Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back to school with allergies

Back to school time is such a mixed bag for parents.  Half of our brain wants to hold on to lazy summer days when our schedule can have a bit more flex in it, enjoy those summer moments with the kids just a liiittle longer.  The other half of our brain is ready for a break from the bickering that has started, the long days of summer that are starting to wear on the children rather than relax them.

Allergy parents start getting ready for the next school year earlier than most.  Many of us start in the spring, before the current school year is even over!  That's the time to contact your school and start the conversation about how to make school a safe place for your specific allergy needs.

In addition to purchasing the standard school supplies like lunch boxes and crayons, and prepping the all important first day outfit, allergy moms also:

1) Stock the medicines needed for our kids at school.  Liquid Benadryl, epinephrine auto-injectors, inhalers, topical steroids, etc.  Easily an extra $500 of essential supplies.

2) Chase down medical forms.  Print them from the school website or drop by to pick them up from the nurse.  Drop them at the allergist to fill out (for a fee), pick them up when they are ready a week later, and make sure they are at school on day 1.  There is a form for each medication along with instructions on how and when to use them, an action plan for how to handle allergic reactions, an action plan for how to handle asthma, and forms that give permission for your child to self-carry their auto-injector/inhaler.  (In addition to the additional set in the nurse's office, which does take it's own form.)

3) Meet with school staff.  This has to be done before day one, so allergy parents need to be proactive!  We start sending notes in the spring to be sure to get face time prior to the start of the year.  We review the 504 or IHP plans to make sure they are up to date and will be valid in the new classroom setting.  We speak with individual teachers to work through any concerns or kinks in setting up a safe environment and safety protocols.  This can involve many meetings and much discussion before plans are finalized.

4) Intensive kiddo training.  We understand that teachers have 24 other kids they are watching and may not immediately notice issues that negatively impact our kids.  We have to train our kids how to self advocate.  This starts in kindergarten!  How to let an adult know if you feel allergic symptoms.  How to notify an adult if you feel unsafe, or see something that could be an allergic trigger.  How to turn down treats and foods that are offered.  How to eat lunch safely.  It goes on and on...

5) Research and plan lunch options.  If the school feels they can accommodate our kiddo, we meet with the cafeteria staff and review safety protocol (or write it sometimes!), research ingredient information, determine if the food is safe and can be kept that way throughout the preparation stage.  If the cafeteria can not accommodate the allergies in question (I know ours could not handle the 15 that I avoid.), we stock up on lunch box supplies and ideas.  Thermos bottles, water bottles, lunch containers, etc. Come with ideas about what to put into the container that the kiddo can and will eat.  Then we address how to seat the allergic kiddo so that safety continues during dining.  (Ever see elementary kids sneeze/cough while eating? I don't have allergies, and I would be worried about the amount of their food sprayed onto my lunch!)

Back to school is a mixed bag.  We want our kids to see their friends, gain a bit more autonomy, and learn new information.  It takes a bit of extra work, and a lot of extra faith.  We count on the village to help prevent anaphylaxis from happening at school, and appreciate every effort that is made with that goal in mind.

Are you an allergy parent?  Tell me what steps I missed!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Calling all adults with food allergies!

I was recently contacted by a doctoral candidate who is having trouble finding participants to complete a survey on what middle and high school experiences were like for food allergic persons.  The catch is: he is surveying adults and asking them to think back to their experience.  If you are a food allergic adult, or know one, please help by sharing or completing the survey.  Thank you!

Hello, my name is Dre Berendsen, and I am a 4th year graduate student in Clinical Psychology at John F. Kennedy University. I am conducting research, under the supervision of Alette Coble-Temple, PsyD, to explore experiences of those with food allergies, and I am writing to ask for your participation in my research study. The John F. Kennedy University Institutional Review Board (IRB) has approved this study. 

Please feel free to pass on this information to anyone you might know who qualifies.  Thank you very much.

Requirements for this study are:



I am seeking participants for a research project to better understand the experience of individuals with food allergy, including the various impacts of these experiences. 

