Category Archives: Feature Posts

Full-length blog entries related to soy allergies.

Website Review: Well Amy

WEllAmy

As an AllerCoach, I am continually on the lookout for new products and sites that could help my clients. I heard about Well Amy during an online food allergy conference last fall, and they have some really great items. Just one word of caution that I always like to use before reviewing any product: ALWAYS read all of your labels and cross contact statements regardless of any other information that you have received and regardless of how many times you have eaten the product. I have seen the same product have different ingredient labels on the same store shelf, so it’s best to always be vigilant.

Well Amy has a search feature that collects all foods based on the allergies you select. You can choose separate US Top 8 Allergens plus sesame, sulfites, yeast, corn, potato, rice, and gluten free. You can also choose from special diets such as Feingold, no refined sugar, vegan, vegetarian, and kosher. There also options for non-GMO or organic products.

After I “checked” my allergies, I received pages and pages of all kinds of products from baked goods, snacks, pastas,  and meals. I ordered several things, and they were all delicious. I also started to notice that some of the items were available in my local stores that I had never noticed before, so it helped me get ideas to expand my kitchen pantry.

The main weakness of the site is that you will need to scan through each page to see everything there is to offer. There are some ways to sort the pages, but there are not many food categories to search from. I was also unable to find a way to search for a particular brand or food.

However, if you don’t have time to browse through the pages, you can purchase a “Right Start Box” that contains items based on allergy categories.

I would definitely recommend this site for anyone who is looking for new and different ideas for their respective allergies from a site that has many products to offer. Just make sure you have enough time to browse.

(As always, I do not receive any goods or services from my reviews.)

 

Smoothies: A Great Way To Use Your Leftover Fruits and Veggies

smoothie

Before my soy allergy, I had never really tried smoothies at home. I started having smoothies on Saturday mornings as a way to use any produce and leafy greens that were going to need to be thrown away before my weekly trip to the grocery.

There are lots of smoothie mixes and protein powders and other bells and whistles, but you guessed it…many contain soy and other common allergens. I simply use the whole foods I have on hand, and they really taste delicious no matter what I try.

There are few things that I use regularly in smoothies:

  • Alternative Milk (Try Coconut, Almond, Oat, Rice, or Flax depending on your allergies)
  • Frozen Bananas
  • Frozen Mangoes
  • Frozen Blueberries
  • Leafy Greens (fresh or frozen spinach, kale, bok choy, etc.)
  • Some kind of protein (soy free seeds like pumpkin or flax, almonds, raw almond butter, etc.)

There are also a few things that I usually have on hand that I add to the smoothie to make it more tasty.  I usually pick one or two (or more) from this list. Those things are:

  • Fresh Ginger
  • Organic Vanilla Flavoring
  • Spices (cinnamon, apple pie spices, garam masala, etc.)
  • Soy free cookies or coconut macaroons — if you don’t mind the calories 🙂
  • Chocolate (Try Enjoy Life–Theo is also soy free, but may not be free of other top allergens)
  • Lime or Lemon Juice
  • Apples
  • Avocado

I do try to choose organic fruits and vegetables whenever I can since soy can be contained in pesticides. However, keep in mind that organic fruits and vegetables can be coated in soy to make them look shiny. I recommended washing in a spray bottle of one cup of water to 1 tbsp of vinegar, and you can also peel them depending on your comfort level.

Just a note about peaches and cherries: Frozen peaches often contain citric acid which can be soy derived, so it is best to use fresh. Even if your cherries are frozen and pitted, check each one first to make sure that the pits are really gone, because there’s controversy over whether the cherry pits can be poisonous when blended.

It’s really a fun experiment to get creative and see what kind of concoction my ingredients produce. You can keep tasting your creation and adding ingredients until you like what you taste. Plus, I feel like I have a lot of energy and am ensuring that I start the day with good nutrition.

You don’t need a super expensive blender to make a delicious smoothie. Just do some research on a brand that has good user reviews and a price point that is feasible for you.

Calling All Soyvivors: What other ingredients do you like in your smoothies?

 

Vibrant Health = Eliminating Allergic Foods

Alannaswing

Almost every year at New Year’s, I think over the past year and take stock of the good and the bad. Last December, I was so sick that I had just quit my job, had choking spells in my sleep that made me think that I was going to die, had suffered my sixth miscarriage, and thought that I would never beat the sinus infection that I had been battling for over a year.

Fortunately this story has a very happy ending, because in February, I discovered a new food allergy (soy.) Now, I can say that this year has been the best year of my life!

