It’s not just wheat-how to explain multiple food intolerances and allergies


 

food-allergy

Most of my family and friends understand that I have an intolerance to both gluten and dairy.  But when I try to explain my other food intolerances and allergies, I lose them quickly.  I try to explain that it’s easier for me to bring my own food than for them to worry about finding traces of the multiple foods I can’t eat.  Especially when those foods can come in many disguises.

My list goes something like this:

Wheat, rye, barley, rye, soy sauce, malt, dairy, honey, tree nuts, peanuts, honey and agave.  I have added soy recently, but not because I am allergic.  I believe it messed up my thyroid so I am limiting it for now.  

How can you ask your loved ones to shop for you when you have such a long list of foods you can’t eat?   Or how do you explain to a server or chef in a restaurant about the long list of foods that are off limits.  The easiest way is to carry a card listing those foods.

I tried to find a card that was not only free, but that was customizable.  I could not find such a card online.  There are many websites that offer free and for a fee food allergy cards, but they can’t be customized.  It’s either wheat and milk, or eggs and milk, etc.  I do not have allergies except to nuts and peanuts.  If you want a gluten intolerance card, you can’t add other food intolerances.  Hmmm, I thought, I might have to take things into my own hands and make one.

I fired up my word program and selected a business card template.  I came up with this:

allergen-card

I don’t have any blank business cards at the moment, but I printed these out and will carry them in my purse.  Next time I go out to eat I can just hand one of these to the server and ask them to give it to the chef.   I also wanted to mention that I carry an EpiPen.  My husband knows I carry it and knows how to use it.  But in case he is not with me, I am covered.

Allergen alert cards are a great idea, but I hope that in the future they will not only be free, but customizable for all food allergens and intolerances.  There is an app, but the reviews are not good.  I am hoping that one that actually works will be developed.

Having one of these will give peace of mind and the ability to have a safe dining experience.

 

Over the river and through the woods….


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Christmas is the time of year when we visit family to share the joy of the season and being together with loved ones.  But road trips present special problems for those of us with gluten and dairy intolerance.

There are certain things you can do to ease your way through a long car trip.  Planning in advance here is essential.  One essential piece of equipment that will make it easier to take your own food on the road is an electric cooler.  Another essential is to book a hotel room that has a kitchenette, both coming and going.  Cooking may be a drag, but eating fast food and getting sick is so much worse.

There are some tips and tricks that will make that road trip bearable:

  • bring food that is easy to cook on the road, such as boneless chicken breasts or thighs.  Or you can bring pasta, sauce and ground beef, sausage or chicken and make an easy pasta dinner.  Eat the leftovers on the way back.
  • Bring fixings for sandwiches such as ham, turkey or chicken, gluten free bread, and a small jar of mayonnaise.
  • bring sodas or juice or water so you don’t have to pay high prices for drinks on the road
  • bring snacks such as chips, such as Beanfields or Plentils. (I’m in the process of reviewing Beanfields chips and will have it ready soon)
  • bring cookies, such as Enjoy life, for dessert

Bring your own food for that holiday dinner, so you don’t have to worry about what is in it, and you don’t stress yourself, or the cook that is trying to accommodate you.   Find out what your host is serving, and try to copy it in a gluten and dairy free version.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Here is a list of hams that are gluten free.
  • Make your own mashed potatoes with dairy free milk and butter
  • make a gluten and dairy free green bean casserole with gluten and dairy free mushroom soup and Cronions gluten free topping
  • don’t forget dessert!

You can have a happy and safe holiday by planning ahead and bringing your own food.  Please share any comments, or please let me know of any questions I can help with.

 

 

Surviving Holiday dinners gluten and dairy free


thanksgiving

 

It’s almost that time again-time when holiday dinners strike fear into the hearts of the gluten, dairy and allergen intolerant, and those who cook for them.

With a couple of years of holiday dinners under my belt, I’d like to share my tips and tricks for surviving those holiday dinners with your sanity, and stomach, intact.

It’s best to be specific and include brand names.  Always check ingredients online if you can.  Most companies provide nutritional and ingredient information.  Don’t guess!

  • Turkey:  Turkeys can have gluten in them.  Yes, they can.  Here is a list of Turkeys that are gluten and dairy free:

All Norbest Turkey Products (fresh and frozen) are gluten free. They also say none have dairy proteins (casein). The Norbest Oven Roasted Fully Cooked turkeys are gluten and dairy free, but do contain soy protein. All the raw turkeys have no soy. You can choose between fresh or frozen, basted or natural.