Participants will be asked to respond to an online, anonymous survey containing approximately 100 short items (about 15-30 minutes).

I hope this research study will contribute to the Food Allergy literature and will provide scientific basis for assistance and intervention for those students with food allergies in the U.S. education system.

Participation is completely voluntary and responses will not be linked with an individual’s identity. You may withdraw from the questionnaire at any time. 

If you are interested in participating, please contact me for a link to the survey or go to: FA Survey

If you have any questions about your rights as a subject/participant in this research, or if you feel you have been placed at risk, you can contact the Director of Instructional Services and Research Compliance at (858) 642-8136.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Lunchbox thoughts re-hashed

I've a few years of practice with allergy friendly school lunch boxes now, and have written a few posts about them.  I wanted to take a minute to re-visit some of those thoughts here, for those of you who have not memorized the content of my other posts.  (I know you have loads of extra time to do such things!)

The down and dirty on packing a lunchbox for allergic kids:

1) If you have an allergen free lunch table make sure to find out if it works a second job.  Moonlighting as a snack table at a Scout meeting is not unheard of, nor is hosting the PTA president, attending after school care as an art table, and various other encounters that may smudge that table's allergy free responsibilities.  Often cafeterias are used for more than just lunch, so find out what happens to the table during those times.  Can it be pushed aside, blocked off, covered up, or cleaned afterwards to avoid lingering residue?

2)  Find out how the allergen free table is cleaned.  Is it first, before the other tables?  This way contamination is not spread from other tables to yours via a contaminated cloth.  Or, even better, does it have a separate cloth and bucket for cleaning? Is bath time only after meals, or does it clean up prior to lunch also?

3)  Make sure your little darling can open everything in their lunch box without help.  Often the little ones are to shy to ask for help, so skip eating that part.  More often the helper has already opened a yogurt, two applesauce cups, and a packet of peanuts that the other munchkins in the room couldn't open.  There is no hand washing between helping kids, so it is possible that the helper may actually be a source of contamination!

4)  In the beginning have your kiddo bring everything home.  Even the trash.  This way you get a realistic idea of what is being eaten. Why pack more than that belly has the time or interest in eating?

5)  Take the lunchbox on a test drive.  Can your child easily open it and take things in and out?  My little one had trouble with the darling princess lunchbox she selected as it was designed to function like a paper bag.  To hard to get to her food without taking everything out.  We found the lunch boxes where the top zips all the way open make it easier to get to what she wants, and provide a surface to eat over.  (Because food that hits the table is off limits.)

Those are my top 5 lunchbox hints for getting started.  Feel free to cruise for more ideas by reviewing my other lunchbox posts!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Menu Plan Monday

Not quite fully fleshed out, but bones enough to take to the grocery tomorrow!  I'll fill in the blanks with whatever is on sale.

Monday (pork)
Breakfast: Cinnamon muffins
Lunch: beef burgers, roasted sweet potatoes
Dinner: Italian sausage with peppers and onions, green beans with shallots

Tuesday (fish)
Breakfast: bacon, biscuits, green smoothie
Lunch: ham wraps
Dinner: fish and chips, peas

Wednesday (turkey)
Breakfast: cinnamon rolls
Lunch: veggies and hummus
Dinner: Spaghetti with meat sauce, broccoli

Thursday (vegan)
Breakfast: sausage and pancakes
Lunch: leftover spaghetti
Dinner: Veggie pot pie, mandarin oranges

Friday (beef)
Breakfast: cranberry orange muffins
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly
Dinner: stir fry

Saturday (pork)
Breakfast: zucchini muffins
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: brats

Sunday (fish)
Breakfast: waffles with berry reduction
Lunch: pulled pork
Dinner: fish tacos

Monday, July 21, 2014

Nut Free Spreads- Nutritional Comparison

There are quite a few peanut free spreads on the market now to smear on a sandwich and send in your kiddo's lunchbox.  Most have an appearance that is very similar to the traditional lunchbox favorite, but how do they stack up nutritionally?  Let's take a peek, starting with the nutrition label for the good ol' standard- peanut butter.  (So you know what you are measuring against.)

