sure your child realizes he has to have them with him while trick-or-treating may remind him of how important it is not to cheat and sneak a bite of candy before you get home and read the label.

Tip #6: Make a plan for unsafe candy ahead of time.
Before you head out on your adventure (preferably several days before, so that the kids aren’t overly excited and can actually hear you), talk about what you’re going to do with any unsafe candy when the night is over. Here are some ideas:
  • Go trick-or-treating with a friend or sibling, and at the end of the night, sort through both kids’ candy together, making two piles—a “safe” pile for the allergic kid, and another pile for the non-allergic kid. If they both know about this plan beforehand, they are usually more than willing to do this. (My son used to trick-or-treat with a friend who had braces—there were plenty of candies the friend couldn’t eat because of the braces, and plenty that my son couldn’t eat because of allergies, and it’s amazing how generous they both were about handing over “safe for you” loot.)
  • Buy a bag of safe candy ahead of time, and at the end of the night, let your child “trade” you for all the unsafe candy he brought home.
  • A big trend this year is “Switch Witches.” While many people have purchased an “official” Switch Witch book and doll, you can use your own witch doll or rely on those invisible Switch Witches (who hang out with the Tooth Fairy when the Halloween season is over). On Halloween night while the kids are sleeping, kids set out their candy stash for the Switch Witch, who takes it away and leaves a fun gift in return.
  • “Buy” the unsafe candy from your child, but establish a price ahead of time, such as a nickel a piece, a dollar a pound, or the whole kit and caboodle for a new DVD, a new toy, a trip to the movies, a night out with Dad, a visit to the dollar store, or other such treat.
  • Look for a dentist or other business in your area that buys candy from kids on the day after Halloween. You can search the internet to find one in your area. The website Halloween Candy Buy Back lets you type in your zip code and find dentists who have registered for the buy-back program in your area. The kids get money, and dentists often donate the candy to places like children’s hospitals or soldiers serving overseas.
  • Let the child “donate” the unsafe candy to Mom or Dad, so they can take it to work and share it with their coworkers.
  • Let the child donate the unsafe candy to a local women’s shelter, food bank, homeless shelter, or family of a soldier. Or send your candy to Operation Gratitude, an organization that will send your candy to our soldiers for you (just send it to them before November 15). Soldiers always seem to appreciate candy that they can share with friends or give to children in war zones.

Got any more trick-or-treating tips? Post a comment and share! Whatever your family chooses to do for Halloween this year, I hope it’s spooktacular!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Allergy-Free Halloween Candy Round-Up 2014, Part 2 (Local Stores)

By Kelley Lindberg

(Update 10/21/14: I added SurfSweets gummy candies/fruit snacks, which are free from the Top 8 plus sesame and sulfites, and can be found at Harmon's, Whole Foods, and online. Love 'em!)

Last week, I shared some online sources for ordering allergen-free Halloween candy. This week, I’ll tell you about the candy I found in stores locally. You can use this list to shop for candy, and you can use it on Halloween night to help your little trick-or-treaters sort through their candy loot.

Most of the common brands can be found just about anywhere, like grocery stores, Sam’s Club, Costco, Walmart, and Target. (If I only saw a product in one store, I’ll list the store where I found it.) Dollar Tree has a surprising amount of safe “icky” choices, like gummy skeletons and lollipops shaped like skulls, so if you’re looking for something fun and gross to put on top of cupcakes, for example, try Dollar Tree!

A BIG WARNING:  CHECK EVERY PIECE, EVERY TIME.

Large companies use multiple factories. That means the same candy may be produced in different places, with different allergens present. So CHECK LABELS on every single piece of candy. Wonka is one of the worst companies for producing the same candy in different packages containing different allergen warnings, but they are one of the best at individually labeling their candies so you can verify its safety before every bite. A few candies have changed their ingredients and moved to other places in my list from last year -- a good reminder to check old favorites. When in doubt, call the manufacturer for clarification (most list a phone number right on their package).

