Food Allergy Counseling

Food Allergy Counseling
Sloane Miller, MFA, MSW, LMSW, Psychotherapist; Specialist in Food Allergy Management, Speaking At Mylan Specialty / EpiPen Event (© Noel Malcolm 2013)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Food Allergies, Medic Alert

After watching my book trailer last week, colleague and friend Kishari, the Food Allergy Queen, asked me this question through Facebook:

"How does your bracelet specifically describe your nuts and fish allergy? (My list of allergies is so long a friend suggested I get a medical belt instead! Ha.)"

I looked down at my MedicAlert bracelet and realized I’ve had the same one since my senior year in college. The main reason I got one then was because I was leaving to go to Oxford University for a year and my allergist strongly recommended it. In my recollection, the idea was and still is, that if I were somehow rendered unable to care for myself or unable to communicate, an alert bracelet would speak for me.

For me, the most likely culprit to render me unable to communicate would be severe asthma and/or a severe allergic response i.e. anaphlyaxis. These could be caused by my most severe food allergies (nuts and fish) and allergic asthma to animals. So, my medic alert bracelet, the one I show to my “date” in the book trailer (and in real life) says: "Asthma. Allergic to salmon, all nuts, animal dander. Carries EpiPen"

Not only to I find it a comfort to know that my bracelet can speak for me when or if I can't, but often I will use it to illustrate the seriousness of my food allergy request, say, to a disbelieving server or manager. The rod of Asclepius is an international and old symbol for medical/medicine; it works.

Do you have one? Have you been considering one? Have you talked to your doctor yet? What would yours say?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Allergic Girl, Book Trailer

Newly diagnosed with food allergies? Had food allergies a long time? Have a loved one with food allergies and want to support them? Dating someone with food allergies and want to know what to do?

Have I got the book for you: Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well with Food Allergies.

Pass it along!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Straight Line

It was really cold last night but as I had been at my desk all day I figured I’d walk the half mile to a networking cocktails event. Bad idea. It was asthma weather (below freezing, no humidity) and I could feel it three blocks in. It was rush hour, too cold to wait for a slow, packed bus, no cabs in sight and only a few blocks more until I reached my destination. Scarf over mouth, breathing through my nose and looking for a place to let my lungs warm up, I made a tiny left into Grand Central Station walking through commuting crowds and exiting a southwest door. And kept going.

Hitting Fifth avenue and walking past the Library Lions, I realized I was hyperventilating into my scarf. I felt like I was about to pass out or have a panic attack. I stopped in Lord & Taylor’s, walked through to the southern exit and warmed up. And I kept walking. Two blocks more to get to my destination, the new Setai Hotel bar. I was relieved I had gotten there in one non-asthmatic piece and could enjoy myself in the company of other food industry professionals.

However, my walk to the Setai Hotel left me thinking about that axiom: the quickest way between two points is a straight line. No ever talks about stops along the way. But why not? We all needs stops: to warm up or cool down; to catch our breath or enjoy the present moment; to gather our thoughts or to get our bearings; maybe we feel afraid (or hyperventilate!), maybe we feel elated or ready to burst out singing (which I do often!); maybe we get sick and then we get well. But we keep going – we get to that next point. And then to the next and the next.

For many of you reading this blog, those A to B points might be between a new food allergy diagnosis for you (or your loved one, spouse or child) and going out to eat again, or eating at your sister’s destination wedding safely, or dating again (and kissing!) – feeling any small measure of control of your life. I hope you have started to plot out that course, find those points that you want to get to – my book will definitely help you find some goals or achieve ones you have set up for yourself.

The two points on my mind these days are: the moment I started this blog, my advocacy work and my private practice to the moment, in six weeks when my book, Allergic Girl will be in your hands. And even though these final days before that launch are frantic, and over-bursting, crazed and over-whelming (those are actually the stops I think), I am marching steadily, through this cold to make sure that every one of you has all of my secrets for living the best food allergic life possible and that you all get to your next point safely and joyfully!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jaleo, Washington DC

Washington DC, mid-morning view of the Captiol Building:


I had heard that celebrity chef Jose Andres’s restaurant Jaleo was great with food allergies a few years back from a blogger in DC, Lady Brett. On Jaleo’s website they do mention that they handle food allergies here but they go way further when you are on-site.