Butterball turkeys (fresh or frozen) do not contain gluten, and their gravy packets have been reformulated so that they don’t contain gluten. However, some packets still may contain gluten. If so, it will be listed on the ingredient statement, along with other top allergens. If you choose this brand be sure to check the label.

Jennie O FRESH Turkeys are gluten free, but they recommend you read the label. Read the label for any gravy packet as well.

Honeysuckle White Turkeys, Fresh, Frozen, or Cooked are gluten free. They do recommend you read the label.

You’ll want to avoid the gravy packet.  I had a Butterball turkey last year with no problems.

  • Ham: Your safest bet is Boar’s Head.  Here is a more comprehensive list 
  • Turkey gravy:  It’s really easy and safer to make your own.  No doubt the host will be making the gravy with flour, but it’s easy to make it with cornstarch instead:

gluten and dairy free turkey gravy

Maxwell’s turkey gravy mix is gluten and dairy free, but it’ really hard to find.

Remember! When you google something+gluten free don’t assume the shop for results at the top of the page are gluten/dairy free.  Also:  Organic DOES NOT EQUAL gluten free!  Always read labels!!!!!

  • Stuffing:  I really like Three Bakers gluten free herb stuffing.  You can also make cornbread stuffing.
  • Mashed potatoes:  These will be ok with dairy free butter and milk.
  • Green bean casserole:  This one is complicated.  You can get gluten and dairy free mushroom soup but alas, not gluten-free fried onions.  I keep hoping for that.
  • It’s best to avoid deli salads, even potato salad.  There seems to be a trend in putting wheat in deli salads; I’m not sure why companies think this is necessary.  Oh well.  You can always bring your own.
  • It’s also best to avoid Scalloped potatoes.  These just do not work dairy free.

 

The best solution is, of course, to bring your own food.  Make up a delicious turkey dinner, put it in containers and bring it with you.  This is the stress-free way to have a nice family dinner.

 

When pre-ordering doesn’t work-what you can do


 

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example of finding a restaurant on Google

 

 

Last week, I wrote a post about pre-ordering when dining out, and how that can help you to have a more pleasant dining experience.  But what can you do when that is not an option?  Say you want to go to a local mom and pop, or fast food restaurant.  Pre-ordering at those would not be an option.

The first thing you should do is try to find the restaurant’s menu on Google.  Try searching for the name of the restaurant+gluten free.  Not all restaurants have gluten free menus.  It is getting more mainstream, but smaller places won’t have this option.  They might not even have an online presence.  If this is the case, look for reviews on Tripadvisor or Yelp.  Enter the name of the restaurant again, +gluten free.  Narrowing down by locality on one of these sites might help you find a review from someone who has eaten there and ordered a gluten free dish.  You can also go to app store and download Find Me Gluten Free, or Gluten free registry.  If you can’t locate a menu or phone number, skip to a restaurant that at least has some kind of menu posted.  You need a point of reference.  Don’t just wing it.

If you are going to a restaurant that does not have gluten free or dairy free food, ask if you can bring your own food such as bread, dairy free butter or gluten-free salad dressing.   Sometimes staff will not know if the food is gluten or dairy free, so don’t take the chance that it is or isn’t.  In the case of the Lahaina Chicken Company I ate at, the girl at the counter did not even know that butter had dairy in it.  This is more likely to happen the smaller the restaurant is.  Don’t count on ignorant staff.

If you are traveling, try to rent a condo or room with a full kitchen. Not only will this save you money, but it will save you a good bit of anxiety trying to find gluten or dairy free options for three meals a day.  That could quickly ruin a vacation.  Also, if you can, bring a cooler with foods you can eat on the road.  Eating at fast food places is a Russian roulette at best.  No one wants to be sick on a long car ride.

You would be wise to avoid Italian and Chinese restaurants.  There is a good chance that neither will have gluten free options.  Depending on staff, they might not understand what gluten is.  Most Japanese restaurants now have gluten-free soy sauce, but don’t assume.  Sushi is a safe bet but be careful to avoid California rolls as they often contain fake seafood that is made with wheat.  Also avoid the Miso soup and seaweed salad.

