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?

From GERD to Great: Abigail’s Story

Posted on March 7th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Celiac Disease, GERD, Symptoms | Read 24 Comments - Add Your Own »

A baby diagnosed with GERD, a tired mother who kept fighting for answers, and a new beginning. Today’s post is from Cherie, a reader of this blog who originally shared her story with me via email. She willingly agreed to share her story publicly, knowing that her difficult journey could help others to avoid the pain that her daughter and her family went through. Thank you Cherie.

abigail-babyMy name is Cherie. In 2007 I gave birth to our second child, a beautiful baby girl. She came quickly and was just perfect. Little did I know that this would begin an often difficult and heart wrenching journey. It started right away. Because of a surgery I had when I was younger I was unable to breastfeed my babies. So the nurse gave me some formula for Abigail, but she would not eat it. I should have know something was up — our son, born less then 2 years earlier, ate his first bottle like nothing. But not Abigail. She just would not eat. She just wanted to sleep. We tried so many different things to get her to drink. Finally a nurse decide to try putting the formula in a little medicine cup and putting drops on her lips. Eventually, she started drinking, but we ended up staying in the hospital for 5 days.

When we got home, her feeding issues continued. She never wanted to eat. And when she did she would cry and scream. She would violently spit up. She would throw up. Off to the pediatrician we went. She was diagnosed with GERD. Then put on Zantac. It did not really help. She was still crying and screaming, when I could get her to eat. It was so difficult for me. I was a stay at home Mum, and had Connor who was not even 2 yet. My husband worked a lot and I felt so overwhelmed with this little one who would just scream for hours on end. Abigail needed to be constantly held. She never, I mean NEVER, slept. She would sleep for 20 minutes to half an hour at a time, even at night time. She never napped. When she did sleep she would reflux in her sleep and start gagging and often turned blue from everything settling in in her mouth and throat. I was scared to death to let her sleep in her room because I thought she would choke to death. We did all the typical things: raised her bed, tried to tuck her in so she would not slide down. Nothing really helped.

Finally, after going to the doctor for the millionth time, I took her to the ER. CONTINUE READING »

Low Vitamin D linked to allergies

Posted on March 5th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Food Allergies, News & Research | Read 8 Comments - Add Your Own »

Vitamin DChildren with low vitamin D levels were found to be 2.4 times more likely to be allergic to peanuts than children with adequate vitamin D levels, researchers discovered, according to a new study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. This was just one of 17 allergens tested in kids with vitamin D deficiency. These children were also more likely to be allergic to 11 of the 17 allergens tested, which included both environmental (such as oak and ragweed) and food (such as shrimp) allergens.

What does this mean? Researchers aren’t quite sure what the link means, but there has been a lot of emerging research about vitamin D deficiency and also about the role of vitamin D in protecting against various health conditions. Food allergies, like many other immune conditions, are on the rise, as is vitamin D deficiency.

In 2010 the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Vitamin D were raised to 400 IU/day for infants, 600 IU/day for people age 1-70, and 800 IU/day for those over 70 years old. In addition, the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL), meaning the dose at which there are no known adverse effects, was set at 4,000 IU/day for people age 9 or older, with gradually lower amounts for lower ages. See the National Institutes of Health Vitamin D fact sheet for more information.

These new RDA levels for vitamin D, though higher than before, are thought to be still too low, according to many researchers, doctors and health practitioners. I personally supplement with vitamin D (my levels tested low) and give my kids vitamin D supplements on the advice of a nutritionist and based on my own research. My experience is not meant to be taken as medical advice. I suggest that you see a health professional for his/her recommendations on vitamin D supplementation, especially if you suffer from any chronic health condition.

If you have undiagnosed celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, you may be at greater risk for vitamin D deficiency. Dr. Vikki Petersen explains the correlation very well in this video:

Research continues, and there’s a lot more to learn about vitamin D and its crucial role in our health.

Hail to the Kale — How to Make Kale Chips

Posted on November 17th, 2010 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Food Ideas, Healthy Living, Recipes & Cooking Tips | Read 3 Comments - Add Your Own »

Tonight my girls chowed down a plate of kale and fought over the last bite, which I then had to split in half. No, I’m not magic! The kale tasted good. Take it from my 4 year old who looked at it and said “Yuck” and then tasted it and said “Yum!” It feels good to watch your kids eat such a powerhouse veggie, packed with vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, vitamin B6, and magnesium! Plus, it’s in season now (winter).




