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A blog about all things allergen-free and delicious

Entries in food allergies (40)


Why Children with Autism are Often “Picky Eaters.”

Warm welcome to guest blogger, Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP.   Melanie works with many autistic children with food allergies in her feeding therapy practice. 


One in 88 Children

April is National Autism Awareness Month.  “1 in 88 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)” according to estimates from CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, which goes on to report that “ASDs are almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 54) than among girls (1 in 252).”  
Startling statistics, but it corresponds perfectly with my therapy practice as a feeding specialist.
While my private practice is devoted to helping all children learn the joy of food, currently 25% of my caseload are precious boys who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD).   I’ve come to know this group of children quite well and their unique challenges when it comes to trying new foods.  (For the reader’s ease,  please allow me to use the pronoun “him” in this article, while keeping in mind the wonderful girls who also have ASD.)

Central Features of ASD

What distinctive characteristics of ASD hinder these kiddos from trying new foods?  Let’s look very briefly at some of the central features of ASD, while keeping in mind that this a spectrum disorder, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe, this list does not encompass all of the elements of a diagnosis. 
Some of the central features that kids with ASD have difficulty with are: 
  1. Social interaction, often including social reciprocity or that back and forth communication exchange known as conversation
  2. Spoken language
  3. Restricted behaviors often marked by rigid behavior patterns or an inability to be flexible with change
  4. While not a criteria for diagnosis, kids with ASD commonly have sensory processing difficulties that hinder their ability to tolerate different tastes, temperature and/or textures of food and deal with change in general


The Hailstorm

In therapy, I assess and treat a child’s ability to allocate specific  cognitive resources in the brain in order to manage day-to-day life.  

EXAMPLE: here is a common event where, as an adult, you have to utilize many different parts of their brain.

You are driving the minivan full of kids to soccer practice, radio blaring, kids chattering.  Your brain is operating relatively smoothly, filtering auditory, visual, tactile and other sensations, while remembering to use your turn signal, maintain the speed limit, etc.  Suddenly, the weather changes and it starts to hail.  What’s the first thing you do?  Turn off the radio and tell the kids “Shush…Mommy needs to concentrate on the road.”  Perhaps you even slow down so that you can focus on the sudden change in driving conditions.  You have eliminated as much sensory input as possible so that you can concentrate on the task at hand – driving safely.  Funny how you were driving perfectly fine until one thing changed in your environment.

Life is Sticking to Sameness.  Therapy is Adapting to Change.

Consider the child with autism as he attempts to engage in mealtimes.  The reality is that daily life changes as easily as the daily weather report and some days are just like driving through a hailstorm.  This child is already challenged by poor sensory processing; he has limited ability to take in information through all of the senses, process it and filter out the unimportant info, and then act upon only the important information.


Now, bring that child to the family dinner table, which is all about social interaction and conversation.  Put a plate of food in front of him which looks and smells completely different from the last meal he was served.   Then, tell him to try that steamed broccoli for the very first time.  He doesn’t get to turn down the sensory input bombarding him at the table and focus just on the broccoli.  Because he has autism, he can’t filter out which stimuli might be inconsequential and it feels so much safer to follow rigid behavior patterns and never try anything new.  
Life for a child with autism is all about sticking to sameness. Therapy for a child with autism is all about learning to deal with change.

Autism, Food Allergies & Learning

Contemplate the fact that many children with ASD have the additional challenge of food allergies and/or intolerances, making choices limited when learning to try new foods.  For the older child heading to school, therapy will include teaching a child about his allergies and which foods are safe, so that he can be make safe choices independently ... while dealing with the ever-changing school environment, too.  
In my feeding therapy practice, the very first sessions are conducted in a child’s home.  Learning about new foods begins away from a family mealtime, where I can control the amount of sensory input a child has to process in order to keep his body organized and stable for small changes, such as a new food presented as we sit at the kitchen counter.  Once a child has learned to enjoy approximately 25 foods at home, the next step may be a restaurant or the school cafeteria.  
Keep in mind that this is more than just a change in venue.  Now, the visual input is different and it changes constantly, the inconsistent auditory input can be overwhelming, the fluctuating smells may be interpreted as noxious, etc.   Every input to every sense has changed.   Once again, he is encountering a hailstorm and has to learn to tune out the distractions and focus on the task at hand – in this case, eating a nutritious meal away from home.