These are just some tips that can help you have a pleasant dinner out or a pleasant vacation.  If you have some tips of your own you would like to share, please comment.

 

 

 

 

Gluten free Hawaii on Pride of America, Part 2


 

This is a very long post, but it is full of very valuable information, so please stay with it!

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Hilo, Hawaii-Kiluea by the Sea

 

 

We have been back from our wonderful Hawaiian cruise aboard the Pride of America since Sunday.  It took us 24 hours, including two five-hour layovers, to get home.  I kept passing out on the planes.  My head would nod, then I would wake myself up.  Very frustrating!

On Sunday night, I fell so deeply asleep that my hubby couldn’t wake me.  He finally did, and we went off to bed at 9 pm.  I am finally over the jetlag for the most part, so I will go ahead and finish my review of Pride of America, and my experience on being gluten and dairy free on this cruise.

I left off at the Teppanyaki restaurant onboard the ship in Part 1.  Up until that point, I was pretty amazed at not only the food but the attention I was getting.   I also gained three pounds, which shows how well I was eating.  The food was delicious and most of it was prepared to order to accommodate my food intolerances.  When I first contacted the special needs department, I told them I had intolerances to gluten, dairy, nuts, honey, and agave.  I wasn’t sure if they could pull it off, but they did a wonderful job.

We had breakfast every day at Cagney’s-the dedicated suite guest restaurant.  I had gluten free pancakes, waffles, and french toast.  The french toast was amazing!  The waffles were, I think, frozen, and hard as a rock.  The pancakes were okay but were a bit grainy.  I was really amazed that they made hollandaise with olive oil.  It was delicious.

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Gluten and dairy free scrambled eggs and home fries

 

We stayed on board the ship for the last few days as we were exhausted.  We are not spring chickens and all of the walking we did (about 15 miles for the week) wore us out.  We napped every afternoon when we could as we were up anywhere between 5:30 and 6:30 every morning.  This allowed us to have lunch in Cagney’s as well.  It’s a nice suite perk.

I had a couple of made to order gluten free burgers and fries.  They were delicious.  After the Caesar salad debacle that I mentioned in Part 1, I stayed away from the salads.  I stuck to things I knew they couldn’t really mess up too much, or remove so many ingredients that the dish was no longer what it was meant to be.  This worked out well.  The restaurant manager, Ahmed, was wonderful.  He worked with me and kept saying he would “make it happen”, which he did.

Once the communication issue that happened early on was cleared up, things went smooth as clockwork.  He made sure he communicated with the dietary manager, Samantha, and also the manager of any other restaurant we ate in.  I was amazed at how well everything worked, and I did not get sick once.  I felt I was in good hands and could relax and enjoy myself.   Not getting seasick as I had done on previous cruises was a big plus.  Bonine works great!

For our last dinner, we went to the main dining room and we both had Duck A’lorange. They made it especially for me as they did the Osso Bucco in the Italian restaurant.  We were sad to leave.

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I was okay until I ate at the Honolulu airport.  I spend quite a bit of time researching safe places to eat.  I had found that Lahaina Chicken company was about as safe as I could get.  When we walked in, there was a disclaimer right at the counter that they couldn’t guarantee cross-contamination would not occur.  Being between a rock and hard place, I decided to go ahead.  It would be a long time before I would be eating again.  I asked the lady behind the counter if the vegetables had dairy as I had to avoid it.  Well, this has no dairy, but has butter, she said.  Yikes!  She said the corn had no butter, so I had a half dark roasted chicken, corn, and plain white rice.  Well about a half hour later, you guessed it….upset tummy.  Not again, I thought.  The first two days we were there I was sick from eating a Just This bar.  I took an Immodium and was able to head it off.

So it all comes down to would I recommend Norwegian if you have dietary issues or allergies?  A resounding Yes!!   The staff was wonderful.  I can’t recommend the chefs enough.  I certainly challenged them all week, and they came through with flying colors!  If you decide to cruise with them, or any cruise line, here are a few tips:

  • make sure you alert the special needs department at least 30 days before you sail so they have enough special items on board
  • don’t be afraid to speak up about your dietary needs
  • make sure to reiterate your issues in each restaurant you visit-sometimes there is miscommunication as I found out when I was served gluten free cheese rolls
  • work with the staff to find dishes that can be modified.  They can’t modify everything but they will try to accommodate you
  • if you are in a suite, and you are not satisfied, call the hotel manger.  Once I did this, it was like I became a celebrity
  • do your research on all cruise lines you are considering.  Some are better than others in accommodating food issues
  • if you ge seasick, it might be gluten or dairy intolerance.  Take bonine (less drowsy) but watch your diet as well

Don’t forget to have fun and relax!  We had a wonderful time and we would do it again in a heartbeat!

