Live Courageously with Food Allergies: Online Summit Nov. 3-6

Avoid eating those foods.

That’s the only direction the doctor gave me when I was diagnosed with multiple food allergies and celiac disease as an adult. Little did I know then that eliminating dairy, gluten, soy, corn, and many more foods from my diet would be as challenging as climbing Pikes Peak with a backpack full of rocks.

The first thing I did after leaving the doctor’s office was go grocery shopping. Big mistake. Reading the back of packages, looking for processed foods that didn’t contain dairy, soy, or gluten, tears streaked my face. Even the organic health foods in the special freezer section contained soy! What was I going to eat? How would I feed my family?

Then came my first meal out. By the time I eliminated all my allergens, I was left with steamed broccoli and applesauce.  I’ll never forget my first plane trip after diagnosis when I didn’t pack any safe food.  All I could find to eat in the airport was a bag of potato chips.

Food Allergy Wellness Summit

I was alone with my food restrictions and stressed and maybe even a bit depressed. In my circle of family and friends, I was the only one with “food issues.” I felt like an outsider at social events and family gatherings and became somewhat reclusive. These weren’t my best years.

That’s why I’m so excited about the Food Allergy Wellness Summit, Nov. 3-6, that Crystal Sabalaske of Cluttershrink started. A busy mom with a house full of food allergies, Crystal dreamed up this Summit as a way to help families like hers. The Summit is online and free, so you can listen to the topics that interest you at your convenience.

You’ll learn how to:

  • travel and navigate social situations while staying healthy
  •  save money while buying gluten-free and allergen-friendly foods
  • send your kids to school and college with the know-how to keep them safe
  • apply updated medical expertise to help you manage your food allergies
  • reduce food allergy-related stress in family, friendship, and romantic relationships
  • enhance your well-being through nutrition
  • cook and bake sans allergens
  • organize your kitchen into a giant “safe zone”

An Allergic Foodie will share tips for the college celiac on Nov. 6, 2014 during Food Allergy Wellness Summit

I’m humbled to be speaking about college life with food restrictions with such a prestigious group of food-allergy experts, including:

This Summit is the guidance I wish I’d have after hearing the doctor say, “Avoid eating those foods.”

Sign up TODAY.

An Allergic Foodie will share tips for the college celiac on Nov. 6, 2014 during Food Allergy Wellness Summit

FOOD ALLERGY WELLNESS SUMMIT: COLLEGE 101

My husband and I drove through Nashville this past weekend and stopped to have dinner with the college boy. You’ve heard me refer to our son often as the  “College Celiac.” Yes, he inherited his mom’s celiac genes, something we discovered after he left home and went far, far away. Actually, he believes the amount of wheat he ate during freshmen year–pizza, pasta, bagels, cookies–triggered his celiac. He’s probably right.

Over gluten-free appetizers, I asked my son if he ever cheated and ate a slice of pizza or a cookie. Okay, I was really wondering if he ever slipped up and had a beer at a party. Perhaps it was the dozen of red solo cups and the beer pong table in his rented house that made me wonder this.

“I’m never even tempted,” he said. “It’s not worth feeling stupid all week.”

Food Allergy Wellness Summit: College 101

My son’s worst celiac symptom is brainfog. Feeling lethargic and air-headed can obviously make learning and studying hard. Trying to adapt to college life is challenging enough without having to worry about eating the wrong foods and getting ill.

And oh how I hated those terrible middle-of-the-night phone calls when he was doubled over in pain. I wondered if it was truly a gluten reaction or if he had appendicitis or food poisoning. Should he go to the ER, or wait it out?

When  he ate in the school cafeterias, he got glutened often. We tried moving him to a suite with a kitchen and that proved to be even worse–the other boys left half-eaten pizza and breadcrumbs everywhere! Moving to a house last year helped, but he still keeps a toaster in his room and gluten-free foods under his bed.

We’ve both learned a lot in the last four years. So when I was asked to speak about our experience for the FOOD ALLERGY WELLNESS SUMMIT–a FREE ONLINE 4-day event with 12 food allergy experts–I jumped at the chance to help other parents and students about to embark on the college journey. There seems to be a wealth of information out there for younger kids with food allergies and celiac disease, but not so much for the high school and college student.

Surviving College with Food Allergies or Celiac

If you have a child with food allergies, or you are a high school student preparing for college, please join me on November 4 for “I Can’t Eat That: Living with Food Restrictions in College.” I’ll offer lots of advice on everything from choosing the right school to preparing to leave home to eating and socializing on campus.

