Monday, March 26, 2012

Real-Life Hunger Games

by Kelley Lindberg

Along with a few million of my closest friends, I went to see the movie The Hunger Games this weekend. For those of you who may have been living in a hut on deserted island lately, the story is how 24 teenagers from 12 once-rebellious but now subservient and poverty-stricken Districts must fight each other to the death until only one remains – all for the entertainment of the wealthy citizens who won the long-ago war.

One concept that struck me as odd in the book and the movie is that one or two of the Districts secretly train their youth for years, in the event that one of them is someday called upon (or volunteers) to fight in the Hunger Games. The winner of the games wins extra food for their District for a year, so each District has a vested interest in seeing their youth win.

But most of the Districts don’t do that kind of training. So the heroine and hero, Katniss and Peeta, and the rest of the contestants have to spend a few days in intense crash-courses in survival and weapons skills. Because Katniss is smart, used to hunt for food, and has a strong survival instinct, she carries the day. But I keep wondering – why didn’t her District teach their children more about such skills while they were growing up? Sure, it’s technically illegal, but couldn’t they have found some way to impart at least some fundamental skills, like the richer Districts do? If Katniss and other children like her were better trained in how to protect themselves, how to find safe food, and how to survive in a hostile environment, maybe their survival would have felt less like luck, and more like a plan.

Then it dawned on me that I was pondering a great analogy for food allergies, and kids who may feel sometimes like they’re in their own real-life Hunger Games, only the enemy is food allergies instead of other kids.

As parents, we have a responsibility to train our children so that they have the best possible chance of surviving on their own someday. And yet I have met parents who seem very lax and unconcerned about their food-allergic children. I’ve heard of parents who think trips to the ER for a food allergy reaction are just a normal part of life, and that avoiding them isn’t worth the hassle of eliminating food allergens from their meals. How are their children growing up? Do they feel like their own needs aren’t important? And when these kids go out on their own, will they have any idea how to shop for safe foods, read an ingredients label, or keep themselves safe in social situations? Hopefully those kids will be lucky and eventually learn on their own, but I have a hard time trusting to luck when knowledge seems pretty effective.

The fact that you’re reading a food allergy blog like this means that you’re already concerned enough about food allergies that you’re doing your own research. You’re learning about food allergies and how to minimize their negative impacts on your life or the life of your children. If your child is food-allergic, you’re already training them in how to protect themselves, how to find safe food, and how to survive in a sometimes hostile environment. Maybe you’re even sharing your knowledge with other families who are just discovering their food allergies.

In other words, those of us in this online food allergy community are all doing whatever we can to raise our kids to be competent, capable, and brave Katnisses and Peetas. And while, thank goodness, they don’t have to compete with other kids for survival, they do have to understand how to navigate through a dangerous environment when they grow up. As parents, we have to feel pretty good that we’re giving them the best training we can from an early age.

May the odds be ever in their favor.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Allergy-Free Easter Candy Round-Up

by Kelley Lindberg

Last week, I posted some links to good online sources for allergy-free Easter candy. This week, I hit a few local stores to see what’s available. I focused on Easter-specific chocolate bunnies, eggs, jelly beans, and similar treats. I hit Sam’s Club, Smith’s and Target this year. Most of the products I found are national brands, so chances are good you may find the same products at your local stores.

Just remember to always check the ingredients – some companies use different manufacturing plants around the country, so the same product may have different factory warnings. In addition, some varieties of candy may have safe versions or sizes, and unsafe versions and sizes. For example, I found Cadbury mini eggs that are nut-free, but the larger sizes had nut warnings. So always double-check!

And if you are trying to avoid candy completely (a great idea for everyone, allergies or not!), you might want to see my post from last year, which offers lots of ideas for non-food Easter Egg and basket ideas. See the post here: Creative Easter Egg Fillers.

For nut-free and egg-free chocolate bunnies, your best bet is Hershey’s. I found several Hershey’s chocolate bunnies at Target (including Speedy Bunny, Princess Bunny, Snapsy Snap-apart Bunny) and a package of 6 Hershey’s solid chocolate bunnies (but avoid the package of 6 “cookies and cream” flavored Hershey’s bunnies, because they have a nut warning). Some flavors of Hershey’s kisses are also nut-free, as well as Hershey’s mini foil-wrapped chocolate eggs. But double-check labels – many Hershey’s products have nut warnings, so don’t assume they’re safe until you check. And remember, all Hershey’s chocolate includes milk and soy. Those Cadbury mini eggs contain milk, soy, and corn, but they’re nut-free (I found them at Smiths and Target). If you need milk-free chocolate bunnies, your best bet is probably to order them online (see last week’s post for websites), and order this week so they’ll arrive in time for Easter.