They have taken the 60 items on their regular menu and created individual menus free from six of the top food allergens: dairy, egg, wheat/gluten, tree nut, fish and shellfish. If you have multiple allergies, and most of us do, you need to do your own cross-reference (which is not so easy). Better yet, talk directly with the Chef when possible.

Which is exactly what I did last week to great success. (Disclosure: I interviewed Chef Ramon Martinez for an upcoming article and they were expecting me for lunch.) Chef Ramon proved to not only be hospitable and passionate about the Jaleo menu and Spanish cuisine (he’s from Spain), he was also compassionate, clearly concerned for my well being and knowledgeable about food allergies, cross-contamination and the inherent dangers. I gave him my full list (nuts, seafood, a bunch fruits and vegetables) and he handpicked our dishes, presenting each at the table and giving me a list of every ingredient. I was in food allergen heaven by such personalized treatment.

And then there was the food: Executive Chef and menu creator Jose Andres likes salty and sweet; most every dish had those two elements intermingling. Most often sweetness was provided by fruit, both fresh and dried; sherry vinaigrette or sherry based light sauces lent some acidity; and salty was provided by flecks of ham in most everything. Below are the plates that I had - this was only a small portion of the menu.

Cheese and apricots:

Tortilla de patatas al momento:

Seared piquillo peppers filled with goat cheese:

Sautéed cauliflower with dates and olives:

Warm brussels sprout salad with apples, apricots, grapes and Serrano ham:

Homemade grilled pork sausage with sautéed white beans:

I can't wait to return.

Thank you Jaleo and Chef Ramon for a lovely afternoon!
480 7th Street NW,
Washington DC

Friday, January 21, 2011

Everyday Cool with Food Allergies, Pistiner

I had a chance to ask colleague Dr. Michael Pistiner a few questions about his new book for children called Everyday Cool with Food Allergies. I read it and it’s a little book that packs a lot in about giving children the tools to talk about their fears and concerns with food allergies.


Allergic Girl: Who is The No Biggie Bunch and how did you get involved with them?

Dr. Michael Pistiner: I was first introduced to The No Biggie Bunch series when I met Heather Mehra and Kerry McManama, its creators, at the 2009 Boston FAAN walk. I very quickly fell in love with the characters of The No Biggie Bunch and saw them as a great way to help teach kids about the basics of food allergy management. Kids can really relate to this diverse group of characters that have a "can do" attitude. The six children are each individuals, with their own special interests, not defined by food allergy. The majority have a food allergy, one child also has celiac disease, and one has no food allergy. The No Biggie Bunch has made it easier to empower and educate children and their families. Working with them on Everyday Cool with Food Allergies has been a great honor.

AG: What is your goal for Everyday Cool with Food Allergies?

MP: The primary goal of this book is to help kids get comfortable with participating in their own basic food allergy management. Educating kids about their food allergies can be tricky. The unknown can be daunting and children may fill in the blanks with their own even scarier answers. Healthcare providers have little time to train parents about food allergy management, let alone help teach a child about how to participate in their food allergy management. This leaves the teaching up to parents, other caregivers, the media, and peers. Some may not fill in a child's uncertainties with accurate or honest answers, leaving the children with the potential for fear. My intention with teaming up with The No Biggie Bunch was to provide a child friendly guide to help adults empower and educate children to participate in their own food allergy management and comfortably cope
with their food allergies.

AG: Who is the target audience for this book?

MP: The book is designed to educate both children and adults about basic food allergy management. Each section not only directly engages and teaches kids, using The No Biggie Bunch characters, but also includes a "note to care givers," that provides additional information including tips, references, and resources for caregivers (parents, school nurses, teachers, relatives, etc.). Not only could this be used to educate children with food allergies, but also used to increase the awareness and understanding of children without food allergy. They can see why it is that kids with food allergies need to do what they do and how they can help their friends.

AG: What experiences helped you write this book?

MP: As an allergist and food allergy educator I have learned so much from the children and families that I care for and work with. I've seen how each individual child and family copes with food allergy differently. As the father of a child with food allergies I've seen first hand the number of questions and teaching opportunities that can come up on a regular basis for a child with food allergy and how my son copes in his own individual way. My wife and I are still working hard at figuring out our best approach to match his learning style and temperament. Parents and other caregivers soon become experts in this way. No one knows their child like they do. A major goal of this book is to give these "experts" easy to translate food allergy management tips that they can modify and deliver in the most effective way to their children.

