Celebrating Valentine’s With Food Allergies

Despite the cheery decorations you likely are already seeing in stores everywhere, not everyone loves Valentine’s Day.  It’s true, some people have a love/hate relationship with the holiday.  Many in the food allergy community can fit into this category and it isn’t hard to see why.

On one hand…who doesn’t love a day that celebrates love for others?  I mean, for goodness gracious…look at the news and the things taking place around the world and tell me we couldn’t all benefit from a spreading a little more love and kindness toward one another!  I don’t need a special day on a calendar to remind me to tell those I love how much they matter, but I’ll never shy away from the opportunity the holiday provides either.

On the other hand, for those with food allergies, the holiday can be a minefield of sorts.  Beautifully wrapped festive candies and treats are everywhere.  Some treats that are usually considered safe for you might not be in the holiday version of that same candy because of packaging concerns…try explaining that to a three year old.  And some candies are taped to a card, which although they are usually sent with good intentions, don’t carry an allergy statement or ingredient label.

My son has had food allergies for fourteen years now, and has grown up with the mantra that his food allergies can’t define him unless he lets them.  For that reason, my family has never really shied away from celebrating holidays that create challenges, we try to embrace them with our own unique food allergy flair.

For our family, when my son was in preschool and elementary school, this usually meant:

  • Not eating anything handed out at school, at school or at home
  • Bringing safe treats to school
  • Trading unsafe candy for safe candy or toys at home
  • Volunteering to be homeroom mom or a party helper to further ensure his safety
  • Handing out Valentine’s with non-food items such as cool erasers, stickers, or pencils

During middle school and now high school, the potential food allergy challenges are changing.  Whether it is party he is invited to, a team celebration, or even a date, we sit down together and talk about the possible challenges and ways to gracefully navigate them.

Regardless of their age, I usually do at least one little thing for both of my kiddos for Valentine’s and usually put it with a funny card.  Over the years, these have been some of my favorite go-to’s that worked for my son:

  • DumDum Lollipops
  • And now that they are older, one of my favorites is an experience gift.  (This usually means catching a movie together or maybe even mini golf or bowling outing.)

Still trying to think of an idea that might work for you and your family?  Be sure to check out this post from Allergic Living on their top food allergy picks for Valentine’s Day 2019.

Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, maybe give a word of kindness or do a favor for a friend because this crazy world we live in is ALWAYS in need of that!

However you choose to spend February, I hope it is filled with joy and kindness!

 

*Disclaimer:  Enjoy Life Foods provided me with the pictured Valentine’s sample candy packs for free.  I did not receive monetary compensation for this blog post and the opinions expressed in this post are strictly my own.*

Winter Break Back To School Checklist

The school year always passes at such a frenetic pace, I treasure the winter break with my family when school, work, and extracurricular obligations are minimized.  Those days are often filled with gingerbread houses, looking at Christmas lights, and so much joy!

Now lo and behold, in nearly the blink of an eye, we are one weekend away from going back to school.  I guess it’s true what they say…time flies when you’re having fun.

So as the first day of the spring semester of school approaches, it’s a great time to do a mid-year food allergy/asthma evaluation.

Applegate Half Time Lunches (1)

If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few suggestions:

CHECK EXPIRATION DATES     The start of a new year is a great time to check the expiration dates…on everything.  This means prescription and over the counter medications that are at home, school, daycare, grandparents’ house, etc.

REFILL EXPIRED MEDICATIONS     Now that you’ve checked in to see which of your family’s current medications are expired or close to being out of date, it’s time to have them refilled.  Be advised that sometimes it takes a call or visit to your doctor in order to obtain a refill and this process could take several days depending on if you need to see the doctor before a prescription can be renewed.

REFILL THE ALLERGY-SAFE GOODY BOX     I always kept a a clear tupperware of safe treats for my son in his teacher’s classroom for impromptu preschool or elementary school celebrations.  If you have a similar goody box or bag that is stored at school or elsewhere, be sure to check the expiration dates on the products inside and send in new safe treats if need be.

RESTOCK THE LUNCH STATION     My kids both pack their lunches for school, but they can’t do what they need to do unless I have all the food stocked and ready to go.  As you make the next grocery list, think back to what your kids regularly packed in their school lunches, add it to the list, and make sure your pantry and fridge are stocked with the necessities and some safe treats too.

TOUCH BASE WITH THE SCHOOL    Take a few minutes to send a short and to the point email to your child’s school nurse and teachers to thank them for what they do to keep your child safe each day and ask if there is anything you can do to support them.

