Allergy Friendly Back to School Snack: WowButter Oat Bars

Allergy Friendly Back to School Snack: WowButter Oat Bars

 

It has been a busy week here in our little blue house on the hill! 

 

Shaun and I have spent the week savoring … 

 

Savoring our slow, playful days together before he heads to kindergarten on Wednesday. And savoring little bites of all the food we prepared in an attempt to ease the inevitable bustle of busy school days.

As an allergy family we have to think ahead to premake what so many other people can grab at the store. Yes, it’s probably better for us anyway, but it does lack convenience. (Which I took for granted most of my life) 

This week I focused on pre making Shaun safe food that can be frozen to help with breakfast & snacks.

If I have not said this already, let me share this allergy montra with you now … 

 

“The freezer is my friend!” … Say it with me this time, “The freezer is my friend!” 

 

We made:

Pancakes … Shaun’s favorite food 

Waffles 

Bread 

And WowButter Oat Bars 

 

All of these recipes are staples in our house but the WowButter Oat Bars are exceptional! 

Exceptionally tasty! 

Exceptionally  easy!! 

Exceptionally flexible to modification!!!  

 

These WowButter Oat Bars are an exceptionally perfect substitute to all the manufactured granola, seeds, nut bars that always have at least one of Shaun’s allergens. 

They are perfect for a grab and go snack! 

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do. And for those of you with kids heading back to school, or heading to school for the first time, prayers for a safe and smooth transition. 

 

~ LC 

 

 

 

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info. 

 

 

 

Learning to Live With No Answers

Learning to Live With No Answers

 

Is that a hive? Eczema? Other unspecified rash? All of the above?

 

 

Having food allergies involves numerous changes to your lifestyle and approach to everything. Especially if multiple food allergies are involved.

After the months it took to get Shaun’s skin cleared up, and finally getting the laundry list of allergies he has, we spent the next several months in a panic every time he had a single hive or eczema flare.

 

What did we feed him?

 

Double-check all ingredients and packaging

 

Pace around with the Epi-Pen and watch for more or anaphylactic symptoms

 

We finally reached a breaking point. We consulted with Shaun’s allergist and she helped ease our minds a bit. Here is the big take-away:

 

Not every hive means anaphylaxis.

 

This is incredibly important. 

 

Our allergist describes Shaun, like many others with food allergies, as a “hive-y kid”. Meaning he is probably just going to get random hives, sometimes for no reason at all. More than that, we will likely never know why he got that random hive, or what triggered it.

Shaun gets random hives (anywhere from 1 to 3 or more) almost on a daily basis! On top of all the normal levels of parental exhaustion, there would simply be no way to investigate and figure out the root cause of why he gets every single one of the hives he gets.

 

There’s good news in this though!

 

In time, you will learn your own situation and how reaction(s) present themselves. At this point, 4 years later, we can generally tell when Shaun gets a random hive, if it is truly random, or if he is actually having a reaction to something.

We are also fortunate that in Shaun’s case, he is not going to have an anaphylactic reaction unless he ingests something. So at most, we’re going to have to deal with his skin reacting (hives, eczema, swelling or some combination). But we shouldn’t have to Epi him for a contact reaction.

 

This is another HUGE reason that Linda and I constantly talk about teaching your child to self-advocate. We’ve practiced with Shaun since he was old enough to talk. Ways to describe how he is feeling if things are itchy, burning, prickly, bumpy, rough, etc. This not only helps him tell us when he is feeling those things but also helps us to determine the severity of the situation. This is an integral part of us figuring out when he is having a genuine reaction or when he is having a random hive or symptom that will pass either on its own or with minor intervention from us.

 

Early on, there is definitely a lot of frustration, worry, and anxiety over what’s happening, and why it’s happening. In a lot of cases, you won’t ever get an answer. The trick is balancing preparation, awareness, and responses to ensure that you’re able to handle whatever situation you’re presented with, in a way that’s best for everyone, and sustainable long-term. 

 

 

Living with allergies is an art after all.

 

 

 

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

 

 

 

How to Meal Plan and Why It Matters!

How to Meal Plan and Why It Matters!

 

It’s 4:30 in the afternoon on my way home from work. I slow down for a red light and Shaun pipes up from the back, “mom what’s for dinner tonight?” 

 

Nothing is defrosted. 

 

I haven’t been shopping in at least a week and a half. 

And we are out of our allergy-friendly staples. 

 

Can you relate? 

 

Food allergies or not I feel like at some point we all struggle with staying ahead of the “what’s for dinner” question. Though having food allergies definitely complicates this problem. (I can’t just pick up a pizza on the way home and call it a day.) 

And although I am aware of a helpful solution I don’t always choose to take advantage of it …

 

The solution?! 