If I missed something or made mistakes as I scribbled my notes while standing in the aisles, let me know.

First I’ll list candies that don’t list corn as an ingredient (because there aren’t very many of them). Then I’ll list the candies and treats that do contain corn, but are free from some or all of the Top 8 allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish).

By the way, EVERYTHING on this entire list is nut-free and peanut-free. That's where I started, then I broke them down by the other allergens. I hope it helps simplify your Halloween season!

Corn-free as well as free from Top 8:
  • Bob’s Sweet Stripes Soft Mint Candies (red & white peppermints) (Sam’s Club)
  • Cotton Candy (Parade brand, Sam’s Club, 8 tubs per package)
  • Cotton Candy in Candy Corn and Boo-Berry flavors (Dollar Tree)
  • Cotton Candy, Hello Kitty (Dollar Tree)
  • YumEarth Gummy Bears (in Target!)
  • YumEarth Organic Pops (in Target!)

Everything from here on down contains corn ingredients:

Free from Top 8 (Wheat, Peanut, Tree Nut, Milk, Egg, Soy, Fish, Shellfish):
  • Baby Bottle Pops (Sam’s Club)
  • Betty Crocker Halloween Fruit Snacks
  • Bubble Babies Gum Balls (contains coconut, Dollar Tree)
  • Candy Jewelry (Dollar Tree)
  • Dots
  • Dum-Dums
  • Giant Lollipop (Dollar Tree)
  • Grave Gummies (contains coconut) (Dollar Tree)
  • Gummy Body Parts (contains coconut oil) (Dollar Tree – coffins and bags) [Note: 2 years ago, 
  • Walmart sold Frankford Candy Body Parts that contained peanuts, nuts, milk, soy, beef, and corn, so read company name and ingredients carefully]
  • Gummy Turtle Power Candy Pizza (contains beef gelatin, Dollar Tree)
  • Halloween Pops (contain gelatin, Dollar Tree)
  • Haribo Gummy Bears (contains coconut)
  • Hello Kitty Family Favorites Candy Mix (Dollar Tree)
  • Hot Tamales
  • Hubba Bubba bubble gum
  • Jelly Belly trick-or-treat-sized packets of jelly beans (Target)
  • Jolly Rancher
  • Life Savers
  • Life Savers Lollipops
  • Life Savers Gummies (contains gelatin, possibly pork-derived, although I can’t verify)
  • Market Pantry Spooky Shapes fruit snacks (Target – contains pork gelatin)
  • Mike & Ike
  • Pixy Stix, regular and giant (Sam’s Club carries a package of 50 Giant Pixy Stix)
  • Push Pops
  • Ring Pops
  • Skittles
  • Skulls & Bones Hard Candy (Dollar Tree)
  • Smarties
  • Sour Patch Kids (but be careful—the Sour Patch Twists contain wheat, so read labels carefully)
  • Spiderman Villains Candy Sticks (contains beef gelatin) (Dollar Tree)
  • Spongebob Gummy Krabby Patties (beef gelatin) (Dollar Tree)
  • Spooky Lollipop Rings (Dollar Tree)
  • Starbursts
  • SurfSweets gummy worms, gummy spooky spiders, jelly beans (Harmon's, Whole Foods)
  • Swedish Fish
  • Tic Tacs
  • Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers (gummi worms) (Sam’s Club – contains gelatin)
Contains Soy or Soy Warning (but free from other 7 top allergens):
  • Bon Bon Boom Lollipops (Dollard Tree)
  • Cry Baby Extra Sour Bubble Gum (Dollar Tree)
  • Hubba Bubba Bubble Tape
  • Jolly Rancher Crunch ‘n’ Chew (last year, these had soy listed, but I didn’t find any this year, so I can’t verify ingredients. Call the company at 800-468-1714)
  • Jolly Rancher Fruit Chews (last year, these had soy listed, but I didn’t find any this year, so I can’t verify ingredients. Call the company at 800-468-1714)
  • Jolly Rancher Lollipops (last year, these had soy listed, but I didn’t find any this year, so I can’t verify ingredients. Call the company at 800-468-1714)
  • Laffy Taffy
  • Laffy Taffy Ropes (Sam’s Club)
  • Lollipop Skulls (Dollar Tree)
  • Market Pantry Candy Corn Flavored Kettle-Cooked Popcorn (Target)
  • Scary Eyeballs Bubble Gum (Dollar Tree)
  • SweeTarts Chews (check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary by assortment, and SweeTarts GUMMIES contain a warning for peanuts, tree nuts, milk, soy, and wheat!!!)
  • Gum: Dentyne, Trident, Orbit, Eclipse, Wrigley’s (Doublemint, Winterfresh, Big Red, Juicy Fruit, Spearmint, etc.)

