Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Are Your Allergies Worse?

Hello Spring, many of us have missed you so very much! With such a jolt from the cold weather right into the 70's, this means that environmental allergies are also jumping right into action as well. Nothing says hello spring more than hello pollen, hello allergies and hello asthma. How do you counteract all of these "natural disasters" to keep yourself healthier and out of the allergy zone? First, you start taking care of what takes care of you.

Proof Right in Front of You Having dust, pollen and allergens floating around in your everyday air isn't anything new, it's quite natural. It's when it begins to actually show up and hang around that makes us realize just how much of it is being inhaled. Some of this we cannot control but there are very easy ways to start Spring cleaning that are less house cleaning and more health cleaning. I was horrified when I saw just how much had collected on our Intellipure Ultrafine 468 after only about four months. You can see the fuzz, dust, dirt and I don't even know what else that has found a nice little home on just the outside of the unit. If this is sticking to our air purifier, imagine what is sticking to our lungs and causing inflammation. It is estimated that more than half the people in the U.S. live in counties that have unhealthful levels of air pollution, putting them at risk for premature death and serious health effects including lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular disease and developmental and reproductive harm. With all of this knowledge, it's quite easy to understand that we need to make sure our health is in check first and foremost. If you are one of those people who needs to "see it to believe it", here you go.

Multitasking Your Health The DFS (direct filtration system) technology that is built into each Intellipure Ultrafine 468 omits a constant electrical charge to the main filter, which prevents microbial growth in the main filter. Other air purifiers, such as HEPA filters, do not have this feature so pollutants and microorganisms build up on the filter and feed off one another. This creates a breeding ground which can actually cause pollution inside of the other brands of air purifiers. By using an Intellipure Ultrafine 468 as your go-to air purifier, you are combating three types of pollutants at once: micor-organisms, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's) and particles. What does this mean? By choosing the correct air purifier and having it up and running even before allergy season hits, you are already kicking out the triggers and welcoming in an easier transition to seasons, weather, dust and anything else that usually upsets your wellness. Just as your body malfunctions when it's not properly cared for, so can your Intellipure unit. Keep your filtration system optimal and you keep your allergies optimal as well. Think of this as your body's extra set of lungs and a giant tissue to make sure you are protected properly when allergy and asthma season kicks in.

Has This Changed Our Home? Unlike other air purifiers that we have tried, the Ultrafine 468 results happened within hours, not days. As I mentioned in my first post, the closed up bedroom "teenage boy smell" was like night and day. By the time I went in to say goodnight to NutriSon, the air quality in his bedroom was like someone had come in and purified his entire room without any cleaners or chemicals. I also noticed that seasonal allergy times were decreased (meaning very little coughing or sneezing when the pollen was having a party). I love that the unit itself is super easy to move to wherever I need it in a moment's notice (like when NutriCat tried to suffocate me with her cat litter)... didn't read that one? Click here. One of my happiest conclusions with me being so budget-conscious is that our energy bill did not increase but I'm sure that our family's health did.

Clearly the most important thing to me is that I need to invest in another unit to make sure that all of my home is helping me to breathe clean air, not just one room at a time.

Are you using an Intellipure air purifier? 
Order yours using code nutrimom17 &
save 20% off of your purchase. 

*I received materials and information for providing my thoughts and ideas to Intellipure. All comments made by me about the the Ultrafine468 are at my own discretion and based on my own opinion. #Sponsored

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

You CAN Break the Rules with Allergies

We seldom take risks when we have food allergies. The thought of being dangerous makes the hair on the back of our neck stand straight up. Thinking about wanting to break the rules, living dangerously on the edge- these are just things that are not possible with food allergies, right? OR, is it? .... I have a secret- we CAN break the rules. We CAN live on the edge. We CAN allow ourselves to feel like our lives and food (and even our budget) are just like any other person's, even if it's just for small intervals. It's all in the perception of things. It's like the Mastercard commercial:

