Category Archives: Soyvivor Tips

Quick tips for those with soy allergy.

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.)

 

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?

 

 

Restaurants with Allergen Menus

It’s time for school to start, which means that life is about to get busy for a lot of us. My husband and I were accustomed to eating out a lot before my soy allergy, and there are days when I want so badly to grab takeout and forgo the cooking.

Many chain restaurants are now posting their allergen menus. However, there is one thing that I have found to be necessary:

No matter how much information is contained in an allergy menu, it is still important to notify your server and/or a manager that you have allergies.

The thing about soy is that there are some foods containing soy that the FDA does not require manufacturers or restaurants to report. Your meal could still contain soybean oil, soy lecithin, ingredients derived from soy, or “proprietary” ingredients like spices, natural flavorings, and artificial flavorings. There are also cross-contamination and food preparation issues to discuss. I have also had situations where allergen menus were wrong, and of course, we all know that ingredients can change at any time. 😦 The restaurant manager is your best resource for catching any recent changes or errors.

With that in mind, if you are still feeling adventurous, below is a list of restaurants I have found that either provide their allergen menu online or have one to review in their restaurant. This does not mean that I have eaten at these restaurants or endorse them. I highly recommend the Allergy Eats website and app if you want to find out how others rate restaurants in your area.

When eating out, I generally avoid salad dressings and substitute extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon for my salad dressing. It’s also best to check to make sure that your salad has not been coated with preservatives (a hidden source of soy.) Stay away from complex carbohydrates like bread, chips, and hamburger buns.  Always make sure that your hamburger is 100% pure beef.

I will also share one restaurant that many soy allergy survivors talk about, and that is Five Guys Burger and Fries. Many of us have tried their plain fries (cooked in peanut oil) along with a bunless burger.

Calling All Soyvivors: Are there other restaurants with which you have had good experiences?

 

My First Vacation With Soy Allergy

HIltonHeadIsland

Well, my first soy free vacation is over, and although I had a few tell-tale “soy rashes” on my skin, I am happy to say that I did not have any major allergic reactions. We traveled by car for a week-long visit to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, which is about a 4.5 hour drive from home.

I have to admit that I was very nervous, because anyone with a soy allergy knows how difficult and dangerous it is to travel. Fortunately, a Whole Foods had opened literally days before we arrived, so that eased my stress a good bit.

The other challenge with our trip was that this was a family vacation, and food has always been a big part of that. In years’ past, my husband and I would always join my parents for at least one big meal out a day. I knew that if I ate out every day, I would not only surely run into some soy, but I would also be very nervous and basically turn what should be a relaxing vacation into a stressful vacation. It was more difficult that you would think to avoid eating out, because there were a lot of emotional attachments to this tradition on behalf of my family that had to be sorted out.

We opted to only eat out a couple of times at restaurants that had successfully served me in the past. I ate my usual garden salad and baked potato at Wendy’s. Then, at Olive Garden, I opted for a salad with no dressing or croutons and added olive oil and lemon to the salad (no breadsticks of course.) Then, I ordered the baked shrimp parmesan which was listed as soy free on their allergen menu. There was also a Panera and Mellow Mushroom, which I have successfully used back home.

Otherwise, we managed to eat most of our meals without a lot of cleanup or fuss. We decided for this trip we would eat from paper plates, and we took a large cooler with us on the trip that included chickpeas and other items we would need. For breakfast, I had soy free cereal with rice milk, fruit, nuts and seeds for breakfast OR I had Erewhon graham crackers with almond butter, banana, and some raw pumpkin seeds. For our other meals, we rotated between grilled cheese sandwiches, Amy’s meals (offers some soy free options), Amy’s pizzas, hummus with veggies and chips, and often utilized the salad bar at Whole Foods for our veggies and for meals.

For dessert, I either made banana ice cream, or I visited Rita’s, which has several soy free custard and ice options.

I also brought all of my own hand soap, toilet paper, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent,  beach chairs and sheets. I immediately washed all of the towels provided by the resort and changed the sheets to my sheets. I have to admit that it actually felt really good to sleep on my own sheets and use my own products, so it was well worth packing them. I also always kept a little hand soap in my purse for when we were not at our resort.

I did get a couple of minor rashes on my arm. We think one of them could have been from the couch in the living room which was likely laden with sunscreen from prior uses. I placed a towel over the couch and that seemed to help. The other reaction stemmed from a lady at Whole Foods who was cleaning a table behind me and sprayed my arm with her cleaner. The reaction was thankfully gone fairly quickly.

Overall, my first vacation was a success, and hopefully that will give me more confidence to travel in the future.

Calling All Soyvivors: Do you have other great travel tips?

 

 

Soyvivor Tip # 2: It Takes a Village

Thriving with a food allergy requires a good team of friends, family, experts, and retailers that can help you with whatever you need. I have found the following types of people to be helpful in my transition:

  • A doctor with a good grasp on food allergies that can help you with your diet and remind you of the benefits of eliminating your allergy.
  • A contact at a local health food store that is willing to make phone calls and do research to help you find soy-free products.
  • A friend or family member that is willing to help you go to the store and read labels.
  • Someone that lives with you that can help you search, brainstorm, cook (and clean!) recipes that everyone in your house can eat.
  • A close friend or family member that tries to understand what you are going through and can offer a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or a break from the stress.
  • Someone with a food allergy that can give you some perspective and advice. (This blog should help, and Facebook is another great place to start for fellow food allergy thrivers.)
  • A house of worship that will help you strengthen your spiritual connection, thus assisting you in finding peace with your new lifestyle

Author: Alanna Waldrop

Soyvivor Tip #1: The Best Time for Grocery Shopping

Do your grocery shopping during the week during business hours. This will be difficult for those that work during this time, but there are three advantages:

  • You can hold the product in your hand, call the phone number on the back of the product, and someone may actually answer the phone that can help you. Most manufacturers do not answer calls in the evenings or on weekends, and emails about products are rarely answered with the clarity that you will need to feel good about a product.
  • Grocery stores aren’t nearly as busy during the day. This gives you the time you need to read ingredient labels and ask for help from store staff.
  • Shopping during the week may allow you to enjoy a few hours of your weekend without dealing with your soy allergy. You deserve a break!