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Surviving the Holidays with Food Allergies

survive holiday food allergiesHolidays center around gatherings with friends and family. Parties abound and the kitchen is busier than ever. When you have food allergies, holidays bring an extra layer of stress. I have a few tips to help!

1. Bring your own food.

The ONLY way to ensure you know exactly what is going into your body is to prepare the food yourself. Salads are generally safe and it’s easy to tell the ingredients, as long as the dressing is not already added. For dinner parties (pot luck style) I bring a satisfying dish I can eat. And that’s all I eat. Also, I either make sure I’m first in line, or set a plate of my safe food aside to ensure I get the dish I brought!

2. Plan

Planning is the key. Know what is going on during all events. Keep your pantry stocked with foods you can eat, or grab and go. Before we go out of town, I find nearby grocery stores. We often stop before we arrive to stock up on safe foods we didn’t bring.

3. Call ahead

If you want to call ahead to find ingredients, call ahead, but make sure it’s in plenty of time in case the hostess wants to make something you can eat. I always say something along the lines of, “I’m curious about the menu because of food allergies, but don’t want you to go through any extra trouble.” If I find out it’s something I can’t eat, I explain that I’ll probably bring my own food. My allergies are so extensive, I don’t expect anyone to go through the process of learning to cook what I can eat.

4. Eat before you go

If you arrive hungry, it’s tempting to eat something that might cause a reaction. I also find myself grouchy or emotional when I go somewhere hungry only to find I can only eat ONE thing. If I’m not hungry, it doesn’t bother me (as much).

5. For out of town events – cook ahead

I bring a cooler filled with frozen meals that match what my family is eating. That way I’m not as different. I also bring food for the restaurants I know don’t have much I can eat. I eat on the way – in the car – then snack on a salad or a safe menu item while at the restaurant. That takes planning! For unexpected restaurant stops, my husband stops by the grocery store on the way and I bring something safe into the restaurant.  More tips for travelling with food restrictions.

6. Smile through it all

Your attitude makes the difference. When a waiter tells you 99% of the menu is unavailable due to your allergies, be thankful for the 1%. When you are hungry and feel yourself becoming grouchy or emotional, find that inner strength and know food is only a part of the holidays.

Above all, enjoy your time with friends and family.

Merry Christmas!

Loneliness and Food

There are days I feel alone in my food allergies.

I have some strange allergies. When I tell people that I have food allergies, the next response is usually “Are you gluten free?”

When I tell people my number one allergen, most haven’t heard of it. It’s rare. Not many know how to respond. I feel alone.

Food allergies

There are days I feel lonely with my food allergies.

Social gatherings center around food.

It’s a lonely place to be – surrounded by food, with conversation about food, not able to eat any of the food.

There are days I miss spur of the moment meeting friends for lunch.

As I said – lonely.

Even beyond the lonely – the hardest part is feeling different.

Some people just don’t understand.

Those who try to understand – they are the treasures.

Next time you come across people with food allergies – encourage them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Psalm 34: 8-10

Even in my loneliness – I lack nothing. I have Him. He is all I need.

Travelling with Food Restrictions

A few months ago, I met a friend on facebook. I started stalking reading her blog. It quickly became one of my go-to blogs for encouragement. Then one day, she sent me a message that her son recognized my facebook picture. Turns out, they just started attending our church. Her son recognized me from the times I volunteer in the children’s area. How cool is that?! Now we are becoming IRL friends. (That means In Real Life.)

Today (right now, in fact) I would love for you to hop over to Whole Family Strong and read a post I wrote as a guest blogger on her site.

Whole Family Strong

CLICK THIS LINK to go there.

While you read the article, know that God’s timing is incredible. Jacque didn’t know it, but the day she posted that, we were travelling. I didn’t plan for the meal in the car. (It was one of those, we were leaving early and could eat when we arrived, since it was only a two hour trip, but delay after delay created a need to eat on the road.) We stopped at a grocery store and were all picking out meals. I don’t know who threw the biggest fit on aisle 5, me or my child. One of my kids even called me out about my behavior. Not a proud moment. I was pouting over the lack of food items I could eat and grumpily choose a salad. Now that I’m posting this, I’m spending the day PLANNING because we have another trip ahead of us. I’m determined to have a positive attitude this time. Thanks for the reminder, Jacque. God, your timing is *almost* funny. You orchestrated all of this, you’ll be the one I’m turning to…

Oh! And while you are there, check out the pictures of their new baby. She really is as adorable as the pictures. I can’t wait to hold her again!