After listening to my talk, you’ll  receive TWO FREE DOWNLOADS specific for college students from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and Food Allergy Research & Education. Plus you’ll have a chance to WIN THREE GREAT PRIZES  perfect for the college student: a $25 gift certificate to Well Amy; an assortment of treats free of the top ten allergens from Surf Sweets; and an autographed copy of The Everything Gluten-Free College Cookbook by Carrie S. Forbes.

An Allergic Foodie will share tips for the college celiac on Nov. 6, 2014 during Food Allergy Wellness Summit

SIGN UP FOR THE FOOD ALLERGY WELLNESS SUMMIT TODAY!

Food Allergy Wellness Summit: College 101 originally appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie

The Waitress Who Went to Bat for An Allergic Foodie

The Close-Minded Chef and the Waitress Who Went to Bat for Me

Just getting over a few days of food-allergy misery. I’ve been eating out a lot–just check my Facebook or Instagram photos!–so I’m not all that surprised a bit of gluten, soy, dairy, or corn snuck into my food. I guess I tempted the Food Allergy Gods one too many times.

This may sound slightly paranoid to some of you, but I kind of wonder if this time at this particular restaurant the chef didn’t intentionally leave an allergen in my order. It’s horrible to suspect someone who is preparing your food isn’t taking your food restrictions seriously, but we all know it happens.

The Close-minded Chef and the Waitress Who Went to Bat for Me

Here’s how the dining experience–er, dining disaster–played out. The waitress is terrific–very aware of my needs because she herself is gluten sensitive. She asks myriad questions and goes over the menu in detail. To be safe, it’s decided I’ll order plain grouper and steamed broccoli and cauliflower. The table will share crab legs for an appetizer, butter on the side.  The only unanswered question is what kind sauce of the six offered I can have on my fish. She goes back to the kitchen to find out.

When she returns, her face is flushed  She explains that the head chef is “old school” and believes the front of the house–the waiters and servers–shouldn’t converse with the back of the house–the chefs.  I thought this only happened in the movies! How in the world is our waitress suppose to find out if  food is allergen free without talking one-on-one with the person preparing the food?

“I told him you’re not going to have to use an epipen on my watch!” she says. Her pen flies up in the air like a sword.

This waitress went to battle for me. How awesome is that? But that’s also why it makes getting sick from this meal even worse–and why I suspect foul play.

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t just leave the restaurant then. In hindsight, I should have. But it was late, few other restaurants were opened, and we were so enjoying this view of the full moon.

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So I ate my plain grouper that was nondescript, which was fine if it meant not getting sick.

Of course, you now know how that panned out.

While rolled up in a ball on the bathroom floor, I rehashed that meal in my head. I pictured the chef ignoring that lovely waitress. I wondered what he missed–or added–to my order that made me so sick. I kept asking myself, If this chef had a wife or a child with food allergies, how would he feel about interacting with the front of the house then?

I’m often quick to blame a waiter for leaving croutons on my salad or butter on my vegetables, but maybe I don’t know what he is dealing with behind those swinging steel doors. When a hierarchy exists in restaurants–when good communication between all food staff members doesn’t exist–those of us with food restrictions pay the price.

The only time I’ll return to this restaurant is to see the sunset. I’m pretty sure this chef could care less about losing me as a customer, but the waitress may. She did her job exactly right. I’ll give her a high-five the next time I see her.

The Close-Minded Chef and the Waitress Who Went to Bat for Me first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

A Grocery List and a Chance Encounter--or Serendipity?

A Grocery List and a Chance Encounter–or Serendipity?

I’ve come to rely on specific food brands that don’t contain my allergens. So Delicious, Jones Dairy Farm, al fresco, Applegate, Erewhon, just to name a few. That’s why I get a little anxious when we head to our second home on Hilton Head. Up until recently, grocery stores carrying health food and specialty items were lacking on the island, and you paid a premium for allergy-friendly brands. I once paid $6 for a Hail Merry Miracle Tart at a small natural grocers.

In the last few years we’ve gotten a Harris Teeter and a Kroger with gluten-free and allergen-free foods–and this past summer the first Whole Foods Market opened! Yes, An Allergic Foodie did a happy dance!

New Whole Foods in Hilton Head Island

I was thrilled when it rained the second day we were here so I could skip the beach and make a trip to Whole Foods. That probably doesn’t sound all that odd to those of you with food restrictions. I took a very short grocery list with me–coffee, Just Mayo, hand soap, dog treats.

Wouldn’t you know I couldn’t find the Just Mayo. Every single mayonnaise from Canola to Olive Oil to Safflower  had egg and/or soy. I was kicking myself for not bringing the huge jug of Just Mayo I’d left at home in Colorado Springs.

While I was browsing through the gluten-free refrigerator section, my husband shouted. “Amy, I have a surprise for you!”

