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Travelling with Food Allergies

March 25, 2011 •  one comment.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Nicole McMullen of www.nutritionforyourcondition.com

In contemplating where to take the kids for March break, I can’t help but marvel at how stress-free it has become travelling with a severely peanut/nut allergic son. What once hindered us from flying, travelling to places we loved and eating out is now but a normality of life that we have adapted to, and quite well if I do say so myself.

I recall the emotions that overwhelmed me when we first learned of my son’s allergy. I felt as though he had been handed a life sentence. I pondered everything, from the simplest of things like play dates at friend’s homes, to more difficult challenges like travel. Would he ever fly with peace of mind again? Would he be limited to resorts and hotels with kitchenettes? Would he visit countries where language barriers and lack of understanding with respect to food allergies would put him at risk? I am glad to say, that I have come to a place where the allergy does not restrict our lives to the degree that I once thought it would have to. The past ten years have been an evolution in the making where we have conquered the challenges of travelling with food allergies. The solutions we have developed have offered us the freedom to live life to the fullest and most importantly, send an empowering message to our kids…to a large degree we determine how restrictive we will allow our limitations to be.

Understanding the responsibility to offer your child life experience while keeping your child safe can often lead to overwhelming feelings of confliction. The methods I have adopted to ensure that my son is safe from his life threatening allergy has allowed me to provide him with unrestricted opportunities. About a year and a half ago I felt compelled to share the knowledge and resources I had attained with those struggling with food allergies. Nutrition for your Condition’s product line is a direct result of our liberation from the restrictions that food allergies can bring. I have to say…I love putting the various products we have developed to the test…they have allowed us to stay at some fantastic resorts that we would never have chosen otherwise. Products enabling me to prepare full meals, even with the most limited of facilities, ensure my son’s safety when in a place where I am reluctant to feed him restaurant food. I have eased up slightly in this regard, but still find it difficult to trust just any restaurant. He is accustomed to having me bring his food to places where we are not comfortable with the menu and we are really well received by those dining establishments that would prefer not to have the liability on their hands.

Our last trip to Florida was an experiment on a few fronts. We knew when developing the Carry-All Kitchen that it was a well thought out kit. I have put it into practice so many times now that I’ve lost count. I wouldn’t travel without it. We did our research well in regards to meeting carry on restrictions for flying. With it having appliances, we wanted to be sure that it was suitable for cabin stowage, as not to have items break while in transit. That meant adhering to safety, size and weight restrictions. Going to and from Florida, it went off with flying colors. Not only was it fine to take on board (minus any sharp items we put into checked luggage that are listed in our safety guide) it was also underweight and easy to manage. We were asked at security check points both flying there and back if we could open the tote so that they could examine the contents. They did a quick once over and sent us on our way…we were even met with their approval over what a good idea it was, now that was a pleasant surprise.

Flying since the allergy has been a bit more challenging to get over. With concerns over other passengers consuming nut products onboard we are very selective about the airlines we will fly with. Some have only recently adjusted their policies to make it more feasible for us to fly with our son. There are always safety concerns regardless and we have had to weigh the pros and cons. We recently took a flight to Florida with one of our best received products to date. Suitable for those with a variety of medical conditions, including but not limited to food allergies. Anyone with a restricted diet that requires either medication, supplements or even just extra space to carry items for the plane (headphones, iPods, books etc) should absolutely consider visiting our site to check out our Airline Kit and NC VersaBag. They are virtually the same bag; however, the Airline Kit includes seat covers that protect against nut residue in flight. I loved having my 6 EpiPens, wipes, Benadryl and all the food I needed to keep my son content for the whole flight handy.

So back to the question on our mind’s…where are we going for March Break? Well, still not sure, but just glad that I can honestly say…I won’t be basing that decision on a food allergy…I’m past that.

To learn more, please visit our friends at www.nutritionforyourcondition.com

Flirting with Being a Foodie (and Fabio)

March 24, 2011 •  8 comments.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Alex Hanifin for the AllergyKids Foundation

Traveling to Expo West this past week made me realize how much I love working in the natural food industry and how much I love the amazing companies I am surrounded by constantly. Each year at Expo West, ever more inspiring businesses and foodie heroes show up on the scene, people trying to change and grow our everyday lives for the better via food and food systems. More than 55,000 people attended (including Fabio!) all of whom are putting themselves out there in the name of their vision in food and entrepreneurialism. The place is full of dreams and visions, including my own.

Starting in the food industry at age 17, I had hopes of becoming a Foodie Pro early on. My career path began when I landed a job working for the amazing (then a start-up) company, Outrageous Baking. Learning how to be a commercial manufacturer was my first role, and as I began figuring how to create a successful company, I found assurance each day with continual customer appreciation. As I moved into operations and promotions at the local farmers markets, I was blown away with excitement with where I was what I was doing by age 18. As a lover of natural food business, It was exactly where I wanted to be.

