Monday, February 25, 2013

Food Allergy Freedom–Temporarily

by Kelley Lindberg

I was traveling last week, helping my mom sort out the travel, insurance, and medical issues surrounding my father’s stroke.

It was strange being somewhere without my son. And one of the strangest aspects was ordering food without worrying about food allergies.

Checking for food allergens has become second nature. When I go out to eat, I check ingredients. I ask waiters about nuts. I avoid baked goods. I am so used to avoiding allergens for my son, that I find it really hard to relax when I’m not with him.

So it felt extremely weird to stand in line at the hospital cafeteria and just order food without asking about it first. It felt even weirder to pick up a cookie off the pastry shelf. And then eat it. Without guilt.

Crazy. I’m not even the one with the nut allergy.

But there I was, ordering food with carefree abandon.

I have to confess, even when we went to the grocery store to pick up a few quick breakfast items we could eat in the hotel, I still found myself reading the ingredients label. And then reminding myself that it didn’t matter that the sweet rolls had a nut warning on them.

Habits are hard to break. Which just goes to show that they’re easier than you think to create, too. I didn’t realize I was so unconscious about my food allergy vigilance, until I suddenly realized I didn’t need to be vigilant. Then I just felt kind of off-balance.

Although it was a strange feeling, being temporarily carefree made me appreciate the routines I’ve built that have become such an ingrained part of our lives that I don’t even notice them anymore. And it made me remember that we’ve come oh-so-far from those first days of my son’s food allergy diagnosis when everything seemed so terrifying and overwhelming. And now that I’m home again, it feels normal to be checking food ingredients again, as usual.

And I am kind of glad I won’t be buying those cookies any more. They were tasty, but my waistline can’t handle more than a week of such indulgences!


Monday, February 18, 2013

Life Lessons

by Kelley Lindberg

So there you are, going about your day with its routine ups and downs, and then you get the phone call that says someone you love has had a stroke a thousand miles from home. So you try to be supportive from home for a day, realize that isn't working, and you fly to where they are.

You didn't realize how easy it would be to blow off all those things that seemed so vitally important a day or two ago. You didn't realize how many friends would jump in to help take care of your kid, your husband, your job. You didn't realize how many people would help in a hundred little ways. You didn't realize how many phone calls you'd be making to insurance companies, not to mention airlines, hotels, and rental car companies.

And you remember, as you sit in the hospital and overhear conversations like "I just hope they can find some answers," or "I think she recognized me," or "I don't know what we're going to do," that you're not alone in the darkness. You also realize that all the problems you thought were insurmountable last week are really molehills that you can overcome with a little more effort when you get home.

It's a good reminder that you're stronger than you think you are.

At least it has been for me.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Allergy-Free Classroom Valentines

by Kelley Lindberg

Valentine’s Day is another one of those candy-oriented holidays our kids can’t escape, like Halloween and Easter. If you’re really, really lucky, you have a school like ours that prohibits candy for holidays. For Valentine’s Day, they have kids hand out Valentines with compliments written on them instead. It’s a day to learn about kindness, seeing the good in each other, and sharing those observations to make others feel good about themselves.

However, most schools don’t do that. So lollipops, candy hearts, and chocolate kisses are the rule.

So here are a few tips for getting through your child’s Valentine’s Day safely. If you have some additional suggestions, please share them!

For Valentines to give:
  • Plenty of boxed Valentines now include extras like tattoos or stickers. Ta-da, you’re done.
  • Got a few more minutes? Shape a pipe cleaner (now called Chenille Stems for political correctness) into a heart and tape it to the card.
  • Or, tape a Valentine’s pencil or eraser or other small novelty toy to the card. For ideas, check out the BabyCenter Blog, where Deborah Mucklow has posted “15 Easy Non-Candy Valentines You Can Make,” and they’re all seriously cute!
What to do about the Valentines your child receives:
  • Eat no candy at school: First, before school, remind your child that absolutely no candy gets eaten until it comes home. If you think the temptation will be too great, give them a safe treat and tell them they can eat it when everyone else is eating their candy. (Let the teacher know about the treat so he/she knows the plan.)
  • Make a plan: The day before Valentine’s Day, sit down with your child and make a plan for what to do with the unsafe candy they bring home. If the child knows the plan and agrees with it, they’ll be more likely to resist trying to eat it at school and they won’t be quite as upset about having to give it up. (See some ideas for Valentine’s plans below).
  • Get Teacher's help: Enlist the teacher’s help to remind children to bring non-food treats if possible, to keep unsafe treats away from the allergic children, and to save their candy to eat at home instead of in the classroom. You can help both your child and your teacher see Valentine’s Day as a perfect opportunity to teach others about compassion.
  • Say thank you: And finally, remind your child to say thank you, no matter if they receive unsafe candy or not. Politeness is an important life skill, and that’s part of what they’re supposed to be learning on days like this. This is a good learning moment for 1) accepting disappointment with grace, not tantrums, and 2) looking for the good intentions in people, despite their mistakes or misunderstandings. If we throw a fit, we don’t endear ourselves to others, and we probably won’t convince them to think kindly on us next time. But if we’re gracious and polite about thanking them for the thought, if not the actual gift, then the other person is more likely to feel bad about their mistake and want to do better next time. It’s that whole “honey catches more flies than vinegar” situation. It’s a hard lesson to learn sometimes, but worth the effort in the long run.
Here are some ideas for Valentine’s plans you can work out with your child ahead of time:
  • Trade unsafe candy for a special treat, like an extra hour of TV, a trip to the Dollar Store (but set an amount ahead of time, like every 5 pieces of candy = one dollar-store item, one Hot Wheels car, or one Polly Pocket, etc.), a special outing with Mom or Dad, or a playdate with a best friend.
  • Put all the unsafe candy into a “Valentine’s Care Package” that Mom or Dad can take to work to share with their colleagues.
  • Take the unsafe candy to a nursing home, food bank, or shelter. (Even if it’s a small amount, it will be appreciated.)
  • Give the candy to someone they think needs cheering up.
  • Leave the candy beside their bed for the Tooth Fairy to take. (I hear she likes it when kids get rid of candy that can put cavities in those teeth she loves to collect, so maybe she will leave a coin or two under their pillow as a thank you.)
However you celebrate Valentine’s Day, I hope it’s full of love!



Monday, February 4, 2013

Soy-Free Soy Sauce

by Kelley Lindberg

When you have to eliminate specific foods from your diet, there’s always an adjustment period as you learn how to replace your favorite foods with safe brands, varieties, or outright substitutes. Normal condiments that enhance so many recipes are one of the first things you have to learn to replace.

For example, if you have to eliminate peanuts, you discover products like Sunbutter (made from sunflower seeds). If you have to replace eggs, you learn about Vegenaise mayonnaise replacement. If you have to replace dairy, you learn about soy and rice milks, and margarines like Nucoa or Earth Balance.

But if you’re allergic to soy, how do you replace that standby of Asian cooking, soy sauce?

A friend let me know about a replacement for soy sauce that is… get this… soy-free!

Coconut Aminos is a seasoning sauce that is made from the sap of coconut palms and sea salt. It’s vegan, soy-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free. It’s also touted to have 17 amino acids and to be “raw—enzymatically active.”

It’s supposed to taste very much like real soy sauce, so your stir-fry recipes should taste like you expect.

In Utah, it looks like Whole Foods, Harmons, Good Earth Natural Foods, and other health food stores are carrying it. If you have tried it, share a Comment to let us know what you think!

Coconut Aminos is just one more handy tool in our tool belt of allergy-friendly foods that make cooking easier and tastier for us all.