Food Allergy Counseling

Food Allergy Counseling
Sloane Miller, Food Allergy Counselor (Picture © Noel Malcolm 2013)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Welcome New Allergic Girl Readers

Welcome new blog readers, I'm so glad you're here. Here’s an orientation about who this Allergic Girl is and what this blog is about. Read on!

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I have food allergies and I have had since infancy. If I consume certain foods to which I am allergic, my immune system believes it’s being invaded. I can experience itchy ears, an itchy mouth, itchy lips, an itchy throat, hives, asthma or even anaphlyaxis.

Food allergies and allergen-friendly restaurants for are my focus when I dine out and are my guideposts and criteria for Allergic Girl and Allergic Girl Recommends.

I'm so grateful for all of you readers with celiac disease or gluten- or wheat- intolerance and I'm thrilled that you find my site helpful. I hope it continues to be that way for you for a long time. However, my possible food intolerances to wheat, dairy and soy are not allergies nor do I have celiac disease.

My restaurant and product reviews should be read with that understanding i.e. my focus is to dine free of my allergens; dining "gluten-free", "dairy-free" or "soy-free" is secondary to me as those are only possible intolerances.

To recap according to WebMD, symptoms of an food intolerance can include:
Nausea
Stomach pain
Gas, cramps, or bloating
Vomiting
Heartburn
Diarrhea
Headaches
Irritability or nervousness

And according to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, symptoms of a food allergy can include:
Itching in your mouth or swelling
GI symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal cramps and pain
Hives or eczema
Tightening of the throat and trouble breathing
Drop in blood pressure

Bottom line: I encourage anyone reading this blog who is having ANY adverse reactions to foods to discuss their symptoms with their board certified medical professional and get the medical answers they need to stay safe and healthy.

In this blog and in my book, I explore strategies for dining safely with any dietary restriction, whether food allergic or food intolerant. So, read on to see how I dine, free of my allergens, one meal at a time!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Three celiacs and a food allergic walk into a restaurant...

Recently, I had a fab dinner with three fab women, all of whom you may know: Jill Brack of Glow Gluten-Free, Rachel Begun RD and Ilise Ratner of Go With Your Gut. We went to Keith McNally’s Pastis, a place I have been to many, many times (safely) but not in ages.

This rainy night, Pastis proved that just because you may be running a hot, trendy restaurant doesn’t mean you don’t take the time to make each guest feel special and take care of their dietary needs. Pastis couldn’t have done a better job if I had scripted the evening myself. Here are some highlights of what they did so well that indicated we were going to have a great gluten-free, food allergy friendly night.

Rachel and I arrived at Pastis early for a pre-dinner drink. The reservation was under my name so I checked in with the hostess and asked to speak with the manager as we had diners with dietary restrictions. The manager came over, pulled up a chair and sat down to have a chat. We introduced ourselves, as did he, Michel. We created rapport, smiled and went over menu options and needs.

Michel’s sitting down with us was a great sign and exactly what you want: a manager who is giving you’re their full attention, is at your eye level, is listening and has an attitude of “let us know what we can do”.

We discussed menu items and needs. Michel said, “We handle this all of the time and are happy to do so. Thank you for you telling me now as this will be no problem. I will let the kitchen know and your server. Just let me know when you’re ready to be seated and I will meet you at your table.”

When our full party arrived, Michel swooped in and escorted us to the table. He personally took our orders, writing down every tiny detail and fastidiously checking in with the kitchen's team about their abilities and our needs.

Now this was no easy table: four women, all with different dietary restrictions *and* taste preferences. The manager talked to us each individually, changed existing menu items to suit our medical needs and tastes and did it all with knowledge, sympathy, a huge smile and a sense of humor.

While Michel was taking our orders, the server was nearby to assist. I stood up, so I could be eye level with him, asked his name, Will, and thanked him personally for taking such great care of us. I also asked if the table could buy Michel a drink for after his shift. Will smiled and said he’d check and get back to me. (He did and said, "No problem and thank you!")

Every dish was brought to the table by Michel and explained and confirmed that it was free from this or that, sauce on side, extra this, no that. Every dish was correct! Michel thanked the table for buying him a drink, again, huge smile, and checked on us a few more times with a smile and a joke or two.

We truly felt like rock stars.

All the ladies asked me sotto voce: “Is that normal for a manager to be like that?”

In my experience, yes!