  • I have lost 50 pounds since June 2013, and 30 of those pounds happened after eliminating soy in February.
  • I have incredible energy levels. I never feel the exhaustion that I previously felt every single day, and I generally work way more than 40 hours per week.
  • I have not been on antibiotics in almost a year, and I previously took several rounds per year for sinus infections.
  • For the first time in my life, I sleep through the night without needing to go to the bathroom.
  • My acid reflux has gone from my doctor recommending extensive surgery to completely eliminating one of my reflux medications.
  • I have stopped taking 3 other medications/supplements.
  • The “chicken skin” that I had on my upper arms is gone.
  • It feels great to have people tell me that not only look thinner, but I look years younger.
  • I actually know what it feels like to just go to the doctor to check in and ask questions instead of constant “sick visits.”
  • My doctor no longer feels the need to check my cholesterol, which needed regular monitoring before.
  • Instead of eating out several times a week like I previously did, I can now cook easy, delicious meals that are just as good as any restaurant.
  • I have learned to work around my demanding and ever-changing work schedule and still have a home cooked meal at every meal.
  • I have found a handful of restaurants that can cook for me.
  • I am able to travel again.
  • I have an incredibly supportive family that has rallied behind me, cooked for me, and listened to me go on and on about food allergies.
  • I always listened to other people talk about their “calling,” and this year I finally found it through food allergy coaching!

In this new year, my wish for you is that your food allergies will become one of your greatest blessings, and you will look back next December and have your own list of miracles and transformations!

I Salute You!

I would like to send a SALUTE to all of you that are dealing with food allergies and are committed to making it work this holiday season!

I Salute You…

If you have already spent countless hours preparing, shopping, and prepping for more hours of cooking that would have been so much easier had it not been for food allergies.

If you have been lying awake at night thinking of how to prepare a delicious meal that will keep you and your family safe.

If you have made some really hard decisions this week related to your safety that aren’t popular with your friends and family.

If you have had an allergic reaction this week and aren’t even sure if you will be able to participate in your holiday traditions.

If you are worried that despite your best efforts, you could have an allergic reaction anyway.

If you have been dealing with your food allergies for a while now and are looking forward to enjoying the holidays more than last year when you were still trying to figure it all out.

If you are incredibly thankful for the friends and family that have rallied behind you and worked hard to help you get what you need this holiday season.

I especially salute those that have made the decision that, no matter what happens, the most important things are your family and friends sitting at your table!

THANK YOU to every one of you that are making our world a safer place one meal at a time! I salute you!

Holiday Parties: Safety vs. Social Expectations

I have served as a mentor for college students for many years. One of the hard questions that that comes up often is “Would you rather be right or would you rather get what you want and need?” There are many general situations in life when our egos can get in the way of getting what we want and need. For instance, I may argue way too long with someone just to prove I am right instead of working towards a solution that gives me what I needed in the first place.

Food allergies can complicate these situations even further. We all have a need for others to understand where we are coming from, not just because it makes us feel better, but because it also ensures our safety.

The holidays bring up all sorts of issues that we may not have to deal very often at other times of the year. For instance, if your holiday work party is coming up, do you stay silent and hope there will be something you can eat, or do you speak up and make sure your needs are met? Do you bring your own food to Aunt Sally’s party, even though she does not understand food allergies and will be hurt that you won’t try her great-grandmother’s stuffing recipe?

You may even have other allergies or family members that have other food allergies. For instance, I have a serious poinsettia allergy (those bright red flowers you see everywhere during the holidays) which makes it impossible for me to spend any length of time at a grocery store or many restaurants. When I attend a party, I struggle with whether to talk first to the host about my food allergies or my poinsettia allergy.

There are some tough decisions to make. For those with food allergies, “being right” is not necessarily about ego. It is about being safe and staying well. At the same time, when what you want most is to make a good impression at that work party or spend some quality time with Aunt Sally, how do you find the balance between being right AND getting what you want?

First, it is important to think about what you want to say before you pick up the phone, but it is also important to respond very quickly. You want to try to respond within a day or so of receiving the invitation so that you and host have plenty of time to prepare. The more time you both have, the more likely you will be safe and also have a great time.

For me, one way I have dealt with host conversations has been to start with the fact that I am struggling with balancing what I want with what I need AND show that I have already spent some time thinking about the solution. 

I will usually say something like, “What I want most is to spend time with you without causing any complications for you. I have some serious food allergies, but I have some ideas on some solutions that could be fairly simple and allows me to spend time with you.” In this scenario, I have stated twice that I really want to spend time with this person (which is the most important to me) and also reiterated that this situation is feasible for both me and for the host. At this point I usually suggest bringing my own food, bringing a dish that everyone can eat, or eating beforehand.

When it comes to allowing the host to cook something for you, I would say that this is a very individual decision. I only have a couple of people in my life that I trust to cook something for me, and that is only when I have approved the ingredients beforehand. However, that does not mean that there are situations that could work for someone to cook for you.