I was first introduced to the idea of kale chips by Michelle of What’s Cooking With Kids many months ago when she shared with me her simple recipe as we walked through the Marin farmer’s market. Combining her instructions, a few tips from Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen, and my own advice, I am sharing how I made the kale chips that my daughters loved so much.



  • One bunch of organic kale (try to get Lacinato kale, otherwise known as Dinosaur or Tuscan kale — the hearty leaves are dark blue-green) UPDATE: I’ve decided I like regular old green kale better for chips and it is easy to break the leaves off the stem.
  • Olive oil
  • Salt (I prefer fine grain sea salt for these chips)


  1. Wash the kale leaves and spin dry in a salad spinner, or dry with a towel or paper towels. CONTINUE READING »

First allergic reaction at school

Posted on September 7th, 2010 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Emotions, Food Allergies | Read 30 Comments - Add Your Own »

schoolkids1Well, it happened. My daughter had an allergic reaction on her 6th day of 1st grade. She never had a reaction when she was in kindergarten at the same school, and at first I couldn’t even figure out what had happened. But the mystery has been solved and I am left wondering how far I should go to protect my daughter.

Here’s what happened:

The school called me to tell me that my daughter was coughing and couldn’t stop, that she had left class and was in the office. They gave her water, but that didn’t help. I wasn’t thinking food allergy at all. I was thinking that she had a tickle in her throat, or maybe allergies to pollen. I didn’t react like it was an emergency. I headed for the school.

When I reached the school, her coughing had gotten worse and she couldn’t stop. Her breathing was affected, but she told me that she hadn’t eaten any food yet that day (it was still early). I was still trying to figure out what could have happened and asked her a bunch of questions as I drove her home. She was still coughing uncontrollably. At home I gave her Benadryl and waited. Luckily, her coughing gradually subsided and her breathing was better.

Later that day I spoke to the teacher and told her that I couldn’t figure out what happened to my daughter but that it seemed like an allergic reaction. The teacher’s eyes got wide and she said, “Ask her if she was playing with Julia. She had a big glob of peanut butter on her shirt and I sent her to the bathroom to wash it off.”

Now, my daughter has never had peanuts in her life, nor has she had a reaction to peanuts. She tested positive for peanuts on the allergy test along with other nuts, so we are very careful, but it has never been tested in real life. Until now.

I asked her if she had played with Julia. No, she said. I asked her again if she played with Julia. No, she said again. Hmmm… I asked her if she touched her shirt by any chance? Yes! Why?? “Because her shirt was fuzzy and she said I could feel it if I wanted.” Bingo! Later I confirmed that the girl in her class had eaten some of her peanut butter sandwich at recess. My daughter touched the girls’s shirt right after recess and then her reaction started. Most likely my daughter put her fingers in her mouth as she sometimes does when she is doing her work.

According to the Food Allergy Action Plan given to me and to the school by our doctor, her coughing was a reaction that warranted the use of an epinephrine injection (Epi-Pen) because her throat and lungs were being affected, and the reaction can suddenly get more severe, leading to anaphylaxis. Because I didn’t think there was food involved, I was so slow to react. I’m not sure if I am in denial or just plain dumb, but this has been a real wake up call for me. I have a whole new perspective on the benefits of having a school be nut-free, but I am not sure I am ready to lead that fight, or even if I feel it is necessary, but it sure would be nice.

I know there are parents out there who feel that making a nut-free school puts a burden on them as parents of the non-nut-free kids. I know there are lots of children with issues surrounding food, but honestly, when you think about the fact that a child could die from touching a kid’s shirt, doesn’t it put things in perspective?

I don’t really know where I’m going with this post, but I hope to at least raise some awareness about the dangers that kids with food allergies face. If you know your child’s friend has a life-threatening food allergy, talk to your child about it and suggest that he/she doesn’t bring that food item to school. Just today, one of my daughter’s friends told her dad to pack her a salami sandwich instead of peanut butter so that she could sit near my daughter at lunch. Kids are amazingly receptive and thoughtful when it comes down to it.  The grown-ups sometimes are the ones who need the convincing!

Cooking with your kids really works!