My best tools: a clear request about my needs, a lot of smiling, flexibility and kindness. You have all of those free tools at your disposal anytime and they work, every time. (You can also read my article about dining out safely in the current US issue of Allergic Living magazine.)

Yes, there have been some major stories in the media about dining out with food allergy/celiac disease blunders, misdeeds and misunderstandings and downright criminal activities. Yes, that can happen – people can lie about ingredients or be innocently misinformed but in my lifetime of dining out experience, it's mostly like this evening at Pastis: a safe and fun party!

Don’t let some bad press stop you from finding that hospitable and knowledgeable General manager or Chef who is ready to welcome you to their establishment.

Thank you Pastis for a wonderful evening.

Pastis
9 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10014-1203
(212) 929-4844

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Allergic Girl at FAAN’s Blue Carpet Boston Celebration, May 11, 2011

Got plans for Food Allergy Awareness Week yet? Come join me at this special fundraiser event with Celebrity Chef Ming Tsai at Blue Ginger in Wellsley, MA. I will be there signing books, talking, mingling and dining allergen-friendly.

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The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) cordially invites you to attend:

FAAN’s Blue Carpet Boston Celebration
Hosted by Celebrity Chef Ming Tsai

Blue Ginger
583 Washington St, Wellesley, MA 02482-6411
+1 (781) 283-5790

5:30 p.m. Reception
7:00 p.m. Dinner

Cocktail Attire

Purchase tickets HERE

Questions? Contact Robert York at (703) 563-3087 or ryork@foodallergy.org.

Space is limited.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Allergic Girl, James Beard House

*** UPDATE: Some Pictures from the Food Allergy Queen and my West Coast #FoodAllergyTwin, Kishari Sing - thank you Kishari!***

Outside the James Beard House:


Me at the Podium:


Me talking to the full room:


Divvies yummy treats:


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I'm honored to be speaking at the James Beard House in New York City.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

12:00 - 1:00 PM, US/Eastern

Suggested donation: $20 for nonstudents

You can RSVP or just walk in:
The Beard House
167 West 12th Street
NYC

AND Special nut-, dairy-, egg-, and (some) gluten-free treats will be graciously provided by one of my favorite allergen-friendly, local companies: Divvies!

Join us!

Monday, April 11, 2011

2011 Gluten & Allergen Free Expo

***UPDATE: I won't be attending this year; however, if you go, let me know how it was!***

I'm headed to Chicago at the end of this month to GFAF Expo, to meet you and to sign books. Are you in the Chicago area? Are you coming? I hope to see you there! Here's more info from a press release:

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Prominent Chefs and Authors Participate in Chicagoland’s Premier The Gluten & Allergen Free Cook Expo , April 29-May 1

Three-Day Expo Offers Cooking Demos, Recipes, Vendor Fair Special Sessions for Dietitians and Food Service Professionals

CHICAGO, March 15, 2011 – From quick and easy meal preparation to bread baking, the professional chefs, restaurant owners, cookbook authors, nutritionists and vendors participating in The Gluten & Allergen Free Cook Expo plan to “show and tell” attendees that satisfying their taste buds is entirely possible without many of the common food intolerances that people are faced with every day.

Choosing gluten and allergen free foods and learning to implement these types of diets can be very tricky. To ease the process, the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo will be jam-packed with experts, information, demos, samples, and 70 vendors from all over the US and Canada.

In its fourth year of educating the general public, the Expo is branching out and offering special workshops for nutritionists and the food service industry. On Friday April 29th, these two workshops will focus exclusively on helping professionals with clients and patrons who have restricted diets. Chef Joel Schafer will discuss Food Allergen Safety is a unique training session that combines his years of experience at The Walt Disney World Resorts developing food allergy policies and procedures into practical applications that can be adapted to any food service operation. Anne Lee, who is the Director of Nutritional Services for Schär USA will be conducting a great introductory session for RD’s and nutritionists on understanding the basics of the gluten-free diet; including how to prepare gluten free meals and treats.

“This year’s Expo has an all-star cast of chefs, nutritionists, food bloggers and health professionals,” explains Jen Cafferty, Founder of the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo and the mother of two gluten-intolerant children. “We have gathered the best of the best to educate the attendees about living a healthy and happy gluten and allergen-free life.” Presenters will educate, share recipes, present cooking demonstrations, and encourage taste-testing of a wide variety of foods.

