Tag Archives: coping with food allergy

Shopping Safely with Food Allergies

Minerals

To finish off my birthday week, my family and I visited North Carolina yesterday to get away from the heat and have some fun. We visited a beautiful waterfall and had a GREAT time at a gem mine. There was only one problem: While the actual gem mine was outdoors, the indoor store was running a machine that was pumping some kind of nice smelling aroma through the air.

When I arrived and spotted the machine, I immediately left the building and the clerk turned off the machine. Even though the clerk turned off the machine, I left because I knew there could still be allergenic particles in the air. After we finished gem mining, I briefly went inside to discuss a black star sapphire that I wanted for a necklace, but the machine had been turned back on again. I left as quickly as I could, but it was too late. A few minutes later, I was feeling itchy.

There are many types of stores that can pose issues for those with food allergies, because many foods are used in the making of air purifiers, cleaning products, and the actual merchandise. This can apply to any store, restaurant, your favorite fitness center, massage therapist, yoga class, or even your friends and family’s homes.

If you are entering a new area and you have someone with you, ask them to go scope it out for you first. Keep in mind the following things:

  • How does the air smell? While some allergens will not produce a smell, an aromatic shop or home could signal that it is time to ask more questions.
  • Be aware of any area that calls for a shop to spray cleaners on a surface. I have had employees spray cleaners right in front of me and accidentally on me. (And yes, I had a reaction.) This may be a jewelry store cleaning their counters, a restaurant cleaning their tables, or simply someone washing the windows.
  • Does the store sell candles, home fragrances, or potpourri? Remember that those products have likely been sitting there for quite some time in an enclosed space.
  • If the store sells food, do you see any bulk bin aisles that could have products like flour or other small items with your allergens that could easily get into the air?
  • Make sure you wash newly purchased clothing in your own safe laundry detergent before wearing.
  • For me, I have to carry toilet paper and soap with me wherever I go, so certain allergens may call for you to avoid using a store’s personal care products.

By being aware of our surroundings, we can better enjoy our shopping experiences. I have to admit the retail therapy is one of my favorite ways to relieve stress, so get out there and shop safely!

Calling All Soyvivors: Share your shopping advice in the comments below!

Enjoying an Allergy Friendly Summer

Pawleys Island

Summertime will be here soon! For many of us, summer brings a lot of sun, fun, and travel. It also brings with it some allergy-related situations that we may not have to deal with as frequently at other times of the year. Below are some tips and tricks for a safe summer.

Packing Needs Preparation

Sometimes I long for the days when I could be packed and ready for a trip at a moment’s notice. However, when I arrive at my destination and relax on my own sheets and use my own towels and toiletries, I quickly realize that it’s really nice to have the comforts of home when you’re away from home. For those of you that are new to food allergies, be aware that foods are only the beginning of the products that may contain your allergen. Household products, personal care products, crafts, and many other items could contain your respective allergens and should be avoided. Below are some things to consider as you pack:

  • Toilet Paper (this is a big allergen for me!)
  • Dishwashing Liquid
  • Dishwasher Detergent
  • Hand Soap
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Sheets washed in your detergent
  • Towels washed in your detergent

If you are traveling for more than a day or two, it can be well worth the expense to upgrade to a room with a kitchen and washer/dryer. When I am using a vacation to de-stress, I am even more vigilant about avoiding allergens so that I can truly enjoy my time away. Having a kitchen and washer/dryer allows me to prepare the foods I need and keep my personal items free from allergens.

Enjoying the Outdoors

Sunscreen and insect repellent are also major concerns during the summer. Finding a sunscreen and insect repellent that actually works, is non-greasy, and does not contain your allergens can require a lot of research. For sunscreen, I find that California Baby has a soy-free suncreen option but is quite greasy. I am trying a soy-free, fragrance-free spray sunscreen called Kinesys this summer, and will post a review in a few weeks.

Cooking and Eating Out

It’s also helpful to do some research before your trip on things like grocery stores and restaurants. Using apps like Allergy Eats can give you some ideas on allergy-friendly restaurants, and many of your favorite chain restaurants will also have store locators and allergy menus online.

Packing some non-perishable products and easy meal plans will also help you keep your vacation hassle-free.

