Food Allergy Counseling

Food Allergy Counseling
Sloane Miller, MFA, MSW, LMSW, Food Allergy Counselor Speaking At Mylan Specialty / EpiPen Event (© Noel Malcolm 2013)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Recipe: Burger Salad

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know my taste in food: clean, easy, delicious, using whole foods and seasonably available ingredients, few processed things and just plain yum. This is less of a recipe and more of a riff on a dish I had several years back and burger restaurant off of University Place now closed, called The Stand. They made a burger salad: three little slider burgers on top of a big bowl of salad dressed with oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and parmesan. Immediately I knew this was my new jam! Food allergy free for me and so easy, why did I think of it? I created my own version and added it into my monthly meal rotation. A favorite with friends and family too, it’s ridic easy and top eight allergen free (if you don’t use the parmesan cheese)!

In the picture above, I made a turkey version, using ground turkey dark meat (way more flavor packed), got a great Maillard on it (that’s the crusty meaty part) and served with fresh bi-color corn. 


Recipe: Burger Salad for One

Romaine lettuce -  washed and chopped
1/4 pound of freshly ground meat (turkey, chicken, beef - use your fave)
Freshly squeezed lemon juice 
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Parmesan cheese (optional)
Serve with fresh steamed veggies (like corn, broccoli, spinach - anything you like but definitely round out the meal with some extra beautiful veggies)

Assemble your salad first in a nice big bowl that you will also use for serving: use fresh lettuce, seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon juice and a little bit of olive oil. 

Next cook up your burger. Make sure to season your burger with salt and pepper, don’t skip this step and cook on high heat with plenty of oil. 

I use the diner-style technique for these burgers outline by the New York Times here and here.

Serve the burger over the salad while the burger is sizzling hot. I drizzle some of the cooking fat over the salad. Trust me, it’s divine. 

Serve, enjoy, repeat.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Review: Storylines, Guggenheim Museum

Storylines at the Guggenheim Museum

Imagine you’re strolling slowly through a field, a lawn, even Central Park. You see two butterflies, dancing with each other, swooping, playful, graceful. You watch as they flirt around a nearby tree, through some low shrubs, around some blossoms. As you slowly stroll, they discovered you and flit their way in your direction. Your strolling slows as they come closer and closer and then you’re surrounded by two dancing butterflies.

For several moments, they dance around you like you’re the flower, a welcome third in their dyad. You become part of their story and they become a part of yours. Your breath and their breath synchronize and then something even more magical happens: three become one. Just for a moment. And then just as spontaneously they move on, encircling another flower, or tree or person, dancing, flying swooping, elegant and free.

That’s the experience I had the other day at the Storylines exhibit now open at the Guggenheim Museum as two dancers, who are part of an art installation within the Storylines exhibit by Gerard & Kelly called Timelining encircled me and included me in their dance. It was thrilling. 

The two couples (one in the left of frame and one in the center of the frame) are all Gerard & Kelly dancers

Here's some basic information about the Storylines from the Guggenheim website:

Bringing together over one hundred works from the Guggenheim’s contemporary collection, Storylines examines the diverse ways in which artists today engage narrative through installation, painting, photography, sculpture, video, and performance. For these artists, storytelling does not necessarily require plots, characters, or settings. Rather, narrative potential lies in everyday objects and materials, and their embedded cultural associations. In projects created through extensive research, acts of appropriation, or performance, the artists in Storylines  uncover layers of meaning, turning to individual experience as a means of conveying shared stories, whether real or fictional.
We all have stories. Ones that we tell to ourselves, that we tell to others, ones that we tell about ourselves to others. This exhibit seeks to explore how several artists tell stories in multiple mediums. It’s a thinky museum show; not a romp through rooms upon rooms of pretty pictures from old masters. To be fair, there are pieces that can be simply looked at but mainly this is an interactive show and I’m still interacting with it, at least conceptually, ten days after seeing the press preview.

I don’t have a snappy review of it or even a critique, but I’ve definitely been moved by several of the pieces there and it’s a show whose core concepts around narrative are close to my heart as a writer, artist, improviser and psychotherapist.

