Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Is Your Restaurant Allergy Safe?

How does a restaurant keep their customers with food allergies safe and happy? 
They listen to Chef Keith Norman

I had the honor of reading a preview of Chef Keith Norman's book due to be published soon titled Allergen Awareness A Chef''s Perspective ... it's so new, I can't even share the cover! Beginning with his very first sentence "The reality that a life can be lost by eating a certain food item should be motivation enough for training, advocacy and spreading awareness." I knew he put his heart and soul into it. Although Keith's book is written as an amazing manual for food allergy safety, it's so much more than that. Keith shares some of his own family life including heart-warming tidbits about Big Ma and a toe... I could tell you, but you will have to grab a copy and find out.

Who This Book is Written For Although Keith's book contains bunches of chef/dining/waitstaff information, I feel this book is also a wonderful guide for anyone having to learn about food allergies and safe food preparation. No kitchen, group or staff is too big or too small to have such a precise understanding of down-to-earth information coupled with cross-contamination tactics that may surprise you. Keith keeps everything in simple steps so that everyone can utilize his years of experience within the food allergy community.

Why You Need This Book 
  • He includes testimonials from parents as well as others that he has worked alongside and all share how much dedication Keith gives to keeping all of his customers safe and well fed
  • Chef Keith has an impressive list of food memberships, awards and recognitions that clearly prove his dedication
  • Offers scenarios for customer and waiter situations (this includes how to say no to a customer)
  • Step by step instructions for procedures as well as signage
  • Samples of banquet and catering allergen guest lists as a starting point for allergy newbies
  • Recipes
  • Even more crucial allergy safety information that will get any kitchen ready to feed safely
What I Love About This Book Many of us can get confused with all of the food allergy information that we need to learn and can easily make a mistake without thinking about it. For instance, Chef Keith takes the precautions list a step further away from the kitchen. When you travel or when you have a food allergic guest, do you also consider the spreading of allergens in areas such as the waitstaff, concession stands, front desk or valet? Keith points out that our kitchens can be ready for safety but unless everyone is on board, that valet who was snacking on nuts and then shook your hand could mean the end of a stay before it's even begun.

Chef Keith and I at the Food Allergy Blogger Conference

My Favorite Quotes Throughout his book, Chef Keith uses statements that are so very strong but also so very specific and to the point- with food allergies, this is an absolute must. For anyone to understand how to keep someone safe with food allergies, there needs to be a perfect mixture of compassion, professionalism and a touch of subtlety. This book touches on all of those points. As a parent of a child with multiple food allergies, I read his book and found myself continuously nodding my head wishing more people could be in this mindset. Some of my personal favorites include

"One allergen affects the entire family and every friend."

"We have created a heart centered culture, an environment, a safe place for food allergic guests."

"Treat all allergies the same- a mushroom allergy should be handled the same way a peanut allergy is handled."

"Proactive is not a reactive approach."

Final Thoughts I will admit, I am personally biased. I met Chef Kieth a few years back and I admittedly knew he was just the type of person that always wanted a hug and to feed everyone safely. I have never seen him give anything less than 100% and anyone who is meeting him for the first time will absolutely feel the exact same way. If you are a person with food allergies or a parent of a child with food allergies, connect with him and you will understand. If you are an organization or a dining facility that is in need of guidance without flaw, contact him and he will exceed your expectations. You can find Keith on Twitter as well as LinkedIn and if you are in Las Vegas, stop in and see him at the South Point Hotel and Casino.  One thing is for sure- Keith will keep you safe but he will also make sure you are in his heart for life.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

It Takes a #TealVillage

There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a family; this is how I feel about our food allergy community. I am grateful to have watched as our family has grown leaps and bounds over the past sixteen years (NutriSon's age) and I never cease to be amazed at how we simply continue to unite with each other. Let's take a moment and travel back into mommy time with me (I will try not to get all sobby and teary-eyed). I know there were many sleepless nights... months. I know there was a lot of tummy aches and projectile vomiting. I know that so many people tried to tell me that my son was just "a normal baby. Babies cry." But I knew, even as a brand new mother and all of you knew too. And we all remember that there were sleepless nights and worry and fears that kept us awake. But it's funny how so much of the the bad memories have faded and been replaced with better memories, more positive memories. Don't get me wrong- I clearly remember how exhausted I was from not sleeping because my son never slept and cried instead. I absolutely remember watching him as I unknowingly fed him baby yogurt and didn't realize until after a few times what hives were. And I positively remember when I fed him a baby food with egg in it and the immediate return call from the pediatrician's office asking "Is he breathing ok?" All of this feels so very long ago....

