Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Enjoy Life Foods- You Had Me at Decadent

Recently, a representative from Enjoy Life Foods contacted me and asked if I would like to sample some of their Decadent Bars.....is that even a question, really? Are you kidding me? Out of all the companies that I have been lucky enough to receive samples from, Enjoy Life Foods always seems to get me weak in knees. Not only are all of their products safe for everyone in our family but they are one company that never sends us an item that we do not like. And samples- I will admit, I am a sample hog. A food allergy mom with two children that cooks all of the time, send me something that is healthy, tasty and I don't have to cook? Yes please!
Decadence, let's first go over the definition of the word itself. As per the online dictionary, it means "unrestrained or excessive self-indulgence." This being said, I firmly believe that these products were named correctly. I will say that these effected me differently. As you have seen in previous product reviews for Enjoy Life Foods products, I tend to come up with different ways to use them rather than just eating them. These were strangely just coaxing me to eat them as is. And as hard as it was, I did just that (minus the bars that I rationed to my children so they would let me finish tasting them.)

Cherry Cobbler 
My first tasting (scat, children- get away, mine!) - the consistency was great- not too dry and nothing so different from any other bar. This is meant as a compliment. For those of you who do not have food allergies, it is very often difficult to find products that not only taste good but also feel similar to non-allergenic foods. The cherry flavor coupled with a bit of a buttery taste was just like a square piece of pie. For more information about the ingredients, please click here.

Three words- nom, nom, nom. These are like an allergy-friendly candy bar. The chocolaty goodness was just unbelievable! (ok, my mouth is watering again.) My daughter and I snuck into the kitchen to try these secretly and what we also discovered is that when you eat them alone, they are really good but when you crumble them and put them on top of dairy free ice cream, watch out. You know all of those times you heard your child say they wished they could have those fancy toppings on their ice cream or that special shake with all of the extra goodies in it? This is the answer to that dilemma. I would send you some but these were the first to be gone in our house- I only got one and I was the sampler...talk about unfair. Ingredients can be seen here.

Chocolate Sunbutter  
I do admit, it took me a bite or two to get hit with the flavor in these bars but when I did, whoa. Another chocolaty goodness with a slight hint of Sunbutter flavor. Personally, I found that the bars almost have a caramel-like flavor similar to a candy bar that I have had but cannot put my finger on. I was munching away and I had a few leftover so I decided to try to get back into my old custom of making something with them. Viola- a fast and easy muffin was born.  I used Gluten Free Pantry Muffin & Scone mix as directed and crumbled bits of the Chocolate Sunbutter Decadence Bar into the batter as well as extra crumbles on top. Fast, easy and all gone! Sometimes, simple is better. Ingredients for the Chocolate Sunbutter bars can be seen here.

Cinnamon Bun

Let me set the scene for you- it was a grey, dreary day and all I really wanted was a good cup of tea and something to make me feel satisfied. Almost like when you were little and your grandmother would bake you special cookies? This is the feeling that I got when I tasted these. I considered compiling a recipe but honestly, these were perfect just with my cup of tea. Not too sweet but very similar to an old fashioned cookie of my childhood. My only regret is that I have plenty of tea left but no more bars. It's ok, I will just need a minute to regain my composure... perhaps, a sweet and pure soul will take pity on me and send me some more. Please find the ingredients here.

I want to thank Enjoy Life Foods for all of these delicious samples and for allowing me to be a part of their product reviews. As a food allergy mom, I am grateful that these products are safe and delicious for ALL children, not just children with food allergies. For more information about what other products Enjoy Life Foods offers, please visit their website at www.enjoylifefoods.com.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

How Did the "No Nuts Mom Group" Start?

I have long been a follower of the No Nuts Mom Group and I was honored to meet it's founder, Lisa Rutter, at the Mylan Blogger Summit in New York City as well. As a food allergy mom, I am always looking for additional resources and Lisa's information has always been a great support. I was just as honored when she accepted my invitation to tell us her story and how the No Nuts Mom Group began.
 When my son was a year old, my husband and I gave him a tiny lick of ice cream, which he really didn't like.   A little while after, he had an unusual rash around his mouth.   I remember saying to my husband, "This ice cream has peanut butter in it and he better not be allergic."  Not really thinking that he was.
At his next checkup, I asked the pediatrician about it and he told me that some kids are sensitive to peanut butter and it is best to hold off on introducing it until he is three or four years old.  Another year passed and I was curious, so I decided to give my son (who was now two) a small lick of peanut butter.  He took the smallest lick and did not want anymore because he didn't like it at all. Shortly after, he appeared to be scratching the back of his throat with his tongue.  I do not recommend doing this.  At the time, I had no idea that this little lick could have put my son in a life-threatening situation.  Luckily for me and my family, that didn't happen.  I informed my pediatrician and he again told me to hold off on giving my son peanut butter until he turned three or four.  Going forward, I just made sure that everyone around my son knew that he may have s sensitivity to peanut butter and to not give him any.  I still didn't think he was allergic and the doctor made it seem like he wasn't going to be as long as I kept him away from it for a while.  So we never knowingly gave it to him again, but I didn’t have any understanding of cross contamination.  

