From Being Different to Becoming Unique

The international diversity of metropolitan cities make them a mecca of culinary innovation. The combination of a dynamic food scene and a preference of most to dine extempore often poses a huge challenge for teenagers with food allergies.

Every time friends decide to delve into exotic cuisine, it is a recurring dichotomy, between a premonition and the hankering to blend in.

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Dining out with food allergies, in new settings seems like solving a jigsaw puzzle which is laid out differently every time. In managing my tree nut allergy, I have learned and grown from my countless interactions and dealings with situations and people.

I have learned to be gracious without trying to please. The feedback of my own actions as they form a loop in my brain have taught me traits that have positively impacted me in more ways than one. Advocating for myself and working against the odds has made each circumstance an opportunity to learn and teach.

I am a “people person”.

When I was fifteen and learning to navigate the social world without my parents accompanying me, I found myself arriving at friends’ sweet sixteen parties with sweaty palms and a racing heart. As I went through my sophomore year I began to reflect. After careful rumination, I was convinced that the anxiety was purely associated with the uncertainty around the food. The primary goal of parties is to socialize!  What every host or hostess most desires are gracious, vibrant, and lively party guests.

Convincing people about the severity of food allergies isn’t easy. In their defense, most people at best have only encountered finicky eaters or those with religious restrictions. So, the fact that even trace amounts of an allergen can be deadly if consumed directly or through cross contamination, seems illusory to them. I have learned to share perspectives, clarify  preconceived notions, and if we still disagree be able to appreciate others’ viewpoints, knowing that pleasing others should not impact my decisions.

Dealing with my allergies has taught me decisiveness and that if one is reluctant to assert viewpoints you are bound to miss out on opportunities and amazing experiences.

Obtaining allergy information is imperative to minimize the risk of a reaction. While to an onlooker it may seem like sweating the small stuff, it was necessary I do so, and has taught me to be detail oriented. Each time I successfully assert with grace and grit that ‘I can’t eat nuts!’ it is empowering – an affirmation of my willpower and determination.

The character, strength, inner security, and unique interpersonal skills I have learned have had a very positive influence on me. As I burnished latent potential, it helped me rise in ways I could never have imagined!

Managing food allergies is a work in progress. I could never have imagined that saying “NO” would be so empowering!

Welcome our New Writer, Arul!

Hey #FAL Family!

We’d like to extend a warm welcome to our official new writer – Arul Nigam.

Arul is currently our Public Relations Strategist, but being the talented writer he is, he has also been a Guest Blogger on our site before. Arul is a young, enthusiastic writer, and has won awards for excellence in writing at state-level competitions.

Here are a few select posts he has written for us so far.

Arul’s posts have received a tremendous response – you guys LOVE what he writes!

Therefore, he will now be one of the two Official Content Producers for FAL!

Stay tuned for his upcoming posts!

Going to College #2

Attention College Bound Students!!
Have you heard of the FARE College Food Allergy Program?

FARE started a campaign in 2014 to not only help educate college staff on how to best accommodate children with food allergies, but also compile a database so prospective students can learn how each college plans to handle food allergies.

This new database is expected to be available by late 2016/early 2017.

For more information, visit: http://www.foodallergy.org/collegeprogram

If you’re heading off to college sooner than the database release, reach out to the colleges you’re considering for more information!

Many colleges already have established programs (such as mandatory staff trainings and additional allergen-free dining facilities) to ensure that their students with allergies can have a fun and safe time on campus.

Stay tuned for next week’s post: Allergy-Safe Airlines! More Going to College posts are on the way too!

Allergy Safe Dining in College

With several of our readers heading off to college this year, we are excited to announce our college series!

Get ready for a series of blog posts, interspersed between other helpful posts, about how to manage food allergies in college!

We’re honored to share this journey with you!

 

PopChips

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Want to spice up your snacks? Tired of plain old potato chips? Check out PopChips!

These healthy, not fried, snacks are delicious and perfect for parties! With the variety of flavors, from sour cream and onion and sweet potato, you’re guaranteed to find something you’ll love.

Their labelling is very thorough, and clearly lists allergens. From what we can tell – the only main allergen PopChips contain is Milk. All PopChips are peanut and tree-nut free!

Find them at your grocery store today!