Chicken Broth

Chicken Bone Broth – Part Two

In Part One, I told you about the benefits to making your own chicken broth. Here’s a recap:

  • economical
  • healthy
  • healing properties

You’ve roasted the chickens and all (or most, it’s OK to leave some) the meat is off the bones. Now you are ready to make broth! Remember, this is just how I make broth. You don’t have to roast your chicken first. It’s important to remember that there is a difference in health benefits from chicken broth and chicken BONE broth. You want the nutrients and minerals that come from the bones. The broth you buy in the stores not only does NOT have this, they add all kinds of sodium, MSG, and preservatives. Due to my food allergies, I can’t risk buying it from the store. Once you get the hang of how easy this is… you won’t go back! Did you realize not all chicken broth is gluten free? This is!

Chicken Broth

Drop the bones back into the pot you cooked the chickens. There should be a gelatinous substance left in the pot. You can also put everything into a crock pot. Remember the innards you kept? (First step in Roasting Chickens.) Throw those in too. Fill the pot with water, add a Tablespoon or two of Apple Cider Vinegar (any acid will work – it draws the nutrients out of the bones) and cook on medium just until it starts to bubble. Turn it to low and simmer for 12 to 24 hours. For the last few hours add some veggies (completely optional). Some people have veggies in the whole time, but I’ve heard that onions can turn bitter after 8 hours.  Strain the broth and store in the fridge.  After it has cooled in the fridge, the fat rises to the top and hardens. I throw that part away. The broth can last in the fridge for up to ten days.

This is where I’m supposed to have a picture of the broth all done and strained – liquid gold… but we ate it all before I could take a picture.

Here’s a little secret most don’t realize – you can use the same bones to make more broth! Put all the bones BACK into the pot, cover with water and do the whole process again! However, I find that each batch will be a bit more watery, so I just do it twice, if that long. By this time, I’m ready to move on… but some people keep continual batches of stock brewing. I only use the second and third brewings for boiling rice or quinoa. I’ll immediately freeze this broth and label the bag accordingly.

What do you use the broth for? Anytime a recipe calls for it. But that’s just the start. I use broth  in place of water when cooking rice, quiona, or potatoes (as I just mentioned, this is usually the second-batch broth). For a quick lunch, I heat some broth and throw in some veggies, rice, or roasted chicken. It’s a great way to use up leftovers! Some people just drink it plain. I’m not there yet. I have to add something into my broth. What isn’t used after a few days, I store in freezer bags in two cup increments. Anytime I need some, I just thaw a bag enough to open it then heat the block of frozen broth on the stove until it’s liquid again. I haven’t had to buy broth at the store since I made my first stockpile. I probably have ten bags frozen now, with two birds ready to cook tomorrow.

Dime-sized Bite

file0001097164283A dime-sized bite of cracker = three days of sickness.

Welcome to the world of food allergies. In my One New Thing post this week, I told you about having a discouraging week. I have to persevere through my allergies. It’s my race to endure.

Without thinking I picked up the cracker my kids were discussing with their aunt and popped it into my mouth. I thought, it’s only cheese. I know just what happens with cheese and I can handle it! Just one. Just one dime-sized bite. It wasn’t until I was swallowing that I realized the overpowering taste was garlic. GARLIC! My foe. One of my bigger allergies.

For awhile, nothing happened. Then a headache appeared right in the middle of my forehead. It wasn’t too bad and I thought, maybe I’ll be OK this time! Thirty minutes later the headache was in full force. With the headache came the mood swing. By the time we were almost home, I was over-reacting to all situations with my kids. The kids knew I ate something and was right in the middle of a reaction. They knew the drill. They knew to stay away from mom and just give her space. A few hours later I was better, except for the headache that lasted for three days, despite any meds.

What won’t go away is the fear. If a bite the size of a dime can set off that much of a reaction, what would an entire meal laced with my poison  allergies do to me? Why did I react so much? I normally don’t react to this degree. What else in my system is off? I’ve been working with my doctor to regulate my thyroid. It’s off. Again. When it’s off, my system is overloaded. When my system is overloaded… you got it! I react more to my allergies. I know all of that, but it still doesn’t take away my fear.

A few plans needed to be set in place.

  • First, we looked at our calendar. Any plans that would place me in danger with food were re-evaluated.
  • Can I control the food?
  • Can I request special items?
  • Can I bring my own food?
  • Some events were cancelled. One in particular was a difficult decision.
  • Some events will just take extra planning – calls to local restaurants to find one to work with me or extra time around a kitchen so I can cook safe meals.
  • Plans for date nights – find at least one place that will work with my food allergies.
  • Plans for lunch out with friends -Salads are easy, but that means I need to bring my own dressing.
  • Plans for coffee at coffee shops – Once again, I can take my own add-ins – I just have to remember to!

Instead of planning, this week I pouted. Until my pastor read this verse:

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.                                     1 Peter 1: 6 – 9

Now I’m finding joy.