In July 2010, my family and I relocated from Illinois back to Michigan. I found a new pediatrician and after hearing my son’s background, she suggested that we schedule an appointment with an allergist to have him tested for a peanut allergy. On March 7, 2011 my husband and I took my son to the allergist for skin testing. The testing included indoor allergies, outdoor allergies, pet allergies and peanuts and tree nuts. The skin test was done on his back and almost immediately, it became big, bright and red. Around this time, I was also starting to learn a little more about the allergy and the sight of his back made me quite anxious and worried.  During the testing process, I will never forget the look on my son’s face.   He looked dazed, just not himself and very uncomfortable.  I was still in denial about him being allergic and didn't want to believe that he was.  However, the doctor confirmed that he was allergic to peanuts as well as tree nuts.  The allergist was very kind and gave me a ton of information to take home. It was a bit overwhelming and very hard to digest.  When the allergist gave me the EpiPen tester and video, this was a major eye opener to me and something I wasn't expecting.  Once I wrapped my head around all of this and digested the information, I decided to embrace this allergy and educate myself and my family.

Looking back now, I recall so many reactions that were most likely caused by his food allergies.  His eyes used to swell up when my husband and I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches around him.  It also happened after he had snacks that were sealed up in the same bag as candy bars full of peanuts and nuts.  And I will never forget the time my dad accidentally gave my son a peanut butter cookie at the grocery store.  He took one bite and said, “Mommy, I don’t like this!”  I then took it away and replaced it with a sugar cookie from the bakery.  Shortly after, his mood declined very rapidly, so I decided to take him to the bathroom and he immediately threw up everywhere.  Thankfully he was fine, but this was before his diagnosis and I was without Epinephrine.  My son has also had many other times before his diagnosis where I am now convinced it was exposure to peanuts and nuts.   
I started No Nuts Moms Group because I wanted to meet other food allergic playmates for my son and also have support for myself, but it quickly blossomed into so much more for me and for others going through the same thing.  I am now very passionate about food allergies, educating others and raising awareness.   I love helping these families learn more about food allergies and connecting them with others is truly a great feeling.  There is no reason why we have to be alone in this.  There are so many of us going through the same thing and when no one else understands, we now have a place to go where so many of us understand.  

Our groups are free to join and open to all families with children with life threatening food allergies.  We also have a Facebook Community Page open to all that need support or just want to learn more about food allergies.  To learn more about our group, please visit our main website at www.nonutsmomsgroup.weebly.com.  To find a local No Nuts Moms Group near you, go to our main website and click on “Groups”.  There are currently 43 No Nuts Moms Groups.  If you are interested in having a No Nuts Moms Group in your area, simply fill out our Contact Form located on our main website.

A big thank you to Lisa and her courage to put this group together for other families as well as hers. After all, "it takes a village to raise a child" and that village starts one group at a time.

Friday, July 12, 2013

It's Summer- Getting Ready For School NOW!

Yup, you read that right- get ready for school. Each end of summer, I find myself rushing around to various pharmacies, doctors and schools trying to get organized for the new school year. There are refills to be picked up, antihistamines to be sought out, paperwork (ugh, the paperwork!) and it all ends up with one tired, stressed out mama.

This year, I decided to challenge myself to do the reverse- I vowed to get ready for school at the beginning of summer. Sort of like reverse psychology on myself. But it's the end of June and I am almost done, so I feel that I have (almost) accomplished my goal. Better yet, I do not feel stressed out or rushed to do all of the things that need to be done. Less stress for mom also means less stress for the kids, which also starts the new school year off even better.

I was recently asked what types of bracelets, inhalers and other allergy items we have used and found useful so I wanted to share with all of you. Obviously, this is just what we have found worked best for our family so I encourage everyone to look at all of the options that are available in case there is a better one for your family's needs.

