Tips and Tricks for the Holidays: Advent Calendar! [RERUN]

The following is a rerun of a post published last year (Original Title: “Tips and Tricks for the Holidays: 1 More Advent Calendar!” Original Author: AllergySmartz). In 2015, we ran several posts discussing various options for allergy-safe advent calendars, including homemade versions. All of the posts are available right here, and through the search bar on foodallergylowdown.com


Happy December! Anyone still desperately looking for an allergy-friendly advent calendar?

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I came across this option a few days ago and just heard back from the company regarding their allergy policy.

Their statement: “Our chocolate may contain almonds and hazelnuts, but is free from other nut and nut derivatives including walnut, cashew, pecan nut, Brazil nut, pistachio nut and macadamia.”

It otherwise contains milk, and may contain wheat, almonds, and hazelnuts.

If you are still in need of an Advent Calendar this one should be available at your local Whole Foods 🙂 Filled with fine chocolates this one will definitely please your palette – enjoy!

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Thanksgiving 2016 Part 3: Thinking “Inside” the Box (Quick Sides)

Cooking a nut-free Thanksgiving Feast from scratch while trying to keep up with a fast-paced life is a daunting task. That’s why FAL’s got your back this Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful not just for the bounty of food, but the countless meaningful memories each family shares together.

We have put together some new takes on old traditions, to make your Thanksgiving easy.

Remember, Thanksgiving should be spent enjoying with family, not just cooking.

All these items are nut-free and are available at your local Walmart and most grocery stores.

Easy Stuffing!

Yummy Turkey Gravy!

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Mashed Potatoes and Cornbread are a must!

Don’t forget your breads and rolls as delicious additions!

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We’ve got everything you’ll need for your Pie too!

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And of course… cookies!

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Thanksgiving 2016 Part 2: How Food Allergies Build Character and Make You a Stronger Person

Food in diverse cultures gets interesting as you move beyond mere sustenance to the ‘paradox of plenty.’

The scintillating aroma of the turkey, pecan pie, mashed potatoes, and the numerous other dishes that go on to making a Thanksgiving Day feast, are a reflection of the hosts’ warmth and hospitality.

While the ambiance is always refreshing, it is the bounteous food that can be intimidating for someone with food allergies.

As a teen or a young adult, the hosts’ fervor for one to sample countless appetizers, the feast at the Thanksgiving table leave one torn. It is a balancing act between saying a polite no to the hosts’ generosity or becoming very sick.

As a food allergy advocate, I cannot reiterate enough that when it comes time to confront a situation where you are unsure of the allergy friendliness of any food item, you MUST speak up.

Striving to understand the multifarious questions people have about food allergies, evaluating and responding in the most accurate and convincing manner, and learning to tactfully and respectfully condemn skepticism, while engaging with the host and politely advocating and reiterating choices you are making is absolutely essential in building a safe environment for yourself.

While food allergies seem and, to an extent, are an impediment in one’s ability to freely explore food culture, or dine at parties or banquets, I have come to discover a hidden positivity- It better equips one to build strong and ethical communication skills.

In order to be safe you have to say it as it is – honestly, accurately with a genuine reason namely, the specific allergy and its implications.

Being honest and unpretentious is a skill that will serve you well in all walks of life.

Consider another scenario: You are out dining with friends at a new restaurant, a test of your ability to be proactive and judicious. For someone with nut allergies a scoop of plain ice cream seems innocuous. Yet you aren’t sure of the risks of cross contamination. “Temperance” here is the key.

The word “temperance” comes from the Latin word Temperantia which means self-control. So when you say no to the ice cream it goes much beyond than the just not eating element. It represents self-restraint in actions and in speech.

In a dynamic world of a teenager with varying scenarios, be it a field trip, camping with your Scout Troop, attending a wedding reception, staying away from home at college or attending a party, the changing environment teaches persistence in problem solving, adaptability, resourcefulness and diligence to determine safe dining options. With advocating, some planning and empowering others around about your allergies you will almost never go hungry. While it may not always be something that you truly enjoy eating, contentment may come with some fortitude but is so instrumental in teaching resilience and grit.

Travelling abroad opens a new plethora of excitement. The trail blazer in you will raise curiosity, that sense of wonder and optimism knowing that cultural nuances will impact your dietary restrictions strengthens positivity of character, the respect for diversity and courage to take on the challenge.

To embrace a struggle and to extrapolate it to make you stronger is the elixir for all success.

“So this Thanksgiving as you express gratitude remember that the highest appreciation for what you have is not to just utter words. The strength of persona that you have developed over the years, consequential to your food allergy and that you continue to hone every day is the silver lining in the challenges that the food allergies pose. Look back and marvel at how far you have come. Your biggest asset and strength is your power over your mind!!”

 


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Thanksgiving 2016 Part 1: A Letter to Family [RERUN]

As the holiday season approaches, it is imperative that we educate relatives on food allergies, and communicate the severity of an allergic reaction. While relatives do not wish to do harm to their loved ones, food allergies can be difficult to understand. Therefore, we’ve decided to rerun this post. We have received very strong feedback from the day it was first posted, and hope we can help even more people!


Here at FAL we want to educate as many people about food allergies as we can.