Thanks Mike!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Yummy Earth

I had met the Yummy Earth team back in 2007 at the first Fancy Food expo I attended. I have seen watched their explosion and expansion; my facialist at Bliss even gives me one of their grape lollies to have whilst she works. Kosher, organic, and gluten-free, Yummy Earth is also:

Gluten Free
Tree Nut free
no high fructose corn syrup
100% Natural Colors
No chemical dyes
Real Fruit Extracts
100% Natural Flavors
Kof-K Kosher Parve
Plant: no tree nuts or peanuts.

And wait, they are also super tasty. Yummy Earth has sent me the grape, watermelon and blueberry-tangy lollipops to try. Tasty, mouth -puckering, with the right amount of sweet - winners all!

Thank you Yummy Earth for creating safe and tasty sweets for the food allergic and food intolerant community!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free, Byrn

I fully admit it, I’m a food snob. Bake from a mix? Never! However. Since going gluten-free over five years ago, baking from scratch seemed, well, exhausting. So I turned to mixes and foond so many that I loved: Gluten-Free Pantry, Namste, Cherrybrook Kitchen were some early faves. In the past few years, even more have entered the market with alacrity: King Arthur, Betty Crocker to name but a few.

So even though my first instinct when Workman sent me a copy of The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free by Anne Byrn was: “Moi? Bake from a mix? Never!” I realized I’ve been happily baking from allergen-free mixes for a quite a few years now and this book was exactly what I was looking for.

Byrn cleverly takes 15 ounces of any GF mix (she uses Betty Crocker or GF pantry) and goes crazy, making cookies (from a cake mix yet), red velvet from yellow cake and fun stuff from brownie mixes. I made a variation of the Pumpkin Spice Cake - I used 15 ounces of Namatse Spice Cake mix and just added ginger. And I made them into cupcakes not cake. I iced them with her caramel recipe (no recipe included and not as successful as the cake itself). The cupcakes were beyond delish, thanks to Namatse Spice Cake mix's base. I look forward to trying more of this fun and easy tome. In the meantime, here’s the recipe I tried so you can go play!

Excerpted from The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free
Copywright 2010 by Anne Byrn
Used by permission of Workman Publishing Co., Inc. New York
All Rights Reserved


Pumpkin Spice Cake

Serves: 8 to 12 prep: 15 minutes bake: 40 to 45 minutes cool: 20 minutes

Vegetable oil spray, for misting the pan
1 package (15 ounces) yellow gluten-free cake mix (AG: I used 15 ounces of Namatse Spice Cake mix and just added ginger)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly mist an 8-inch square pan with vegetable oil spray and set the pan aside. 2. Place the cake mix, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves in a large mixing bowl and, holding the beaters of an electric mixer in your hand, whisk them to combine. Add the pumpkin, oil, eggs, and vanilla, attach the beaters to the mixer, and beat on low speed until the ingredients are just incorporated, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat the batter until smooth, 1½ to 2 minutes longer, scraping down the side of the bowl again if needed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the rubber spatula, and place the pan in the oven. 3. Bake the cake until the top springs back when lightly pressed with a finger, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool completely, 20 minutes.

Keep It Fresh! Store the cake in the pan, loosely covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to three days. Freeze the unfrosted cake, wrapped in aluminum foil, for up to one month. Let the cake thaw overnight on the kitchen counter before frosting or glazing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


When I was leaving for college my mother and I went shopping for a proper knife set. I was already a big cook at home but never had really great knives. So we went to Macy’s and bought a set of Wusthof. I knew I wanted a paring knife, a chef’s knife in two different sizes and a bread knife. I cooked all throughout college, in various dorms, on hot plates, in my room or in communal kitchens with my own sets of everything to prevent cross contamination. Having a great set of knives was vital.

I was super excited when Wusthof recently contacted me to try out one of their new knives:

Wusthof, the leader in professional grade cutlery for nearly 200 years would like to lend a hand with a practical guide to the "Top Ten" kitchen knives and sharpening tools for the holiday kitchen. Newly launched this fall, the new, next generation Classic collection of precision-forged, full tang knives is enhanced withWusthof's new computer-controlled PEtec edge. This new technology ensures an unfailingly precise and uniform blade from heel to tip. Wusthof's best-selling Classic knives are distinguished by a triple-riveted black handle, which now offers a more durable stain and fade-resistant material, and new rounded shape for a comfortable and secure grip.

