Food-allergy-friendly (and healthy) lunch box options for kids

Posted on August 19th, 2013 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Food Ideas | Read 3 Comments - Add Your Own »

When you have a child with food allergies, you can’t rely on any school-supplied lunches, if any are even offered. You have to make lunch every day. Any mom who packs lunches can relate to the morning drill of hoping you’ve done enough grocery shopping to find enough food to put in your kids’ lunchbox that day, while also trying to make it healthy and desirable. I feel a sense of failure when I open a full lunchbox at the end of the day!

Over the years I have figured out how to make my kids’ lunchboxes to come back empty rather than full. When you are dealing with food allergies, you have to think outside of the (lunch)box! No PB&J sandwiches, Goldfish or cheese sticks to fall back on. My kids and I have figured out lunch options that make me and them happy. That’s not to say I don’t strike out sometimes, but I thought I’d share some of our successes and hope these might work for you, or at least spark some ideas.

I can’t say enough how important it is to have a good lunchbox — one with compartments that show the food. What food is appetizing served in plastic baggies and aluminum foil? Plus, the whole no-waste thing is a bonus! I love Laptop Lunches and my kids have been using them for years. When a child opens the lunch, the entire lunch is displayed at once. It is really convenient and appetizing and there is even a fork and spoon — imagine eating with utensils!

Whichever lunch box you choose, the next step is to fill it up! Aim for variety and try to cover all of the food groups. I always put protein along with the filler food (carbs), some fruit and a veggie. And yes, I put a little treat of some kind! I didn’t used to, but I realized that it just makes my kids so much happier when there is a little sweet surprise — and I do mean little — a small cookie, a little pack of gummy candies, a homemade mini muffin.

If your kid likes a sandwich, go for it! There are now many kinds of gluten-free breads to choose from, vegan mayonnaise and allergy-free lunch meats. My kids are currently not crazy about sandwiches so I have had to come up with other options. Here are some of the things I have packed over the years:

  • Gluten-free pretzels with Sunbutter – pack Sunbutter in a dipping container
  • Apples with Sunbutter
  • Rice crackers or tortilla rounds or strips with hummus
  • Tortilla chips with refried beans as bean dip – try Amy’s Organic Traditional Refried Beans – it is not spicy at all and has a good mild flavor that kids like
  • Raw veggies – sometimes on Sunday, I wash and cut into matchsticks or rounds cucumbers and carrots. I store them with snap peas or any other veggie that the kids like in a sealed container in the frig and then when making lunches in the morning, I ask my kids to choose from the veggies for their “veggie compartment.” I have read about some supermoms that put a green salad in their kids lunches. There is no way my kids would eat a salad at lunch! But this veggie method has worked so far for us. Also, if the veggies seem a little dry because you have cut them days before, just sprinkle a little water on them.
  • Cooked veggies – I have gotten away with putting leftover green beans and broccoli (as long as they are not overcooked) in my older daughter’s lunchbox. Sometimes you have to take a risk! :)
  • “Breadsticks” – my kids got tired of sandwiches, so I made breadsticks by toasting the same gluten-free sandwich bread and cutting it into strips – this is great for dipping in hummus or sunbutter, or even just plain. Change the shape and it’s a whole new food!
  • Fruit – okay, this seems obvious, but let’s face it — sometimes there’s no fresh fruit left in the house! Berries, grapes, watermelon and apples are the fresh fruits my kids like, but I always have a back-up of canned pineapple chunks (the natural kind – no sugary syrup) and serve with a fork. The kids love it. If you can fit the pineapple rings in the lunchbox, that’s a big hit also! Other fresh-fruit replacements include applesauce (don’t forget the spoon!), frozen mango, and I bet those cute little mandarin orange slices would make them happy too – I haven’t tried those yet.
  • Protein sources – the beans, hummus and Sunbutter mentioned above are some. My kids like lunch meat, so I will include all-natural salami, or turkey or chicken breast. Try rolling it up and securing with a toothpick (“turkey rolls”), or with rice crackers. Since nuts are a common allergen, you might try seeds like shelled pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds — Enjoy Life makes a trail mix of seeds, dried fruit and chocolate chips, or you could make your own.

Hopefully, this list has helped you get some new ideas. I would love for you all to share what you pack in your kids’ lunches! I could use some new ideas too!


