Monday, November 26, 2012

Donate Allergy-Free Food to Food Drives

by Kelley Lindberg

We’re in peak food drive season now. As if winter wasn’t hard enough on low-income folks, the holidays are upon us, and that makes expectations higher and losses more poignant.

Chances are good you’ll be noticing more food drive requests in the coming days. Everyone wants to help, from Eagle Scouts to grocery stores, from work colleagues to holiday concerts. It’s a wonderful time to stop and think about the blessings we have in our lives, and to share those blessings with others.

As you root through your pantry for non-perishable food items to donate to the food drives in your area, it’s a great time to think about the food-allergic people who will be gathering up the courage to ask for food at the various shelters and service organizations. For example, food drive sponsors always specifically ask for things like peanut butter and other high-protein foods. But if you have a child who’s allergic to peanuts, that becomes a problem when you ask for help.

So I like to stock up with a few jars of Sunbutter (made from sunflower seeds -- a great-tasting substitute for peanut butter), Cascadian Farms Harvest Berry granola bars, and other allergy-free food products to put into those food drive bins.

Experts estimate that 1 out of every 12 kids now has a severe food allergy, so that means a lot of families are in need of food-allergy-friendly foods at our food banks. It’s a safe assumption that most non-allergic people won’t realize how important allergy-free foods are when they donate food, so it’s up to us in the food-allergy community to remember our own members in need.

Next time you’re at the grocery store, throw an extra jar or two of Sunbutter in your cart, then drop it in the nearest food drive bin. You’ll be helping to brighten a dark winter day for a hungry family. And a desperate mother somewhere will be forever grateful.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Allergy-Free Thanksgiving Recipes 2012

by Kelley Lindberg

Are you ready for Thanksgiving? Don’t worry. Neither are any of the rest of us. But if you’re still looking for ways to make this traditional feast allergy-friendly for your family, here are some recipes I’ve found that might help reduce your stress. In many cases, making recipes safe can be as simple as substituting safe margarine for the butter, soy milk or rice milk for the cream/milk, and your family’s favorite safe bread for whatever bread the recipe calls for. But I hunted for recipes that come closest to being allergy-safe without modification, because we all need as much help as we can get this time of year!

And while we’re talking about Thanksgiving, let me just say that I’m extremely thankful that I live in a time when finding recipes, tips, support, education, and kindred spirits is just a mouse-click or two away. I can’t imagine having gone through my son’s food allergies in an earlier time without the magic of the Internet at my fingertips. Thank you to all who make the internet food-allergy community a loving place to belong.

Turkey: First things first. Because many turkeys are “basted” or “self-basting,” they may contain allergens (most commonly dairy, soy, and wheat) in the solutions that are injected in them to make them tender. Natural turkeys should contain nothing but the bird and perhaps some water. Read “BeforeYou Buy a Thanksgiving Turkey” from for more information and some guidelines for purchasing a safe turkey.

Stuffing: I admit it, stuffing is my favorite part of the Thanksgiving dinner, and I’m particularly partial to cornbread stuffing. But some people prefer traditional bread stuffing, while others prefer wild rice or other options. So here are some variations to try (be sure you substitute safe ingredients, such as your family’s favorite safe bread, for whatever the recipe calls for): Bryanna’s Traditional-Style Vegan Bread Stuffing, Vegan Quinoa Stuffing, Cornbread and Wild Rice Stuffing, and Wild Rice and Cranberry Stuffing (you can leave out the walnuts).

Mashed Potatoes: Mashed potatoes are usually loaded with butter and cream or milk. To make them allergy-safe, replace the butter with a safe margarine (like Earth Balance, Spectrum, SmartBalance Light, or Nucoa), and replace the milk 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.

Gravy: My husband is the official gravy-maker in our family. He’s got that whole browning-the-flour thing down pat, and it’s something he can do while the rest of us get the other dishes prepped for the table. But it’s really not that hard to do. (But if I tell him I’ve learned how to make gravy, he might stop, so I’ll never admit to knowing how to do it.) Here is a recipe for a simple Allergy Free Turkey Gravy from that explains the steps well. You can use either regular wheat or wheat-free all-purpose flour in this yummy Thanksgiving staple. YouTube has lots of videos showing how to make turkey gravy if you’re not sure of the process.

Cranberry Relish: Sure, you can dump it out of a can, and for some of us, that can-shaped mold of cranberry sauce holds a warm spot in our hearts. But if you’d like to make something a little bit more special for your dinner, try this easy and delicious recipe for Cranberry-Apple Relish, from Cooking Light magazine on One pan, 15 minutes, and you’re done (and you can make it a day or two ahead).

Sweet Potatoes: You can’t beat those traditional mashed sweet potatoes topped with golden-toasted marshmallows (try this recipe for Marshmallow Yam Casserole, but substitute safe margarine for the butter, and rice milk or soy milk for the cream), but this recipe for Healthy Butternut Apple Bake looks awfully tempting, too. And how about layering pineapple and sweet potatoes with a little maple syrup, in this Yankee Sweet Potato Casserole, or adding crushed pineapple and mandarin oranges to mashed sweet potatoes in Easy Allergy Friendly Sweet Potato Casserole/Souffle?

Green Bean Casserole: If you miss the traditional green bean casserole, you might try this recipe for The Best Vegan Green Bean Casserole. You might have to do a few substitutions, though. It calls for soy creamer or full-fat unsweetened soymilk, but if you can’t find that, you might try Tofutti’s soy sour cream. Rice milk might work, too, but it doesn’t thicken at all, so you might try adding a little cornstarch if you’re an adventurous cook. I haven’t tried this recipe, so I don’t know how well it will work. Also, it calls for French’s French Fried Onions as a topping, but those carry a milk contamination warning, so you may want to try something different as a topping, such as safe bread crumbs, safe Panko bread crumbs, crushed Chex cereal, crushed potato chips, or dried Chow Mein noodles.