Here’s the core of what the exhibit is about should you wish to see it on a visit to New York City this summer and fall. 

The ceiling of the Guggenheim, by Frank Lloyd Wright
A beautiful reading room nook off one of the exhibit floors

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Food Allergy Counseling: Your Middle School Aged Child and Worry Versus Vigilance

The fourth and final installment of my middle school aged child* and food allergies blog post series (here are parts onetwo and threeis to give this dynamic that I’ve been exploring a name. 

I think of it thusly: worry versus vigilance.

What we with food allergies need to do is separate worry about a food allergic reaction from practicing vigilance around how to manage food allergy risk whilst living a full, fun life.

This practice is a skill set I use as a food allergic adult and I teach this skill set to my food allergy counseling clients.  

It will be refined over time by the person with food allergies as circumstances and life stages change. For now, I will break it down into its most basic definitions for parents of children with food allergies.**

The feeling of worry is based on the “What ifs” scenarios that runs through our minds (“our” refers to the person with food allergy at any age): what if I ate my allergen by mistake, what if that restaurant cook didn’t wash their hands of my allergen before creating my food, what if I didn’t read that label closely and my allergen is hidden in that snack, what if this doorknob has my allergen smeared on it, what if I want to kiss my date and they ate my allergen? 

What if scenarios involve an endless series of questions without an action to get those questions answered adequately. These scenarios may or may not be rational thoughts/concerns but the feeling of anxiety, worry, panic that can set in when the implied question of food allergy risk isn’t answered begins to grow at an alarming rate, resulting in feelings of anxiety that can easily lead to panic. And classic panic attacks can feel very close to anaphylactic reaction. 

The practice of vigilance is one of remaining watchful and alert and calmly thinking through a food allergy scenario. I call it “If this, then that”: if I don’t feel safe at this restaurant after communicating my needs clearly, then I won’t eat, if I don’t understand all the ingredients on this label, then I won’t eat it until I can get more information, if I don’t have my emergency medication on my person, then I won’t eat, if I accidentally ingested my allergen, then I will enact my anaphylaxis protocol, if I don’t fully understand my food allergy diagnosis, then I will explore options with my board certified medical health practitioner.

Vigilance is defined as the action or state of keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties and taking the necessary action. Remaining vigilant doesn’t mean you aren’t worried or anxious but it does mean that in addition to those feelings you take an active role in calming yourself and taking appropriate steps to stay safe. 

See the difference? Radical, right?

Vigilance gives us agency over our lives with food allergy and risk; constant worry invokes feelings of helplessness and paralysis, with little to no action over our lives with food allergy and risk.

Ask yourself: What is your normal state of being around food allergy risk? Are you constantly worried? Do you feel helpless or out of control? Do you feel prepared? 

Using my previous posts (onetwo and three), explore your child’s fears while giving them hard facts about disease management. Have deeper questions? Ask your board certified pediatrician and/or allergist. Feel overwhelmed and need more support? Consider consulting with a child psychologist, a licensed social worker (like me) or a psychiatrist.

Remember above all, separating worry and vigilance is a process and a practice. There is no perfect. There are good days, better days and days of pure food allergy crapola. That’s okay. Keep going.


*I'm using Middle School aged children to represent the middle school years 8-12.

** Please note: these posts are also for any tween, teen and/or adult with severe life threatening food allergies and anaphylaxis.

NB: When fears are not managed, children can suffer or withdraw. If you witness troubling behaviors in your child, please have them evaluated by a local child psychologist, social worker or psychiatrist as well as your allergist and your pediatrician.


Here are parts one, two and three of this blog series on middle school aged children and anxiety around food allergies.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Recipe: Chickpea and Pasta Salad Salad

When the weather heats up here in New York City, and these tar covered streets hold in the heat and distribute it directly to your body when you walk, major ugh,  I like to cool down with more cool salads and more water-based fruits and veg.

Last night though it was beautifully unseasonably cool for June 1. So, I wanted something warm but not hot, salad-y yet with some heft. And I invented this recipe. I'm calling it: Chickpea and Pasta Salad Salad. You could have the pasta salad solo; or the salad solo. But why not mix them all up, have a super healthy dish that is a whole bunch of BIG salad!

