With Christmas just around the corner (8 sleeps for those of us counting), this is an apt time for those of us with food intolerance to remember the pain our last “just a little bit won’t hurt” episode inflicted, and vow not to do it to ourselves this Christmas. For allergy sufferers, extra vigilance at this time of the year is critical, with meals at other people’s houses and lollies and chocolates common place gifts, you can never be too careful. My Christmas wish for you all is for a happy, healthy and joyous time with your families, full of great allergy-friendly food.
Merry Christmas from my family to yours!
When you suffer from allergies, just a little bit is not an option, as just a little bit is life threatening. However, when you sufferer from intolerances, just a little bit causes some uncomfortableness that passes. Those of you with intolerances will be able to identify the times when you are lulled into thinking a little bit won’t hurt…..for me it was my husband’s 40th birthday. Whilst the menu was expertly caters to accommodate all the diets of the guest including myself, it was the OMG Cake that everyone kept raving about the got me. There was an intolerance suitable cake, but the layers of sponge, crème patisserie and filo pastry in this OMG Cake had everyone talking and I couldn’t resist just a little taste (and then a few more little tastes!). This cake was exceptionally and definitely delicious.
As I sat wanting to scratch the skin of my shins and the backs of my knees, whilst my tummy grumbled and performed Olympic grade somersaults, I was very much reminded of why I cannot eat just a little bit. The after effects outweigh the enjoyment at the time (although as I mentioned this cake was exceptional so the gap was shortened!). The memory of this cake will last for a set period and when it wears off and I have conveniently forgotten the impact, I will no doubt be sucked in again. For me the memory of the bad after effects last a little longer each time I indulge in things I shouldn’t…will I ever learn?
Why do we do it to ourselves? A short period of enjoyment for longer lasting uncomfortable side effects….I guess it is the part of us that wants to be normal and like everyone else, that wants to eat those foods that look and taste amazing, the part of us that wishes just a little bit won’t hurt.
Don’t forget to check out my recently released e-book titled “Loni’s Allergy Free Christmas Menu”.
Full of delicious recipes for a complete Christmas Dinner with all the trimmings, as well as recipes to transform leftovers into delicious meals, this e-book will take the stress out of Christmas cooking for those with allergies and intolerances. All recipes are free from wheat, gluten, corn, yeast, dairy, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, tomato and seafood. Also included is a full shopping list and time planner, so that as much of your time as possible is spent enjoy the joy of Christmas with your family.
All parents feel nervous about leaving their children at crèche, kinder, school for the first time. Will they be ok, will they be upset, who will they play with?
For parents of children with allergies and intolerances the nerves are multiplied exponentially. Often for the first time, someone other than yourself or a trusted family member will be looking after your child and will be responsible for managing your child’s allergies and intolerances. The mere thought of it probably sends you into a state of sheer terror and this is perfectly normal.
If have a child starting crèche, kinder or school next year, orientation programs will be commencing soon or may be underway already. This is a great time to ensure your child’s allergy and intolerance management plan is in place ready for them to start next year. For those with children already at crèche, kinder or school it is also a great time to work with their carers/teachers for next year to ensure they are familiar with all the requirements for your child relating to their allergies and intolerances.
My son started kinder this year with an asthma and allergies management plan having to be put in place, and I have witnessed my sister dealing with her children with allergies starting crèche, kinder and school. This first hand experience in addition to being on the other side of the fence serving on a kinder committee and reviewing policies, gives me insights about what questions you should be asking. With this blog post, I have attached a free download of common questions you should ask your facility or school so that you can arm yourself with the knowledge of how your child’s allergies and intolerances will be managed. This will help alleviate some of the fear as you will know that the care facility manages allergies and intolerances well or if they don’t you can seek an alternative or work with them to set up the right processes to ensure your child is in a safe environment.
It is your right to ask questions to satisfy yourself that your child will be in a safe environment. Never feel embarrassed or like an annoyance for taking care of your child. Never allow a facility to treat you like your being difficult. As my daughter says, my favourite part of school is learning. I think loving learning in a safe environment is all any of us can want for our children.
Best wishes for an awesome year of learning ahead everyone!
I remember the first shop so clearly. It wasn’t actually for me, instead I accompanied my sister after her son was diagnosed with peanut and egg allergies. Later when I was diagnosed with intolerances, it certainly was an easier first shop already having experienced one before. Anyway, back to that first shop with my sister…I am sure the store manager thought we were casing the joint for a large-scale robbery – we spent 5 hours in the store. We must have looked so dodgy, loitering in the aisles, picking up product after product and then putting them down again….they really must have thought we were mad or robbing the joint!