- Food that makes our mouth water:      under $4
- Ordering online at home in jammies:  $0
- Easy cleanup, no dishes, no gas:         $0
- Finding a promo code on top of it:      Priceless

So what's my secret? Rule Breaker snacks! These may appear to be your everyday snacks but stop, do your usual allergy routine check and look at the label! Do you see the sneaky ingredients that are actually good for you?! Your big, bad self may be caught off guard by the simplicity of the ingredients but the subtle protein-packed, deliciousness that you will find irresistible will make you unable to stop consuming them. Go ahead, try not to eat an entire Rule Breaker Brownie or Blondie- I dare you. Because while you are noshing on the perfectly-sized square for one, the world will be watching in disbelief that you could be shoveling mouthfuls of sweet treats into your mouth without a care in the world. Be wild- eat another because the ingredients will still be allergy-friendly (be sure to recycle the packaging because being eco-friendly is always cool). So what's in these square treats? 

Garbanzo beans (aka chick peas), maple syrup, gluten-free chocolate (dried cane syrup, unsweetened chocolate, non-dairy cocoa butter), gluten-free oats, sunflower oil, pure flavor extracts, oregano, flax, gluten-free baking powder, pure vegetable fiber and sea salt.

Garbanzo beans (again, chick peas), maple syrup, gluten-free chocolate (evaporated cane juice, natural chocolate liquor, non-dairy cocoa butter), sunflower oil, gluten-free oats, unsweetened cocoa powder, oregano, flax, pure flavor extracts, gluten-free baking powder, pure vegetable fiber and sea salt. 

Order, Save, Eat! What's even better than all of that? Saving!!!! The peeps at Rule Breaker have a special promo code for me to share with everyone now through May 31, 2017. And, as specified above, you don't even have to leave the house (jammies are totally acceptable). Just go to RuleBreakersnacks.com , click on Shop Now, choose your goodies and enter code RB-NM17-SPRING on your order over $25. Then, stalk your post person until you get them.

PLUS, Recipes! Awww, come on- you all know I cannot resist figuring out what to do with allergy-friendly products in fun and easy ways. I am honored that Rule Breakers is sharing this No Bake Bon-Bons recipe on their website

Get it NOW
My second recipe is for a protein-packed grilled sandwich (avoiding dairy? No problem! Simply substitute using your favorite non-dairy cheese!)

Click HERE & make it now!
Thank you to Rule Breakers for being both "defiantly delicious" and for letting my crazy blogger brain run wild to come up with some recipes to share with all of you! 

Which Rule Breaker product will you try first &
how will you use it?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sweet & Sneaky St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day is notorious for anything green, including food and drink. It's also a day when (most) of us tend to overindulge and eat things that may not be the healthiest for us in the long run. It happens to the best of us sometimes. BUT what if there was an easy way to celebrate with green with an easy recipe that actually contains some hidden healthy greens too?

I received a drink recipe from Gimbals Fine Candies - it's easy, it's simple and it's definitely green. Since St. Patrick's Day is on a Friday, I foresee this being a great way to invite the new new neighbors over to enjoy the day together. Best of all, this drink recipe can be made for adults and children with a simple ingredient substitute. Be sure and see my "green" tip further along in the post.

St. Patrick's Day Spritzer (for adults)
1 Bottle of champagne, chilled
1 Bottle/can of pineapple juice
Green food dye*
Variety of green Gimbal's Gourmet Jelly Beans
photo courtesy of
Gimbal's Fine Candies

  1. Pour champagne into a glass
  2. Add a splash of pineapple juice as desired
  3. Add 1-2 drops of green food dye
  4. Stir lightly
  5. Add your choice of green Gimbal's Gourmet Jelly Beans for a bit of sweetness

St. Patrick's Day Spritzer (for kids)
1 (2 liter) bottle of Sprite or lemon lime soda chilled**
1 Bottle/can of pineapple juice
Green food dye*
Variety of green Gimbal's Gourmet Jelly Beans for a bit of sweetness
  1. First combine 6 oz. lemon lime soda & 2 oz. pineapple juice into a glass
  2. Add 1-2 drops of green food dye
  3. Stir lightly
  4. Add your choice of green Gimbal's Gourmet Jelly Beans for a pop of color
* Prefer to use a truly green coloring? Make your own and become a mean, green health machine! Simply boil 1/4 cup spinach with 4 cups of water, then simmer & strain. Use the liquid to color.