For more information visit: http://popchips.com

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FAL’s 7 MUSTS for Spring Break

With Spring Break just around the corner for most people, FAL is bringing you 7 MUST KNOWS for Traveling! Enjoy 🙂

  1. AllergySmartz:
    • AllergySmartz, our food allergy travel app, is designed to help users convey their food allergies and the precautions needed for safe food preparation to restaurant staff, in the US, and abroad, despite language barriers. The App requires NO internet access, and currently features the Top 12 allergens and 12 languages to translate from and into. For more information check out: http://www.foodallergylowdown.com/AllergySmartz
    • Download it Now!
  2. Grab-N-Go Meals: Looking for a quick bite on your road trip, or just in the mood for a quick lunch? Check out posts from previous FAL Restaurant Weeks for ideas:
  3. Dining Out: Celebrating something big in the city? Looking for a nice dining experience with delicious food? Check out some #FALfavs below!
  4. Snacks for the Trip: Whether you’re taking a road trip or a 14 hour long flight food is always good company! Here are some snack ideas for the trip:
  5. Hotels: Wondering where to stay that will offer a fun and allergy-friendly experience? Check out our hotel recommendations below!
  6. In the Air:
    • Wipe! Wet Wipes are perfect for air travel – wipe down your seat belt, tray table, and remote in case there is any food residue left. This will eliminate the risk of a later, ‘unexplained’ reaction.
    • Often times Airlines will give you a hassle about carrying on a Benadryl bottle. Walgreens’ Wal-dryl is the perfect solution! Whether you are trying to combat this airline issue, want to travel light, or are just looking for more convenient options, Wal-dryl (single doses) are the way to go.
    • Bring a note from the doctor! It’s rare, but I have had an official at security tell me I could not take my Epipen on board as a carry-on item. Thankfully a doctor was in the security line and gave his authorization that I should be able to carry the life-saving drug. Next time I went to the Allergist I asked for an authorization note and always take it on trips with me. I’ve never had another encounter like this one, especially as allergy awareness grows, but I still recommend one.
  7. On the Safe Side:
    • Bring extra Epipens and make sure they are kept in the right temperature environment.
    • Just in case something goes wrong, know your nearest Emergency Room, and the local emergency number (e.g. 911)!

PhillySwirl’s #AllergyFriendly Ice Cream!

 

Often times the taste lab of ice cream flavors, brings forth what may seem like the hardest decision one has to make. During this process, whether you rely more on intuition than logic, whether you are impulsive or a risk taker or the colors entice you, this refreshing Italian ice with a twist will indulge your senses into a totally new experience!!

With a warm Spring on its way, this ice cream is the perfect delicious treat for any event! Whether you prefer fruity flavors like Orange Dream or Very Berry, or want something totally unique like Cotton Candy PhillySwirl has an option for you!

PhillySwirl is incredibly allergy friendly, offering a variety of products free of many allergens. They have several products like PhillySwirl Stix, Popperz, and Cups with Candy Spoonz that are peanut, tree nut, wheat/gluten, dairy, egg, soy, sesame, shellfish, and fish free! They mentioned the only allergens that are a concern for cross contamination because they are in the facility are dairy, soy, and coconut.

Furthermore, in response to how they manage their product lines they made the following statement:

Whenever we switch from producing an allergen to a non-allergen product, we do a complete shutdown of the production lines. The lines are then thoroughly cleaned, re-tested and documented before production starts back up.

Definitely visit their FAQ page for more information and check out their delicious ice creams available in most grocery stores!

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WOW Stories: “Le Meridien” FAL’s 3-Day Hotel Special #3

As a young girl visiting India, I was curious and wanted to delve into the wide variety of regional cuisines native to India. However, with food allergies, all the exotic ingredients, unfamiliar dishes were both exciting and intimidating.

Together we did research and all votes went to Le Meridien, Windsor Place, New Delhi.

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The WOW Story!!

My experience at the Le Meridien in New Delhi was very positive.

Their dynamic, creative, and dedicated team left no stone unturned in making it the best possible experience for me.

As always I had exchanged mail with the General Manager and the Executive Chef regarding my food allergies, beforehand.

At check-in we were told that the Executive Chef would come up to the room shortly, to discuss at length the specifics about allergy safe dining at Le Meridien.

I knew we were off to a great start.

Over the course of my stay, some things that he pointed out reflected how well versed he was in handling food allergies.

He said that he would personally cook all my meals while I was there. As an added precaution all the other team members in the kitchen would be briefed too.

In discussing the dinner options for the night, he said that the restaurant gets very busy on Saturday nights.