It’s free from the top eight allergens, easy, delicious and light, perfect for the summer months or an unseasonably cool night.

It’s also can be made in scores of variations. Use your favorite salad base. Use your favorite bean. Use your favorite citrus-based salad dressing. And use your safe-for-your pasta. Below is my version because it’s what I had on hand but I’m certain I’ll be playing with variations all summer long.


Chickpea and Pasta Salad Salad
(I didn't measure. Just use the serving size that you like for you!)

Romaine lettuce  washed and chopped
Bell peppers – washed, deveined and chopped
Canned chickpeas – drained and rinsed
Tinkyada Gluten-Free organic rice pasta - cooked until al dente and drained 
Freshly squeezed lemon juice 
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Red pepper flakes (optional)

While the pasta is cooking, assemble your lettuce and peppers in a big bowl. Generously season the undressed salad. In a small bowl (better yet, a tupperware to store the extra), toss the chickpeas with a splash of olive oil, lemon, salt, pepper (and red pepper flakes, if you’re using them). Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Once pasta is cooked and drained, add to the seasoned chickpeas and mix together. Add more olive oil and lemon, salt and pepper and taste again. Now add the pasta/chickpea mixture to your seasoned salad base. Take a bite. Is there flavor? Does it need more lemon? More salt? Some fresh herbs? Keep adjusting until it’s just right for you. Serve warmish and enjoy! 

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Interview: Jerome “The Bus” Bettis, Auvi-Q

Recently I was offered an opportunity to interview Jerome “the Bus” Bettis – NFL Hall of Famer for National Allergy & Asthma Awareness Month as he traveled to Washington D.C., on behalf of Sanofi US, (makers of Auvi-Q) with the Allergy & Asthma Network (now AAN, formerly AANMA), to share issues and initiatives with members of Congress and staffers on behalf of people with anaphylaxis and related conditions. 

From Sanofi US: Jerome, and Sanofi US, the makers of Auvi-Q® (epinephrine injection, USP), are supporting this event and working with AAN to raise awareness about anaphylaxis, advocate for access to emergency epinephrine and to create awareness of Auvi-Q. This is Jerome’s first time going to The Hill to advocate for severe allergies and he is very excited to help in educating people. The event, now in its 18th year will take place May 5 through 8, 2015 as part of Allergy & Asthma Network’s 30th anniversary celebration.

Jerome was diagnosed with a severe allergy to shellfish more than 27 years ago when he was 14 years old. (Jerome talks about that in Coping magazine.As I did some background reading on Jerome, I realized we are in the same generation. He was, like me, most likely was not given any kind of prescription for an epinephrine autoinjector upon diagnosis. Jerome confirmed this when we spoke, he didn't know epinephrine autoinjectors were even available. In fact Jerome says, he did not get any autoinjector device until the Auvi-Q

NB: It was not standard practice until very recently. So those of us diagnosed in the 1970s, 1980s and even the 1990s simply did not have epinephrine autoinjectors. We were told: “avoid your allergen, take an antihistamine and get to a hospital”. That was it. I talk about this more in my book: Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well with Food Allergies (Wiley, 2011).

The landscape of food allergies has radically changed in that one aspect since were children: epinephrine autoinjectors are readily available and are widely prescribed. In fact epinephrine is now considered the most important first line of defense in an anaphylactic event. 


Allergic Girl: How did you cope, knowing you were shellfish allergic but had no emergency medication to carry with you?

Jerome Bettis: I avoided all seafood and fish. I was so scared that I would have a reaction that I locked myself away. That was my main coping mechanism because I didn't have any type of epinephrine autoinjector. And I was really careful. The only thought was to get antihistamine if I ran into trouble, way into my adult years and I just stayed away from fish.

AG: How was the experience of getting your first Auvi-Q?

JB: Exhilarating. It opened me up to not be scared and try dishes because before I just wouldn't try anything. Now that I have the Auvi-Q with me I’m never concerned. It takes the paranoia away. In the past, if I had a problem I would think: “where is nearest drugstore in case I need an antihistamine?” Now with the Auvi-Q I feel more at ease with eating and dining out on the road.