 

Meal Planning!!!! 

 

Here is how I look at it …

When I put the time and effort into making a weekly meal plan I save time & money, eliminate frustration and eat healthier! 

I save time trying to scrape something together for dinner at the last second. And instead, I can spend that time with my family!

I save money when I use a meal plan. I know what and how much food to buy each week. Thus spending less and wasting less. 

I eliminate the frustration of last-minute scrambling to make a meal that is Shaun safe and balanced in nutrition. Instead, I jump into the meal; often finding places for Shaun to help me cook! (When I don’t know what my plan is it is hard to let Shaun help with the cooking, which he loves and is a necessary skill for him to learn) 

We eat healthier because I have more whole foods in my kitchen! 

 

The upshot, meal planning for the win. 

 

So here is my method: 
  1. Block off time on your calendar to plan your meals before the start of each week.
  2. Keep all your favorite allergy-friendly recipes together. This makes it easy to reference them.
  3. Grab your blank weekly meal plan worksheet. 
  4. Start with the first column of the worksheet: menu.  Identify days you don’t need to cook or will eat leftovers (eating out, dinner at moms house, soccer practice) 
  5. Then for the days that remain pick from your recipes to complete your meals for the week. 
  6. Next, pull the recipes you have chosen for the week ahead and figure out what ingredients you need. Use the second column, shopping, to record what and how much you need. 
  7. Cut the columns apart, the menu goes on the frigid with the recipe cards for the week. And the shopping list goes with you … well … shopping. 

 

 

A few tips …
  • I fill out my worksheet on Saturday for the Monday ahead. (That’s why my meal plan page starts with Monday.) You can adjust this by starting with any day that works for you. 
  • I tend to cook extra servings for a meal. I like to have leftovers! Both for the purpose of eating the meal again (John takes leftovers for lunch) or in some cases to use the ingredients in a new dish. (ie. roasted chicken on Monday can be used in a chicken wrap on Wednesday). This type of efficiency is really helpful now that we live with food allergies. 
  • I print my meal plan worksheet a week ahead of the planning. I leave it on the kitchen counter so as we run out of something I can just put it into the shopping list. Then when Saturday rolls around I plan my meals and complete my shopping list. 
  • I do a combination of shopping in the store and online (Yeah for Instacart!!) but in both cases, I fill out my paper shopping list. It helps me stay organized; I have found that if I try to input my list right to the computer I always miss a key ingredient leaving me running out to the store. 

 

Right now, I only plan dinners and leave breakfast and lunch more open. I know what we like to have in the house and make sure it gets included on my shopping list if we are low on something. It works for my family. 

Having said that you can easily plan breakfasts and lunches on your menu sheet if you decide that is what works for you!

As with anything in life, I cycle in and out of meal planning but when I stick to it my week is much more enjoyable! 

So let’s start together, right now! 

Let’s put in the extra time upfront, save money, ease the stress of dinnertime and eat healthier!!  

 

Happy Planning! 

 

~ LC 

 

 

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

 

 

 

BBQ & Picnics: How to Embrace Summertime Fun with Food Allergies

BBQ & Picnics: How to Embrace Summertime Fun with Food Allergies

 

For anyone living with food allergies, summertime gatherings bring many stressful complications. Although BBQs and picnics are about sharing time with friends and family, they are also about good food!

 

Here are some ideas to help you prepare and navigate these events!

 

Know your host

Consider your host’s personality. Has this person been supportive of your food allergy needs? Have they been willing to learn and make accommodations? The answers to these questions will help you prepare to attend (or sometimes not attend) the event!

If the answer to these questions is yes, you should feel a little more at ease about talking to the host about any concerns or needs you want them to be aware of.

If the answer to these questions is no, you might need to take a more direct approach to talk to your host about any concerns or needs that you might have about the event so you can feel safe attending the gathering. Be open to sharing your experience and knowledge if the host seems open to it but be prepared that some people in our lives are not going to want to understand and make accommodations.

In any case, with food allergies, you have to assess the risk and if you are willing to take it. This looks different for everyone! And can sometimes look different at various times in your allergy journey.   

 

Know your allergy

Okay so I know you know what your allergies are, but how sensitive are you? How fast does a reaction escalate?

Maybe you only experience anaphylaxis if you ingest the food (like Shaun) and therefore as long as you don’t eat a lobster roll at the picnic you will be safe.

However, it is possible that you are much more reactive to lobster and you are unable to be near it cooking on near someone eating it. In this case, talk with your host, again assessing the risk. Maybe they will make a change to the menu to accommodate this or perhaps they won’t, BUT the key is to communicate!   

 

Food

Many times the most straightforward course of action in these situations is to bring your own safe food! In my experience, this lowers stress for you as the guest and your host.  