Reach Out

Perhaps you are a parent of a child with ASD.   Perhaps you have observed a child whom you suspect may be dealing with the daily trials of autism.  Thank you for considering what mealtimes feel like for him and his family.  It does get better, but it is a journey that requires patience from family, friends and the community. 
Please share this article with a friend so that we can continue to raise awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder and if you know someone who loves a child with ASD, do something special for them this month in honor of National Autism Awareness Month – thank you!


About Melanie

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLPMelanie is speech language pathologist who specializes in feeding.  Her work brings her into the homes and schools of her clients, kids, who for various reasons have difficulty with food or with eating. She works with kids and their parents to develop effective strategies that help children become “more adventurous eaters”.  At least 50% of her clients have food allergies or intolerances, and for them, “adventurous eating” takes on a special meaning.  Melanie is also the author of Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids” and the executive producer of “Dancing in the Kitchen.”



More Posts from Melanie

Review:  The Magic of the BellyFull Kit (From the Hopeful Company)

The 12 Days of Christmas -- My Favorite Lunchtime Things (Part 1)

Tips to Help Your Food Allergic Child Belong During the Holidays

How to Talk Turkey (and Food Allergies) at Thanksgiving

How Can Parents Feel Less Stress with a Food Allergic Child in School?


Love is In the Air… Valentine Ideas for Your Food Allergic Child


Great ideas from Guest Blogger, Melanie Potock of


Allergen-free Cookies from Cybele Pascal


Recipe from Cybele Pascal
This weekend,  kitchen tables everywhere will be piled high with home-made Valentine cards or frosted with flour and cookie cut-outs as everyone prepares for the traditional Valentine’s Day Party at school. For kids with food allergies or sensitivities, new ideas for alternative crafts or treats are plenty and I’d love to share some of them here with you!
Let’s get right to it: cookies, that is.  I mean, you have to have a heart shaped cookie on Valentine’s Day…I’m pretty sure there’s a law about that.  When I laid eyes on these delectable allergen-free “melt in your mouth” cookies from Cybele Pascal, I knew I had found the perfect little hearts to share with you. 

Fun Valentine Cards & Activities


Speaking of little hearts, here’s a clever idea for a Valentine’s Day card that is not only from your child’s heart, but direct from his tiny hand! created this easy tutorial where you take a photo of your child with their hand reaching toward the camera and then simply put the token of your choice in his hand as a special Valentine treat!  Allergy free options might include an organic lollypop, a Starbuck’s card (for teacher!) or a one-word, handwritten message in your child’s own lettering, such as “KISS”.


Another option for cards takes a bit more time and definitely adult supervision, but I loved these “dotty valentines” using precision Q-tips™.  The Crafty Crow recommends acrylic or tempura paints (contains egg) but another option would be Allergen Free Non-toxic finger paints either homemade or from  India Tree Natural Decorating Colors , which are made from vegetables.  As always, check ingredients to ensure that your child is safe and consult with for craft supplies that may contain allergens.


Continue to challenge your kiddo’s fine motor skills with this lacing activity! Looking for an inexpensive class activity that doesn’t involve scooping up as much sugar and candy as little fists can hold and then piling it all on top of a processed cookie in less than 15 seconds?  This Valentine craft will keep tiny hands busy and the poor teacher won’t have to deal with 25 kids in a sugar coma after the party has ended.

Cupcakes!  GF, DF, Egg-free, Nut-free, Soy-free

Let’s do the teacher, the kids and the other parents a favor and bring in a sweet pink treat that can’t be beat…wait for it…yes, “Beet-iful Cupcakes by Gluten Free Gigi.  Bright reddish-pink cushions of heaven, thanks to the natural color of a roasted beet!  These are gluten, dairy, egg, soy and nut free, sweetened with honey and delish!