** Need a soda-free substitute? Zevia offers a lemon lime variety without the added sugar or sweeteners. As always, check all labels to ensure your specific allergy needs are safe.

Keep Your Spritzer Fresh & Cool
I decided to add my own little twist to the recipe as well. Make additional amounts of the recipe and freeze them into ice cubes the night before. This is an easy way to keep your spritzer cold without getting watered down. It's also a fun idea for kids that don't usually like a lot of juice drinks. They can still get the flavors and fun by enjoying the spritzer cubes just as they are or adding some into their own beverage of choice. AND a way to get those picky eaters to have their veggies and not even realize it.

St. Patrick's Day Game
Why make simple ice cubes? Freeze some of them with some Gimbal's Gourmet Jelly Beans and some without then wait to see who gets the surprise. Although this is generally kid-friendly, I do believe there are many adults that would gladly partake in this game as well.

Rethink your foods and how to use them. Have fun with your foods. Share your foods (safely) but always make sure you don't let your foods control your life.

Food allergies do not limit our foods, just our knowledge on how to use them~

Happy St. Patrick's Day
How will YOU use your foods?

Have you seen what else can you do with Gimbals Fine Candies


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Are YOUR Allergies Being Harassed?

I've been hesitating to discuss this but I feel the time has come to address it. I am admittedly the blogger that says what she feels but, as always, I do so to continue to educate rather than harm and to let others within the food allergy community know that unspoken words can actually harm our support system. A few months ago, I wrote this article (here) as it was about the time that this subject began to come into the media's spotlight. The summer was pretty heated when stories of epinephrine flew everywhere into wee hours of the morning for many, many weeks. It was a stressful time for many but more than that, it was a time that I began to question some of the resources that are available to our community. There is a saying- a chain is only as strong as it's weakest link so what happens when one weak link is found, then two, then (possibly) more? With all that we have gone through together, this is the opposite of what we need right now.

Isn't continued support between us, regardless of some differences, what keeps us knowing that there are virtual food allergy family members out there in "twitterverse" that still have our back?  I always look for the good in people because I know not everyone's allergy needs are the same, not everyone's daily struggles are the same and certainly our personal decisions on how to handle our family's allergies strategy is not the same. I am ok with this- I will still be there to listen, even when I don't agree. I will still give you my opinion without judging or scolding you because you don't feel the same as I do. But what happens when others choose not to use this way of support? What happens when you bear your soul, ask for help and you are met with those who make you feel inferior or uneducated about what you shared when all you asked for was help?

It Starts With a Buzz So what happens if you read the latest article or just want to help fellow allergy sufferers and you are, instead, verbally attacked within these online sites? I have seen an ongoing pattern that is a continual cycle- post an allergy-related question, bash those who do not agree with you, then block them and continue to bash them without allowing them to continue the conversation. I see this as wanting to have the highest rankings within a Google search on a particular subject rather than meaning to support those who need it. Make your own decisions of course but please understand that just like a true best friend, a true allergy resource would never, ever do this to anyone if they were dedicated to their true mission to help others. My mission each and every day is not to get more numbers- my mission is to offer guidance and support and nothing more. At the end of the day, if I have helped even one person I have done what I woke up to accomplish. Support is not about how many but how you support. I choose to welcome with open arms and I hope that many of you want to be welcomed as such. My point? Food allergies are a long, long journey - choose those that want to take that journey with you.