If you feel comfortable eating the food at the picnic, consider making your plate from the safe choices BEFORE other guests. This allows you to avoid any possible cross contamination while people are serving themselves.

 

Know your care plan

This is as simple as it sounds. Bring your necessary medications and know what to do if a reaction happens.  Whatever action plan you have established with your doctor, review it, and be prepared to use it! We manage risk, but we can not eliminate it.

 

Practice with your child

Part of our job as parents is to guide our children, to teach them. This is no different when it comes to their food allergies!

Practice with them the essential things you want them to remember!

For our family that is Shaun’s allergy list, what and where his auto-injectors are kept, and that he is not to take food from anyone but mom and dad. We also practice what  he would say if someone offers him food, even if it looks safe, we repeat the words, “No, thank you, I’m allergic.”

 

*** THIS IN NO WAY MEANS I BELIEVE MY 4 YEAR OLD, OR ANY 4 YEAR OLD, CAN OR SHOULD MANAGE THIS THEMSELVES! ***

 

We watch Shaun like a hawk and make sure we are mitigating all foreseen aspects of the gathering. The purpose of this is to start to make him aware of what he will one day need to do to advocate for himself and to put an extra possible safeguard in place as a last resort to unforeseen risk.  

 

Build a safe space

As you arrive, take a look around and see if you can build an area in which you can feel comfortable! (Depending on your host this might be something that you can discuss beforehand)

  • Look for a spot away from where the food is being served
  • A location off to the side of things
  • A table or place in the grass where a safe space can be created is perfect
  • Keep food and medications at this spot
  • Wipe down the area if necessary
  • Set up the stroller or playpen (if it’s your young child with a food allergy)

This provides a small area at the picnic that you can eat at and retreat to if things become stressful or if you are concerned, a reaction may be occurring.

 

Leave when you are ready to go

 

This is not to say that you should plan to leave early.

 

However, social food-based gatherings can be stressful! You may encounter unexpected risks, you may find yourself with a contact reaction, or any number of other things may heighten your stress. For some living with food allergies, they will manage this in the moment, BUT if you are not in a place to do that there is nothing wrong with gracefully leaving.

 

Now, to change perspectives!

 

If you are hosting and you invite a guest with food allergies, keep these thoughts in mind:

  • Reach out and talk with your guest before the day of the picnic! Ask if you can do anything to make them feel more comfortable about attending. (Even if they say no they will be so grateful you asked!!)
  • Don’t take it personally if they bring their food. I am sure they would love a break from cooking, but in many cases, it is just safer!
  • Expect that your food allergy guest might not stay for the entire event, and that’s okay!!

 

Picnics and BBQs can be fun even with food allergies! It’s about preparing and communicating to lower risk.

 

 

Happy Picnicking!

~ LC

 

 

 

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

 

 

How I Became an ‘Allergy Dad’ (and You Can Too!)

How I Became an ‘Allergy Dad’ (and You Can Too!)

 

The short answer is, my wife had a baby (duh). But being an ‘Allergy Dad’ is not something most of us would pick. It is generally thrust upon us regardless of any other plans we’ve been making for our lives. It is scary, challenging, and frustrating among many other things.

The good news is, it IS possible. Food allergies become part of your life. And being an ‘Allergy Dad’ is now something I wear like a badge of honor.

Here’s how I became an ‘Allergy Dad,’ and some tips to help you do it too!

 

Be There

The trick is not to overthink this one. I mean it in the literal sense of physically being there. As in doctor’s appointments, allergist appointments, G.I. appointments. Skin tests and blood tests etc. Anything and everything you can physically get to (especially early on) GO!

This is incredibly important not only for showing your support to your partner and your family, but it is also beneficial exposure for you to hear what the doctors have to say yourself. Be the second set of ears when everyone is exhausted, and you’re trying at 2:00 am to remember that one thing the doctor said would help calm those angry hives.

 

Know your action/response plan

Similarly, this goes along with the ‘Be There’ section. But if you’ve done the first step and been to the doctors’ appointments, and know the allergens, you all can work through this step together much more comfortably.

It is vital that every immediate caregiver has and knows what the action plan is if your child has a reaction. We have made 5×7 laminated notecards with all the essential information on it, and everyone in our family has one, along with his school, school nurse and teachers.

A topical skin reaction is different from an ingested food anaphylactic reaction, and they both require different remedies.

There are resources available in many places, but this one will give you some tremendous, base-level knowledge around food allergies, and this one will give you some tips to daily living with food allergies.

Having your action plan in place ahead of any major incident is the key to some level of contentment, and confidence in your child’s safety.

 

Let go of the ‘Fixer.’