Gifts of Service

What I loved most as I explored all the options for Valentine’s Day, was this post that I felt gave the best examples of how we can express our love, even to those that we have yet to know.  Reach out to an army family, visit a nursing home, bring art supplies for Valentines to your local children’s hospital or write a message to the kids to help them heal... just like someone did here in the freshly fallen snow in Colorado!
It will warm your heart…and theirs.  
"Get Well Kids" written in the snow....
Happy Valentine’s Day Tender Foodies!

About Melanie

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLPMelanie is speech language pathologist who specializes in feeding.  Her work brings her into the homes and schools of her clients, kids, who for various reasons have difficulty with food or with eating. She works with kids and their parents to develop effective strategies that help children become “more adventurous eaters”.  At least 50% of her clients have food allergies or intolerances, and for them, “adventurous eating” takes on a special meaning.  Melanie is also the author of Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids” and the executive producer of “Dancing in the Kitchen.”



More Posts from Melanie

How Can Parents Feel Less Stress with a Food Allergic Child in School?

Review:  The Magic of the BellyFULL Kit from the Hopeful Company





RECIPE: Roast Chicken with Figs, Thyme, Garlic, & Sweet Potatoes

Thyme from the garden - picked in Michigan in January.

Thyme in January

When I first moved to Michigan 6 years ago, thyme was one of the first herbs I planted.  I was so grateful to have dirt to play in (15 years in the concrete jungle makes you appreciate stuff like that), that even in winter, I stepped out to stare at my garden and plan for the coming summer.  To my surprise, the thyme was thriving under the snow.  It had also turned a deeper green, and the most exposed leaves sported a beautiful hue of purple. 

Thyme and roast chicken are a classic combination winter-wise.  But since it stops growing when Jack Frost comes to town, I only harvest a few sprigs during its dormancy.  So one day in January,  I made an unusual garden trek in my wellies, without a coat, and on an unseasonably warm pick some thyme. Then stuffed the butt of an organic chicken with this precious herb, along wtih lime, figs, and garlic.

Thyme grows best in July and August, so during the summer I put it into glass jars or ziploc bags, then "just" cover the thyme with olive oil, and freeze.  When I remove from the freezer, I use the infused olive oil as well as the thyme for diferent dishes.  This recipe has become a favorite means of making beta-carotene loving sweet potatoes as well.  They soak up the chicken juices and the beta carotene is activated by the olive oil.



1 -- 5-6 lb organic, roaster chicken (choose organic to be sure that the chicken has not been injected with a gluten-based solution)

CHEF TIP:  one method to get the skin crispy when roasting is to place it in the refrigerator prepared in the pan and leave uncovered for a few hours.  This gets the excess moisture out of the skin which helps it brown.

2 cups of organic parsnips (rough chopped into 2 inch pieces)

2 cups of organic carrots (rough chopped into 2 inch pieces)

3- 4 sweet potatoes (ends sliced off, and chopped into 1 inch x 2 inch pieces)

1 head of garlic (root sliced off, head rough chopped in half)

1 lime (or lemon), cut in half

Dried figs  (stems chopped off, 5 per chicken butt, 1 handful to mix with veggies)

25 sprigs of thyme (20 per chicken butt, 5 with veggies)

*if you don't have thyme, this recipe actually works well without it, too.

Olive Oil

Sea Salt



Preheat the oven to 425 F degrees.  Place the racks low in the oven so the roaster can fit.  

Vegetables:  Spread the carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes and figs along the bottom of the pan.  The veggies act as a rack for your chicken.  Sprinkle the 5 thyme sprigs throughout.  Place about 1 TBS of olive oil and 1-2 tsp. of salt into your hands and toss the vegetables with it. 

