Going to Summer Camp with Allergies

Camp is a very fun way to enjoy summer, but for those of us with food allergies it may at first seem a little intimidating. If you manage it correctly however, it can definitely be a lot easier. Today more and more camps are becoming peanut and nut free. This is a great step to solve nut allergy issues, but there is still concern for all the other allergies. 800px-Canoagemcanada

Most kids start off attending day camp. With allergies this can be a bit tricky, but with simple communication, things should work out okay. Some camps ask all the kids to bring their lunch. If that is the case, then treat it like you would school. Sometimes however, the camp provides lunch. To prepare for this before camp starts, talk to the kitchen staff and ask for a menu or meal plan. Talk about what is in each dish, and if you or your child can have it or what else they can make for you or your child. If you cannot come up with anything to eat then maybe consider bringing your own lunch. In terms of the snacks that the camp may provide, talk to the camp just like you did for lunch to try and find a solution.

Sleep away camp can be scary for any child, but especially children with food allergies. Unlike day camp, you cannot pack every single meal, so you will have to do some real planning before camp. Talk to the camp, and maybe have the head of the kitchen come over. Talk about what type of food is usually safe for you, and what type of food is not. Also talk about what simple dishes you like to eat. Although you can’t bring up all of your meals, you can bring up some homemade food. Often, sleep away camps will have a rough menu of what meals they will serve. Talk about what type of food you could have as alternatives for the dishes you can’t eat. When you go up to camp, make sure there is somebody you can talk to as well as make sure you know where to get your food. Most camps will have a salad bar, so you can always go and take some salad, if this is a safe option. Camps will also usually serve plain pasta, which you can eat if that is also safe for you. Once at camp you will better understand what

there is for you to safely eat. . 792px-Camp_fire

Both day and sleep away camp are so much fun, and there is no reason that you should miss out just because of your allergies. Remember the most important part of camp is to have fun and remember your auto-injector! Have a great summer everyone!

Babysitting Allergy Dilemma

Babysitting is something a lot of teens do to make a few dollars but have you ever thought about the precautions you must take when you have allergies? The worst thing to happen is to have an allergic reaction when babysitting, as you are supposed to be taking care of other people.

Here’s a few allergy safe babysitting tips. First of all, if it is your first time babysitting for a family, make sure to tell them about your allergies. That way if you are feeding the kids, the food that you are giving them can be prepared to not have any of your allergens in it.

Second, when you babysit, parents sometimes tell you that you can eat one of their snacks. If you don’t feel comfortable eating their food, it is completely reasonable to bring your own snacks.  When you get to the babysitting house, make sure that there is none of your allergens lying around. If there is, politely ask the parents to store it out of sight, and not to take it out while you are there.  

Here is a little story that happened to me. I always thought that babysitting wasn’t something that was affected by my allergies. When I got to this one house, the parents asked me if I could make the kids dinner and feed them one hour from then. I said okay and asked what I should make. They said I should feed them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I told her I couldn’t because I was allergic to peanuts and they said they didn’t have any other food so I was going to have to make them that.

They left and I was in a panic because I did not know what to do. I called my mom who quickly brought over soy butter. I made them soy butter and jelly sandwiches. I told the kids that it was peanut butter and jelly and they seemed to have no idea that it was really soy butter. When the parents got home I told them that I didn’t feel comfortable feeding their kids if they were going to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the next time I went over, the parents luckily had something else for me to make them for dinner.

Here’s what I want you to remember from this story: it is always best to let the parents you are babysitting for know about your allergies before heading over for the first time to avoid awkward situations like this one.

A Pricey Checkout: Grocery Shopping with Allergies

food and notepad

I recently read an article reporting on healthy diet costs. The findings showed that in order to eat a healthy diet, families would spend approximately $2,000 more annually compared to those who do not follow a healthy diet.  I then thought about this compared to those who have food allergies and if they wish to buy certified ‘allergen-free’ food (i.e. gluten free, dairy free, etc.). They have no choice but to grin and bear a hefty checkout bill or resort to making their own food replacements, or simply go without.  I personally can say that being a university student living on my own, I simply refuse to buy items such as gluten free/egg free bread or granola bars based on what I can afford on my budget.  I do make up for some of the items I’m not buying at the grocery store by making my own breakfast granola or cookies to treat myself. However, even allergy friendly baking can add to costs with the added price of specialty flours, dairy free alternatives etc. Added prices can also be seen when eating out, although some restaurants are offering new alternatives such as gluten free options, these can come at an additional cost for the product, adding to your bill at the end of the night.