A big test came when I decided that I wanted to develop a community event, which required putting my entrepreneurial skills to the test. With some fun ideas and love for baking, I ended up creating Boulder’s First Annual Baking Competition. Working two part-time jobs with Outrageous Baking and Seth Ellis Sun Cups in addition to an internship with Elephant Journal and going to school after hours, my motivation was tested. I had to figure out how to find the energy to make the event as successful as I envisioned. It worked, and in the end, I had over 15 sponsors including Rudi’s Organic Bakery, Earth Balance, Madhava Honey, and Fiona’s Granola. Over 150 people attended. Robyn O’Brien was a guest speaker, The School Food Project my fundraiser, and Vermilion Design my host. All in all, the event was more wildly successful than I had dreamed, raising awareness of food issues and drawing community together to have fun and support wonderful causes.

After graduating from school and continuing to move to larger food companies, my vision has continued to expand as I consider how to help this industry and the natural food movement grow. Recently I joined the teams of Justin’s Nut Butter and Naturally Boulder, which has provided me with some of the best relationships and learning experiences to date. Finding out the stories behind their success has been hugely inspiring.

As a whole, my journey so far has been perfect. Combining my second love and obsession—marketing and my passion for food—is what gets me up bright and early in the morning, thinking about what the fun new projects coming my way, and how I will take them on. I love being part of an amazing group of people working to save our planet through our relationship to food.

As citizens, we are responsible for creating change that grant our society better, healthier, less destructive choices. And the food movement isn’t just about food. It is about the ingredients we use, the people who make it, the environmental impacts of packaging and transportation, and the effect of our food on health and the economy. We need to keep asking the question, and on larger scales: how can we take the most sustainable route from start to finish while creating food products that are both nourishing and pleasing?

There is always room for improvement and more positive change, and we are in a race to help each other find solutions so we can all benefit, no matter what our social, political, or economic background.

Wanting to make the food movement a healthier, more sustainable, and successful place is what makes me shoot for the moon. Now, being 21 years old, I plan to continue my part in the food movement and be a huge part of it. I look forward to every second of my path in getting there and I can’t wait to see what happens, and who will come up with what.

I am eager to continue shining light on this majestic food industry as we all work together to expand what’s possible. I hope more and more people get involved, particularly young people like myself, so we can create a movement that has significant and lasting impact on our relationships with food.

Legislate, Educate and Inoculate to Create Food-Savvy Kids

March 21, 2011 •  2 comments.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Bettina Elias Siegel of www.thelunchtray.com for Slate

No solution to the obesity crisis will work unless kids themselves are invested. Here are three steps to get them there.

As the writer of a daily blog about kids and food, the issue of childhood obesity is of course front and center in my mind. But through my research and writing on the topic, and through my active participation in local school food reform efforts here in Houston, I’ve come to believe no proposed “solution” to the crisis will get us anywhere at all — unless kids themselves become invested in change.

Taking school food as one example, I’ve seen my school district try to do the right thing by offering healthful options on the elementary school menu – items like brown rice, cheese and pinto beans wrapped in a whole grain tortilla, or a wholesome chicken soup – only to see such foods often greeted with the ubiquitous comment, “That’s nasty!” and land in the trash uneaten. Meanwhile, Houston ISD does a brisk business in items like pizza and corn dogs, “carnival” foods the district is terrified to discontinue lest student participation drop and the entire school lunch program sink into the red.

But it should be no surprise to anyone that pizza wins hands down over brown rice in our current culture. On one end of the equation, there’s a relentless, overwhelming tide of marketing aimed at our children, encouraging the regular consumption of highly processed, sugar-, chemical- and fat-laden foods that are demonstrably bad for kids’ health. As Kelly Brownell, director of Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, once noted, “The Roberts Wood Johnson Foundation is by far the biggest funder of work on childhood obesity, and it’s now spending $100 million a year on the problem. The food industry spends that much every year by January 4th to market unhealthy food to children” (emphasis mine).

In response to accusations of harmful influence on our children, the food industry likes to point out its voluntary participation in a program, headed by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, called the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative. Under their latest pledge, seventeen major food manufacturers have agreed to devote 100% of their child-directed advertising to “better-for-you” foods, or to not engage in such advertising at all. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Sure — until you take a look at the approved list of “better-for-you” foods, which includes such items as Kool-Aid Singles, Lunchables Chicken Dunks, Cupcake Pebbles cereal and Chocolate Lucky Charms. Clearly the fox is guarding the hen house under this voluntary scheme. So if we’re seriously committed to combating childhood obesity, real legislative muscle needs to be employed to restrain these manufacturers from teaching our kids all the wrong messages about food.