Giblets:  Pull out the giblets and neck and throw into a hot pan with a little olive oil.  Fry them up (brown on all sides) and put aside for another use (the cat likes them).  I use the neck and carcass of the chicken in the Nourished Kitchen's slow cooking, immune-building bone broth, a recipe I have come to love and use often.  Pan-fry the neck as well and refrigerate overnight and then toss it into the bone broth the next day with the left over chicken and bones.


Frying Giblets

Chicken:  Rinse the chicken inside and out and remove any pin feathers.  Cut excess flabby fat from the chicken, but leave the skin on.  Pat the skin dry with a paper towel.  I always rinse my chicken, however, I've noticed that not all chefs do this.

Rub the outside of the chicken with olive oil, and salt the outside and the inside of the chicken.

Stuff the chicken cavity (the butt end) with the 20 sprigs of thyme, 5 or 6 figs and the whole head of halved garlic, and the halved lime (or lemon).  Then place on the vegetables and tuck the wings under its body (or they could overcook).

CHEF TIP:  one method to get the skin crispy when roasting is to place it in the refrigerator prepared in the pan and leave uncovered for a few hours.  This gets the excess moisture out of the skin which helps it brown.

Place the roaster in the oven at 425 degrees F for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

When the juices between the leg and the thigh run clear (not bloody or thick), your chick is done.

Remove from the oven and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes before carving. 



Serve a Healthy Dessert

Serve the 14-Allergen-Free, Not Your Mamma's Chocolate Mousse Tart for dessert.  MMM.

 Not Your Mamma's Chocolate Mousse Tart is Nut-free, Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Sesame-Free, Oat-free, Egg-free, Corn-free, Coconut-free, & Soy-free...


Review: The Magic of the BellyFULL Kit (from The Hopeful Company)

The Tender Foodie welcomes regular guest blogger, Melanie Potock of My Munch Bug.


The BellyFULL Kit

When the mailman recently delivered a box from The HopeFULL Company, it took a minute to recall what might be inside: “Oh, right” I pondered.  “This must be those funny shaped frozen pop molds from those gals in Minnesota…”  As a feeding therapist, I love to try new products that help kids be more adventurous eaters. Whether I am working with a medically fragile child or a garden variety “picky eater”, I am always thinking of how to make eating fun!
But, another frozen treat mold?  Really?  My father always taught me: Never judge a book by its cover.  There had to be more to this.  I opened the box and began to examine what new treasure had arrived that day while discovering how I might use this to help children be more adventurous eaters.  The box contained a complete BellyFULL Kit, which included…

1.       An adorable chef’s hat: the essential accessory.  I mean, who doesn’t love a good hat?


 It’s adjustable too!  I have a huge head and I suspect the hat is meant for kids, but of course, being 52 going on 5,  I had to try it on.  It didn’t quite fit sitting on my blockbuster noggin, but if you undo the Velcro in the back and slip it on like a pilgrim hat, it’s absolutely fabulous.  
Me in my "Pilgram" hat

2.       A silicone mold: if you’ve got kids, you know the absolute delight in anything wiggly and jiggly!

This bright orange flexible mold allows the 8 frozen pops to be well, “popped” out with ease.  In feeding therapy, we know the first step to interacting with new foods is being willing to handle the container.  For many kids, this can be as challenging as spooning out a Brussels sprout from a family serving bowl.  With the BellyFULL mold, the container is so enticing, kids will be eager to handle it, fill it and pop out the nutritious treats.  It’s irresistible!



3.       100 Birchwood spoons that your kids get to push into the pop with the bowl of the spoon sticking OUT, like a little handle.  

The spoons are just the right size for little fists and offer just enough of a handle that the pops won’t flip out of their grasp.  Have you ever noticed that a traditional frozen pop stick is just too narrow and too long for little fists to hang on to?  Plus, the curve of the spoon bowl fits nicely with the curve of your child’s thumb, adding extra stability while holding the pop.  Hesitant eaters don’t want their food waving in front of them.  They want to feel secure and stable with it before they put it in their mouths.  



4.       My favorite part: the coated recipe cards (easy clean!) on a ring (brilliant!) with fun, playful graphics that will elicit plenty of belly laughs!  