All of these situations are things that an AllerCoach could help you with, such as deciding what to say to the host, what to bring to the party, or deciding if the hostess can provide food.

I have had success in working with hosts so far, but there are situations when your suggestions can be met with rude comments or even dismissal of your needs. In this case, your need to be right (and safe) may be more important than getting what you want, because you don’t want to end up with an allergic event as a result. This is a great opportunity to reiterate what you want (“I want to spend time with you!”), state again that you have a serious medical condition, remind them that there are solutions, and perhaps give them some time to think about your request. In most cases, a little time can be what is needed to turn the situation around.

Calling All Soyvivors: What situations have you dealt with over the holidays?

Holiday Meal Ideas

Maraconi

The holidays are almost here! While it is certainly an exciting time, there are some challenges that anyone with food allergies will be navigating over the next few weeks. I have been having many conversations with family and friends about get-togethers: Should I bring my own food? What are you preparing and what ingredients are you using? What ingredients to I need to substitute to make a dish that is safe for me?

I have three main issues that I am personally dealing with right now:

1. This is my first Thanksgiving without soy, and watching others eat traditional Thanksgiving food that I can no longer eat is more than I can handle at this point in my journey.

2. I am severely allergic to poinsettias (the red flowers you see during the holidays) and cannot go near a grocery store, shopping mall, restaurant or someone’s home that has  poinsettias. Yep, that means that hubby has to do all the grocery shopping and label reading. (He’s definitely a keeper!!) Side note: poinsettias can sometimes be cross-reactive to latex, so be aware if you are allergic to latex.

3. I have no time to think through how to make alternative dishes with substitute ingredients that are safe for me, not less cook that much food.

The thing is, instead of getting me down, I remind myself constantly that:

The reason why the holidays are important is not because of what is on the plate but because of who is sitting at the table!

I am very excited to be spending time with my family, and I am also very thankful that they are so supportive and also recognize that the food is not what is important. We have decided to have a spaghetti dinner with homemade banana pudding for Thanksgiving. I am supplying the spaghetti sauce (Whole Foods 365 Organic Pasta Sauce), and I will be bringing my own pasta to go with it (Whole Foods 365 Organic Spaghetti.)

Here are some other ideas for Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Meals that everyone can eat. (Place each ingredient in separate bowls with separate spoons, and prepare each ingredient with clean utensils and cooking surfaces.):

  • Build Your Own Tacos (Try Garden of Eatin’ or Bearitos taco shells.)
  • Build Your Own Salad
  • Build Your Own Pasta (With a couple of sauce, pasta and veggie options)
  • Build Your Own Baked Potato or Sweet Potato Bar
  • OR, invite everyone over for a build your own Sundae or Fruit Salad bar. So Delicious and Haagen-Dazs have some soy free ice cream options, although not all are soy free. You could also make delicious banana ice cream from just a couple of ingredients. Google “one ingredient banana ice cream” for ideas.

Calling All Soyvivors: How are you handling the holidays and what are you eating?

 

 

Easy Soy Free Snacks

kale chips

There are lots of easy soy free homemade snacks out there, and my snacks need to be easily stuffed into my lunch bag for work. Here are some of my favorites:

  • A piece of fruit (apples, pears and bananas are especially easy)
  • Cheese slices
  • Fried cheese (take shredded sharp cheddar, sautee dry in a skillet on medium heat until it turns into a crunchy treat.)
  • Kale chips (easy to bake!)
  • Lara Bars
  • Nuts or Seeds(check for cross contact statements)
  • Homemade Granola
  • Smashed avocado with some sea salt and cilantro (serve with chips)
  • Salsa and avocado stirred together and served with chips
  • A slice of toast with nut butter and banana (makes a great sandwich too!)
  • Cucumber slices
  • Carrots
  • A side salad
  • Rice cakes with nut butter

Calling All Soyvivors: What are you favorite snacks?

Allergy Alert: This Is Why We Read Labels

justins

I was in Whole Foods today, and as I picked up a jar of my go-to almond butter, Justin’s Classic Almond Butter, I noticed something different. I noticed a “may contain” statement including soy and peanuts. I kept thinking, “surely I haven’t been buying this all along with a may contain statement on it!”

Then I started to remember that I had seen some of my fellow Soyvivors talking about their use of Justin’s almond butter and knew that something was wrong. I went back to the shelf and noticed that one of the classic almond butter containers had a may contain statement and one of them did not. I checked the expiration dates, and the container with the may contain statement had an expiration date that was a month longer than the container without it.

I had lots of questions swirling through my mind. Did Justin’s Almond Butter always potentially contain soy, or did they change equipment? What caused them to suddenly start putting this statement on their labels?

Either way, I will be switching brands. I happily found some 356 brand almond butter, and hopefully Whole Foods will be more consistent with their labeling.