What they sent me:

Wusthof Classic 7" Santoku Knife - This top-selling Japanese style knife has a distinctive "hollow ground" blade edge (a row of beveled ovals) that allows food to easily release. When thinly slicing potatoes, cucumbers or eggplant, they won't stick to the blade. The Santoku originated in Asia, but has established a huge following in the U.S., thanks in no small part to homage paid by a mega star on Food Network. Suggested retail price: $99.99.

There is nothing like cutting with a sharp, well balanced, feels-good-in-your-hand knife. A sharp knife can turn a struggle into “buddah”. The Wusthof Classic 7" Santoku Knife has a shape that has been all the rage for a few years now. The blade makes a “D” and for my hands it has just a bit more stability. For the home cook who may not be used to working with such sharp, weighted knives I think the Santoku is a great choice.

Thank you Wusthof for making cutting in the kitchen fun!

Monday, January 17, 2011

"Have a Food Allergy? It’s Time to Recheck", Brody

Here's another article in the New York Times about the NIH guidelines that seems to focus solely on the issue of misdiagnosis: “According to the panel’s detailed and well-documented report, about one child in 20 and one adult in 25 have a food allergy, nowhere near popular estimates that up to 30 percent of Americans are afflicted.” (Still that means millions of Americans, everyone!)

However, Ms Brody does a rather thorough job of going through all the findings presented in the NIH guidelines.

Have you read them yet or discussed with your allergist about next steps for you and your family? You can download them here. I encourage you to read through.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

HomeFree, Oatmeal Cookies

HomeFree, started by a fellow mental health worker Jill Robbins, has up until now has offered organic, vegan, nut-free, wheat-free treats. I’ve enjoyed them for years; so delish. Their chocolate chip cookies taste to me like real commercially available cookies. And the minis, both chocolate chip and chocolate chocolate chip, are ridiculously pop-into-your-mouth-able. At this year’s Natural Products Expo East, HomeFree unveiled a completely gluten-free soft oatmeal cookie.

From Jill: Now HomeFree soft oatmeal cookies, already free of food allergens including peanuts, tree nuts, soy, egg, and dairy, as well as being whole grain, vegan, kosher pareve, low sodium, SB-19 compliant for schools, and heart healthy, are now also wheat free, and certified by the Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO) to be free of gluten.

So how was the oatmeal cookie? Not too sweet, cinnamon-y, like a breakfast oatmeal; chewy, soft but still toothsome; not overly decadent tasting – more comforting than sinful; and, as it’s shelf stable and packed individually in twos, great to travel with.

In addition to the fact that it’s a delish cookie, HomeFree has a clear FAQ, stated allergen-policy and product label. If you still have questions, reach out. They want to hear from you.

Thank you HomeFree for doing it again!

Jill Robbins
HomeFree, LLC
P.O. Box 491
Windham, NH 03087
(603) 898-0172
(800) 552-7172

Monday, January 10, 2011

Team Sloane, Fashion

You know the saying it takes a village to raise a child? I think it takes a team -- a supportive network of friends, family and professionals -- to get through life successfully and confidently. I call it Team You and I talk about creating one more extensively in my book, Allergic Girl.

A Team You member helps you in the places where you need help.

One of those places for me is fashion. I love looking great in clothes but I do not like shopping; I just have no patience to sift through the racks. And I have no aptitude for putting things together beyond “matching” (death knell to fashionishtas, I know). After about an hour in a busy department store, boutique or sample sale, I devolve into a six year old who can’t wait to leave.

In the past few months, I’ve had a few fun things to do that required wardrobe. For the last big event, I had already spent two days shopping, finding nothing and feeling completely discouraged and frustrated. So I turned to Team Sloane fashion member Michael Palladino. Head of client services for 18 years at the famed Bendel’s, he is now teaching at LIM College and was gracious enough to meet me after work one day for a quick trip down Fashionista Way.

Michael and I met when, again, being fashion inept and at my wit’s end about finding a workable outfit, I was looking for a consultant to assist in a photo shoot for my Allergic Girl blog picture. Michael immediately understood my figure’s strengths and my personal style and within an hour I had both casual and dress up pieces that I still wear.