My favorite card was the recipe for “Applesauce-A-Saurus” pops, with a silly photo of a ferocious dinosaur about to devour an orange tray of frozen pops!

The photos are entertaining conversation starters to help kids decide which recipe they want to make that day.  When you have a hesitant eater, introducing a new food truly begins with something silly, like a dinosaur eating popsicles or putting on a chef’s hat upside down!  If you can engage them in the kitchen and get them involved in the preparation of the food, you are that much closer to that first taste.
More than just a ring full of recipes, each card includes a “Kids Can” text box with fantastic suggestions for helping kids experience all the sensory aspects of cooking.  The suggestions on each card are helpful reminders for parents to get their kids involved and include recommendations like, “Kids can…squeeze the pulp out of the halved avocado into the blender” and “Pack the spinach leaves to measure.”
Spinach?  Yes Popeye, spinach.  This isn’t an effort to hide healthy food in a sugary treat; this is a mission to get your kids involved in washing the spinach leaves, pulling off the stems, packing the measuring cup and dumping it in the blender along with the other wholesome ingredients for the “Raspberry Robot” pop.  Hear the blender whir and watch as the leaves disappear along with the avocado, almond butter, raspberries and yogurt.  Don’t be surprised if they announce that they love frozen spinach!


Substitutions for Food Allergies & Texture Works!

The result of this blenderized magic is a smooth, velvety frozen treat that offers just the right consistency for little munchbugs learning to tolerate frozen foods.  For example, the Raspberry Robot pop had a texture similar to a traditional fudge bar, easy to bite into and quick to melt in the mouth.  Because my job involves helping children learn to tolerate new textures, I experimented with this recipe a bit.  I substituted frozen cherries for the raspberries and blended just a tad less to keep some extra texture (cherry skins) in the mix.  Another time, because so many of my clients have food allergies, I substituted sunflower seed butter for the almond butter and tasted no difference.  A third time, I used orange juice instead of almond milk and the pop was a bit more like a traditional icy treat, requiring a bit more strength to bite into and providing a more solid chunk in my mouth.  For kids who are taking that next step in jaw strength, the ability to change the recipes in order to change the hardness and texture of the frozen pop is appealing.  Substitutions were always simple and tasted great!
Now, some kids have trouble with temperature, especially “frozen” foods.  My favorite therapy technique is to have a narrow glass filled with water to dip the frozen treat.  It makes the outer layer melt just enough to help a child take their first lick.  Kids love to watch the colored swirls in the glass as you twirl the frozen pop in the water and slowly, over time, adjust to the temperature.  


Gentle Eating for Those With Cancer

Know what I love best about The BellyFULL Kit?  That it came about quite unexpectedly from a random act of kindness.  Jessica and Stephanie, the two sisters who founded The HopeFULL Company, reached out to help a family friend who was diagnosed with cancer in 2009.  
BellyFull Founders, Jessica and Stephanie
They said “Like many people undergoing chemotherapy treatments, eating was no longer an enjoyable activity for our friend. She struggled to find foods that she could tolerate and that would give her enough calories and nutrition. Knowing we both made homemade baby food for our children, she asked us to make her meals which were small in portion, packed with nutrition and without strong flavors. We were thrilled to help and dove enthusiastically into the project.”
What began as an act of kindness to nurture a dear friend grew to include a new project:  The BellyFULL Kit. Jessica and Stephanie tell us that “this kit was inspired out of a desire to introduce whole foods to our young children in a way that nurtures their curiosity for food, fosters a love of whole foods and desire to eat healthy. The BellyFULL Kit makes it easy to introduce whole foods to young children in an adventurous, playful way. Our frozen BellyFULLs make eating whole foods fun for kids, and preparing them together can create memories which will last a lifetime! BellyFULLs are perfect for finicky little eaters, children with sensory issues, little chefs in the making, parents who made their own baby food, upcoming kid birthdays or mommy-to-be/baby showers!”
And to that I shout from my happy belly: “BRAVO Sisters! BRAVO!”