I will have more tips and tricks on vacation meal-planning in future posts. Here’s to safe and allergy-friendly travels!

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.

 

Time Saving Tips for a Soy Free Lifestyle

Many Soyvivors were leading a busy life before they found out about their allergy. They may have been working full-time, raising children, caring for aging parents, or many other of life’s challenges that keep us moving constantly. A food allergy discovery can be devastating to those that have absolutely no time for the hours and hours of research, shopping, phone calls, cooking, medical appointments, emotional turmoil, and self care that all arrive simultaneously like a big slap in the face.

If you have just found out about your allergy, or you have been struggling with the enormous amount of work involved in dealing with your allergy, know that taking some time off from your busy schedule could be critical to the rest of your life. If there is any way that you can take some extensive time off, you definitely need to, and even if it’s a day off, do it NOW. You need time to learn to cook again, learn to shop again, memorize soy ingredients, call manufacturers about food, household, beauty, and medicinal products, and take time to connect with other soy survivors that can give you invaluable advice.

I have a few tips for all of us on our quest to live a happy, soy free life:

  • If you just discovered your soy allergy, you must seek help from a medical professional right away that can give you long-term care and advice.
  • Until you have time to research all of the products you need and test how you react to products, stick to this simple rule of cooking: Only cook whole foods that have not been fed any soy with 100% pure spices and non-soy oils (coconut oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, etc.) This basically means cooking from scratch for now until you can research and connect.
  • Try to have at least 2-3 soy free items in your fridge or freezer at all times that can be eaten quickly and with little “fuss” that don’t require cooking from scratch. Here are some ideas:
  1. Soy-Free Bread (check Out Rudi’s options), Justin’s Almond Butter, and pure Honey for sandwiches
  2. A Soy-Free Pizza (Try Amy’s Soy Free Options)
  3. Salad Mix with Some Sliced Almonds
  4. A baked potato with toppings
  5. A high-quality frozen lunch option (Amy’s has some great soy-free options)
  6. Quesadillas (Udi’s has a soy free tortilla, but not all products are soy free)
  7. Applegate Natural Uncured Hot Dogs (Applegate has a lot of soy free options, but not all are soy free. They can provide you with a list of items with soy.)
  • Take 2-3 hours each week to cook a batch of something for your freezer that you can use on busy evenings when you do not feel like or have time to cook. Here are some ideas for this:
  1. If you can tolerate chicken, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (no clean-up!) and bake on 350 for 15 minutes. You can put individuals tenderloins in sandwich bags and then put all sandwich bags in a larger freezer bag. Freeze and reheat when needed.
  2. Bake some fish using the method above for 10 minutes. Freeze.
  3. If you can tolerate beans, cook a package of dried beans and freeze. You can try putting a cup of beans each in sandwich bags and freeze all in a large freezer bag.
  4. Cook a large package of rice and freeze using the method above.
  5. Cook a large batch of some of your favorite recipes. My lentils recipe, my slow cooker curry chicken, or my tomato-less spaghetti freezes well.

You will be surprised at how quickly you will fill your freezer with meals that you can use when you just don’t feel like or have the time to cook.

You may also find one or two restaurants in your area that can offer a soy free carry-out option. For me, I love plain wings and a tossed salad from Mellow Mushroom, or a baked potato and a garden salad from Wendy’s with some sliced almonds added for protein.

Planning your meals a week at a time can also be a huge time saver. I have four weeks worth of meals on a spreadsheet along with the shopping list for each meal. I copy and paste what I want for the week which creates my shopping list from there. It keeps me from having to spend precious time and energy during the week stressing about what I am going to cook and making unnecessary trips to the grocery. I will share my meal spreadsheet in upcoming blog posts.

Also take some time to think about how others in your household can help you. They may be more than willing to help you when they find that it relieves a lot of stress and creates more harmony in the house. For instance, because of my reflux, I have to eat early before my husband arrives home from work. We have an agreement that I will cook and he will clean up. You may find that some of your children can help with the dishes or your older children may be able to help with soy product research. If your nearest health food store is a bit of a drive from your home, ask others to pick up items from you if they are visiting, and offer to do the same for them when you shop.

I would love to hear about your time saving tips for thriving with a soy free life! Please share in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

 

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