I rounded the corner and my mouth fell open. There was this lovely lady named Paulette (or maybe Pauletta?)  from Hampton Creek giving out samples of pretzels and dip made from  . . . you guessed it . . . Just Mayo!

An Allergic Foodie searches for her favorite brands at Whole Foods, HHI

I showed her my grocery list and her mouth fell open. We both laughed and snapped photos.

Just Mayo at Whole Foods

Turns out Whole Foods requires Just Mayo to be refrigerated. This version is in a glass jar; the one I buy at home from Costco and King Soopers is in a plastic one. So when you are looking for a favorite brand in a new store be sure to ask the clerk for help.

This experience reminded me how grateful I am for the companies that make food I can eat. With food allergies, we often focus on what we can’t eat. When I come to Hilton Head two times a year, I pack up a cooler with a few products I can’t live without and then pray I can find the rest. Sometimes, I order foods through the mail. For many years, I just went without for five weeks. That doesn’t seem all that long, but after five weeks of no Boulder Sausage I’m feeling withdrawal symptoms!

So today I’m giving a shout out to Whole Foods Market on Hilton Head Island and Just Mayo from Hamptom Creek Foods. Without you both, I wouldn’t be eating today’s delicious chicken salad.

Note:  If you have a corn allergy, the modified food start  in Just Mayo is corn. It is less than two percent of ingredients, and I have not reacted to it though I’m usually intolerant to corn.

A Grocery List and a Chance Encounter–or Serendipity? first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Planning a Disney Trip with a Special Diet: Celebrating this November

Originally posted on Food Allergy & Celiac Convention:

Blogger Street Team member Amy (aka Allergic Foodie) shares with us her excitement of travelling to Disney World this November to celebrate her recovery. Her blog Adventures of an Allergic Foodie provides help to fellow adults and families by sharing strategies, research, helpful products, personal stories, and more with insight in living food allergies, celiac disease and eosinophilic esophagitis. 

Go Back to Spring Break 2004. There I was in the happiest places on earth—Disneyland—feeling miserable. While my husband and two sons ran around the park enjoying a lifetime experience of rides, attractions and food, I crawled back to our hotel room and slinked into bed. The pain was unbearable and I was so exhausted, a kind of exhaustion I’d never felt before.

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We’d flown to Anaheim from Colorado Springs to promote my second nonfiction book, The Pregnancy Bed Rest Book. Ah, I see the irony now–the book was for pregnant…

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Food Allergies & Celiac Disease: Tips for Coping at Work

Coping with Food Restrictions at Work

My oldest son just celebrated a birthday. Having graduated from college last May, he is now working his first real job in an office setting and living on his own. I laughed when he said, “Birthdays just aren’t as much fun when you’re a grownup.”

No matter how old you are, birthdays aren’t as much fun when you have to pass on the birthday cake, too. College Grad is allergic to dairy and eggs. Of course, there are plenty of treats he can eat, but the office is small and they are evidently unaware of the nearby allergy-friendly and vegan-friendly bakery with cupcakes like the one below.

cupcake

A few years ago, for a short time, I worked in an office. I didn’t know back then that food was making me sick. I’d buy a sandwich on wheat bread or bring one from home and spend the rest of the day doubled over. Fortunately, the company allowed me to work at home often, but I became so focused on figuring out what was wrong with me, I resigned. My husband likes to say I quite my job to be a blogger.

That experience, and now having a son with allergies in the working world, has made me empathetic to those who must manage food restrictions among co-workers who don’t alway understand. Even my younger son in college experiences challenges managing his celiac disease while interning for companies. Both sons developed allergies and celiac disease as young adults, so they had to learn to speak up for themselves; a teacher or a parent wasn’t always there to ensure their  food safety. Still, when you’re young and interning or starting your first job, it’s not easy to ask your manager to wipe the cookie crumbs off the counter or explain to the company CEO why you can’t eat the cheese pizza he just bought for the staff.

One of my friends, a project manager who developed anaphylactic reactions in her thirties, told me how she had to train her staff to use an epipen.  Can you imagine? Who wants to stick a needle in their boss’s thigh? A man I recently met shared how uncomfortable it is to have a reaction among co-workers and be the center of attention. He worried that others would view him as weak.

Whether you’ve grown up with food restrictions or reactions are new, you must learn to speak up for yourself and be proactive in managing your dietary needs. Christina Griffin, who blogs at Bubble Girl Happily, and Alice Enevoldsen have written a terrific guide Managing Food Allergies in the Workplace.  This manual is for both food-allergic folks and for their employers. FARE also has useful information.

My sons and I would love to hear your stories and workplace tips.Coping with Food Restrictions at Work first appeared on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.