EpiPens - Until this year, we have been a die hard fan of the EpiPen® 2-Pak®. We have always, ALWAYS used a twin pack because I would never forgive myself if my son needed an EpiPen® and something happened to the only one that he had with him and was unable to use it. I will admit that the EpiPen® tends to be big and bulky but as I remind my son all of the time- one day, when you need to use it and you have it with you, the bulkiness will instantly mean nothing to you. There will be no hard feelings of "All of my childhood, I had to carry thins thing around" because the thoughts will be replaced by "These saved my life."

I do also want to mention that we have always had three (if not four) twin paks filled- one for home, one for school and one for self-carry for my son. This year, we are also taking full advantage of the discount coupon offered to refill all of our EpiPens®. The coupon is a simple card  that you present with your prescription for EpiPen (epinephrine) Auto-Injector 2-Pak® or the EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine) Auto-Injector 2-Pak. A maximum benefit of $100 per EpiPen 2-Pak is covered and the discount offer may be used on up to three EpiPen® 2-Paks per prescription. This offer can be used an unlimited number of times until 12/31/2015. If you are new to the EpiPen®, you can also  sign up to receive a free carrying case, to receive email reminders and other great information to keep you up to date and safe. Click here for the site. The cost of our three TwinPak EpipEns this year? $0......yes, you did read that correctly. Let me type it again- $0.

Auvi-Q - As per my son's request to be "bulk-free" this year, we have decided to try out the newer, thinner auto injector Auvi-Q. The smaller size will allow my son to self-carry in a much smaller pouch rather than having to use a fanny pack. And because starting 7th Grade is such a big deal, I have to help him achieve that goal. Luckily, Auvi-Q is also offering a discount coupon and yes, we also utilized that as well (why not?!). This offer states that the prescription will cost no more than $25 for the first two prescriptions filled and that's just what we got- 2 (twin packs + testers). Woo-hoo, happy dance from the food allergy mama that feels as if the budget goes out the window when it comes time for refills. With this offer, it is required that you call to activate the card before going to fill the prescription. For more details, please click here.

Medical Bracelet -  I have ordered from two places for my son's medical bracelets. I have used MedicAlert a few times in the past successfully. We have tried a necklace, a silver bracelet and a sports band. I feel that our personal favorite has been the sports band. It's a nylon bracelet with a plastic latch that interlocks so when your child is younger, it's not as easy to take off. This was key for us because my son loved to take his off and on and off and on. As far as the necklace and silver bracelet- I'll pass. Again, because he was younger then he not only put them in his mouth (which caused concerns of choking) but it also turned the color of the silver and looked just plain gross.

The newest bracelet is from Survival Straps and it's a winner! You can order different colors, it's lightweight, also interlocking and it is actually something that can be taken apart and used in an emergency (this intrigued my son). As you will see on their site, they have "Design your own Medic Alert bracelet" and the price was very reasonable. A good budget is a good thing!

Inhaler- With food allergies many times also comes seasonal asthma. My son was given his inhaler after an ER visit. He started off with Proventil using an air chamber. Note the "Latex Free" label on it- one more place to check with allergies!. My only complaint was that we never knew how much was left inside of the inhaler. And when you have to fill extras for school, home, etc. the co pays start to add up. Regardless, it's necessary to have them so what do you do but fill them?

A few years ago, after another emergency room visit, we were given an inhaler with a counter on it. I thought this was genius but I could not find any doctors that would prescribe it for my son. Luckily, a year or two later they were available through prescription. And behold- our newest inhaler Ventolin HFA. Same size, just provides you with a countdown of how many puffs you have left in the canister.

I also recommend having some type of portable Peak Flow Meter. The one shown here is the one we have at home but many insurance companies will even provide you with one free travel-size peak flow meter that fits into many
medical pouches. Be sure and check with your insurance company to see if you are eligible for any free asthma supplies.

Bags- When my son was younger, I always carried his necessary medications in the diaper bag since it was always with me anyway. As he got older and entered school, we transitioned to a simple plastic zip lock bag for his teachers and nurse. When he began to take field trips and the teachers felt that he should be responsible for his items, we switched to a fanny pack. And, even though I know it's best for my son, I hate that he has to wear it. I admit it, it's terrible to say but I know he hates it therefore, I hate it.