Oh, It Works Let me repeat this again- each person has different allergy needs. None of us should ever feel judged, criticized or be told that what we decide to do makes us a bad person or parent. Sharing our journey and being able to ask questions without facing repercussions is the only way any of our allergy plans will work. Listening is so very, very crucial. Supporting is so very, very important. Disagreeing is understandable but brutal, impolite harassment with those who don't agree with your plan of action is harsh and damaging. Each and every day parents with an allergic child begin their day doubting themselves- wondering if one of their decisions might be the cause of an allergic reaction or worse. There is nothing that we can do to ensure complete safety, only find ways to stay proactive and be as prepared as possible. To "scream" at people who are already unsure of what's right or wrong is not only damaging to the people that desperately need the support from their peers, it's also damaging to our entire community. With so much allergy support being accessible at a moment's notice online, one fierce comment could literally mean showcasing our food allergy resources as overbearing, unsympathetic and downright questionable. Disagreements are natural but consider before you share openly on a community forum or sending out a tweet- how will those words impact that person as well as those not even associated with allergies? Better yet, reach out privately and see how you can help each other. I guarantee that those who you took an extra step to help out will remember that kindness far better than being questioned in front of the entire world.

Talk Don't Attack We all have immensely important voices, passion and energy so why waste it? Be a part of the solution, not the problem and find out how you can use your voice for the good of the cause. There seems to be a rivalry about some within the allergy community refusing support from outside sources such as parents, bloggers, non-profits, companies and even drug companies. These are all of the people that we have been screaming at to pitch in and be on our side. These are all of the places that our food allergy community needs additional support from. Look at how far we have come with allergen knowledge in our foods, in our schools and beyond. Why, suddenly, are some of us trying to tell them that we don't need their help and that what they are trying to offer is is simply wrong? Stop, breath and think- be a part of the solution. If these companies should alter what they are offering, ask them how you can help them achieve what they are seeking and more. It's very simple to be someone who wants to be a part of the action but doesn't want to take a step beyond that. It is incredibly important to be one of the few that stands up, dusts themselves off and is ready to see how their energies can result in something amazing for all of the community.

In my opinion, if you are going to be a staunch supporter of the allergy community, then don't do anything less than your best for yourself and others. Be wary of those that become fanatical and insist that you must handle your scenarios exactly as they do. The only time this may not be the case is if the person informing you is a board certified allergist (and even sometimes, if you don't feel they have your best interest at heart, it may be time to find another allergist). Many of these groups that are so easily spouting off what they feel is supportive do not have the education that should be part of their support.  Just because they feel their motives are good, it doesn't mean that it is for you. Do your own research, find a group that is known for their support and education rather than how many people they have decided were not worthy of their support. Disagreeing is healthy but insisting that no body else can disagree is not.

Your word is everything- it's what all of your peers rely on to know that whatever you share with them is reliable. I stick with my morals because I feel that my word is my word, always. If you aim to help others, take the high road and not the road paved with inconsistency, doubt and anger for others. The only one that you can be angry at is yourself for not being what you said you would be.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

How to Maca Beverage

In my quest to help others as well as myself, I was super excited to find a product that was not only a coffee alternative BUT also a product that did not contain coffee (most do, sigh..). When I first saw posts about Macaccino it looked so warming and delicious- who wouldn't want to try it?! Macaccino is roasted maca that can be served hot or cold and it's organic, gluten free, vegan and non-GMO. It also comes in three varieties. Reasons why maca is better for you body than coffee? Let's do the list thing, I like lists:

  • Boosts energy without caffeine The main reason why most of us drink coffee, right?
  • Increases blood flow When your blood flows, your brain works better.
  • Increases memory Especially as we age (ugh!).
  • Boosts immunity I am all for keeping my body in tip top shape.
  • Balances hormones This a win-win for both men and women.
  • Brightens your mood This does trump being in a bad mood any day, any time.
  • Alkalizes your blood Did you know that your body needs this balance? Yup!
  • Enhances libido I don't even need to explain the importance of this one.
  • Does not leave you jittery or give you a caffeine crash Nothing is worse, right?!
  • Non addictive As I'm sure you know, coffee is addictive, glad this is not.
I admit, I don't have a lot of vices but coffee is definitely one of them. My need to kick the coffee habit? I have learned through trial and error that my body has become hypersensitive to caffeine (among other things) which causes a string of unpleasant events which is also not helpful to live a normal, every day life. Secondly, I have many food allergy consultation clients that are also having trouble finding a coffee alternative but they still need a warm beverage to start their day. Since my job as a food allergy consultant is to find them things that they can use rather than focus on what they cannot use, I wanted to give it a try myself. It is easier to replace foods that we love rather than give them up altogether and although Macaccino is not coffee, I needed to have something for my morning ritual. 

Macaccino comes in a powder form. The preparation is simple enough- just add hot water or mix it into your choice of cold beverage. The dried, unmixed powder smells a bit like mushroom? Burnt toast? ...I do admit that I was like Hmmm, I dunno about this. This was quickly dispelled by the taste and consistency. Macaccino is very similar to coffee, it's smooth and mixes like instant coffee but is thicker, like hot chocolate. The directions call for 1 tablespoon to be mixed with 8-9 ounces of the beverage that you choose (water, dairy free milk, etc.) so this would be ideal for travel as well. My tiny pet peeve (which was not taste-related) was that the packaging is very difficult to read. The shiny foil is a good look for the product but not for the wording that I struggled to see. For a person that reads and rereads labels, this is a biggie. I also recommend that you stir it continuously as it settles on the bottom of the cup.

Now for the part that describes what happened when NutriHubby and I tried it. NutriHubby had a very positive experience- he felt the slight burst of energy, he went to the gym and found it added to his exercise routine and the libido portion...yup. Then there was me; me- the hypersensitive person who has to take baby doses of anything, ever or my body just says NOPE. There I was, more than half a cup of Macaccino in, typing my heart out and bam! I felt like I had drank 8 cups of coffee but with no jitters. Instead, I could not focus, I was anxious, spacey and just overall uncomfortable. Mostly, I was angry at my body for not allowing me to enjoy the benefits of the product. NutriHubby tried it again and nothing- he was absolutely fine. So I reached out to the folks at Macaccino to see if my experience was actually possible or if my body was just trying to make me nervous. This was their response:

"Very rarely do people feel the effects the way you did. It could be the increase of  blood flow that made you dizzy- how long did it take you to recalibrate? Did you feel better afterward? If drunk fast and in high amounts, first time users have experienced similar effects with the Black Reserve. It's almost a "high" but nothing that should disorient you, more like a very invigorating energy that at first might feel like a "high". It sounds like it was too much too quick. I would try again and go slower, maybe less actual Macaccino in the mix as your body rebalances. I also recommend the first few servings to be drank with a meal of some sort. Not on an empty stomach."

So, I tried it again. I tried the Original Maca Blend but this time, I added about half a teaspoon to decaf coffee. I made sure I had a full stomach, I began working to make sure my mind wasn't fixated on what might happen and within ten minutes, I was feeling the same effects but worse. So, no maca for me and no macaccino for me which really makes me mad because I had finally found what I was searching for. I admit, I am envious that my husband gets to finish the rest of it. I mean look at it- could you ask for a more perfect beverage?!! 