That being said, while facing the reality of having to pay more for allergy safe foods, I personally always try to stay mindful of how things are greatly improving in terms of allergy friendly food options that are available.  I remember when I was younger (we’re talking around 15 years ago!!) my parents would struggle to find safe foods for me to eat and would actually have to order allergen free foods that would be MAILED to our house. Even more unfortunate is that although this food was delivered right to our house, it wasn’t exactly the most ‘tasty’ and I wouldn’t even want to eat some of it.  Today however, it seems that more grocery stores than not have at least a small health food section offering food alternatives for those with allergies.  It seems as the number of people who have allergies and other food restriction increases; the number of products available and the quality of these items continue to increase.

So while it may be premature to hope that the price tag of allergy safe foods will become closer to regular food items, it’s still worthwhile noting all the improvements made allowing allergen free foods to be more accessible and even more tasty!!

Feel free to comment with what your favourite ‘allergy friendly’ foods.  Or how do you avoid purchasing these pricey items and find different alternatives to enjoy the foods you love safely (i.e. baking or doing your own cooking) 🙂

I have allergies… but I do eat food!

My name is Caitlyn, and I have a severe allergy to peanuts, as well as a wheat and egg allergy.

One thing that I always notice, which I’m sure that others with allergies also experience, is the age old question that I am constantly asked: “What do you eat!?” Recently, I started a new job, where one of my coworkers was absolutely astounded to learn about my allergies. She went on and on about how hard it must be for me to find foods to eat and how it was probably impossible for me to eat anything at all. Meanwhile, I was chowing down on a large lunch that I had packed –a bit of a contradiction there!

I will admit that it does take more work to find foods that are allergy safe and stay safe when eating – but there are options out there! I would like to take a moment to appreciate how much allergy friendly foods have improved and how many more options have become more available over the years. I’ve had known allergies since I was about one year old. When I was young, I remember my parents having to order allergy friendly foods to be delivered to our home each month, including crackers, bread and cookies. Even though this food had to be specially ordered, they were NOT that good in taste, especially compared to what is available today.

Allergen free symbols, including peanut-free, egg-free, milk-free, nut-free, wheat-free, and fish-free symbols.As people become more aware of allergies and food intolerances, the foods available to accommodate those dietary needs are also increasing.  Not only are health food stores common carriers of gluten-free and allergy friendly products, but many grocery stores also have products free of gluten and the most common allergens. Even the local grocery store in my very small town has introduced a ‘gluten free’ section, offering many gluten free products, as well as allergy friendly foods that are dairy and egg free.

Depending on where you live, it is also becoming more common to find bakeries that accommodate allergies, either as a common practice or by request.  It is also great to see how many companies are taking extra steps to ensure that their food products (such as granola bars and chocolate bars) are labeled as peanut free. That is not only assuring for people with food allergies – it also makes it easier for others trying to find safe snacks that won’t put others at risk.

Restaurants can also be very accommodating, providing you inform them about your allergies.  With some investigation, you may find some Italian restaurants that provide gluten free pasta or pizza options, which is great for people with gluten intolerance or wheat allergy. I have even eaten at restaurants that strive to be peanut free. Of course, eating out still provides many challenges and requires people with food allergies to be aware and communicate about their allergies – however, the number and quality of restaurants accommodating food allergies are definitely growing!

It is hard for food manufacturers to accommodate the wide variety of allergies out there – but the products that are available are continuing to improve. Hopefully, as allergy awareness continues to grow, eating will only become easier and tastier for those with allergies!

Being a vegetarian – and having allergies! Yes, it IS possible!

Hi, my name is Joanna, and I am currently Lead Coordinator for the YAP Outreach Committee. I am allergic to peanuts and soy, and I am lactose intolerant. I also avoid all tree nuts, due to potential cross-contamination with peanuts.