For the rest of the candy I found, I focused on candy whose labels don’t list any of the Top 8 allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish).

If you need to avoid corn as well as the Top 8, I found these options:
  • Pixy Stix (Target bag of 35 for $1)
  • Charms Fluffy Stuff Cotton Candy (Smith’s $1)
  • Wonka Springtime Fun Dips (Smith’s 16 pouches for $3.49)
The following options contain corn, but appear to be free from the Top 8:
  • LifeSavers Jelly Beans (Smith’s $2.49, Target $2.19)
  • Mike & Ike Jelly Beans (Smith’s $2.39)
  • Wonka Spree Jelly Beans (Smith’s $2.39)
  • Wonka Nerds Bumpy Jelly Beans (Smith’s $2.39, Target 2 for $4)
  • Wonka SweeTart Jelly Beans (Smith’s $2.39)
  • Wonka SweeTart Jelly Beans – orange beans in a carrot-shaped bag (Smith’s $2.39)
  • Starburst Jelly Beans (Smith’s $2.49, Target 2 for $4)
  • Starburst Crazy Beans (Smith’s $2.49, Target 2 for $4)
  • Jolly Rancher Jelly Beans (Target 2 for $4)
  • Kroger’s Jelly Beans (Smith’s $1)
  • Push Pop Toppers (with cute Easter figures on top) (Smith’s $1)
  • Hubba Bubba Cluckers (Windup chicken that walks and lays bubble gum eggs) (Smith’s $2.39)
  • Individual Plastic Eggs with Swedish Fish, Skittles, or Starbursts (Target 5 for $5)
  • LifeSavers Gummies Bunnies, Chicks, & Eggs (Target 2 for $4)
  • Rainblo Bubble Gum Eggs (Target 2 for $4)
  • LifeSavers Hard Candy Spring Mix (Target 2 for $4)
  • Swedish Fish (Target 2 for $4)
  • Daily Chef Gourmet Jelly Beans, 41 flavors (Sam’s Club 4 lbs for $10.98)
If you’re a fan of Jelly Belly jelly beans, check out the Daily Chef Gourmet Jelly Beans from Sam’s Club. They have 41 flavors, and advertise that the beans are free from nuts, peanuts, dairy, egg, soy, gluten, trans fat, gelatin, and high fructose corn syrup (although they do contain regular corn syrup). You also get twice as many for the same price as Jelly Bellys.

Also, Sam’s Club has premade Easter Baskets filled with a few toys, and some candy, like Mike & Ikes, Fun Dips, and a “candy egg bouquet,” and the ingredients list corn and soy, but none of the other Top 8. They are $19.98 each, so if you are looking for an easy solution (and you aren’t allergic to corn or soy), those are an easy idea.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Allergy-Free Easter and Passover Candy Online

by Kelley Lindberg

My crocuses are blooming in the front yard, the birds are singing in the morning, we’ve set our clocks forward an hour so that the evenings are suddenly feeling longer…Spring is coming! Of course, in Utah, that still means spring is about two months away. But it’s coming, slowly but surely!

Another sign of spring is all the Easter merchandise in the stores. Easter is on April 8 this year, and Passover begins the evening of April 6, so you have less than four weeks to do your candy shopping. That means it’s time for my annual Easter Candy Roundup!

This week, I’ll focus on online sources for allergy-safe Easter and Passover candy, because if you need to order your candy online, you’ll want to order it soon. Next week I’ll look at the candy you might find in local stores.

Several great online manufacturers and grocers offer allergy-friendly chocolates and candies for every holiday and just about every type of allergy. Especially if your family must avoid multiple allergens, these online suppliers might be your best bet.