Expo highlights include: Cooking demonstrations with top gluten and allergen free chefs, a large vendor fair with a section that is entirely gluten and nut free, special workshops for dietitians and food service professionals, a public stage with top bloggers and health experts demonstrating some of their favorite recipes, nutrition sessions and meal planning.

Advance registration is required for the cooking classes. Vendor fair tickets may be purchased at the door or in advance online. Go to www.gfafexpo.com to register and for details.

For additional event information and to register for the The Gluten & Allergen Free Cook Expo , visit GFAF Expo or call 847-217-1317.

The The Gluten & Allergen Free Cook Expo is produced by Gluten Free Classes, LLC, which was founded by Jen Cafferty in 2007 and produces gluten-free cooking programs and gluten-free restaurant educational series throughout the United States.
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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Brooklyn Book Event, April 10, 2011




***UPDATE: Angie's Kettle Corn, which is free of the top eight most common allergens, has kindly sent HUGE bags of popcorn for YOU!***

NYC/Brooklyn food allergy friends!

Welcome to an Allergic Girl book party and FAAN fundraiser all in one. If you have a dietary restriction or a loved one that does, this event is for you.

When: April 10, 2011

Where: The Home of Heidi Bayer (Brooklyn Allergy Mom) in Brooklyn, NYC

What time: 3pm - 6pm

Fee: $35.00 (Price includes a copy of my book plus $10 donation to FAAN) *If you already have my book, you can still come to get it signed!*

Please see the invitation for all the details: eventbrite.com.

Managing Anxiety, TheMotherhood.com, April 5

***UPDATE: If you missed the live chat you can read through all of the threads here: http://www.themotherhood.com/talk/show/id/62178***


JOIN ME April 5, 2011 at 1pm EST when I will be co-hosting a moderated online discussion about managing anxiety and food allergies on TheMotherhood.com.

Leading the online discussion will be Allergic Girl colleague Lori Sandler, founder of Divvies Bakery and author of The Divvies Bakery Cookbook and Dr. Jules Spotts, PhD, a psychologist with many years of experience working with children and families dealing with allergies.

It's FREE to join: http://www.themotherhood.com/talk/show/id/62178

Upcoming classes:

Class #2: Navigating Food Allergies: At Camp, on Sleepovers or Playdates, April 12th at 1:00 pm ET right here: http://www.themotherhood.com/talk/show/id/62179

Join the experts to talk about ensuring your kids have fun and safe experiences at camp, on playdates or sleepovers. Lori Sandler, Divvies Bakery will lead a discussion with Sandy Rubenstein of Camp Wingate*Kirkland and Renee Flax of the American Camp Association who have worked with many families managing food allergies. Come with your questions and own best approaches. The focus is all about having fun at camp, and on sleepovers or playdates.

Class #3: Common Myths About Food Allergies, April 26th at 1:00 pm ET right here: http://themotherhood.com/talk/show/id/62180

Marion Groetch, MS, RD, CDN, Senior Dietitian at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and a recognized nutrition authority in the field of food allergies, will join Lori Sandler to discuss the common myths and misunderstandings concerning food allergies.

Class #4: Navigating Food Allergies: Advocating for Your Child at School, May 3rd at 1:00 pm ET right here: http://themotherhood.com/talk/show/id/62181

Join Lori Sandler and Gina Clowes of Allergy Moms to talk about getting your child safely settled into school, and working with your school to keep your child safe and included. We'll talk about reasonable accommodations in schools for children with allergies and how you can get them.

Class #5: Recipe Swap and Tips for Cooking and Baking Delicious Allergen-Free Foods, May 10th at 1:00 pm ET right here: http://themotherhood.com/talk/show/id/62182

In honor of Allergy Awareness Week, join us for a recipe and information swap! The series' co-hosts and Lori Sandler will share new ideas, approaches and delicious recipes for you and your family to try. We hope you can be here and share your favorites as well!

Monday, April 04, 2011

#FAANConf

What a wonderful day in Baltimore at the FAAN Food Allergy Conference this weekend. (If you’re on Twitter, the hashtag for the conference series is #FAANConf as well as the title of this post.)

I signed Allergic Girl books. Here they are for sale on FAAN's table:


I met so many food allergy moms, dads and kids. Some of you said: “I’ve read your blog for years!” or “We found your blog when traveling to NYC and ate safely at such and such restaurant” or “I just bought three copies for friends and family.” And some of you said you who had read the book and loved it and found the hope that is there waiting for you within its pages. Thank you!