About Melanie

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, of  Melanie is speech language pathologist who specializes in feeding.  Her work brings her into the homes and schools of her clients, kids, who for various reasons have difficulty with food or with eating. She works with kids and their parents to develop effective strategies that help children become “more adventurous eaters”.  At least 50% of her clients have food allergies or intolerances, and for them, “adventurous eating” takes on a special meaning.  Melanie is also the author of Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids” and the executive producer of “Dancing in the Kitchen.”


More Posts from Melanie

Tips to Help Your Food Allergic Child Belong During the Holidays

How to Talk Turkey (and Food Allergies) at Thanksgiving

How Can Parents Feel Less Stress with a Food Allergic Child in School?



10 Steps to Living Allergen-Free (& Doing it Well) - Women's Lifestyle

Women's LifeStyle Magazine Jan. 2012 - Fresh Starts (Find this article pgs 36-37)

After being featured in their October 2011 issue, This Tender Foodie is so pleased to be a new writer for Women's Lifestyle Magazine this year.   This article is reprinted here with their permission.  But do visit the full January 2012 issue called"Fresh Starts".  It is full of great stuff for the new year. Plus, this article (and all of the others) is so gorgeous laid out in the magazine!

Food Allergies Have Risen - Have You Noticed?

The number of people diagnosed with food allergies or intolerances (aka “Tender Foodies”) has risen significantly and rapidly.  An online search will lead you to gads of stories about people, including celebrities, who struggle with their reactions to food.  To help us understand how quickly food allergies have “spread”; here are a few facts:

•    Peanut allergies have tripled from 1997-2008 (FAAN)
•    There are 4 times more people with Celiac Disease than there were 50 years ago (March 2011, University of Maryland study).  
•    12 million people (and counting) have classic food allergies (FAAN)
•    In March 2011, a study revealed that as many as 18 million people are suspected to have gluten sensitivity.  (U of Maryland study).

This rapid rise in food allergies has also spawned virtual Petri dish of confusion.  Thus, in honor of 2012, this Tender Foodie column will start at the very beginning (it’s a very good place to start) with some tips to help you better understand what your Tender Foodie life is all about.

Take These 10 Steps

1. Understand Your Reaction to Food

There are eight types of foods that cause 90% of all allergic reactions (namely, eggs, dairy, gluten, soy, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts).  Very simply, allergic reactions occur because your immune system mistakes a food (or foods) for a foreign invader.  There are several different types of immune responses that can cause a variety of symptoms including hives, itching, eczema, difficulty breathing, swollen joints, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, nasal congestion, depression, anxiety, anaphylaxis (a severe reaction to an allergen) and possibly death.  

So when it comes to living with food allergies, the first step to “doing it well” is to understand your particular reaction to food.   Is it a Food Allergy?  Intolerance?  Sensitivity?  Celiac Disease?  Or is it something else?  This is sometimes difficult to determine, since not everyone defines “food allergy” the same way and not all food reactions are alike.  To help, I contacted Sheila George, M.D., C.A. (a family medical practitioner in New York, specializing in chronic disease) and Alessio Fasano, M.D., Director of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research.  With the input of experts like these, we have compiled a working list of fundamental definitions at  If we can speak the same language, doctors, patients, friends and families can come to a better understanding and Tender Foodies can live in better health.

2.  Find the Right Doctor

If you think your symptoms are because of the food you are eating, it is very important to find the right doctor …and the right diagnosis.  There are many types of tests available now, including skin prick tests, blood tests, food challenges, and intestinal biopsies (if warranted, to diagnose Celiac disease).  Ask your doctor about the tests available and if you should be referred to a specialist.  If you need a guide, bring this article and print out the food allergy definitions page on

3. Develop an Emergency Action Plan

You could have more than one food allergy or intolerance, each with a different type of bodily response.  Work with your doctor(s) to answer these fundamental questions:
•    Exactly which kind of food allergy or reaction do I have?  
•    Is there an underlying reason for my food allergies or intolerances?
•    How do I treat the underlying cause?
•    How severe is each allergy/intolerance?  
•    Which foods (if any) should be on a rotation diet?  
•    Which foods (if any) must I completely avoid eating?  
•    Which foods (if any) are dangerous to inhale?  
•    Do I need an Epi-pen?  
•    When and how do I use the Epi-pen or any other medication?   