This is why Soyvivors or any other food allergy thriver should read product labels every single time. You never know when equipment, ingredients, or manufacturers will change their mind about their priorities and their products.

Review: Tasterie Mail-Order Allergy Friendly Treats

Tasterie

If you have been anywhere on the web, you have seen advertisements for mail order companies that will send you a box of gourmet foods each month directly to your home. While they look delicious and seem tempting, anyone with food allergies knows that there could be lots of potential problems with a subscription to one of these services. Not only do most of them not offer allergy-friendly options, but you do not have much control over what is sent to you each month.

About four months ago, I found Tasterie, a company founded by a pediatrician mom of a child with food allergies. There are a few options to choose from in your monthly package: Top 8 Allergy; Gluten & Wheat Allergy; Gluten, Wheat & Dairy Allergy; or Nut Allergy.

At first, I kept trying to convince myself that it was a frivolous expense. Eventually I came to realize that food allergies can take a lot of the “surprise” and fun out of your food, and I wanted to get some of that fun back into my life. I subscribed to the Top 8 Allergy box.

I have to say that I was excited when my package arrived. It was great to see real foods that I could actually eat, and the great part was that none of it was in my local stores. I was really seeing treats in my box that I would not have found anywhere else, and that was exciting.

My Tasterie box helped me to realize that there are a lot of options out there that are waiting to be discovered.

According to Tasterie’s website, the company goes to great lengths to find allergy friendly products, but as far as ingredients go, there were still a few items on the label that concerned me. I would say that they worried me not because I did not trust Tasterie, but because I know how many times companies have given out wrong information about their products. I did try to reach out through Facebook and ask some questions about a few items, but I did not receive a reply.

I have been receiving my box for about four months now, and I have received an assortment of cookies, chips, sweets, pastas, and drinks. Baking mixes have included muffins, pizza dough, cakes, and cookies. You also receive product information and a recipe with each box. Everything I have tried is delicious and I have not had any problems with any of the products so far. As always, everyone is different and it is always best to reach out to the manufacturer if you have any concerns.

I now look forward to my Tasterie box each month, and every time I open my box throughout the month, it gives me joy. Tasterie is an expense, but if you are looking to add some variety and surprise to your food, I would highly recommend it.

 

Soy Free Body Wash Reviews

Body Wash Soy Free Body Wash Reviews

The day after my soy reaction, I took a day to discard everything in my house that contained soy, including bath & body products, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and hand soap. Because those with soy allergy know that soy is really in everything, I basically threw out everything in my house. I noticed that the rash (Keritosis Pilaris aka “chicken skin”) that had plagued me for years despite interventions from my dermatologist was gradually disappearing.

I think it is well worth getting rid of all soy in your home, especially with the dramatic improvements that I found soon after eliminating soy. (I always like to begin a review article with my usual disclaimer: product ingredients can change at any time and may even vary by distributor. When in doubt, always call the manufacturer, and also test a small area of skin before fully using a product.)

I like to switch body washes from time to time, especially since there is some research out there that suggests that some allergies could stem from using the same products or foods too frequently.

Below are my go-to products and when I use them. Note: These reviews are my personal opinions and I do not have any current relationships or agreements with any of these brands.

California Baby Super Sensitive Shampoo & Body Wash

California Baby makes lots of great products from sunscreens to body wash to diaper cream. It’s not just for babies, and it’s great for those of us with sensitive skin. Since I also have seasonal allergies, I use California Baby in the heat of Spring and Fall allergy season when I want to be extra careful of fragrance exposure. It’s also great when you are going to be outdoors and don’t want fragrance to attract insects. I have heard that Target carries this brand, although I am not sure if they carry  the fragrance free version. You can also order directly from California Baby’s website or from Amazon.

Hugo Naturals Shower Gel (Vanilla & Sweet Orange or Lavendar)

Hugo Naturals is my go-to brand for reasonably priced soy free bath and body products. They make lip balm, shower gel, hand sanitizer, shampoo/conditioner/gel, deodorant, lotions, and more. I love their vanilla & sweet orange shower gel for morning showers, and their lavender shower gel is great for a relaxing evening shower. If you haven’t tried Hugo Naturals, I highly recommend it!

Acure Unscented Sensitive Skin Body Wash

While Hugo Naturals is my go-to brand for everyday bath & body, Acure is my go-to brand for keeping my face in tip-top shape. Acure is also widely available in specialty and health food stores, so you don’t have to wait on a shipment for their products. While there are soy free makeup brands out there, I have made the decision to go without makeup for the most part as a personal choice for my body. Acure helps my skin look great so that I can skip the makeup. Their unscented body wash is another great choice for pampering your skin.

Calling all Soyvivors: Do you have other favorite soy free brands for body wash? Share in the comments below!