It's 2018 and most of my memories now are about all of the amazing products that my son can eat safely. My head is filled with product names and ingredients and flashes of new recipes that I have come up with to make sure that my family and yours feel more at ease. And the people that I have met along the way, both in person and simply online- so many wonderful, supportive people that just feel like they truly are your family. And they are, to me. So when a company that I have known since NutriSon's food allergy diagnosis has also been with our family, holding our hand and telling us that they promise to keep us safe and they do, I can't help but get that same mommy moment feeling, knowing that they are one of our rocks. So what is one of the easiest ways to let a person with food allergies know that they have your back? Pick the one thing that they rely on it and use it to make their life easier- visuals.

We have been ingrained to automatically look for ingredients and read labels and look for the color teal for unity and comfort. This year, Enjoy Life Foods announced that they were embracing their food allergy family by repacking their products with the color teal. Why? Because they are a part of our village and are helping us place the bricks to support our village. How often have you been just so tired or had a really trying day and you are paranoid that one of those days might end up in a bad memory of a product that you thought you had checked the label? With the new teal packages, Enjoy Life Foods has taken the guess work out of it. It's like they knew we would have an occasional bad day, put their arm around us, covered us with a teal blanket and silently said "We have you." Do I sound corny right now? Maybe a little but this is my inner food allergy mom peeking out and I am ok with that.

What should you be looking for? 

  • This may take you a moment because we are creatures of habit. Look for their logo and groups of teal boxes. After all, this is not a typical color on the grocery shelves. 
  • Check out their social media pages*- they posted a chance to win a free product coupon when you share on Instagram (oooh, I want one!)
  • Sign up for their newsletter for a $3 off your next Enjoy Life Foods treat
  • Watch for giveaways and Twitter parties (fuzzy socks recommended but not required)
  • Ask your local stores when they will have the new teal packaging. Maybe they don't know about it or maybe they haven't stocked Enjoy Life Foods before (gasp!!)
  • If you see someone who has a new teal Enjoy Life Foods product, ask them where they got it!

MOST importantly watch out for those family members that find your Enjoy Life Foods items before you do! Often, they will try to get their hands on everything and act as if nothing is out of the ordinary. As a mom, I have always taught my children that sharing is not ok but there are a few exceptions and Enjoy Life Foods is one of them.

Have YOU seen the new Enjoy Life Foods teal products?
Tell me where you found them!

* Find Enjoy Life Foods here! Web/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram/ Pinterest/ Google+/ LinkedIn


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Brotherhood of the World Blogger Award

What a wonderful way to begin 2018 with a smile on my face from No Nuts Mom Group- They have nominated me for the Brotherhood of the World Blogger Award. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! The best part? I get to share some of my favorite food allergy blogs with all of you so you can feel the food allergy support too.

The Rules:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and post a link to his/her blog
  2. List the rules of the award and post a picture of the award
  3. Answer the questions from your nominator
  4. Nominate other bloggers and be sure to let them know
  5. Write a list of questions for your nominees to answer
Questions & Answers:
  1. What is your favorite vacation spot and why? The beach- the water makes me feel so calm and destressed. I love being near the water, hearing the water and allowing myself to reflect.
  2. What are your top 2 favorite allergy friendly products that you cannot live without? Enjoy Life Foods and SeabuckWonders - one that always keep NutriKids happy and one that keeps me feeling pretty.
  3. If you could pick any animal that you were in a past life, what would it be? A bird- I always wanted the ability to fly.
  4. What is your motivation for continuing to be a resource to so many in the food allergy community? I have this voice inside of me that won't let me quit, ever. I truly feel that this was meant as my mission- to help others so that their journey can be a little bit easier.
My Nominees for the Brotherhood of the World Blogger Award (order does not reflect preference):
  1. How long have you been blogging about allergies/food allergies?
  2. Which family member (including you) has a food allergy?
  3. What 3 books have you found to be most helpful on your journey?
  4. Is there a recipe that you have tried & failed to make an allergy-friendly version of?
  5. On your darkest day, what inspired you to pick yourself back up?
  6. What is one thing about you that very few people know?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

What Will 2018 Bring [article]?