AG: What motivational words would you have for athletic teens who have been recently diagnosed with food allergies, like you were at 14, and feeling nervous about “getting back into the game?”

JB: Don’t be afraid to be different, it’s okay. Don’t be afraid to answer the question about who you are, and that you have food allergies. The more people you tell about your food allergies, well, if they care about you they will care enough to know about you. I have friends who watch out for my shellfish allergy. They warn me about dishes before I even have a look at the menu.

Another thing. Having food allergies taught me that I needed to be conscious and careful of everything that I am putting into my body. From a really young age. And that was really helpful and a great lifelong skill to know.

AG: Having a life threatening experience, like anaphylaxis from food allergies or an uncontrolled asthma episode, is the catalyst for many people, young and old, to make life changes and take their health more seriously. (Jerome talks about a severe asthma attack during a 1997 football game and how that was a game changer for him.) What would you say to anyone right now about how and why they should get a jump on their health?
JB: For me, that situation was eye opening. I told myself that I had to become educated. That led me on the course on where I am today. I wanted to be proactive, be informed and create awareness around food allergies.  Because I did not know there were options available for years and years like Auvi-Q. There are now options for all of us with food allergies. You don't have to be like me not knowing that these medicines are available.

AG: What might you say, man to man, to other young men with food allergies about how they can take care of both their health and their independence?

JB: Men, we think we’re invincible or immune – that anaphylaxis will never happen to me. I would tell any young man: This is life threatening. You need to have an action plan. If you don’t have a plan you will be in serious trouble if you have anaphylaxis. You’re prepared about everything else, you need to prepare for this.

 I have a five point plan:
--Avoid the allergen.
--Have two epinephrine autoinjector devices.
--make sure that people that are with you, that they know that you are allergic. And that they know how to help you.
-Practice with an epinephrine autoinjector trainer.
--If you use your epinephrine autoinjector, that is not the end of situation. You need to seek emergency medical attention.           

AG:  Here’s a question from a food allergy mother via my Allergic Girl Facebook page: What would you say to young kids that think their dreams are limited because of their food allergy? 

JB: I would say that your dreams do not have to be dashed because of food allergies. You can live life to the fullest as long as you have an anaphylaxis plan.

AG: Here’s another question from a food allergy mother via my Allergic Girl Facebook page: How to you handle traveling?

JB: I have two Auvi-Q devices with me at all times that allows me to travel without the fear of anaphylaxis. Be diligent about your food allergies and avoid a place that has your allergens; for me that’s a seafood restaurant. Anytime time I travel I tell everyone around me about my food allergy. But as you cannot be 100 certain have your two Auvi-Q devices with you at all times.

Here's Jerome playbook with many helpful hints and lifestyle strategies about stay safe and having fun while managing risk.

Auvi-Q also offers a $0 co-pay for their devices. Go to their website for more information.

Thank you, Jerome and Auvi-Q!

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Please Don't Pass The Nuts: One of Healthline’s Best Allergy Blogs of 2015

Healthline Best Allergy Blogs of 2015

What a lovely honor to be named one of 21 of the best allergy blogs of 2015 by Healthline

I'm in the excellent company of friends, colleagues, fellow advocates and bloggers. 

Check us all out.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ready, Set, Success! Telesummit, Dr Liz Lasky

What if there was an easy way to:

Figure out what you want
Make that vision crystal clear
Tackle the barriers
Act on that vision
Live the life of your dreams

I am one of 21 experts that my friend and colleague Dr. Liz Lasky, LCSW, PhD recorded in her telesummit: “Ready, Set, Success!” beaming out May 1, 2015.

Click here to register for “Ready, Set, Success!” and start getting your success on right now!  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Interview: Manischewitz, Gluten-Free Line, 2015

I’ve been using and eating Manischewitz products during the Jewish holidays my entire life and I’ve had food allergies (tree nuts & fish) my entire life; I’ve never had an issue. Now, I have some insights on how Manischewitz keeps everything nicely separated, even as they add a gluten-free line and, of course, Kosher.