New Summer Camp for Kids with Food Allergies

Posted on January 29th, 2013 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Camp, Food Allergies | Read 3 Comments - Add Your Own »

I am happy to announce that there is a new summer camp in Oregon for kids with food allergies. As far as I know, it is the only one of its kind. When I told my daughter about how she wouldn’t have to worry about the food if she went to a camp like this, she said wide-eyed, “It would be like I didn’t have food allergies!” Yes, my love, it would. I don’t think she’s quite ready for sleep-away camp this year (she’s 8), but I want to support this wonderful camp so that when she’s ready, she has this option.

Here is the email I received about the camp:

I am happy to let you know that Camp Blue Spruce, a worry-free camp for kids with food allergies, is now accepting campers for its 2013 session, August 18-23. Loads of fun activities and Oregon’s great outdoors will make Camp Blue Spruce the highlight of the summer for children with and without food allergies.

We are excited about holding our first session this summer. Camp Blue Spruce will be like any other summer camp EXCEPT the food will be prepared without any of the top 8 food allergens, gluten or sesame. Up to 56 kids will be able to sit down at the table and eat all the foods that are being served — a simple gift for these children, who are rarely able to eat what everyone else is eating.  Kids attending Camp Blue Spruce will have a true camp experience without the worry and anxiety they experience daily with their food allergies. Camp Blue Spruce parents can be worry-free, too!

There are a few things you can do to help make this summer a success:

  1. Register your child for camp. Visit www.campbluespruce.org for the application. Registrations are arriving already, so sign up today!
  2. Encourage your friends with and without food allergies and sensitivities to register. We have reduced the cost for 2013 to make thecamp available to more kids.
  3. Let us know if you can leave postcards at your doctor’s office, naturopath, favorite food store, bakery, library or school. If you have other ways to spread the word, please let us know.
  4. Make a charitable contribution to Camp Blue Spruce. We cannot launch this camp solely with camp fee revenue. Your tax-deductible contribution will do three important things – promote the camp, provide scholarships to campers who are unable to pay the entire camp fee, and help cover essential camp costs. Donations can be mailed to: Camp Blue Spruce, 3519 NE 15th, #225, Portland, OR 97212.

Thank you for your interest and support of Camp Blue Spruce! Please call or email if you have any questions. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Louise Tippens
Camp Blue Spruce Board President
503-726-8886
info@campbluespruce.org

I really hope this camp is a success!


Gluten-Free Summer Camps in California 2013

Posted on January 29th, 2013 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Camp | ADD A COMMENT »

Treat your child to a week of gluten freedom at a special summer camp! There are two California camps dedicated to gluten-free campers – Camp Celiac in northern California, and CDF Camp Gluten-Free in southern California.

CAMP CELIAC

In northern California at Camp Celiac, “campers, counselors, and junior counselors eat delicious gluten-free food and enjoy traditional camp activities such as a ropes course, rock climbing, zip-lining, boating, swimming, archery, arts and crafts, skit night, and outdoor sports. Three meals a day without having to ask if any of the foods are gluten free is life changing for many campers and staff!” Ages 9-17. Campers ages 16-17 years may choose to volunteer as junior counselors.

There will be two weeks (each with a different group of campers):

Week 1: Tuesday, July 23 – Saturday, July 27, 2013
Week 2: Saturday, July 27 – Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

To register:

All campers from Northern California who register between Feb 1st and Feb 14th will be given equal priority if all four registration steps (see below) are completed by February 14 (and received if paying by mail); i.e. there is no advantage to registering on February 1st rather than February 14th. After February 14th, available space will be allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis after all four registration steps are completed (and received if paying by mail). For more information about how to sign up for this camp, visit the registration page at CeliacCamp.com.

CDF Camp Gluten-Free™

At CDF Camp Gluten-Free™, campers with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity enjoy sports, swimming, arts, and high adventure in a strictly gluten-free environment. Camp is held July 15-19, 2013 at Camp Fire Camp Nawakwa, located in the beautiful Barton Flats Area of the San Bernardino Mountains in CA and accredited by American Camping Association” Ages 7-15.

There will be one week:

July 15-19, 2013

To register:

Camp registration is on a first come-first served basis. To register, you must send your completed camp registration forms, one registration packet for each camper or Mentor, with a $200 deposit to Celiac Disease Foundation. You will receive a letter from Celiac Disease Foundation confirming the camper or Mentor’s spot at the camp. Only campers on the confirmation list will be allowed to attend the camp. Payment in full is due by May 1, 2013. Full fee per Child $450; Full fee per Mentor $550. Call the CDF office at 818.990.2354 or follow the registration steps on the Celiac Disease Foundation website.