When I first tell people that I’m allergic to peanuts, the most common response I get is, “Wow, that must be tough.” When I tell them that I’m allergic to soy too, they ask me, “How do you eat out?” Then – the real kicker – when I tell them that I am ALSO super vegetarian, I hear, “So…what do you eat?!”

For the longest time (and I mean about four years), I was gaining interest in becoming vegetarian (for various reasons). I kept thinking, “I wish I could, but I can’t because I have allergies.” Other than not being able to eat peanuts or soy, it is extremely rare that my allergies limit me from doing anything. I am proud to say that for the past four years, I have been vegetarian. I am healthy, happy, and have so much energy.

I found it tricky to find resources about managing allergies and being vegetarian, so I am writing this for anyone who is looking for that information or knows someone who is. At the same time, it’s important to remember that this article is from my personal experiences on becoming a vegetarian and not being able to eat peanuts, soy, or dairy. Please take your food allergies into consideration before following my examples or suggestions! If you have any questions, I strongly encourage you to see your doctor or a nutritionist.

“My allergies cut out a lot of vegetarian food… so what can I eat?”

This cartoon asks, What about organic peanut butter? A slightly more expensive risk of anaphylaxis.

This really depends on what your allergies are. For me, I can still eat lentils, beans, whole grains, all veggies, and all fruit. Find a few things that you love and make sure that you always have those around – for me that includes carrots, hummus, protein powder to make high nutritional smoothies, oatmeal, and apples.

A big issue I come across is avoiding soy based foods (i.e. tofu, soy milk, lots of imitation foods), including foods with hydrolyzed soy protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, or hydrolyzed plant protein. Soy is in A LOT of premade vegetarian and imitation foods, and so are nuts! The solution? Always read food labels, and try making your own foods from scratch!

The Nutrient Question

There is a common myth that vegetarians can’t get enough protein, calcium, various vitamins, or… the list goes on! The truth is, as long as your eating habits are healthy and balanced, you will be a fully healthy person! I cannot stress enough how much I recommend speaking to your doctor or a nutritionist to make sure that your allergy-safe and vegetarian diet is meeting your nutritional needs.

There are certain foods that I had no idea about – like seaweeds, nutritional yeast, coconut oil, quinoa, and kamut – which are really high in nutrients and can be cooked to taste delicious! Some foods, like spinach, become more dense when you steam them, versus eating them raw. Who knew?!

Don’t be afraid to try new foods. I frequently get a raised eyebrow from friends – “Um…what is that?” I usually win them over, especially with my vegan banana bread! There are SO many good foods that I never knew about until I became vegetarian and really started to play around with new ingredients.

Ok … I’ve found allergy-safe ingredients, but what do I make?

There are so many amazingly delicious things to create. Luckily (or this is the upside, as I see it!), I have had allergies my entire life, so I have been cooking and baking since a very young age. I tend to be pretty savvy in the kitchen, and I have learned to adapt a lot of regular recipes to my vegetarian ways. However, not everyone is fantastic at doing that, and it can be a real challenge to start cooking and baking in a vegetarian style. I started to incorporate foods that were simple to make (or buy), nutritious (so I didn’t miss out on any vitamins or minerals), and not too “weird” (not super irregular ingredients).

Some of my favourites are hummus and other bean dips, soup (I use water or vegetable broth and add in lentils, rice, whole grain pasta, lots of veggies, and spice), super sized salads loaded with veggies and beans, and baked goods! I recommend getting a couple of basic vegetarian cookbooks to help you on your way. A favourite food blog of mine, which has mostly vegan food, is www.ohsheglows.com (the chocolate vegan cupcakes are unbelievable – my friends can’t get enough of them!)

Although my allergies have made it a greater challenge to eat vegetarian, I am also presented with new cooking and baking opportunities. I have learned more about my personal health and nutrition then I knew previously, and I have definitely made a healthful impact on my family and friends by introducing them to tasty vegetarian foods.

If you have any questions about becoming vegetarian with allergies, leave me a message on our Facebook page or comment on this page!