Last week, during the first ever #Maniexp at Chelsea Market here in New York City, I had an opportunity to talk with CMO David Rossi about Manischewitz, their new gluten-free product line roll outs for Passover and how they keep everything separated.

Oh you didn’t know? Yes, over the last few years Manischewitz has begun to roll out some gluten-free products, one of which is has been something of a Holy Grail (pardon the mixed religious metaphors) in the gluten-free world of foods: matzoh, the “bread” Jewish people eat during the feast of Passover. And as Passover is around the corner, your local stores should have the new gluten-free line of goodies stocked up, including two different kinds of matzoh-types. 


Allergic Girl: Talk to us about your new gluten-free line of products? Why did you create them?

David Rossi: Manischewitz is known for being in the gluten business but it didn't go unnoticed that gluten-free requests and gluten-free products were starting to pop up in the marketplace. Talking to consumers, we found that more had celiac, allergies or a preference for GF. As our job is to find out what consumer is looking for and try to meet that need, we thought it was time for this kind of product.”

AG: What is the timeline of when you started to roll out gluten-free products?

DR: “Our first products were gluten-free noodles for Passover three years ago. 
Then cake mixes that were gluten-free. Then plain matzoh launched two years ago.
Flavored matzoh just launched this year as well as a gluten-free matzoh ball mix.” 

(You can find the whole list of their products here on their website Manischewitz.
Double click on "products" bar to get a listing to sort by allergen.)

AG: Manischewitz uses GFco group to get certified; the Manischewitz standard is 10 parts per million (the FDA standards is 20 ppm). Why are you using GFco as your gluten-free certifier? 

DR: "We wanted to have stricter standards than what the FDA requires and we wanted third party verification."

AG: How does your facility segregate ingredients and/or allergens?

DR: "We have four sections in our 125,000 square foot facility in Newark, New Jersey. Each section is closed off by walls. Generally speaking the sections are: Wet, fish – all liquids, soups, sauces.
 Mixes, meals – dry powdered mixes, too.
 Crackers & matzoh. And the last room are cookies that have nuts."

(Manischewitz has a 600 product line, some products are made offsite that have nuts as well and that is stated on the label.)

AG: So you use GFco group to certify your gluten-free line. Do you send out any other products for third party allergen testing?

DR: “No, we don't test for other allergens. We do a full clean up in between all products. That’s not just sweeping floors or a rinse. On most equipment, say, making matzoh, we clean out all of the parts of machine, tubing, running belts, ovens; cleaning all bands or anything that comes into contact for ingredients. Every part of the machine is cleaned to the highest order possible.  We get certification from vendors as to what ingredients are being sent to us. We utilize GMP (good manufacturing practices) and that gets us 90 percent of the way to be able to make allergy friendly processes. Remember: Rabbis and keeping Kosher is part of our food manufacturing process. We've always had great record keeping, tracking and are used to be supervised.”

(Here’s more about their Kosher certifier:

AG: Any additional thoughts?

DR: “For those of you with special dietary needs, I’d suggest checking out the Kosher section of market as we have a lot of products that may meet your needs. Manischewitz is about segregation of ingredients, being watched by third parties (Koshering bodies and Rabbis) and tracking ingredients – for us this is comes easily. It’s what we’ve been doing since 1888. Remember: Parve is Hebrew for neutral – means not dairy nor meat and supervised by Kosher authorities.  Ninety-five percent of the 600 products that Manischewitz make are parve. And there are no dairy products in the entire Manischewitz facility."

(This is major news: there are no dairy products in the entire Manischewitz facility. They have dairy items in the Manischewitz line but they are made by third party. Not even packaged in the Manischewitz facility. For further questions use this link - they'd love to hear from you!)


Thank you, David and Manischewitz, exciting news!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Recipe: Fudge, Food Allergen Free

Last weekend, I had brunch with my besties from grade school. My bestie bestie since first grade, Aimee, has two little ones; her seven year old is peanut allergic. When we get together, we all make food that is safe for everyone else. It’s joyous. 