Posted on July 7th, 2010 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Healthy Living, Recipes & Cooking Tips | Read 4 Comments - Add Your Own »


Last night my daughter ate a dinner of pasta (gluten-free) with a sauce of olive oil-sauteed red onions, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, yellow bell peppers and chicken apple sausage. There was nothing left in her bowl… not because she is an amazing kid who eats anything, but because tonight she cooked it with me.

Let me back up a bit and introduce you to Michelle Stern of What’s Cooking. I was introduced to Michelle on Twitter by Stephanie O’Dea, the Crockpot Lady — this is the virtual blogger world that I live in, but we all live in the Bay Area and I now know them as real people. Michelle teaches cooking to kids. She has built a business around it, not because she is a businesswoman as much as she is a teacher, which is where she and I really connected. It turns out that she was a student teacher for a science class at the same high school where I was teaching history. Our paths didn’t cross at that time, but here we are now!

Michelle’s work inspires me to get my kids more involved in cooking and understanding where their food comes from. Her blog is full of great advice… recently she gave two tips for cooking with kids:

  1. “Let go of perfection.” – I don’t know about you, but this is a hard one for me!
  2. “Let kids DO.” – seems obvious, but this is easy to forget.
  3. And I would like to add: “Have patience.” Give them time to learn.

Michelle and I met up for the first time at the farmer’s market where she encouraged me to buy kale to make kale chips (they were yummy!) Her passion has stuck with me since that day, although I really do forget to involve my kids enough in food preparation.

But not last night! Last night my daughter cut cherry tomatoes in half with a serrated knife for the first time. I taught her how to hold the knife, how to hold the tomato and how to cut with a forward and back motion. She was so proud of herself. (If your child isn’t ready to use a sharp knife, you can let him/her use a butter knife to cut olives, as shown in the picture.) She also stood at the stove on a step stool and stirred, as I added each ingredient. The result was that she felt that she cooked the dinner, and so of course she thought it was delicious! (Bonus: little sis also ate most of it, even the yellow peppers, because big sis was eating it!)

Involving your children in the preparation and cooking of healthy food helps them to appreciate it, understand it, and best of all — eat it!

Eco-Planet gluten-free instant hot cereal

Posted on May 23rd, 2010 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Products | Read 7 Comments - Add Your Own »

I grew up opening those little packets of Quaker Instant Oatmeal — I can remember the smell and taste of the Maple & Brown Sugar flavor and how all the sugary stuff came out at the end. Since most commercial oats, Quaker included, contain gluten because of the contamination with wheat, only “gluten-free oats” are considered safe for a gluten-free diet.

ORIGINAL Panels outlineI have tried other gluten-free hot cereals, and some are very satisfying, but my favorite (and my daughter’s favorite) is Eco-Planet Organics Instant Hot Cereal. Maple & Brown Sugar flavor of course!

The hot cereal contains 7 whole gluten-free grains: oats, buckwheat, sorghum, brown rice, puffed amaranth, quinoa and millet. It also contains flaxseeds and chia seeds! There are three flavors: Original, Apples & Cinnamon and Maple & Brown Sugar. The product is made in a dedicated gluten-free facility, tested for the presence of gluten, and certified gluten-free. It is also free of the top 8 allergens.

The ingredients of the Maple & Brown Sugar flavor are:
Organic Instant Rolled Oats, Organic Puffed Amaranth, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Natural Maple Flavor (Organic Brown Sugar, Natural Maple Flavor), Organic Chicory Root Powder, Organic Flaxseed Flour, Chia Flour, Organic Brown Rice Flour, Organic Sorghum Flour, Organic Quinoa Flour, Organic Buckwheat Flour, Organic Millet Flour.

This is a satisfying, delicious and quick breakfast. Healthy too — there are 5 grams of protein and 500 mg of Omega-3s in every serving. Add your own fruit or nuts for variety.

Eco-Planet Instant Hot Cereal is available in natural foods stores and online. Contact the company directly for more details.

Gluten-free and GFCF summer camp in Michigan

Posted on February 19th, 2010 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Celiac Disease, Dairy Allergy, Gluten Intolerance | ADD A COMMENT »

Did you enjoy summer camp as a child? Have you been hoping your child would have the same opportunity to learn and grow in a summer camp environment? This can be difficult, even impossible, if your child struggles with food related health problems. That is why Camp Westminster on Higgins Lake in Michigan ( is offering camp opportunities for children who require special menus. GFCF camp will be the week of June 20-26, 2010.

