Tips for Allergy-Friendly Social Events with Family and Friends

allergyfriendlyfamilygathering

With Labor Day coming up and the holiday season quickly approaching in the fall, why not start thinking about creating allergy-friendly social events with your family and friends now?

Social events with family and friends can be extremely stressful if everyone is not on the same page. It is not uncommon for family members and friends to continue to serve foods that present a danger to your child after they have been diagnosed with a food allergy. In most cases, they don’t do it to be mean or to exclude your child. Although sometimes strangers or acquaintances genuinely do not care if any particular child is excluded (which is sad but true), most people are willing to create a safe environment for their friends and family.

As with most situations, communication is crucial. Once your child is diagnosed with a food allergy, it makes sense to sit down with your friends and family to discuss any upcoming holidays or “get-togethers.” Let friends and family know ahead of time what precautions need to be taken in order to keep your child safe. Together, you can decide who will be hosting which events, where they will be held, what types of foods will be served, and what the expectations are for everyone involved. While you may not agree on every detail right away, this will give you a good start. The most important thing is to ensure your child’s physical and emotional well-being with a little forethought and planning.

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Have Food, Will Travel

Last week I had the fabulous opportunity to travel to New York City to present my book, Fantastically Free: The Savvy Mom’s Guide to Living a Safe, Happy, and Healthy Life with Food Allergies. Overall, it was a great experience, but getting there was a huge pain in the rear, if I do say so myself.

First, my flight was delayed because of wind conditions. Next, my flight was delayed because the cargo door wasn’t showing that it was closed. Then, my flight was delayed again because it was too complicated to fix the door so they decided to get a different plane from Cincinnati. Finally, my flight was canceled at around 11:00 pm because they couldn’t find another crew to fly the new plane. This was very frustrating to say the least–especially since I needed to be in New York by 8:00 am the next morning. In this moment of shear frustration and despair I decided to adopt an attitude of gratitude.

What was the one thing I was grateful for in that moment? Well, I guess it was two things really. First, I was grateful that we didn’t crash due to an open cargo door. But, the second thing that I was grateful for was the fact that I had packed my dinner.

You see, after being at the airport for 7 hours of wasted time, while everyone else was sitting in their seats being served soda and pretzels, I was eating grilled chicken breast, broccoli, berries, and a sweet potato that I packed in my cooler bag. One thing

10-Inch PACKiT Folded

10-Inch PACKiT Folded

that I have learned from managing food allergies and autoimmune conditions and from just being committed to being healthy is this: never travel without food.

One of the biggest challenges my clients (and nearly everyone else I know) have is eating healthfully while on the go. If you have food allergies, an autoimmune disorder, or another condition that impacts what you eat, you have the added challenge of finding safe food while eating away from home–you don’t have the luxury of eating at any old place or grabbing any old snack food off the shelf. You have to plan ahead. The same is true if you’re committed to eating healthfully.

On the flight back home from New York, I enjoyed pastured herb-roasted turkey, avocado, a mixed green salad with olive oil and vinegar, roasted cauliflower and kale, and blueberries, which I had packed in my PACKiT cooler. Everyone else had their choice of cookies, pretzels, or peanuts–not exactly a satisfying or healthful dinner, if you ask me.  No wonder everyone is so grumpy when they fly. They’re tired and hungry! This must be how the term “hangry” originated.

Before I go any further I should tell you about this PACKiT cooler that I keep mentioning. The PACKiT is actually a freezable lunch bag that cools your food for up to 10 hours. I love it! I am not an affiliate or a reseller of PACKiT and they don’t sponsor my site (although it would be great if they did). I just think their products are a life saver (literally, figuratively, and however else you might use the term). We use their lunch bags and salad bags every single day because they allow us to basically take a tiny fridge of safe and healthy food wherever we go. My girls use them to take their lunches to school each day and I use it anytime I will be eating away from home. They also make picnic bags and shopping bags.

10 inch PACKiT Freezable Lunch Bag

10 inch PACKiT Freezable Lunch Bag

If you’re committed to eating well while traveling, here are 5 tips to help you on your journey:

  1. Plan ahead. If you are traveling with a group of kids, you might find it easier to schedule your flight or travel time around your eating schedule so you only have to worry about packing snacks rather than full meals during the flight or the car ride. Sometimes this just isn’t possible, though. Either way, make a list of food that you plan to take with you.
  2. Be prepared. Cook and prepare your food ahead of time so you can just pop it into your freezable bag before you leave. And don’t forget to put your freezer bag in the freezer the night before.
  3. Scout out the area. Before you leave for your trip, get familiar with the grocery stores and healthy restaurants that are near your destination so you aren’t scrambling to find someplace to eat while you’re starving. That never leads to a good decision-making.
  4. Make sure your accommodations meet your needs. When I travel with my entire family, we only stay at places that have a full kitchen. This allows us to make most of our meals “at home.” When it’s just me or the hubby and me, I make sure that I at least have a mini-refrigerator in my hotel room. This allows me to keep fresh fruits, veggies, salads, and meats. It also allows me to refreeze my PACKiT for the trip home.
  5. Make some of your own meals. When I travel, I definitely still eat at some sit-down restaurants that can accommodate food allergies and that have healthy choices available, but the majority of my meals are made by me. When I don’t have a full kitchen available, I eat a lot of fresh green leafy vegetables, avocado, olive oil, vinegar, and the healthiest/safest protein options I can find. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can experiment with coffee pot cooking. I haven’t tried it myself but it looks interesting.

Next week I will discuss some quick and easy, healthy, Top-8-Free, snack options that even your kids will love. Yep, kids do like healthy snacks, too. In the meantime, I would love to hear how you eat healthy while you’re on the go or what challenges you face when trying to eat healthy away from home. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

Blessing Your Food Is Good for Your Health and Well-Being

If you are like most Americans, you probably sit down at the dinner table and quickly scarf down your food. And this is assuming that you actually sit down at the dinner table to eat dinner.  Many people are eating on the couch, at their desks, or wherever, while multitasking.

When I worked in hospitals, inhaling your food was actually a necessary job skill. If you didn’t eat fast, it was quite possibOur Meal Prayerle you wouldn’t eat at all.  Reversing this tendency to eat my food in about 30 seconds flat has been quite the challenge. I still have to work on it some days.

One thing I have found that really has helped is saying a blessing before meals. I wanted to teach my daughters gratitude and instill a sense of connection with God, so I created a little prayer that they could model until they felt comfortable coming up with their own words. You can read it on the right.

It’s a very simple prayer but it has worked wonders. When we say this prayer each night before dinner it gives us a sense of peace and calm. When you have life-threatening food allergies and autoimmune disorders, every meal that you eat can be a source of stress and anxiety, so this really is a special gift.

We also feel a sense of gratitude and connection with God when we say this prayer. Research has shown that people who measured high in terms of spirituality also measure high in their ability to cope with chronic illness [1].

Saying a prayer before your meal or just expressing your gratitude for your food allows you to slow down and actually leads you to experience the full benefits of your meal in more ways than one.

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