If you carry EpiPens, please read this

Posted on February 27th, 2012 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Food Allergies, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy | Read 9 Comments - Add Your Own »

A friend of mine, who is also a mom of a child with food allergies, talked to me recently about how  she has not been diligent about taking the EpiPen with them wherever they go, and about how her husband hasn’t taken responsibility for bringing the emergency medication when he takes the child somewhere. They know they should, but they forget, or they haven’t totally accepted the fact that the EpiPen might be the thing that saves their child’s life someday. I get it — I was in the same boat a while ago.

We had EpiPens, we had Benadryl, but it was hanging around our house in different places. Sometimes it would go in my purse, or be stashed in a compartment in my car, or thrown into whatever bag we were carrying that day. My husband didn’t know where it was, and how scary to think what would have happened if I wasn’t around in an emergency to find it.

After a few close calls of our own, and a few heart-wrenching news stories of kids who died because the medicine was not accessible, I realized that I may not be able to control everything she eats (though I try!), but I can make sure that treatment is available should an accident happen.

When a seven-year old with food allergies died, it hit me hard, and I had a heart-to-heart with my seven-year old daughter, sharing the little girl’s tragic story with her, and talking to her about taking responsibility for her own safety. I told her how sad I would be to lose her and that she needed to keep herself safe by 1) not eating anything that could possibly be unsafe and 2) carrying her medication with her at all times. Since then, she has been much more careful with food and diligent about making sure her emergency kit is with her at all times.

And that brings me to the point of this article. You can’t expect the child (or other family members) to be responsible about the emergency medication without providing some organization first. You need to have consistency.

First, get a carrier of some kind. When I set out to write this article, I meant to highlight the carriers I use but it turns out that they are no longer available. The ones I use were made by AllergyKids. They are flourescent green with a big AllergyKids logo on it, they zip and they are roomy enough for a couple of epi-pens and other medication like Benadryl. I like that they are brightly colored so anyone who knows us knows that the bright green bag has the emergency medication in it. I also wrote my daughter’s name is black Sharpie pen in large letters on the bag. There is no mistaking this bag for anything else. You can spot it from far away and find it easily within my daughter’s backpack or anywhere else we might put it. If you can’t find a brightly colored bag like I did, at least buy a few bags with the same pattern so that everyone knows which bags are the Epi bags.

Then, make sure you have a consistent place to keep it in your house, ideally near the front door so that it is easy to remember and easy to grab. We keep one of the bags in my daughter’s backpack and we have another one in the house in my daughter’s “inbox.” We know to look there for the pack when we are going somewhere. She knows to look there also, and even her little sister is always on the lookout for the emergency pack.

You need to find a system that works for you, but have a system!

I found many companies that sell Epi-Pen bags of all styles and colors. Here are some of them:

Allergy Apparel

OneSpot Allergy

BlueBear Aware

Moxie Pouches

Etsy

Let me know if you have a system that works for your allergic child!


Two California summer camps for gluten-free kids – register now

Posted on January 29th, 2012 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Camp, SF Bay Area | ADD A COMMENT »

Treat your child to a week of gluten freedom at a special summer camp! There are two California camps – Camp Celiac in northern California, and the new Children’s Celiac Camp in southern California.

CAMP CELIAC

In northern California at Camp Celiac, “campers, counselors, and volunteers eat delicious gluten-free food and do camp activities such as a ropes course, rock climbing, ziplining, boating, swimming, and outdoor sports. Three meals a day without having to ask if any of the foods are gluten-free is life-changing for many campers and staff!” Ages 9-17.

There will be two weeks (each with a different group of campers):

Week 1:  Tuesday, July 24 – Saturday, July 28, 2012
Week 2:  Saturday, July 28 – Weds, August 1, 2012

To register:

Priority is given to campers from Northern California. All campers from Northern California who register between Feb 1st and Feb 14th will be given equal priority if all four registration steps (see below) are completed by February 14 (and received if paying by mail); i.e. there is no advantage to registering on February 1st rather than February 14th. After February 14th, available space will be allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis after all four registration steps are completed (and received if paying by mail).  At all times, space availability will depend, in part, on the camper’s age & gender since cabins are segregated by sex and age. For more information about how to sign up for this camp, visit the registration page at CeliacCamp.com.