I finally met, in person, dynamo and fellow allergic girl Gwen Smith, editor of Allergic Living magazine:


And I saw a preview of the new Allergic Living magazine US edition with a dining out safely feature by yours truly among all of your favorite features, info & columnists:

(Have you subscribed yet?)

I had time to talk with many of my food allergy fellow Twitter’ers - Hey Tweeps!

And I hung out with fellow fabulous food allergy authors: Cybele Pascal, Elizabeth Gordon and Gina Clowes.

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Many you have anxiety about traveling with food allergies (and asthma), so here is how all the pieces came together for me on this trip.

Travel. I went by Amtrak to Baltimore. I love the train – if there’s a dog or cat nearby I can always go to another car. I’m highly allergic and asthmatic to pets; sitting near an animal for extended periods of time will cause an allergic asthmatic reaction that may be difficult to control. So, I will always opt to move and or if I can’t move ask the conductor to move me accordingly. Alternatively, if someone is eating my allergen (like tree nuts or salmon – see below), I won’t rush to move; I need to eat my allergen to have a reaction. [Confused about the difference? Talk to your board certified allergist about the right course of action for you and your needs.]

What I packed: I packed a small rolling bag with two thirds clothes, one third non-perishable food (dried fruit, canned fruit and safe homemade granola). And a second smaller cooler with some snacks for the ride and my hotel room. As this trip was about 24 hours, I brought enough food to have all my meals in my room if necessary. Not full meals, but enough to tide me over.

On the ride: My seatmate immediately started snacking on his travel snacks: almonds. I’d need to eat almonds to have a reaction so I just kept working, ignoring the munching. However, we got to chatting (where are you going and why) and when I told him about Allergic Girl he revealed that he’s allergic to bee venom and carries an Epi-Pen. He then asked me if I’m allergic to dried fruit (I’m not) and continued to snack, now putting the almonds farthest away from me, on his other side. The kindness of some strangers.

Hotel: I stayed at the conference hotel, The Sheraton Inner Harbor. I requested a feather-free room, as I’m allergic/asthmatic to feathers, and an empty fridge. They said they would be happy to accommodate my requests. Upon check-in, I reconfirmed my requests, which were in the system and the front desk called housekeeping to ensure it was done. However, upon entering my room, there was no fridge, all feather bedding and an ugly view. With a few pleases and thanks yous, and apologies by the front desk staff, I was switched to a harbor view room with an empty clean fridge and feather-free pillows and I was told that all bedding in the hotel is feather-free:


I crawled into the bed for a quick kip only to find that I was sneezing, wheezing and itching my eyes within ten minutes. Feather bedding. I called downstairs and housekeeping came up to redo the entire bed; however the damage was already done. I was allergic and asthmatic and at a FAAN conference. I tweeted like mad (and ranted a bit) and Sheraton corporate responded very quickly to rectify the situation – the room was taken care of by management. However, it should have never happened. (PS I’m still allergic and wheezy: once started, an allergic reaction can take a few days to calm back down.)

Dining: Hotel kitchens can be a saving grace when you travel and this is where the Sheraton Inner harbor really shined. I had a long talk with Chef Chris Robinson and a walk through the kitchen where he explained all of their procedures for a group like FAAN or even individuals:


Why was I in the kitchen? I was hanging out with Cybele while she was making vegan allergen-free treats for her food demo:


Chef has some allergies himself (penicillin and a crab algae) and like many hotel chefs I’ve met, is the epitome of hospitality. Gracious, understanding, sympathetic and educated on the food allergy issues and needs, he even made me a to-go lunch for my trip home of some lovely plain chicken.

Here we are:


(I ate dinner out one night which I will detail in another post.)

Overall, it was a fantastic trip - the great, the good and the allergic. Many thanks to FAAN, and the Sheraton and I can’t wait for the next adventure!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Book Signing, FAAN Conference, Baltimore, 2011

This weekend, April 2, 2011, 8am - 5pm, I'll be signing my new book at the FAAN Food Allergy Conference at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel, in Baltimore, MD.

There will be books for sale there or bring your copy for me to sign. Can't wait to see you!

For more information on the conference series: http://www.foodallergy.org/section/food-allergy-conferences11

For where to buy my book: http://bit.ly/AllergicGirlBook