REEVALUATE EXTRA CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES     Is your son or daughter changing sports this semester?  Set an appointment to meet with your child’s new coach or instructor and be sure to have an updated emergency action plan ready to go for your meeting.  If appropriate, it might be helpful to include your child in this meeting so that he or she can participate in this discussion and understand their role as well as the instructor’s.

SHOW THE LOVE     Sometimes it is so easy for us to get wrapped up in all the paperwork and details of keeping a child safe at school, that it can be easy to miss the most important part…love.  No matter their age, give your child a big bear hug and let them know how much you love them.

Personally, I like to complete my checklist early, so I can savor the last few days of winter break and maybe spend a few more days in denial that homework, tests, sports, and clubs are about to get real!

And just maybe I’ll starting counting down the days until spring break…

 

OWYN, Plant-Based Protein A Win For Those With Food Allergies

A couple of months ago I came across an advertisement for OWYN protein products and my interest was piqued.

This company that makes plant-based protein products is taking America by storm.  They’re products are even touted by fitness gurus and sports celebrities such as five-time Olympic medalist Nastia Liukin according to the company’s Facebook page.  Add to that OWYN products have the FARE (Food Allergy Research Education) Proud Supporter label and this sounded like a product and company I needed to get to know.

A husband and wife duo, Kathryn Moos and Jeff Mroz, who are both athletes wanted to make a clean, simple, and delicious protein option that would both feed and nurture the body.  Because of their time and effort to that cause, OWYN was born.

So, who is OWYN?  The company’s acronym stands for Only What You Need and they are dedicated to making plant-based protein drinks, powders, and bars that boast high vegan omega 3, a unique superfood blend, high fiber, and low sugar.

Why should OWYN be something the food allergy community needs to hear about?  In addition to winning the FARE Proud Supporter Label, this husband and wife duo and their children know first hand what it is like to live with food allergies.  Although I always appreciate the efforts of anyone who at least tries to accommodate those with food allergies, I feel that a person who has actually walked that path always brings something special to the table.

The company is rather transparent about testing for the presence of allergens in their products in a statement on their website, “Every lot of finished goods is tested for the presence of Top 8 allergens using accredited 3rd party laboratories. OWYN won’t clear final product for shipment until documentation is received verifying that the finished product contains no cross-contact with any Top 8 allergens.”

If you’re wondering what constitutes the “presence” of an allergen, they address that on their website too.  “Except for gluten, there is no FDA standard for allergen thresholds for any of the Top 8 allergens. OWYN requires all ingredients to contain less than the lowest established detectable amount of the Top 8 Allergens, except for Gluten. The lowest detectable amount varies by allergen, and can be reviewed on our allergen testing chart below. Gluten is required to contain less than the FDA gluten-free standard of 20 parts per million.”

Now that I’ve shared with you a bit about the company and what their stance is on food allergies, let’s talk about the products themselves.  OWYN makes the following products:

  • 100% Plant-Based Protein Drinks:  Dark Chocolate, Cold-Brew Coffee, Smooth Vanilla, and Strawberry Banana
  • 100% Plant-Based Protein Powders:  Smooth Vanilla, Dark Chocolate, and Strawberry Banana
  • 100% Plant-Based Protein Bars:  Dark Chocolate & Sea Salt, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Chocolate Chip & Cranberry, and Tart Cherry & Lemon

When I inquired about OWYN’s products, they were kind enough to send me free samples of all four protein drink flavors.  In return, I promised to do a product review with my TRUE opinion.  I received no monetary compensation for writing this review.

In the spirit of honesty, I didn’t get to taste all the flavors because my son who has food allergies and runs high school cross country (and needs a ton of protein) pilfered them before I had a chance.  So the review you’re reading is a combination of my own and his.

At first we were a little surprised that the drink had a thinner consistency that what you usually think of when it comes to a protein drink.  That said, the amount of flavor in each sip is robust and not thin at all. Although we really liked all the flavors, the Strawberry Banana drink was my son’s favorite…and that would be the one flavor I did not get to taste.  Go figure. 

Of the other three, my favorite was Dark Chocolate, then Smooth Vanilla, and then Cold-Brew Coffee.

Especially for my son who is an athlete, fast access to a safe, healthy, and tasty protein source that is also portable isa HUGE win!  The drink itself is quite filling with close to twenty grams of protein which can be great for muscle recovery after a difficult workout.