CHILDREN’S CELIAC CAMP – New!

In Southern California’s San Bernardino Mountains near Big Bear, campers will enjoy “a week with their peers, filled with fun activities and adventure in an environment dedicated to their dietary needs. Attend Camp Nawakwa in the beautiful Barton Flats area of the San Bernardino Mountains and enjoy archery, arts and crafts, canoeing, cookouts, drama, hip hop dance, nature lore, swimming and wall climbing.” Ages 7-15.

There will be one week:

July 30, 2012 to August 3, 2012

To register:

Spaces are limited…Plan ahead…Reserve now. Call the CDF office at 818.990.2354 or follow the registration steps on the Celiac Disease Foundation website.


Healthy eating habits start early

Posted on September 15th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Healthy Living | Read 1 Comment - Add Your Own »

gardeningI grew up eating healthy. My parents and grandparents had vegetable gardens, and I became accustomed to eating whole tomatoes picked off the vine, slices of lemon cucumbers with a sprinkle of salt, even sweet ears of corn from my grandparents’ rows of stalks. My mom was a good cook and I don’t remember ever not wanting to eat what was on the table. I believe healthy eating habits start early. I know I am lucky that my family was able to sit down to dinner together almost every night to eat a delicious balanced meal, and that my parents made it a priority. I strive to do this now for my family.

Now you’d think I would have been a label-reader all my life, making certain that I was eating healthy. Nope…

To find out why I became a label-reader, read the rest of my article on the Attune Foods blog!


Happy Birthday to my girls and a surprise allergen-free dessert

Posted on August 31st, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Food Ideas, Holidays/Special Events, Products | Read 6 Comments - Add Your Own »

My girls turned 7 and 5 this month, and for their birthday celebration, I decided to have something other than cake (see their past birthday cakes: Butterfly cakes, Fish cakes, Mermaid cakes, Aloha cakes).

The dessert was a surprise up until the moment it was ready, and it was a hit! Can you guess from the picture of my happy 7 year old what it was?

chocolate-fountain-5

A chocolate fountain! With stuff to dip — all gluten-free and free of the top 8 allergens.

I purchased a mini chocolate fountain on Amazon for $28. It worked great, but I think in the future I would rather have the larger size. For the chocolate I used Enjoy Life Mega Chunks with organic canola oil (you have to add oil to the chocolate to thin it for the fountain). The chocolate flowed perfectly and was delicious. People couldn’t believe it was dairy-free.

Chocolate Fountain

For the dipping I used marshmallows, pineapple (canned), strawberries, mandarin oranges (canned), Glutino pretzel sticks, Kinnikinnick animal cookies, vanilla cake cut into chunks, and more marshmallows (the most popular item), which I also put candles in for my girls to blow out during the Happy Birthday song.

For dipping and eating, I had skewers, plates, and NAPKINS! And a hose. :) Yes, it was messy, but the smiles were worth it. I recommend doing it outside (even though the instructions say not to), and getting a plastic tablecloth.

chocolate-fountain-2

chocolate-fountain-3

The chocolate fountain may just become their birthday tradition!


Letter to parents about food allergies

Posted on August 23rd, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Food Allergies | Read 3 Comments - Add Your Own »

If your child has food allergies, it is a good idea to let the other parents in your class know. In my case, I wrote a letter to all the parents in my daughter’s grade because they all eat lunch together and last year we had an incident due to another child and her parents not knowing about my daughter’s peanut allergy.

I thought I would share the letter here in case anyone out there needs a little help. Feel free to copy and paste it to make your own letter. I have already had one parent let me know that after reading my letter she bought Sunbutter for her son’s lunches (even though I didn’t ask her to).

This letter is to let you know that I have a child in the 2nd grade with severe food allergies. Her name is ____________ in Ms. ______’s class. Even if your child is not in class with my daughter, they share lunch tables. Therefore, I want to make sure that all the parents and kids in the 2nd grade are aware of her severe allergies.

________ is severely allergic to peanuts, nuts, eggs and avocado. If she comes into contact with or eats these foods, she can become very ill, with hives, rash, itchy eyes, stomach ache, vomiting, breathing problems, and swelling throat. The allergic reaction could be life-threatening (anaphylaxis) if not stopped in time with proper medication and emergency care.