Pumpkin Pie: Looking for a pumpkin pie that doesn’t contain eggs or milk? Try this recipe from the Kids with Food Allergies website for “Mom’s Pumpkin Pie.” This recipe is in the “free recipe” section of the website, so you don’t have to be a member to access it!

Monday, November 12, 2012

FAAN and FAI Merge into FARE

by Kelley Lindberg

If you've been in the food allergy community for very long, you've discovered the amazing food allergy organizations FAAN (Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network) and FAI (Food Allergy Initiative). Today they've announced that the two organizations are merging. Here is the announcement letter that went to FAAN members, and it contains links to the press release and a questions and answers page, so be sure to visit those pages for more details.

The combined power, influence, and reach of these two fantastic organizations can only mean good things for the future of food allergy research, support, and advocacy.

Dear FAAN Supporter, 

Today we are pleased to announce the completion of the merger between FAAN and FAI. Our new organization, dedicated to food allergy research and education, will be known as FARE.

Building on the significant accomplishments of FAAN and FAI over the past two decades, FARE’s mission is to ensure the safety and inclusion of all individuals with food allergies while relentlessly seeking a cure. We will accomplish this by:
  • Funding world-class research that advances treatment and understanding,
  • Providing evidence-based education and resources,
  • Undertaking advocacy at all levels of government, and
  • Increasing awareness of food allergies as a serious public health issue.
Thanks to dedicated friends like you, FAAN and FAI have made great strides over the years. We are deeply grateful for your support, and proud of the progress we have made together. The merger comes at a crucial time in the national discourse around food allergies, and we look forward to continuing to partner with you as we work to advance research, education, advocacy and awareness.

We are happy to share that the executive leaders of FAAN and FAI, Maria Acebal and Mary Jane Marchisotto, will remain involved in the merged organization. Maria will serve as a senior advisor and a spokesperson for FARE. Mary Jane will serve as the senior vice president of research and operations, with a primary focus on growing the organization’s research portfolio.

Through the end of 2012, you will continue to see the names FAAN and FAI on our events, public communications and websites. FARE will debut its new logo and website, which will be located at, in early 2013.

You can read more about today’s announcements in our press release and questions and answers page. We will continue to keep you informed of new developments at FARE by email, via social media and by posting information on our websites. We’re excited about our plans for FARE and look forward to sharing them with you.


John Lehr

John L. Lehr
Chief Executive Officer

Todd J. Slotkin

Todd J. Slotkin

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Connection between Food Allergies and the Immune System Response

by Kelley Lindberg

This week, I'm happy to host guest blogger Valerie Johnston, a health and fitness writer for Her article examines the immune system's role in food allergy reactions, as well as the difference between a food intolerance and a true food allergy. Thanks, Valerie!

People who are genetically predisposed to have food allergies will not experience an allergic reaction until they are exposed to the food they are allergic to. In other words, the tendency to develop food allergies is already inherent, and the allergies then develop upon exposure to the allergen.

The body of a person who is genetically predisposed to allergies will produce a type of protein called immunoglobulin E (IgE) after being exposed to the specific food that they are allergic to. When the food is consumed, the body’s immune system is triggered to produce specific types of IgE in larger quantities than normal. After IgE is released, it attaches to the mast cells of the body. Your body’s mast cells occur in all of the tissues of the body, but are more commonly found in areas of the body that are associated with allergic reactions, including the skin, gastrointestinal tract, throat, and lungs.

In most cases, a person with food allergies will not experience symptoms until the second time they are exposed to the food allergen. This is because, after the IgE attaches to the body’s mast cells after the first exposure to a food allergen, they are now prepared to combat any foods that the body is allergic to the second time the food is consumed. When the allergen is consumed, the IgE on the mast cells triggers the release of chemicals known as histamines. It is these chemicals that cause a variety of food allergy symptoms.

For example, many people with food allergies have difficulty swallowing or breathing when they consume the foods they are allergic to. This is because the mast cells in the throat and mouth release histamine, which produces these symptoms. Histamine can be released wherever mast cells are located, including the throat, ears, nose, and gastrointestinal tract.

Food Allergy Vs. Food Intolerance

Most people who have food sensitivities (food intolerances) will say that they have a food allergy. It is very important to distinguish between these two problems, since food allergies can have life-threatening consequences and are related to the body’s immune system response.

As described above, a food allergy is a response to a food allergen by your immune system. In most cases, the body is responding to a specific protein in a type of food. Histamine antibodies are produced to fight against a specific protein that the body mistakes as harmful. Common food allergies include, but are not limited to, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, wheat, and soy products.

Symptoms of food allergies include:
  • Nausea
  • Hives or a rash
  • Itchy skin
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Anaphylaxis
Food intolerance is not an immune system response. Instead, a food tolerance is a response made by the digestive system. Some people have difficulty digesting certain types of foods, such as lactose (dairy intolerance).

Symptoms of food intolerances include:
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating, cramps, or gas
  • Heartburn
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Irritability
While a person with a food allergy and a person with a food intolerance may share a few similar symptoms, the symptoms of a food allergy are usually a lot more severe and can even lead to death if the condition is not diagnosed properly. A proper diagnosis from your doctor or allergy specialist will allow you to prevent symptoms whether you have an allergy or intolerance to certain types of food.

Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.