Then develop your action plan and review it with your doctor(s).  Your plan should include how to recognize each type of reaction, what to do if the reaction is a severe one, and who to include in your plan should action be needed.  

4. Learn to Read Labels

It’s not as easy as it sounds.  Along with words that even rocket scientists can’t pronounce, labels contain allergens “hidden” from plain view.  For instance, most regular soy sauce contains wheat.  “Smoke flavoring” can contain barley malt (gluten).  Whey is derived from dairy.  Livetin contains eggs.  “Non-Dairy” does NOT mean “Dairy-free”.   Don’t ignore the “May Contain” labeling, either.  Significant amounts of an allergen can be present in foods because of processing, even if that allergen is not listed in the ingredients.  For more on this, visit “Hidden Allergens” at  A good general label-reading rule is that if you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it.

5. Do a Pantry Cleanse

If you have a severe reaction to food particles that can become airborne, like wheat flour or peanuts, remove that allergen from your home.  Go through your pantry, refrigerator and freezer, and then dump (or give to a food pantry) any food with ingredients you or your family can’t eat. Even your medicine cabinet needs a good “once-over”.  Vitamins and medications can be made with or derived from things like wheat, eggs, dairy, corn or yeast.   For mixed households with less severe reactions, separate the non-allergenic brands from others to keep from making a mistake or cross contaminating.   After all, breadcrumbs can easily make it into the family butter, nut butters can get into the jam (via a knife), wheat crumbs can get on your gluten-free toast (just from the toaster) and sponges can carry allergens from counter to dish . . . (you get the picture).

6. Check Beauty Products

Researchers recently warned that cosmetics like lipsticks, foundations and powders often contain gluten, but are not labeled as such.  Vitamin E, for instance, is typically derived from wheat.  This can be very dangerous to celiac folks and people with wheat allergies.  Check your shampoo.  Many skin care products also contain coconut and nut oils, which can cause a reaction in people with those allergies.  So don’t stop with the kitchen.  

7.  Find Your Brands

Adding more whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your diet can help remove those long, multi-syllabic mystery ingredients from your worries.  But not all foods are processed alike.  Find those brands (whole grains and otherwise) that pay attention to processing and that test for your particular allergies.  Some really wonderful brands have popped up, find them and relax a little.

8.  Get Out of the Box (and Enjoy it.)

So you can’t eat certain foods.  This doesn’t mean that you are banned from the world of culinary delights.  Your delights will simply be different.  According to many doctors, a varied diet is important to a healthy digestive system.  Wonderful grains like quinoa, buckwheat, teff and millet are packed with nutrients.  Dairy-free coconut milk and yogurt are filled with those important medium chain fatty acids that are tough to get in other foods.  Not all allergen-free products are healthy (some are quite unhealthy), so use your newfound knowledge to be creative, expand your palate and improve your health.

9.  Create Your Tribe

It can be tough to “train” your family and friends.  It’s hard enough to train yourself.  Share this and other articles like it, with anyone who is responsible for feeding a food allergic person.  Share the action plan that you and your doctor create.  Your tribe” could be teachers, family, and friends; even restaurants that have done their homework.  Give your family a list of your allergens to keep in their kitchen.   Always discuss the menu, the ingredients and what needs to be cooked separately before you go to someone else’s house for dinner.  Be gracious but firm.  If someone can’t or won’t accommodate you (they don’t have to), you could suggest the option of bringing a dish that you can eat and share.  Helpful, active support groups are popping up all over the Internet and in towns across the United States where you can discuss common social issues as well as food allergy products and practices.   

10.  Lastly, know that you are not alone. 

There are millions of Tender Foodies just like you.