The best way for my child to be safe is for her to avoid the foods to which she is allergic. I am aware and sympathetic to your needs as parents when packing food for your children to eat at school. Peanut butter and other nut butters are of the highest concern with children as they are sticky and the oils are easily transferred to shared surfaces. If you do pack peanuts or nuts for your child, please talk about it with your child and encourage him/her to be careful about spilling or spreading it around, to keep the food away from _________, and to wash his/her hands after eating. Kids are usually very thoughtful about it and don’t want their friends to get sick.

I know from the last two years that you are a wonderful and supportive group of parents and I thank you for looking out for my child! Please do not hesitate to ask me any questions.

Sincerely,

Alison St. Sure


Healthy (and food allergy friendly) snack options for kids

Posted on August 18th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Food Ideas, Healthy Living | Read 3 Comments - Add Your Own »

I love to snack and I guess I’m pretty good at making healthy snack choices for myself. Kids, on the other hand, require a bit of coaching as to what constitutes a healthy snack. Pre-dinner time is the worst, when kids turn into beggars looking for handouts! So, to stave them off before they reach for the chips and treats, I try to put a variety of snacks out before kids ask for them — you know what they say: be one step ahead of your kid. Sometimes I set them out in a high-traffic area and don’t say a word. They discover them and sure enough, they are eating the healthy snacks and not rifling through the pantry.

Coconut Yogurt and CerealNeed kid-friendly snack ideas? All of the snacks on my list are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free and nut-free… also minimally processed and healthy! Even kids with food allergies can overload on packaged carb-heavy snacks and sugary treats, so it’s important to not fall into the deprivation syndrome (letting them have as much as they want of the allergen-free treats because you feel they are deprived enough already).

These are snacks that my kids, ages 5 and 7, will actually eat, plus they double as great lunch box items!

To see my healthy snacks list, please visit Attune Foods, and add your own ideas in the comments!

Happy and Healthy Snacking!


Can your food-allergic child be trusted?

Posted on April 7th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Egg Allergy, Emotions | Read 23 Comments - Add Your Own »

I thought she understood. I thought she would say no. But she ate it, at school, when no grown-ups were around. It was a cupcake, given to her by a friend at recess, and she ate not only the frosting, but half of the bottom.

Food Allergy Child Keeping a SecretI thought she would have at least told me that she had done it after the fact. Nope. Not a word. So how did I find out? From another mom, whose daughter also was given a cupcake at recess by the same friend. She told her mom that my daughter ate it too. The mom told me, out of concern. I confronted my daughter — at first, she said it was only the frosting, but days later, she admitted that she had eaten part of the cake.

I have to admit, I was shocked. It’s not like she committed a crime, and I didn’t make her feel that she was in trouble for doing it, but I had to initiate the “You could die” talk, to which she responded, “I could die? But I’m only six years old — I have barely even lived a life!” Heavy stuff for a 6 year old. My heart was breaking, but what else am I to do? The fact is that the cupcake could have had nuts in it. Unlikely, but WHAT IF?

I don’t blame anyone — the generous kid didn’t know, the school didn’t see it. It’s the responsibility, albeit a big one, of my daughter to say no. Aside from reminding her about the big shot she would have to get in her leg (to prevent her from dying), I also repeated what I have told her before: that any time she is offered a treat and says no, she gets to have a treat that’s as good as or better when she gets home. I promise. “But it just looked sooo good.” Sigh.

If there is any silver lining to my daughter sneaking a bite of potentially fatal food, it is that she didn’t have a reaction. It didn’t have nuts, but surely the cupcake had egg in it. She had an anaphylactic reaction to an egg last summer, but it was not baked. One study showed that the majority of children with egg allergies (74% in this study) could tolerate heated eggs, baked in a muffin or in a waffle, because the heat reduces the allergenicity of the egg. According to an interview with one of the researching doctors about the study, “past history of anaphylaxis was not an exclusion criterion and we found no difference in rate of anaphylaxis between those who reacted or tolerated baked egg.” So, I’ll be making a call to the doctor to set up another egg challenge. Let’s hope it goes better than the last one.

Allergy Moms and Dads, I would love to hear your thoughts! Has your child eaten food they shouldn’t have? What are your strategies for keeping them safe and having them take responsibility for themselves? At what age is telling your child he/she could die too much information, and at what age is it necessary? And how about that egg allergy – anyone do a baked egg challenge?