Peanut butter.  This is the standard everyone holds replacement against.  Note the protein content.

Barney Butter- made from peanut-free almonds.  This is a great option if you can have tree nuts.

Biscoff Spread- NOT a peanut butter replacement. This is made from ground up cookies, people.  I don't care if it is nut free, it is still a dessert spread!  All sugar, no protein.

I M Healthy Soybutter- There are several soybutter products on the market, this is the label I grabbed.

Sneaky Chef No-Nut Butter made from golden peas.  This was surprisingly delicious, but awfully low in protein.

Sunbutter made from ground sunflower seeds.  This is the favorite in our house! Great protein, free of the top 8.

I made sure to get the original spread with each of these, not a flavored version.  I have seen chocolate soybutter often ( I adore the Don't Go Nutz brand version. Yum.), but make sure to watch the sugar content on those labels! Some of them are more of a dessert spread with more sugar than is really needed.  I know that the flavor of the soybutter spreads varies from product to product, so feel free to try several to find the one that hits your palette right.

The above labels are as complete as their original packaging would allow.  I did not research to see what nutritional perks may have been left off of the label.  This is just so you can see how your spread compares!

Now. Who's hungry for a sandwich?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Menu Plan Monday

It's time to post the weekly plan!  This process really does keep me sane, removing the impromptu dinner planning and making sure I have all ingredients I need on hand.

Monday (vegan)
Breakfast: apple cinnamon muffins
Lunch: beef sloppy joe, onion rings, mixed veggies
Dinner: vegan pizza

Tuesday (turkey)
Breakfast: pancakes with berry reduction
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly
Dinner: bbq turkey thighs, cauliflower rice, green beans with shallots

Wednesday (fish)
Breakfast: turkey sausage, herb roasted potatoes, green smoothie
Lunch: turkey dogs
Dinner: crispy lemon cod, roasted beets, honeydew

Thursday (beef)
Breakfast: cranberry apple breakfast bake
Lunch: salmon salad
Dinner: crock pot beef stew, peas, quinoa

Friday (pork)
Breakfast: cream of buckwheat
Lunch: beef sliders
Dinner: eggplant lasagna with italian sausage, spinach salad with balsamic berries

Saturday (vegan)
Breakfast: pork sausage and biscuit sandwich, green smoothie
Lunch: ham wraps
Dinner: southwest black bean burgers, roasted sweet potato wedges, stovetop apples

Sunday (turkey)
Breakfast: lemon poppy muffins
Lunch: veggies and hummus
Dinner: turkey meatballs with quinoa pasta and marinara

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sesame Free Hummus

My daughter adores hummus, even though she can not have sesame.

 I love that it is so cheap and easy to make.  It's an ideal summer lunch or afternoon snack when paired with veggies for dipping, and it goes together faster than your kids can have a hungry tummy meltdown. Win-win.

I use this recipe, and two of my three kids love it. Give it a whirl and see how it goes over at your house.

Sesame free Hummus

1 15 ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
juice from 1/2 of one lemon
1-2 Tbsp Sunbutter (or nut/seed butter of choice- optional)
1 small clove garlic
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2-1 tsp kosher sea salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
dash paprika- for serving (also optional)

Add everything to the food processor and turn on.  Let it whirl away for a few minutes.  Really, give it 2-3 minutes to get smooth and creamy, don't be tempted to turn it off early!  Whirl past that initial impression of it being blended, the extra time creates luscious creamy texture.

For this recipe, you can use any white bean your kids like, mine especially like cannellini beans.  I like to use beans that have kombu included as an ingredient, as it makes the bean slightly softer and easier to digest.  If your house avoids garlic, leave it out!  Toss in the flavor element enjoyed in your home.  Leeks? Chives? Basil? Tweak the spices to match your tastes, there is no wrong way to do it.  Use a bit of water in place of the lemon juice, or pickle juice if you want.  Again, it's your tongue, make it happy with flavors you like!

Happy snacking!