  • Amanda’s Own Confections: They offer a whole line of chocolate goodies for Easter and Passover, as well as jelly beans and other candies, all dairy-free, peanut-free, nut-free, egg-free, and gluten-free. Their Happy Easter Bunny Box is a tiny 4-oz. box of 11 pieces of chocolate shaped like bunnies, chicks, and ducks, and it’s only $5.95. Their Passover Lollypop is only $2.25. (Deadline for Easter orders is March 27th.) If you’re looking for Passover candy, they state: “All of our products (chocolate and non-chocolate) are Kosher certified. Our facility is not certified as of yet, however, we are working on the certification process.” 
  • Chocolate Emporium: Read the ingredients carefully on this website, but they do offer a lot of non-dairy chocolate items for Easter, and a huge selection of non-dairy Purim and Passover candy. They have bunnies in different flavors and colors, including chocolate, butterscotch, white, and strawberry, as well as foil-covered chocolate eggs. All of their products are dairy-free, and many are nut-free, egg-free, and gluten-free, but it’s a good idea to call before you order to ensure you get what you need, allergen-wise. Regarding kosher products, their website states: “All chocolates produced by Chocolate Emporium are Kosher Pareve under Star-K supervision.” (Easter orders must be placed by March 23.)
  • Vermont Nut Free: Their chocolates are peanut-free and nut-free, but they do have milk and egg warnings on them. Check out their chocolate bunnies, caramel bunnies, buttercream bunnies, chocolate lambs, Easter fudge, chocolate eggs, and chocolate crosses. (Their chocolate is not kosher.)
  • Divvies: Peanut-free, nut-free, dairy-free, and egg-free chocolate bunnies, and jelly beans. (They don’t mention whether their products are kosher.)
  • Yummy Earth: Yummy Earth candies (lollipops, gummy bears, sour beans, sour worms) are corn-free, as well as being free from the big 8, and they use natural colorings and flavorings. They’re available on the Yummy Earth website, in health food stores, and from (Certified Kof-K kosher parve.)
  • Indie Candy: Check out the cute crystal sugar egg-shaped lollipops and Key-Lime flavored carrot-shaped lollipops on this site (no dyes or common allergens at all!). They also have bunny-shaped gummies, and allergen-free European dark chocolate bunnies! They have a large selection of confections in a rainbow of flavors, like mango and watermelon, and you can search by your specific allergy needs. If you’re looking for kosher candy, their website states: “Indie Candy is currently pursuing Kosher and Organic Certification. Currently the ingredients used fall within Kosher and Organic guidelines, but we have not completed the facility certification process.”
  • Peanut Free Planet: This site sells candy from lots of different manufacturers, including Vermont Nut Free and Amanda’s Own. You’ll find chocolate, jelly beans, and all sorts of allergy-friendly groceries.
  • Oriental Trading Co.: Remember, Easter eggs and Easter baskets don’t have to be filled with candy. Oriental Trading Company offers a bazillion (I counted them) little novelty toys that fit inside Easter eggs or into Easter baskets, and you can buy them by the dozen or more. And for the ultimate in time-saving, you can even buy plastic eggs pre-filled with little toys. Now THAT’s a helpful Easter Bunny.
Hoppy shopping!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Babysitting Form

by Kelley Lindberg

The Kids With Food Allergies website has just posted a great form you can use for babysitting and drop-off child care. These forms were created by a collaborative effort of Kids With Food Allergies and, and they will help you make sure your babysitter or care-giver has the information they need about your food-allergic child. The forms are free to download and print, so click here to find them: KWFA’s Food Allergy Babysitter and Drop-Off Child Care Form

In addition, here are some tips for preparing your babysitter (and yourself) for a smooth, easy, and reaction-free experience:

·         Preplan meals for both the babysitter and the children. Meals should be cold, not cooked, so that the babysitter doesn’t have to use an oven or stove.

·         Show the babysitter where the safe snacks are. Better yet, put them out on the counter and state “Only these snacks!” Make it clear that the babysitter can’t eat non-safe foods either, since he/she will be touching your children and their playthings.

·         Show them where the phone is. If you don’t have a land-line phone and the sitter doesn’t have his/her own phone, give the babysitter a cell phone so they can call you.

·         Write down your own home address. If the babysitter has to call 911 from a cell phone, caller ID won’t show where she’s calling from, and if she doesn’t know your home address, precious moments can be lost while she hunts for mail or something that shows her where she is.

·         Leave them your phone number, and also the phone number of an alternate contact who you know will be home.

·         Tell the babysitter where you’ll meet him/her and the kids if they have to evacuate for a fire or other emergency.

·         Leave a working flashlight beside the emergency phone number and address, in case there’s a power outage.

·         Explain when and how to administer Benadryl and EpiPens.

·         Leave a detailed note of bedtime routines – time to eat, time to bathe, time to read stories, time to watch TV or movie, time for lights-out. That prevents your children from wheedling or arguing for more.

·         If you want to “try out” a babysitter, invite him/her over to watch the kids while you get something done inside the house. They have to take care of everything, but you are immediately available if there’s a problem. But leave them alone! If you hover, you won’t find out how they handle everything. Use the time to get caught up on scrapbooking, paperwork, some gardening, or whatever.

Many parents are nervous about hiring a babysitter, but remember this: today’s babysitters are growing up in the generation that’s familiar with food allergies. Chances are good they have friends or classmates who are allergic, so they will probably be aware of the seriousness and very willing to work with you. (If not, send them packing, of course!) So with a little extra preparation, and these forms from Kids With Food Allergies, you can make the experience great for everyone involved.