This time around, Michael told me to meet him at H&M at 5pm. After years of working together, Michael knows my style: classic, fresh and professional and that I work within a tight budget (I love a sale, dislike buying full retail). He went an hour a head of me, picked out five outfits, all neutral colors, all in my size. When I met him, I tried on clothing over my jeans in a corner (I didn’t even head to a room) and was at the checkout counter within 20 minutes with four outfits and pieces that I love and that are interchangeable with everything I own. Yes, Michael’s that good and I've worn everything all fall into winter.

So this blog post is really a public thank you to Michael Palladino and to encourage you to reach out for help when you need it: whether for food allergies or fashion, help, guidance, support is all there for you, you only need to ask.

PS Michael told me recently he is available for styling help. Just send him an email ( ) and drop my name.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Redwood Hill Farm

I’m lactose intolerant; I’m no longer producing the stomach enzyme needed to break down milk sugars. Even after five-six years since this manifested, I’m still sorting out how much dairy I can tolerate, with or without Lactaid pills, before it affects my stomach.

NB: Here’s what Green Valley Organics says about the difference between a dairy allergy and a dairy intolerance, a crucial distinction. Talk to your personal medical provider about your needs.

I met the Green Valley Organics lactose-free and Redwood Hill Farms goat’s milk people at the Natural Products Expo East earlier this Fall and was delighted when they sent me some products to try. They sent me enough to share with the professional chef who catered my birthday and we made ice cream out it. So good. (Here’s us shopping and buying extra yogurt and here’s the resultant kefir based ice cream video.)

Green Valley Organics: The yogurts I tried, honey and strawberry flavored, were silky and creamy. They have pro-biotics like any yogurt as well as an added enzyme lactase to help one digest the cow’s milk based products easier. Compared to normal yogurt I had one urp versus four. Pretty good ratio.

Redwood Hill Farm: The goat’s milk products (both yogurt and kefir) took me to a whole new level of completely urp-free yum. I’ve heard that goat’s milk is an easier product to digest for those of us who are lactose intolerant and I personally found that to be true, even compared to the GVO lactose-free yogurt. Lactose-free = fewer urps. Goat = no urp.

Then there's the taste. When it comes to yogurt there are those who like it tangy and those that don’t. I’m in that tangy camp. And having tasted the Redwood Hill Farm delicious goat’s milk-based products, I don’t know that I will be going back to cow’s milk any time soon.

Thank you Green Valley Organics and Redwood Hill Farm for the samples and the introduction to something new!


Green Valley Organics is a new brand launched by Redwood Hill Farm, a family business founded in 1968 now that owns and operates both product lines. They take pride in their animals and their products. Have questions about their products? They want to hear from you. Contact them, reach out: ask them your questions and then consider trying some goatiness.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Angie’s Kettle Corn

UPDATE April 2012: Angie's has rolled out a new product with dairy and have adjusted their allergen-free statement on their website. Angie's is no longer "top 8 allergen" free. 

UPDATE August 2011: Angie's has their nut-free statement on their homepage now.

Angie's Kettle Corn is another treat discovered at Natural Products Expo East this year. Top eight allergen-free kettle corn. Just four ingredients in a plant that only makes three things: kettle corn, kettle corn lite and caramel corn. Hard to beat that.

My favorite of the three was the regular kettle corn: I found the the lite was flavorless and the caramel tasted chemical-y. But the straight up kettle corn I loved as well as their very clear allergen policy on their site.

Thanks Angie's for creating this yummy kettle corn!

Monday, January 03, 2011

Canus Goat’s Milk Soap

I’m still working through all the new companies I met at this year’s Natural Products Expo East. One of which is Canus Goat’s Milk soap. With only a few ingredients (no nuts!), it produces a silky lather and I swear my hands are a mite softer each use.

I’m using the original brand and I’ve had no reactions (this coming from an Ivory-allergic girl and, yes, you can be sensitive and/or allergic to soaps). I haven’t tried the whole line but from what I can see it’s fairly low-allergens, at least nut-wise.

NB: Canus Goat’s Milk soap is made from dairy and several products do contain soy. You can find more info here on the Canus Goat’s Milk soap FAQ.

I’m always looking for alternative body products which are good for sensitive atopic-prone skin like mine. Canus Goat’s Milk soap is on my list of a line to watch.

*With any product for the skin, it’s important to patch test for a few days first. With many skin products it can take hours or a few days before the body reacts. Talk to your allergist or dermatologist for more information about what is right for you.*