It's been a crazy year this year, in good ways and in bad. The new year always makes me think about how I could have made better decisions and hopefully carry those thoughts over to the next year to improve. I do this not only as a blogger but as a mother, a wife, a consultant and as my own person. I think about what I did to help our food allergy community this year and honestly, I felt it wasn't what I consider to be up to par for my standards. I was dealing with some health issues and I only made it to one I didn't share enough of my fellow bloggers information. I didn't take part in as much as I should have. That sucks. But it's not because I didn't want too- I am  event geek and I absolutely love meeting new people; people I already know and sharing all of the new products that are here for us. That didn't happen this year. This year, it will happen more. Doing these things keeps me pumped up and ready to take on every day with even more vigor.

I know that everyone has different availability and levels of energy. I know that no one person can do everything, all of the time. But for me, trying to help my food allergy community has been the one thing that has made me want to get up each and every morning and continue on until I can continue no more. For sixteen years, I have watched as products have vastly improved and how amazing our community has become a closer knit family to each other. I have seen my own growth in writing, recipes, pictures and videos (because although I am proud of my ebook, I shudder now when I look at the older photos, ugh! Apologies but I do hope to get to a second edition and I do promise the information is truly helpful).

And each year, I get kind of quiet for awhile and ponder on what life is all about. So hokey, right? But true. I think as we age, we realize that what we thought was important may not be and vice versa. We realize that it's ok and completely unselfish to want to do things to make yourself happy too. I guess my whole point of this article is to say that sometimes the person that you need to support the most, even if only for the moment, is you. So how do we find the strength when we need it? How do we pick ourselves up and carry on during our darkest days? Life is so short- we truly need to treasure every single moment. While thinking, I remembered one of my favorite books and I thought it was perfect to share with all of you.

As written by Don Miguel Ruiz in The Four Agreements ~

Be Impeccable With Your Word This is something that I have always tried to do. I understand that what I say and do, what products I do and don't promote and what I share directly reflects on me. Most of the people that I have met always tell me that I am exactly like what they see and read on my posts and pages. If I don't like a product, I will not promote it and I will not tell people that I like it. If there is an issue that comes up or a topic that is a new hot button, I try my very best to voice my honest opinion and not to crush anyone else's. We don't have to agree with each other but we should respect each other enough to listen. I do not engage in Twitter battles or bullying - we are a family and family supports each other. No bashing aloud just because you decided to do something different that works for you. Even if we don't agree, I will be that person that you can call upon and my only question will be "How can I help?"

Don't Take Anything Personally This is soooo incredibly difficult on so many levels; personal, blogger vs. blogger, companies, etc. The blogging world is this strange collection of friends who both support each other and can instantly turn on you for the top tweet or story. This is not true of everyone but it is a business and it's be top dog or get burned out. So when a fellow blogger is getting picked to work on projects that you are not, it's sometimes a difficult tightrope to walk. You wanted that but you also want to be happy for them because they earned it. And as far as the food allergy community and support- again, we need to listen more and strike out against each other less. Just because one family chooses not to try a new therapy or questions someone who does has nothing to do with you personally. Every family is different, every allergy is different and every choice is different and nothing at all is based on what they thought you would say to them when they shared with you.

Don't Make Assumptions This can travel in many directions- reading labels, product packaging, how someone reacted to you saying you don't understand OIT, if your post offended someone and so on. Discuss things, ask questions- LOTS and lots of questions and who cares if people get annoyed. Ask until you get an answer that makes you feel that you are satisfied with the response. Don't assume that people will advocate for you exactly how you would want them too- communicate. Don't assume that something is ok, even when it's not written down- write it down. Need a perfect example? Read this story.

Always Do Your Best Every. Single. Day. Granted, this was difficult for me this year but looking back, I unknowingly did do my very best. As quoted from the book "Under any circumstances, always do your best, no more and no less. But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. Everything is alive and changing all the time, so your best will sometimes be high quality, and other times it will not be as good." So you see, even on what you think are your worst days, you are still doing your best. All of those parents out there that just found out their child has a food allergy and you feel helpless, you are doing your best. All of those who are trying to learn how to help others, read labels, be compassionate- you are doing your best. And all of those who have lost a loved one from a complication or an allergic reaction and you feel as if you can barely remember to breathe yourself- you are doing your best. You have to remember to be kind and gentle to yourself. You have to remember that there are others out there that can and will help you. And you have to remember that not being ok is also ok too.

To those of you who need help, please know that I am here. To those of you who need someone to listen, I am here. To those of you who want to connect so that we can band together and do even more good for everyone, tell me. I may be silent sometimes but I am always listening and always thinking of how to do better and I want the same for all of you.

What is one thing that you will choose to do differently in 2018?