Sometimes family members are not very accommodating of food allergies, especially elderly relatives. It’s not because they don’t care, they do, they simply don’t understand.  Today, we have for you a letter template to fill out and send to relatives before you meet them. Here it is!

Dear [NAME OF RELATIVE],

There are few others in this world who love (NAME OF CHILD) as dearly as you do. We are thankful that you are such an important part of his/her life.

As you know [NAME OF CHILD] is allergic to [ALLERGEN]. Therefore, I wanted to discuss with you briefly what [ALLERGEN] allergies mean.

What the food allergy means is that [NAME OF CHILD] body treats even a minuscule amount of  [ALLERGEN] as an enemy. If [NAME OF CHILD] eats or is exposed to [ALLERGEN] he/she can get very sick.

[ALLERGEN] allergies are NOT a disease. [NAME OF CHILD] is a normal, active child.  

The signs of an allergic reaction are:

  •       abdominal pain or cramps
  •       diarrhea
  •       difficulty breathing
  •       difficulty swallowing
  •       dizziness
  •       fear or anxiety
  •       flushing of the face
  •       heart palpitations
  •       itchy red spots (hives) on the skin
  •       itchy/watery eyes
  •       loss of consciousness
  •       nasal congestion
  •       nausea/vomiting
  •       pain or tightness in the chest
  •       scratchy throat
  •       swelling of the face, eyes, or tongue
  •       wheezing

Sometimes, exposure to an allergen could cause the windpipe to swell up, and the blood pressure to drop dangerously low.  This could develop just seconds after exposure to [ALLERGEN]. An allergic reaction is an EMERGENCY…it needs to be addressed IMMEDIATELY! If left untreated, it could be fatal within minutes.

When we meet, we can talk about what the course of action is, if this were to happen to [NAME OF CHILD].

It is for this reason that I view and handle [NAME OF CHILD] diet very differently.

While at times it may seem I am very overprotective of him/her with regards to food, or it may seem I am not letting [NAME OF CHILD] savor and enjoy food like other children, I HAVE TO DO THIS in order to keep [NAME OF CHILD] safe.

I am requesting your support for while we are together, so that while having a good time, together we can do everything to minimize the risk of an allergic reaction.

For reasons due to allergy, he/she may miss out on a family recipe or other goodies. Regardless of the food, he/she always enjoys being around you.

If you would like to cook using a recipe that is allergy safe for [NAME OF CHILD], please let me know what you need. I will get the allergy safe ingredients. Having food cooked by [RELATIONSHIP OF CHILD TO RELATIVE] is always so special and I am sure [NAME OF CHILD] will always treasure this.

We are looking forward to the visit. Thank you for honoring this request.

Warm regards,

[PARENT/GUARDIAN NAME]


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Staying Safe during the Holidays: Asthma

Hey Everyone! I’m sure you all must be enjoying quality time with your family.

Here are some tips to stay safe in regards to Asthma:

  1. Fireplaces: Cozying up with a blanket by the fireplace might seem soothing to some, but to others the smoke could trigger bad Asthma attacks. If your Asthma seems worse then normal, the culprit may be the firewood! It’s best to just turn down the fireplace and turn up the heating in this situation 🙂
  2. Smoke: Are you staying with family who smokes? The smoke of the cigarette could be getting to you! You can kindly ask your family to not smoke while you are there, and if they must – smoke outside, away from where you will be. Depending on how accommodating your family is, they may even be willing to not smoke starting a few days prior to your arrival so the smoke/residue clear out and the house itself can air out.
  3. The Home: Changes in weather or environment could all effect your Asthma and potentially cause unwanted changes. Be careful of these as possible effectors of your Asthma!
  4. Animals: Whether it’s new pets or a house with cockroach/rat problems – the new dander/animal residues can definitely be Asthma triggers! If you know you have a problem with certain pets, perhaps your family can have the pet stay with a friend while you are visiting, or arrange pet-free places in the house.
  5. Allergens: Of course allergens can trigger horrible changes to your Asthma! If you know you have problems with inhalations of certain foods, make sure your relatives understand this. Sometimes, depending on the food, they may even be able to just eliminate it from the house for the duration of your stay.
For more information: http://goo.gl/ZqbC5o
Be careful and enjoy the Holidays 🙂

Holiday Hat Tricks: A Guide to Allergy-Friendly Celebrations

Happy Holidays Everyone! How are the Holidays with family going? Successful? Stressful? Not to worry! Here are some tips to help you if you are struggling:

1) If your child is very sensitive to certain foods and want them to be kept away, just ask! I myself am allergic to tree nuts, so when I go to visit family they know to leave the nuts in the pantry for the duration of my stay.

2) Set boundaries. It’s OK. Tell your family members not to feed your child anything without your approval. Especially for the family members that “don’t believe in food allergies” – make this very clear!

3) If you feel the way your child’s allergies are going to be managed at a relative’s house is not on par with your desires. It’s OK to stay in a hotel. Remember – they are your family, they want the best for your child’s health too.

In an ideal situation, your family is completely understanding of your child’s food allergies and try their best to accommodate and keep him/her safe. 🙂 Unfortunately, sometimes family is less aware/understanding. In this situation one must NOT compromise. They are your family, be nice, but stay true to the way you always handle your child’s allergies.