I want to thank the patient people at Macaccino for sending me samples to test their products. I also want to thank them for being so quick to respond to my reaction. Does this mean that I don't recommend this product? Absolutely not! I simply caution that as with anything new, start out slowly and keep in mind that less is more. I also encourage you to reach out directly to Macaccino for more information about their products at macaccino.com as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

As always, no compensation for product reviews except for the products themselves as my opinions are always honest and my thoughts are my own.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Cue the Epinephrine

Most of us within the food allergy community have seen a bunch of events over the past few years that have truly had all of us on the edge of our seats. Beginning with the recall of Auvi-Q in 2015, it seemed as if our allergy comfort zone went from a soft yellow to RED!!!! overnight. Many of us were panic-stricken and in disbelief but mostly just upset that the talking device was pulled from our hands just as we were starting to use them. From personal experience in our home, it meant new struggles for my teenage son with multiple food allergies.  It meant a new kind of peer pressure and having to carry a larger set of epinephrine (which also brought back earlier childhood trauma of being referred to as fanny pack kid). In addition, I also had to adjust my attitude as a food allergy parent to be understanding, supportive and yet adamant that regardless of how "uncool" it may be, having an allergic reaction and not having epinephrine is definitely even more uncool times infinity.

But 2017 began in a new light- a hopeful light showing support and, well, maybe even a little extra hand-holding which is what was sorely needed after all of the past dramas. I felt relieved when the story appeared that Auvi-Q was indeed returning to all of us. Even better, they told us that their goal was to make sure it was available to everyone who needed it. Coming in ahead of their originally estimated date of February 14th, I raced to my computer. Unlike other auto injector plans in the past, Auvi-Q offers a mail order service and I wanted to see exactly how this worked and if they truly did put their money where their mouth was. Under this plan, Kaleo's goal is to take the burden off of the patients and get them the epinephrine that they need in the easiest way possible. So easy that you don't have to wait through the usual process (wait to make an allergist appointment, get a prescription, go to the pharmacy, wait to get the prescription filled, etc.) I decided to test out their process to see what the results were.

February 13th 

  • I downloaded the direct delivery service form for NutriSon
  • I delivered it to his physician's office and asked that they call me when it was faxed (I wanted to know the time frame)
  • By 11 AM I received a call stating the form had been faxed
  • At 4:54 PM that day, I got a call from the customer service department handling the mail orders for Auvi-Q. She stated her name and explained that our conversation was being taped. She asked if I was aware that the doctor had sent in a prescription for my son's Auvi-Q, I said yes. She told me that my insurance company (BCBSNC) does not cover Auvi-Q but just as I was about to get upset, she quickly continued to tell me that they have already taken care of everything, could process it and our out-of-pocket cost would be $0. I thanked her more than a few times. She then asked if I preferred to have the package signed for or just left- I opted for no signature as I am almost always home working. 
February 17th (4 days from my initial request) Keep in mind it was also the week that everyone got hit with massive, weird winds, several feet of snow and all sorts of other winter issues.
  • By 11 AM I had NutriSon's Auvi-Q's in my hand! Is it weird that I was like a kid at Christmas- I opened the package right away, checked everything and I couldn't wait to show my son when he got home later.
  • One of the first things that I noticed was the expiration date- April 23, 2018- that's 14 months (yay for a longer expiration date!)
  • I will tell you that it was 40 degrees outside when my package arrived (you will see that the temperature for proper storage is very specific to ensure the life of the epinephrine). I did notice that when I removed the Auvi-Q's from the well-wrapped package, they were cold to the touch. I opened them and checked the liquid, which was clear. I recommend that you consider your delivery at a time when you can be there to reduce the amount of time the package may sit outside in cooler weather or request a signature so that you will know when it will be in your hands. 
I want to send a heartfelt thank you to Kaleo Pharma for keeping their true mission at heart and continuing to help all of our families. Personally, their device is preferred on our homes in so many ways. To be very blunt, the smaller size is just better for us, the easy to use voice commands take the added stress out of both teaching other family members and school staff in addition to not having to stop and think in an emergency situation. 

Please be sure and check their website for complete information about this as well as their AffordAbility Program, resources and updates as well as their Facebook and Twitter pages.