Bottom line:  I do believe this is a product we will be using again in our household…especially during my son’s cross country and track seasons.  Even though I am far from being an athlete, I enjoyed the drinks as well and think they are absolutely perfect for a working woman or busy mom that is constantly on the go.

Now, here’s the really exciting part!  The folks at OWYN were kind enough to give you, my reader, a special discount code of FLAVORS20 which will get you 20% off of orders $25 or more when you order online here.  Thank you, OWYN!

A Few Of Our Favorite Things

Every December, we rush about buying presents for loved ones and friends in anticipation of seeing their eyes sparkle with joy when they open our gift.  But the older I get the more I realize that the very best presents, Christmas or any other kind, aren’t those that cost the most, but those that require a great deal of thought and sentiment.

In my family, food allergies have been a part of our world for almost fourteen years so we are always on the look out for things that can make that journey safe and fun.  So as the Christmas shopping season gets into full swing, I thought we’d share a few of our favorite food allergy related things in hopes that they might also bless you or someone you know too.  Enjoy!

A Few Of Our Favorite Things

  1.  Izzi B’s:  This allergy conscious company makes THE most delicious holiday treats.  My family is especially partial to their fabulous gingerbread house kit and gingerbread cookies.   Mmmmmm!  Be sure to put your order in soon to allow time for delivery.
  2. Hersheyettes:  These chocolate goodies are one of our holiday favorites around here and make a fabulous substitution for m&m cookies.  I’ve found these at Target, Kroger, H-E-B, Amazon, and Walmart.  These are also great stocking stuffers!  Warning:  These usually disappear fast, so make sure you buy enough to share!
  3. SunCups:  My son simply adores these peanut-free versions of Reese’s.  Unfortunately, I haven’t found them locally here in Houston, but my mother-in-law who lives up north has a store that carries them and she ships them to us.  You can also order them on Amazon from the comfort of home. 🙂 These are excellent stocking stuffers as well!
  4. Cella’s Chocolate Covered Cherries:  These don’t last long around our house…like between the four of us we’ve gone through a whole box in one day!  They are sinfully delicious and a decadent treat.  These make great stocking stuffers and are easy to find at Walgreens, Kroger, Amazon, and more.
  5. Liberation Gluten-Free Bakery Unfortunately, this may only work for you if you live in Houston, but even if you aren’t, it’s honestly still worth the trip.  Angela is amazing and her sweet treats are such a treat.  From birthday cakes, to cookies, to just about anything sweet, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who does it better.  Read my past review of the company here.
  6. Stephanie Sorkin’s Nutley The Nut-Free Squirrel This adorably written children’s book makes a great read for kids and a wonderful addition for any teacher’s classroom!  Read my review of the book here.  Better yet, Sorkin donates 100 percent of the proceeds of this book to FARE!  Sorkin has several books including Frenemy Jane The Sometimes Friend and Chocolate Shoes With Licorice Laces that also make fantastic additions to any child’s book collection.

    Courtesy of Stephanie Sorkin

  7. SPIbelts My son has used this handy little belt to carry his epinephrine injector, inhaler, and antihistamine for a number of years.  The rest of the family has a SPIbelt too as they are perfect for holding a few small items during a workout.  You can read one of my past reviews here.
  8. Honor Donation to FARE Organizations that work tirelessly to educate, advocate, and research when it comes to food allergies are truly a gift.  Our family is always honored and grateful when someone makes a donation to FARE on our behalf.  Consider making a donation on behalf of someone you love who has food allergies.
  9. Homemade Advent Calendars:  There aren’t always a lot of choices when it comes to allergy-friendly Advent calendars, but it is a tradition we wanted to incorporate into our family.  So, a few years ago I decided to come up with my own.  This calendar is inexpensive to make and a lot of fun to do each day.  The calendar is also a way to make time for Christmas activities you might not have otherwise worked into your busy schedule.
  10. Gifts To Others:  Food allergies have been a challenge for my family over the years.  Because of the kindness and love from others, we’ve been afforded many opportunities and much hope.  So each year, our family comes together to give to another in need…and not necessarily someone with food allergies, because quite frankly the world is a big place with a lot of hurting people and even if you help just one person, you are giving them the gift of hope.  The funny thing about this gift, is it is one of those gifts that when you give it, you get so much more back than you could ever imagine.

May your holiday season be full of special blessings, immense peace, good health, and lots of love!

Kimberly, The Food Allergy Mom

 

P.S.  Would love to hear what some of your favorites are too in the comments below!