(Photo from AllergyApparel.com
As I have said, this year starts 7th Grade so we are going to get rid of the fanny pack. We are going to order something smaller and more discreet that will fit the Auvi-Q and a few antihistamine packets. I have yet to order but AllergyApparel.com looks like a great place to find what we will need. There is a variety of smaller pouches and my son seems a bit more at ease since they can be hidden under clothing better. As for his inhaler, we are considering something as seen on OmaxCare.com . Again, smaller, discreet and different. I think at this point, my son is just asking for a change and as long as he understands that he needs to have access to everything, I am willing to help him find ways to do that.

The most important thing to remember is to be prepared BEFORE there is an emergency. Don't wait until after school is in session to have everything in order because not having the right life-saving medications could be the difference between life and death. You can never be prepared completely for what may happen duing an allergic reaction but you can always make sure that you have what you need when it does happen.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Great Gluten Free Goodies from Udi's

Recently, I was contacted by Udi's Gluten Free and asked if I would like to try some of their samples. I will admit, as a Food Allergy Consultant, I often see many products that I would love to try but have a difficult time finding in our local stores. So when a product review is presented and it's an item that I haven't had yet, I am beyond delighted. I am constantly seeking new products for clients as well as for our family since our family's entire food planning has also changed in the past few years. I am personally picky about which products we use and what I recommend to others. But I do have to say, I was pleasantly surprised with the selection of items that Udi's Gluten Free sent to me.

I received packages of their Gluten Free Classic Hot Dog BunsGluten Free Classic Hamburger Buns and some boxes of their soft-baked cookies (yay for cookies!). The cookies included Maple Pecan Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Coconut and Salted Caramel Cashew. Now, you will notice that there are nuts in these items but sometimes, this mama needs be selfish and enjoy some of the products that usually don't enter our household and that's just what I did. Am I a bad mom? No, just a hungry one.

Classic Hot Dog and Hamburger Buns

Udi's hot dog and hamburger buns are definitely a great gluten free surprise. Most gluten free products tend to be flatter or not very fluffy but these rolls were completely the opposite. They were a heartier, fluffier  consistency and not at all what I normally find in a gluten free roll. They taste great and I found that they mimicked that long lost friend of mine that I haven't seen since trying to stay off of gluten- my friend, crusty bread. I would recommend that if you are a person who prefers a softer bun, try simply heating the rolls for a few seconds to soften them just a bit. Just as an allergy precaution, I do want to let everyone know that both of these rolls do contain eggs.

Maple Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies were a great combination of sweetness without being too sweet. The chocolate was rich and there were more than enough chips accompanied by a hint of maple flavor. The pecans also gave the cookies just enough of an extra crunch to make them simply delicious.  They reminded me of something that my Grandmother would have baked for me. These cookies do contain egg, pecans, and may contain peanuts, milk, soy and other tree nuts.

Peanut Butter Coconut Cookies

When I tried these cookies, I was simply in heaven! They very light and flaky and seemed to melt in my mouth. The mixture of peanut butter and coconut was like a buttery, tropical taste that was divine and I probably could have eaten an entire package easily. These cookies do contain egg, peanuts, coconut and may contain milk, soy and other tree nuts.

Salted Caramel Cashew Cookies

These cookies (just like the others) were light, flaky and crumbled in my mouth. Although they are cookies, they taste exactly like butter pecan ice cream. There was a perfect blend of salty and sweet to make my mouth water. These cookies contain cashews, egg, almonds and may contain peanuts, milk, soy and other tree nuts.

If I had to choose a favorite of the cookies, it would be impossible. They were all so buttery, crumbly, mouth-watery that I had a hard time not eating more than one (or two or five). These are definitely not your typical gluten free cookie, they were sent down to Earth as a present for all of the gluten free people who have suffered for so long.

I highly recommend these products to anyone that is looking for tasty gluten free options. In my opinion, when you find something that is not only safe for your diet but is delectable, then it's a great combination to have available. For a complete list of Udi' Gluten Free products and ingredients, please visit their website. A special thank you to Udi's for allowing me to sample their products and for including me in a product review. I would like to state I was not compensated by the company to write a review other than in happy taste buds.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Imagine there's No Peanuts

Inspired by John Lennon's song "Imagine"

Imagine there's no peanuts
It's easy if you try
No Epipens for any of us
Above us, not one hive
Imagine all the children
Eating for today...

Imagine there's no allergies
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to worry or die for
And no Benadryl too
Imagine all the children
Eating now in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll believe with us
And all allergy worries will be done

Imagine no more worrying
I wonder if you can
No need for fear or danger
Free of a 504 plan
Imagine all the children
Eating around the world

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll believe with us
And all allergies will be done.