I would also like to be very clear and state that I was not paid to write this- my goal is to share my thoughts and experiences to help other members of my food allergy community decide what is best for them. For those of you who follow me and read my articles- you all know that I always speak my mind and I never support any product that I don't feel completely comfortable with. 

Have you tried Auvi-Q yet? 
I would love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

You Had Me at Pizza

How many of you knew that today February 9th is National Pizza Day? Did you hear about this and just kind of shrug and mope away because you haven't found an allergy-friendly place to actually go to get pizza? What better way to share my love of pizza than to let you all in on a secret located in the heart of Westview, Pennsylvania - friends, I am talking about Mandy's Pizza.

Let's see if you notice what I noticed when I saw the logo.... do you see it? "Allergen Friendly"  "Vegan" are you getting excited about it now? If you are worried about some of your family who wants a good Italian meal but doesn't have food allergies you are in luck again- Mandy's Pizza has both traditional Italian food and allergy-friendly food so all of your family can have a meal together. As I read through their webpage, I was touched by the reason they began this for others so I reached out to them directly. Listen to what they shared with me:

NM: I came across your website and I have to say, being Italian and growing up in New Jersey, it made my mouth water! You offer both traditional Italian menu items as well as allergy free, gluten free and even Vegan options. Can you tell me why this was so important to you? 

MP:  The whole premise of our business was to afford everyone the opportunity to eat out safely. However, we refused to serve off-the-shelf products which are mass-produces and tasteless. 

NM: Brandon's story states he was just 9 years old when he started his cooking adventures. As a parent and him not only having food allergies but being a bit younger, did you help him out in the kitchen? Or did you let him do his own thing so he could understand it all?

MP:  In the beginning, we just let him "Have at it". Honestly, I had no idea on how to make these items and I was working at our business while he was at home making our garbage disposal fat with all of the rejected attempts.

NM: Do you think growing up around other foods helped to motivate him to help others with food allergies eat safe foods?

MP: This was the main motivator. Moreover, when I would bring him a tasteless steak salad and pizza for the rest of us, it was truly saddening to see how upset he was. Back then, there weren't very many other options for those with severe food allergies. Steak and potatoes or a plain burger and no bun were the staples of the day.

NM: What were some of the reactions of those coming into your restaurant for the first time with food allergies?

MP: Honestly, it's quite humbling and truly the only motivator that keeps me in this business. Kids to adults will come in and at times, will cry when they take their first bite. No, it's not just because of the product itself but the realization that just for a moment, they can feel normal. Sometimes when a newbie comes in and asks if we sell "allergen free pizza" I'll say "Oh, no...that place went out of business about a week ago." as a joke. I'm so evil.

NM: Have you ever had someone have a reaction while eating? If so, please explain.

MP:  Only once. Their toddler was diagnosed with Celiac Disease that week so they came in and ordered a gluten-free pizza. A short time later, it was discovered that he was likely also intolerant to dairy. The parents were not upset with us at all. In fact, our knowledge of different aspects of these diseases helped them feel more at ease.

NM: How do you prepare your menu items safely since your establishment does offer both allergy friendly AND your typical other menu items?

MP: Separate equipment, tools and strict processes. Quite frankly, it's not that difficult if you take the time to educate your staff, both young and old.

NM: I noticed that in addition to supporting those with allergies and certain dietary needs that Mandy's Pizza also has fundraisers and contests. How often do you participate in these?

MP: Fundraisers and contests are truly insignificant to our whole approach. We are more proud of the events we hold for kids with food allergies. While Brandon was young, he quickly realized how having food allergies can keep you from enjoying some of the most simple of celebrations like trick or treating or just sitting on Santa's lap. As a result of this, Brandon started holding events like allergen-friendly trick or treating for kids or allergen-free donuts with Santa. We hold these events along with Naturally Soergel's- a local business which is situated on a local apple farm but focuses on those with food allergies and gluten issues.