Contains Wheat or Wheat warning (but free from other 7 top allergens):
  • Red Vines
  • Scooby-Doo Sour Straws (beef) (Dollar Tree)
  • Sour Punch Twists
  • Twizzler’s Pull ‘n’ Peel (these don’t list soy, although regular Twizzlers do, so read carefully)
  • Twizzler’s Strawberry Twists (these don’t list soy, although regular Twizzlers do, so read carefully)
  • Twizzler’s Rainbow Twists (these don’t list soy, although regular Twizzlers do, so read carefully)
Contains Milk or Milk warning (but free from other 7 top allergens):
  • Pop Rocks
  • Popping Candy (Dollar Tree)
  • Pumpkin Face Bubble Gum in Jar (Target)
Contains Egg or Egg warning (but free from other 7 top allergens):
  • Bottlecaps (check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary by assortment – some have wheat warning)
  • Gobstoppers (check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary by assortment)
  • Nerds (check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary by assortment – some have wheat warning)
  • Nerds Ropes(check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary by assortment)
  • Spree (check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary by assortment)
  • SweeTarts (check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary by assortment, and SweeTarts GUMMIES contain a warning for peanuts, tree nuts, milk, soy, and wheat!!!)
  • SweeTarts Mini (check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary by assortment, and SweeTarts GUMMIES contain a warning for peanuts, tree nuts, milk, soy, and wheat!!!)
  • SweeTart Twists (check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary by assortment, and SweeTarts GUMMIES contain a warning for peanuts, tree nuts, milk, soy, and wheat!!!)
Contains Soy and Wheat or warnings (but free from other 6 top allergens):
  • Airheads
  • Twizzlers
Contains Milk and Soy or warnings (but free from other 6 top allergens):
  • Charms Blow Pops
  • Double Bubble gum (check every individual Double Bubble candy label because ingredients vary by assortment and store)
  • Hershey’s Chocolate bars, the 1.55 ounce size ONLY (the S’mores size) (all other sizes contain nut warnings)
  • Kraft Caramels
  • Sixlets candy-coated chocolate drops
  • Tootsie Pops
  • Tootsie Rolls
  • Tootsie Fruit Rolls
Contains Wheat and Egg or warnings (but free from other 6 top allergens):
  • Bottlecaps (check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary by assortment – some don’t have wheat warning)
  • Nerds (check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary by assortment – some don’t have wheat warning)
  • Nerds Ropes (Sam’s Club)
  • Shockers (check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary) (Sam’s Club)
  • SweeTarts (check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary by assortment – some don’t have wheat warning)
Contains Wheat and Milk or warnings (but free from other 6 top allergens):
  • Utz Halloween Pretzel Treats (contains sesame warning, too)
Contains Soy, Milk, and Egg or warnings (but free from other 5 top allergens):
  • Sugar Daddies (Dollar Tree)
Non-Candy Ideas (can find packs of individual serving sizes at warehouse stores like Sam’s Club):
  • Boom Chicka Pop Sea Salt Popcorn (Target – 16 individual bags per container)
  • Chex Mix (contains wheat, soy, and corn)
  • David’s Sunflower seeds
  • Funyuns Onion Flavored Rings (contains milk, soy, and corn)