On the other side of the equation, we have a population of children that is, by and large, food illiterate. Often through no fault of their own, overworked, two-income or single parent families have abandoned home-cooked meals, regular family dinners, and the passing on of cultural food-ways that, until only recently, have been part of every child’s informal education. When you superimpose on all of these little blank slates the powerful external forces at work to promote poor eating choices – coupled with the fact that processed, unhealthful foods are generally delicious – it’s surprising indeed if any child chooses the brown rice over the pizza slice.

So while we’re working to restrain harmful messages from corporate America, we also need a complimentary, wholesale effort to provide every school child in America with a basic course in food literacy. Just as schools have stepped in to teach hygiene, sex education and driving skills (all “extracurricular” topics once taught only by parents), they can also provide bare-bones information on nutrition and cooking, arming kids with critical information about the effects of their own food choices and how to eat healthfully for life.

But finally, and most importantly, we need to invest children with a sense of ownership of this issue. Without this piece of the puzzle, I fear that any educational efforts fall on deaf ears. One solution is a widespread, well-funded public health campaign to inoculate kids against the forces that lead to unhealthful eating, akin to that used to discourage teen smoking. Kids generally don’t like having someone try to pull the wool over their eyes, so just as we’ve made them savvy about the tobacco industry’s insidious techniques to get them to use cigarettes, we need to show kids that the food industry is, in a very direct way, making money at the expense of their own health.

Tally up my three proposals – legislation, education and inoculation — and you have a very hefty price tag, not to mention the need for enough political will to take on the extremely powerful, well-funded food lobby. Are we there yet? Sadly, I don’t think so.

But when the seeds of the current childhood obesity public health crisis come to fruition — when we all watch as an entire generation of adults’ lives are cut short by diabetes and heart disease, when our nation finally has to pay the looming $344 billion obesity-related health care bill — maybe, just maybe, we will be.

Worried About Radioactive Fallout? Here’s What You Can Do

March 18, 2011 •  one comment.

 •  Blog, News

With concern growing over the risk of radiation exposure from the nuclear reactor accident in Japan, concerned parents are asking what steps they can take to protect their families. And interestingly, they are not alone as people around the country, particularly on the West Coast, are now buying foods and nutritional supplements in an effort to counter the effects of radiation and many of these products are now out of stock in stores throughout the West.

If you are concerned and want to exercise precaution, nutritionists recommed lots of dark green leafy vegetables to help counter the effects of radioactive fallout as well as supplements that contain kelp, chlorella, spirulina, green foods, and selenium. As always, should you have any questions, please consult your physician.

Additional ways that people can protect themselves from radiation through food and nutrition may include the following:

• Buckwheat and brown rice
• Broccoli, cabbage and other sulfur rich vegetables
• Carrots, sunflower seeds, apples and other high-pectin foods
• Radishes, artichokes and beets (liver-cleansing foods)
• Green and black tea
• Vitamins A, beta-carotene, B complex and C; and zinc, calcium and magnesium

In such uncertain and unprecedented times, believe in your abilities to exercise precaution and protect the health of your loved ones.

And as always, should you have any questions, please consult your physician.

How to Bring Farm Fresh Food to Your Kid’s School

March 16, 2011 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News, Uncategorized

Written by Mindy Pennybacker for www.wholeliving.com

If you are interested in bringing farm fresh food to your kid’s school and your child’s school district isn’t one of the more than 2,000 that are starting to replace processed cafeteria foods with fresher options, find other concerned parents, tap into the resources of www.farmtoschool.org and follow this plan laid out by Mindy Pennybacker for www.wholeliving.com.

Do Your Homework: Get a copy of your school district’s wellness policy and see whether your school is meeting its nutritional standards. No need to reinvent the wheel here. Just research existing farm to school programsm especially ones nearby.

Build a Team: Enlist teachers, the school principal, and the cafeteria manager, as allies. “Don’t get preachy,” says Kim Johnson who started the Hawaii farm-to-school educated program Aina in Schools with her husband, musician and green giant Jack Johnson. “You don’t want to come in and tell them that everything that they’ve been doing is wrong.” See if you can partner with local farmers, restaurants, health professionals, gardening programs and nonprofits.

Think Big, Start Small: Present a realistic plan to the PTA. You can’t accomplish everything in the first year. Start with a monthly healthy snack and move toward a weekly salad bar. Or plant a small garden on school grounds that teachers can work into science curriculum. “The idea is to just start something,” Johnson says.

Stay Positive: Remember, this is not about toppling the whole system – it’s about teamwork. “We can benefit the students, the school, and the local food producers if we all work together,” Johnson says.

Want to get things rolling in your school? Visit www.farmtoschool.org