The summer camp program allows children and youth to develop a sense of responsibility and self-worth in a Christian community. The enthusiastic, gifted, and multicultural staff are carefully selected and thoroughly trained. The camp director is year-round staff at the Westminster Presbyterian Church of Detroit.

NEW THIS YEAR: A gluten free menu will be available, with advance registration, during any week of camp in 2010. If your child has other food issues, contact us to discuss accommodations. Last year we accommodated kids with allergies/sensitivities to gluten, casein, eggs, soy, corn, nuts and legumes. If you have food related camp questions, please contact Deanna at or Pam Jann at

Other gluten-free camp info:

Camp Celiac

Gluten-free (and most dairy-free) animal cookies

Posted on February 14th, 2010 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Celiac Disease, Dairy Allergy, Egg Allergy, Gluten Intolerance, Products | Read 1 Comment - Add Your Own »

Remember animal cookies or animal crackers from our childhood? What fun to experience them again through your kid’s eyes! But if your child can’t have gluten or has other food allergies, most animal cookies are off-limits. Don’t worry… there are several brands now making them free of gluten and other allergens!

kinnikrittersKinnikinnick Foods

In addition to being gluten-free, Kinnikinnick’s animal cookeis are also dairy-free, nut-free and egg-free. (They contain soy lecithin and pea protein.) Three flavors of animal cookies are available:


In addition to being gluten-free, Orgran’s animal cookies are also dairy-free, egg-free, and nut-free. Several flavors of animal cookies available:

envirokidzanimalcookiesNature’s Path Organic

In addition to being gluten-free, Nature’s Path’s animal cookies  are also egg-free, dairy-free and nut-free. (They do contain soy.) Flavor:

Jo-Sefs Gluten Free

josefanimalcookiesIn addition to being gluten-free, Jo-Sefs animal cookies are dairy/casein-free, lactose-free, egg-free, and nut-free. (They contain soy.) Products are processed in a dedicated nut free and gluten-free kosher facility. Flavors available:


midelarrowrootcookiesNot all cookie flavors made by this company are gluten-free, but the Arrowroot Animal Cookies are. They do contain egg, soy and milk. Regarding nuts, the website says: “Only Pecans are run on the MI-DEL line of bagged cookies. Peanut Butter Cremes are sometimes produced on the same line that makes the MI-DEL Sandwich Cookies but strict sanitation/allergen procedures are in place to avoid any potential contamination.” Flavor available:

Now go make that little person in your life happy!

Sign your child up for gluten-free camp this summer

Posted on January 25th, 2010 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Celiac Disease, SF Bay Area, Upcoming Events | Read 2 Comments - Add Your Own »

campceliacRegistration begins February 1st for Camp Celiac, a gluten-free camp for kids with celiac disease, ages 9 to 17. The camp will run from July 25-30, 2010. The goal of the camp, located in northern California, is to provide children restricted to a gluten-free diet with an opportunity to relax and have fun with kids their age, without having to worry about social acceptance or what foods they can eat.

campceliacreedMy cousin’s son Reed who was 13 years old when he attended the camp last summer, has been gluten-free and dairy-free since age 7. He has been to the camp two times and looks forward to going again. He sat down with me after the camp last summer and told me all about it in an interview:

What were your favorite things about the camp?
The ropes course, the lake and the gluten-free dairy-free grilled cheese sandwiches!

Did you worry about food while you were there?
campceliacreed21I worried a little that the food would be gone, but not about the gluten.

Was the food good?
Really good.

What were your favorite foods?
Pizza, breakfast — bacon, eggs, pancakes (they had a different tray for the dairy-free ones), and of course the grilled cheese sandwiches. The desserts were really good. My favorite was ice cream in a chocolate cone.

What about snacks?
There was a snack basket with individually wrapped samples whenever you wanted. There was also a snow cone machine!

Did you know any of the kids?
I got to see my friends from last year.

Do you want to go to the camp again?
I want to go every year and then when I am old enough, be a counselor at the camp.

So there you have it — a big endorsement from Reed!

To find out more about Camp Celiac, view photos from the camp, and register, visit the Camp Celiac website.

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