This shop, aside from restocking the pantry, was also to ensure that there were some “treats” to show her son that this allergy wasn’t going to stop him eating yummy food. Essentially we just started at aisle one and read label after label after label. This is definitely the hardest shop. After this, you know what brands to look for and subsequent shops require you to just cross check the label to make sure nothing has changed since your last purchase.
After the five hours in the store, of me reading the label, her reading the label, me reading the label, her reading the label, a discussion and then finally agreeing it could go in the trolley, we ventured home to unpack where I checked the label, she checked the label and then it went in the pantry. Whilst my background as a food scientist certainly helped with this first shop and label reading, it was still a scary task even for me. With my tips and information below, I hope that I make your first shop a little easier and less scary. Every shop will get easier. You will always need to check labels and be vigilant, but it will get easier.
MY FOUR SIMPLE SHOPPING TIPS:
TIP 1:Shop for single ingredient foods.
Fruit, vegetables, unprocessed cuts of meats (fillets, steaks, chops etc) only contain one ingredient so are easy to identify as suitable or not for your dietary requirements. Preparing food from single ingredient foods means you know exactly what you are putting into the dish.
TIP 3: Take a second set of eyes for the first shop and clear your schedule.
The first shop will be a length shop and there will be lots of labels to read. A second set of eyes to cross check is definitely a big help.
TIP 4: Check every label, every time.
Don’t assume that the brand is safe because you have purchased it before.
Don’t assume that different pack sizes of a product will have the same ingredient list.
Don’t assume different brands will have the same ingredient list.
CHECK EVERY LABEL, EVERY TIME.
So those are my four simple tips. Next I want to share with you some information about green grocers and butchers vs supermarkets, and processed foods to help you with your shopping.
Green Grocers and Butchers vs Supermarkets:
Getting to know local green grocer and butcher is a great option as they can offer a more personal service than a supermarket can. Plus I would rather support my local community than big supermarket chains. By getting to know your local green grocer and butcher and discussing your allergies with them, you will very quickly be able to establish products that you can eat – for example my local butcher only uses rice flour in his sausages so I know that I can eat these. Many butchers will be happy to prepare your products immediately after a clean so there is no risk of cross contamination and many will do a batch specifically for you.
Supermarkets can’t offer the kind of personal service a local green grocer or butcher can. However, supermarkets are convenient with all products in one place, and for working people, often the only option as butchers and green grocers are closed after work hours and weekends are often busy with activities. For supermarket shopping, shop around the edges, this is where you will find a lot of the single ingredient foods – fruits, vegetables and unprocessed cuts of meat.
Processed foods are packaged foods and make up the majority of the products in the aisles. These will have labels that require your careful attention to read and identify if they meet your dietary needs. Check out my website or cookbook for my tips for reading labels and information on identifying allergens in products to help you be more efficient in reading labels.
I put processed foods into three main categories:
Processed meats – Items such as sausages, meatballs, marinade meats and other processed meat goods will require you to read the label.
Foods processed predominantly for preservation or increase shelf-life – These typically have very short ingredient lists and contain only a few ingredients such as flours, sugars, pulses, pasta, rice, tinned and frozen fruits and vegetables.
Highly processed foods – these tend to have very long ingredient list as they are made from multiple ingredients and often have numbers in the ingredient lists representing various food additives. These will require careful attention to read the labels to identify if these are suitable for your dietary requirements (refer to My tips for reading labels and identifying allergens). Check, double check and triple check.
MY FIVE EASY STEPS TO A CLEAN, ALLERGY-FRIENDLY PANTRY.
Does your pantry look like this – full of potentially allergenic products?
Don’t know where to begin to remove the allergenic products?
Follow my five easy steps to an allergy-friendly pantry and refrigerator. I won’t lie, they will definitely be a lot emptier at the end of the clean than when you started. You will need to go shopping to restock…..I can hear you thinking already, “how do I know what products are ok?” Well, my next blog is all about the first shop and will provide you with handy tips to help guide you.
But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The first job at hand is to clean out your pantry and fridge of all products containing the allergens or that may contain those allergens. My tips are for complete removal of products containing allergens. If you have a member of your household with anaphylactic allergies, this is the safest option. This should be done by someone without allergies/intolerances and when any allergy/intolerance sufferers aren’t around. Arm yourself with new sponges, new scrubbing brushes, cleaning spray, garbage bags, elbow grease and if you can get a second person to help they will make it that much easier.