It was Saturday night and the main restaurant was very busy he recommended in room dining. The reason was to limit the possibility of a mix up while serving in the restaurant.

I enjoyed some authentic chicken and lamb dishes with an array of Indian breads, personally delivered by him.

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My bread was not served in a traditional bread basket. He pointed out that while the baskets are washed and sanitized each time, he did not want to risk any sort of residue from exotic breads with nuts and therefore my breads were served in a glass basket.

I was amazed at his insightfulness and creativity.

The magic of spices, the aroma of the exotic cuisine was nothing short of a scintillating food experience!!

For breakfast he invited us to the restaurant. I asked if he could make nut free chocolate chip and blueberry pancakes.

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As we sat down to eat, he stopped by and rearranged my place setting. As a precaution, he removed my table mat, “just in case of any prior residue” he said.

He also removed the forks, knife etc. that were placed on the mat, and replaced them with new ones that he put on a plate.

These small gestures spoke volumes about his allergy awareness.

Just to reassure me that there were no nuts or possible contamination he showed us the label on the chocolate chips.

Small acts like this have such a huge impact on dining out with food allergies. I would have asked to check the label, but the spontaneity was what made me smile.

Peacock is the national bird of India…and there it was…majestic and beautiful coffee art on my cup of coffee.

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We were out for the rest of the day and returned late. I noticed a piece of cheesecake with a note next to it. It was Indian Independence Day and he had made for me a NUT FREE CHEESECAKE. Saffron, white and green are the colors of the Indian flag. The note read “We have made this NUT FREE cheesecake for you in celebration of the Indian Independence Day!”

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This was the legendary Indian hospitality I had read about.

Disclaimer: As always, be sure to communicate your allergies to the restaurant staff to the extent that YOU are comfortable with the way they are handled. For guidance in this matter we recommend our App, AllergySmartz.

**We hope you enjoyed the final installment of FAL’s 3-Day “WOW Stories” Special about Allergy-Friendly Hotels. Our next post will be out next WEDNESDAY at 4:00 PM EST! Stay Tuned!

WOW Stories: “The Hilton” FAL’s 3-Day Hotel Special #2

Over the course of many years I have stayed at The Hilton and their franchises several times, in the US, Hawaii and at three of their international locations:

  • Hilton Niagara Falls – Canada
  • Hilton London Heathrow Airport – United Kingdom
  • Hilton Jumeirah Beach- Dubai.

When staying at a hotel overseas I strongly recommend emailing the General Manager and the Executive Chef prior to arrival. Occasionally you will even see the hotel suggest this:

If you have a delicate allergy and need more information or support from the hotel, please contact us in advance of your stay.”

In my experience the chefs at the Hilton Restaurants are experienced in preparing meals with special dietary guidelines.

At the three international locations that I stayed at, I found them to be very knowledgeable, accommodating and most importantly proactive with regards to food allergies. It seemed standard for the following statement to appear on the menu, but what was remarkable is their competence in executing the precautions:

Please note that some of our dishes may contain traces of nuts. For guests with special dietary requirements of allergies who may want to know about the food ingredients used, please ask a member of the restaurant team.

                                                              

 The WOW Story!!

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While visiting the Big Island of Hawaii I dreamt of an exhilarating, experience under the magical Hawaiian night sky, swaying palms, music, hula dancers – an experience that would heighten the senses- a Luau.

The catch however was that a big part of the Luau is in the indulgence of a Hawaiian feast – a buffet that is filled with an array of Pan-Pacific food.

I did my research. The Legends of Hawaii Luau at the Hilton Waikoloa Village seemed the best fit.

Prior to making reservations for the Luau I spoke to the Executive Chef. We reviewed the dietary restrictions and the necessary precautions. He promised me a safe and memorable experience.

When we arrived at the Luau, he came and greeted us.

He had prepared a multi course meal. It was a Hawaiian- American combination of some traditional island dishes and some continental fare. He pointed out that the Kalua Pig was safe to eat.

Experiencing the individual flavors and aromas of the food while watching the Hula Kahiko performers beneath the mid-Pacific skies was an unforgettable experience!

Disclaimer: As always, be sure to communicate your allergies to the restaurant staff to the extent that YOU are comfortable with the way they are handled. For guidance in this matter we recommend our App, AllergySmartz.

**We hope you enjoyed the second installment of FAL’s 3-Day “WOW Stories” Special about Allergy-Friendly Hotels. The final installment will be out TOMORROW at 4:00 PM EST! Stay Tuned!