I can make the best of this.

One bite at a time.

One New Thing for the Holidays

Candies, cakes, pies, turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows or sugary pecans, fruit salad smothered with whipped cream, more pies, and cookies, oh my. My mouth is watering just thinking back over the week. This is probably the first time EVER that I did not gain weight during Thanksgiving week. I took my own advice and ate just one bite, not one serving. It was also the first time I did not sleep away Thanksgiving afternoon due to allergic reactions.

I also did One New Thing this year while travelling. I scoped out restaurants beforehand. It didn’t take much planning and my family graciously made decisions ahead of time. As soon as I knew where we were going, I checked menus on-line. Knowing my options beforehand made a huge difference. There were times we ate out and I didn’t have a chance to scope places, then I simply ordered a salad. Only one time did the waiter have to ask about substitutions with a manager. I’ve learned to ask for the chicken (or other proteins  to be cooked plain, or to ask for fries without extra seasoning salt. It’s just easier to phrase it that way instead of telling the waiter lists of allergies and asking them what they think. There are too many “hidden” allergens. Many places have meat that is pre-seasoned. I stay ask if they come that way and just order something else. The simple phrases “gluten-free” and “food allergies” capture people’s attention and just about everyone was gracious about helping us with menu items. Whether you are  concerned with food allergies, gluten, or calorie counting, don’t be afraid to just ask! Before you even have to ask, look on-line! With menus posted on-line, it’s easy to count calories or watch for troublesome foods before you even step foot into a restaurant!

While at my sisters, I encountered one tea room that went out of their way to accommodate my gluten-free daughter. They told me that if I call the day before, they will make sure some menu items (since it’s a small establishment without a set menu) are gluten-free or safe from whatever allergies we have. We will make sure to visit that restaurant the next time we are in town! It just takes one question to realize how accommodating establishments are. The gracious ones will receive my business. In the past, I didn’t want to make a fuss, or cause any trouble. Then I would end up sick. Not anymore.

My One New Thing for the Holidays is to scope out restaurants beforehand!

What are your favorite holiday tips?

One New Thing – One Bite Not One Serving

Traveling for the holidays can be daunting for dieters or those with food allergies. If you think about it, the Holidays are daunting. Food is everywhere. Yesterday, while out-of-town at my sister’s, the downtown shopping district of their small town kicked off Christmas with an open house in the stores and business that lined the downtown shopping area. Really… it was a street. Make that two blocks – of shops. (I said small town, didn’t I?) Well, every store we went into participated in this Christmas kick off with food. Cookies, dips, hot tea and cider, even a mimosa (I may be travelling, but I’m still in the South) tempted me everywhere I looked. So I had a cookie. Along with it came a headache. And I’m still paying for the sip (OK… two sips) of a mixed drink laced with ice cream. *sigh*

This is my first holiday season that I know about my long and strange list of food allergies. Most of my food allergies are low-level and I can tolerate a bite here and there. ***I am NOT advocating going against doctor’s orders! My doctor gave me permission last week to – on occasion – try a food I haven’t had in a while, if I think I can tolerate it.***

In previous years, when people slept off the Thanksgiving Turkey, I slept off allergic reactions. This year I want it to be different. This year my One New Thing is one bite, not one serving and to stay away from the foods I react to – and I’ve even talking calories here – my hips sure react to those! Now, there are somethings that are oh-so-hard to pass up during this time of year. My sister-in-law has some cookies that just proclaim Thanksgiving is HERE! And what is Thanksgiving without sweet potato casserole?  On a few of my all time favorites, I’ll just have one bite – not one serving. There are some things I will have to say goodbye to forever and those items will not even get one bite. See you later, cornbread dressing and (sniff, sniff) egg nog. I will not let you ruin my holiday no matter how tantalizing you are!

For those of you just visiting my page today – thanks for stopping! This post is in a series I do called One New Thing. Check a few of them out and be sure to come back regularly to see what my One New Thing is next!

For those of you with food allergies, this is my first major travelling trip and it’s getting harder and harder to find safe foods the farther I travel from home. I would really appreciate your tips for travelling during the Holidays! When we went shopping, if I had known there would be food at every turn, a bag of snacks sure would’ve helped! So when am I going to learn to keep a bag on hand anyway? Well, I think I just learned that lesson!

For those of my regular readers, I may or may not post again this week. I have no idea if I will have access to internet or not. Enjoy this holiday season and know that I am truly thankful for each of you. Every time I receive a click on a page it feels like a “howdy-do” from a friend and comments are like hugs. I write because I love to, and I put it out there on this blog because I want to help people connect. For whatever reason, a few of you keep coming back week after week. I am so very thankful for you.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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