Step 1: Take everything off the shelves/out of your pantry and put on your bench. I mean everything!
Step 2: Now it is time to give the shelves a good clean whilst that pantry is empty! If your pantry was anything like mine when I did this, the honey jar was stuck to the shelf, there was stray nuts and seeds, flour dust and even a few unidentifiable items! This step is important, as you want to remove any traces of allergens from your shelves. So give your hands a good wash with soap, dry them on paper towel, pull out your favourite commercial cleaning product, new sponges and new scrubbing brushes and start cleaning. When you finish cleaning, throw out the sponges and scrubbing brushes, as they may contain traces of allergens, and throughly wash your hands.
Did you know that…..
Studies have shown that commercial cleaning products effectively remove the protein of a food allergen such as peanuts, however dishwashing liquid does not. For hands, washing with liquid soap or bar soap is an effective method of cleaning, however plain water or alcohol-based hand sanitisers alone do not clean effectively (link to: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology Study).
Step 3: Ok so the pantry is clean, now on to the products. Only put back food items that you know are safe and free from allergens. Start with the products with the original seal intact (ie unopened products) – read the labels carefully (refer to My tips for reading labels and Identifying Allergens section of my website). It really helps to have a second set of eyes for this step. Read the label, if it contains or may contain the allergen – THROW IT OUT. If you think its ok, read the label again, then have your second set of eyes read it too. If it’s OK, put it back in your pantry. Continue for all unopened items.
Step 4: Once you have completed all the unopened packs, it is time to assess what’s left. Anything that is not in its original packaging, and therefore you do not have the ingredient list for, needs to be THROWN OUT. If you do not have the ingredient list you cannot check if it contains allergens.
Step 5: Now, its time to deal with the opened products in original labelled packaging. The safest option is to discard all open items as you cannot be sure of cross contact even in products that do not contain the allergen as an ingredient. For example if you are allergic to wheat, open jars of jams, spreads etc would most likely have had a knife that had bread residue on it so it MUST BE THROWN OUT. Don’t take chances, if in doubt THROW IT OUT.
Complete steps 1-5 with your refrigerator and any other places you store food items. You must check every food product in the house to ensure that the only foods left are safe. Clean all your plates/crockery/cutlery/utensils. Running all items through the dishwasher on a normal cycle is recommended by allergy organisations to effectively clean these items.
So, now you are probably standing in a house which is near empty of food. Time to hit the shops! A scary prospect, but with my tips on shopping in my next blog, you will be better equipped to handle this first shopping trip.
So, you have just left the allergist/doctor’s office after being given the news that you (or a family member) are allergic or intolerant to one or more food groups. You are no doubt in a state of shock and panic with questions buzzing around your head such as:
“What can I eat when I get home?”
“Are the foods in my pantry and refrigerator safe?”
“How do I know what is in foods?”
“What can I cook?”
“How am I going to manage with school/work?”
“How can I keep myself/loved one safe?”
“Will I ever be able to leave the house again?”
“I/they could die from eating that food/s.”
Rest assured that this is completely normal. Every person who has been diagnosed with allergies or intolerances has had these questions (and more). Immediately after diagnosis you will most likely feel completed overwhelmed with no idea where to begin. You are not alone. As someone who has experienced this first hand as well as having help my sister come to terms and prepare her kitchen for her children’s allergies, I have been through the panic of not knowing what is safe to eat. Having made it to the other side, I am here to tell you it does get better.
In upcoming posts, I will tackling some daunting tasks for the newly diagnosed, including the pantry clean out, the first shop and starting crèche/kinder/school. As a food intolerance sufferer, aunty to children with food allergies, food scientist, mum and allergy-friendly recipe developer, I will share with you my knowledge and experiences and help you improve your knowledge and confidence so you can take more control of life and the food being eaten.
I will share with you handy hints for the first shop after being diagnosed with allergies/intolerances, my Top 5 label reading tips and my starting crèche/kinder/school checklist – a perfect item to take with you during the orientation period that are occuring this term so you can get everything in place before they begin in 2016. The first day of creche/kinder/school is exciting and should be enjoyed (and copiously photographed!). The more you can arrange now regarding their allergies/intolerances the better. It will make you feel more relaxed, leaving you to focus on the tears of pride welling in your eyes on thier first day!