NM: I noticed your events are for BOTH kids and adults, I love that! Which event do you feel has drawn the most attention?

MP: OMG, allergen-free donuts with Santa! In fact, we will need to change the rules for next year so that only two parents can attend since many of the seats are taken buy "extended" family members, which reduces the number of children who can attend. This event sells out in about two hours.

NM: For those who want to try some of Brandon's foods, you offer an online store under Brandon's Best Allergen Free- what is the top selling item?

MP: Either the Cinnashugga or Vanilla Nilla Donuts. We make these cake-style donuts just like a bakery would by deep-frying them in an allergy-friendly oil. These donuts taste exactly like a traditional cake donut without the slimy or mushy texture of gluten-free only donuts. I just brought home two of our Jimmies Gone Wild donuts and Brandon yelled at me for eating one.

NM: I love the "Food Allergies Are Cool" t-shirt, who's idea was that?

MP: That was me. I am a former ad agency guy and wanted to use some reverse psychology so that kids can see the positive in being different. Frankly, they really are the cool ones since everything they eat is made just for them and not just some meal whipped up in a microwave.

NM: Being a mother of a food allergy child myself, I did notice that there are no ingredients listed on your menu items. How can your customers access these to be sure they are safe for their allergy needs?

MP: I do not list ingredients for one simple reason- safety. Others have tried to replicate what we do in an effort to just make more money. We worked hard on our menu and Brandon worked hard on his products. We don't want people viewing this as a competitive edge but rather a way of preventing others from trying to replicate what we do without the concern for safety taken into consideration. At the pizzeria, we have a handout that customers can see very easily and which items that they can eat. We take it one step further by knowing that the only real allergen in the allergen-friendly menu is corn and it's only in tow of these items. That said, all of the other items are free of the top ten allergens which is our prime focus.

NM: I see you are a part of DineSafeApp* why did you feel this was important to be a part of?

MP: Yes, in fact we have more of a business friendship. Mandy's Pizza is a strong supporter of the DineSafeApp as a result of it's focus solely on safety while dining out. While there are "other" technology solutions, this is the first that we have encountered that is not advertising focused, nor confusing to understand which items are safe to eat. We feel that DineSafeApp focuses on the true aspect of dining safely

NM: Any thoughts of expanding in the future, maybe a franchise of Mandy's Pizza so everyone can try it right in their own neighborhood?

MP: No! I went that route with a partner and it was the biggest mistake. It wasn't about making more money, it was truly so that this larger venue could accommodate parties for kids or adults with food allergies. Soon after opening, it became apparent that they didn't take this as serious as us since we had some situations that set me over the edge. Because of this, shortly after opening, I felt it necessary to remove our name and any references to our business from that location.

Honestly, I would rather see Brandon have the ability to expand his business into a larger wholesale opportunity. His new allergen-free Cookie Dough in a Jar is awesome (coming in about 30 days). I literally just made some of his NottaNuttaButta Cookies before replying to your questions. Tomorrow he has hockey and three directors of this huge facility have been pestering me for more of his cookies. None of them have food related issues.

Thanks to Mandy's Pizza and their family for everything that they do for our food allergy community! (who says food is not love?!) Their allergen-friendly menu includes: six types of gluten free and allergen free pizza (smoked kielbasa, meat eater, bbq chicken, buffalo chicken, spinach ricotta and Hawaiian), hoagies, french fries, chicken nuggets, pasta meals (pasta & meatball, pasta with sausage bruschetta and lasagna) and two types of chicken wings. You can find Mandy's Pizza at 512 Perry Highway, Rt. 19 North in Westview, Pennsylvania. Whether you are close to them or just curious, you can also visit them on the web, on Facebook and Twitter.

Don't forget to give Brandon a shout out too (you can order his items)! Brandon's Best Allergen Free can be found here.

* DineSafe App is an app that works with restaurants, eateries and resorts to offer personal menus for food allergies and dietary preferences

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