At the core of most men, is the desire to be the protector, provider, and hero. This will undoubtedly be one of the hardest challenges as a new Allergy Dad. The realization that food allergies cannot be ‘fixed.’

 

You can’t DIY your kid’s immune system. And no, it isn’t fair.

 

So, if you can’t fix it, then what do you do? All the things I’ve mentioned so far in this post are a great place to start. Add to the above points a level of patience, that you never thought possible, and you’re well on your way.

While you can’t ‘fix’ your food-allergy child, it doesn’t mean that they’re broken. You can certainly still have an incredible relationship with your child, and be their superhero. You just have to think about it a little differently.

 

Find Your Village

The adage “It takes a village to raise a child” is especially true for allergy parents. The more in-depth meaning behind this African proverb says that an entire community of people must interact with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment.

Surround yourself with people who want to be a part of your child’s life. These people will quickly stand-out as they will be the ones willing to do some research on their own. They will want to learn what your child’s food allergies are and the best way(s) that they can help keep your kid safe.

They won’t roll their eyes when you have to pass on an invitation because you know you can’t control enough of the variables to be able to ensure your child’s safety. These are the people that will be there with you on your journey. You will need them.

 

Speak Up

This one is last because it is simple, critical, and often tricky to execute well. People always talk about a ‘mother’s intuition,’ but this is very real for fathers too. Trust your gut, and say something when you have concerns. I’d rather my good-intentions ruffle some feathers than have something horrible happen because I didn’t express my doubts.

Be it to your spouse, doctors, teachers, nurses, social workers, it doesn’t matter. It’s always better to voice those thoughts and be able to talk through them, rather than say nothing, and let it stew in your mind.

This is where you get to be that strong advocate for your allergy kid. Help educate other people about food allergies, and create an overall better and safer environment for them to live and grow.

 

Most of all though, when you tuck your child in at night, and they give you a kiss and whisper “I love you, Daddy,” you’ll have earned your cape that day.

 

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

 

 

4 Ways to Love Someone with Food Allergies

4 Ways to Love Someone with Food Allergies

My niece/nephew/cousin/friend etc. now has food allergies, and I have no experience with them. How do I help?

I’m so glad you asked.

A lot of people (not all, but some) will take the stance of “well it doesn’t directly affect me, so it’s not my problem” mentality.

While it is certainly within your right to look out for yourself and your interests, this does not help the broader allergy community. I would also hope that you care enough about the newly-diagnosed person in your life to at least want to learn a bit more about it.

So, to the initial question, here are a few things you can do.

 

Be Understanding

A new allergy diagnosis is scary. 

Everyone reacts to it differently and will have their own emotions to sort out. Often it is overwhelming, and your brain will start buzzing with questions.

How will it affect your daily life?

Will people treat me differently?

Will I still/ever be able to eat out at a restaurant?

Will I have to change or cancel plans/events?

How will it affect my work/school?

The best thing you can do (and YAY it’s also the easiest!) is be understanding. Listen. Be patient. The person/child who is affected by the allergy is figuring it all out. They will likely need you at some point for support. But don’t rush them. Let them come to you if and when they’re ready to.

 

Include Them

People with food allergies want to live as ordinary a life as possible. Especially with children, people affected by allergies don’t want to feel singled out or different because they can’t eat or certain foods.

Keep inviting them anyway!

It’s simple and requires almost no additional effort on your part. Of course, the person with food allergies may not always be willing or able to say ‘yes’ and attend whatever event/outing/meal you’ve invited them to, but the important thing is that you asked them.

This can be a particularly challenging aspect of living with food allergies for adults that have lived for years with few or none, and then suddenly developed them later in their lives.

 

Support

Be there!

Ask Questions. If you genuinely want to know how you can help, ASK! Showing you care is that simple. Taking an interest in what someone is going through can be powerful. You may not be able to do much, but sometimes your presence is all that is required. Perhaps the person with a food allergy wants to vent. Be that outlet for them.

Sometimes they may need you to back them up. We all know some timid people, and they may not be able to express their concerns or discomfort at times. Offering them a “Hey, do you want to get out of here?” could mean the world.

 

Share this blog!This one should be obvious, but if you know someone who can benefit from this information, share it!

 

Empowerment

This one is more for those who care for young kids with food allergies. The benefit is learning early what their food allergies are, and food allergy living ends up becoming just another part of life.

The hard part is managing when, and how much control over those allergies do you give to that child. Practicing good habits and educating them is a great foundation to build upon (we’ll cover exactly how you can do this in a later post).

There are also tons of resources available. FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) is a huge one, and they have lots of valuable information and ‘cheat sheets’ you can view and download for free.

May 12th – 18th this year is Food Allergy Awareness Week! We will be working on new content to highlight Food Allergy Awareness especially.


Some more information can be found here.

 

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.