  • Jack Link’s beef jerky (contains beef, free from Top 8)
  • Keebler Crème-Filled Sugar Wafer Cookies (contains soy, wheat, and cornstarch)
  • Lay’s Potato Chips (free from Top 8)
  • Nabisco Lorna Doone cookies (contains wheat, corn, and soy)
  • Oberto Beef Jerky (contains beef, free from the Top 8)
  • Oreos (contains soy, wheat, and corn)
  • Slim Jim Meat Sticks (contains beef, chicken, soy, wheat, and corn)
  • Zoo Animals crackers (Sam’s Club, contains wheat, corn, soy, milk)
  • Drinks, like Kool-Aid Jammers or Capri Suns, or sodas in mini-cans – check ingredients
Non-Food Ideas:
Don’t forget, you don’t have to hand out candy to your trick-or-treaters. Walmart, Target, Dollar Tree, and party stores like Zurchers, as well as Oriental Trading Company’s website have plenty of Halloween-themed novelties you can hand out, such as:
  • Bat or Spider Rings
  • Plastic bugs and creepy crawlies
  • Halloween bouncy balls
  • Vampire teeth
  • Halloween-colored bracelets
  • Halloween pencils or erasers
  • Glow Sticks or bracelets
  • Drinking Straws with Halloween figures on them
  • Tattoos
  • Coins
  • Friendship Bracelets
Watch Out for These:
The following candies may land in your child’s trick-or-treat bags, and they may not have ingredients labels, so watch out for them:
  • Bazooka Gum-Filled Pops – lists only corn, but comes in an assortment listing all allergens in a factory warning
  • Banana Splits (sold at Sam’s Club in an assortment. Contains soy and egg, and has factory warning for peanuts, tree nuts, and milk)
  • Columbina candies – all have a factory warning for peanuts, egg, tree nuts, soy, milk, and wheat
  • Goetze’s Caramel Creams (sold at Sam’s Club in an assortment. Contains wheat, milk, and soy.)
  • Hershey’s: All mini and fun-sized Hershey’s chocolates contain nut warnings and should be avoided. Plain milk-chocolate and dark-chocolate Hershey’s kisses are nut-free, but contain milk. Most flavored Hershey’s kisses (caramel, cherry-filled, etc.) list nut contamination. The only nut-free size of Hershey bars is the 1.55 ounce size (the type commonly sold alongside graham crackers and marshmallows for S’Mores.)
  • IBC Root Beer Barrels (sold at Sam’s Club in an assortment. Has factory warning for peanuts, tree nuts, milk, soy)
  • Jawbreakers contain only sucrose, but packaged in an assortment that lists all the allergens in a factory warning
  • Lemonheads contain only corn, but are usually found in assortment bags that include warnings for all the allergens on the overall packaging
  • Mary Janes (sold at Sam’s Club in an assortment. Contains peanuts and soy, and has factory warning for tree nuts, wheat, milk, and egg)
  • Slo Poke (sold at Sam’s Club in an assortment. Contains soy and milk, and has factory warning for peanuts, tree nuts, and milk)
  • Taffy: For the first time this year, there are 2 taffy brands that are nut free. One is made by Taffy Town, and local company, but theirs do contain eggs, milk, and soy. The other is by an online store called Sweet Pete’s, which advertises that their taffy is made in a nut-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free facility. Other than those two sources, I have not found any other taffy that is nut-free, so assume most taffy in your child’s trick-or-treat bucket contains nut contamination.
  • Tiger Pops – packaging lists all allergens
  • Warheads – various packaging lists some or all Top 8 allergens in factory warnings