A few years ago, I made fudge from a recipes in Divvies cookbook (you can find the book here). The girls, and their dad, never forgot it. So this brunch there was a request that I make the marshmallow fudge. Which of course I honored. Marshmallows and chocolate are two of my favorite things together and apparently everyone else's. 

The Divvies this recipe is beyond easy. I’ve made it with lactose-free dairy and I’ve made it completely dairy-free as per the recipe. I’ve used Divvies chocolate chips and I’ve used Enjoy Life Mega Chunks. And it all turns out perfectly.

Here is Divvies original recipe.

From The Divvies Bakery Cookbook by Lori Sandler. Copyright (c) 2010 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Press, LLC.

I made the recipe as stated. Lined my 9x9 pan with organic parchment paper from If You Care and then marshmallows from Jet Puffed. I poured the fudge on top. Let it cool and then sliced. Here are some luscious cross-section pictures of my end result. 

Use this recipe as a base and make variations. Mint. Yes. Oreos? Yes. Bacon. Oh yes! Candied ginger? Yes. Orange zest? Oh yes! It’s fine for Passover, no flour. It’s delicious for Easter. And it’s a fun cooking activity to do with your little ones.

Thank you Divvies for the inspiration. Now, go get cooking! 

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Jewish Museum: “Repetition And Difference”, March 2015

I had an opportunity to visit the upcoming exhibit "Repetition And Difference" opening March 13, 2015 at The Jewish MuseumIn my discussion with one of the curators, Susan L. Braunstein, Henry J. Leir Curator, she said: 

“Repetition in art can often be seen as mundane and static, even cookie cutter. This exhibit is trying to show that there is difference if you know where to look.”

And look we did, walking through four rooms of variations, deviations, conformity and repetitions. Many of the objects were created by artisans to be the same - menorahs, mezuzahs, yarmulkes, havdalah containers - items every Jewish family needed in the ancient world (and observant Jews still need today). Human nature has an urge to create perfection and also, to have the exact same thing that the proverbial Jones's have. But of course there are deviations, imperfections - we could never clone perfectly. (Think Multiplicity with Michael Keaton.) 

Broadly speaking, automation, starting in the 1800s, strove to eliminate those human variations and create identical products for the masses - think Model TAutomation had a similar effect on art - think Bauhaus and later, Andy Warhol.

But, as we all know, imperfections in our automated world are everywhere: sometimes celebrated (“Look at the mistake on my Warhol lithograph! It’s ten times more valuable now!”); sometimes super annoying (“My iPad is a lemon out of the box! Can't they make these things right?”). 

As a culture, we seem to flip flop on celebrating uniqueness and, in equal measure, striving for a conformity to a norm or for non-existent perfection. 

I'm in the celebrate what is unique camp. I'm in the there is no norm camp. I'm in let your freak flag fly camp.

As a life coach and food allergy counselor, both of which I regard as my art, part of my job is helping my clients come to terms with uniqueness and sameness as people who happen to be diagnosed with severe life threatening food allergies. 

Another example: as a public speaker about lifestyle and managing severe life-threatening food allergies, I may be giving the “same” presentation but it’s never the “same”. Even if it’s a power point deck I’ve used before, there is always deviation in how my core message (see below) is delivered based on a myriad of variables both concrete and abstract: what’s the weather, what did I have for breakfast, how am I feeling that day; do I have new, compelling client-derived anecdotes that will shed new light on an example or a new experiential exercise to drive home a poignant point; what does this particular audience need on this day and what are their reactions in the moment? 

As a social worker, counselor, writer and speaker, my messaging is always consistent around creating food allergy confidence: 
  • Understand your food allergy diagnosis, 
  • Communicate your food allergy diagnosis, 
  • Form positive and supportive relationships around your food allergy diagnosis.

But the delivery -- that is the art. In my art, there is repetition and there is deviation; and they are both valuable and beautiful.


You can check out the upcoming exhibit 
"Repetition And Difference" 
Opening March 13, 2015 
The Jewish Museum
1109 5th Ave at 92nd St

New York, NY 10128