 

Three days til Hawaii!!


hawaii-island

 

Only three more days until Paradise!  I started planning this cruise in January, so it’s been a long time coming.  Nothing left to do but the packing.

As I stated in previous posts, I am hoping to blog live from the ship/airport, and I will be taking lots of pictures, not only of the sights but of the marvelous gluten free and dairy free foods I am hoping to enjoy.

There are some questions I am hoping to answer on this trip:

  • Will I be able to meet the challenges of airport food? (not airline food-too many food issues to even attempt that)
  • will having a butler/concierge make my dining with food issues easier, or harder?
  • how restricted in choices will I be?
  • Can I safely dine in Hawaii itself?

I have done very extensive research on safe places to eat not only in the airports but in Hawaii itself.  We will have several layovers-the longest will be at Honolulu and LAX.  Safe options at airports are severely limited.   Dining options on the islands are not as restricted.  In fact, Hawaii is very gluten-free friendly.

Here are my dining options as they stand now:

Salt Lake City airport:

I couldn’t find anything here that was safe.  I am bringing snacks and oatmeal with me.

Marriott Beach resort Waikiki:

Sansei Seafood restaurant

Buffet breakfast

Maui-Road to Hana

Lunch provided-have arranged gluten, dairy and nut free lunch

Hilo

Hilo Bay Cafe

Kaui

Taro Burger

Luau Kalamaku

They do have gluten, dairy and nut free options here

Pearl Harbor

Not sure what I am going to do here-no viable options.  I will probably bring something off the ship.

Honolulu airport

Lahaina chicken company

LAX

no viable options-probably my own oatmeal

I am not worried about food on the ship.  In fact, I have been told by others who have sailed with Norwegian that I am in good hands.

If anyone knows of safe places to eat in LAX and Salt Lake City airports, as well as Pearl Harbor memorial, please share.  It would really be appreciated!

Stay tuned for my live blog!!

 

 

 

 

Sailing soon aboard the Pride of America


pride-america-hdr

 

My apologies for not posting for the last several days. I spent yesterday in the ER with a pounding headache from the epidural I got on Friday. They could not do much for me.  I wasn’t going to get the injection, but did so anyway, and now regret it.   I have an appointment with the specialist tomorrow to hopefully get it taken care of.   The headache is slightly better today so I am able to catch up. 

Our trip to Hawaii is only 2 1/2 weeks away.  Amazing how time flies-I booked the trip back in January hoping to give my husband time to recover his health.  It seems the shoe is on the other foot now, but I am hopeful that my back will hold up.

I recently upgraded to a suite for a really good price, which allows us to have the services of a butler and concierge.  This is a dream for someone with food issues.  Not only is the kitchen on alert, but I will get extra attention.  This should save me a lot of stress.

I have been in touch with the pre-concierge department and have been able to pre-order some things, such as a cheese plate for hubby, and a shrimp platter for myself, along with two bottles of really overpriced wine.  Oh well, we’re on vacation, right?

One of the great things about having a pre-concierge is the ability to receive copies of all of the onboard restaurants.  I would like to share these with you; the restaurants are fleet wide in case any of you will be sailing on Norwegian.  I also received a listing of gluten free foods available onboard.   I will share this also.

In an email I received from the special needs department:

Below is a sample list of the gluten-free items available.  We do not have a list of dairy-free products, as there are too many options.  Specific brands cannot be requested.

Please remember that the chefs are able to make modifications to most meals on the menu or create new meals that are not on the menu.  The wait staff will be able to advise what the meal contains and identify safe meal choices.  All dining venues can accommodate allergies, however we do not recommend eating at the buffet.

You may also bring non-perishable, pre-packaged, prepared snacks to be stored in the guest’s cabin (cookies, crackers, etc.).  Guests cannot bring pre-cooked food (in any stage: frozen, chilled, etc.), food that needs to be cooked/prepared, processed or stored by ship staff.  

Your butler can assist with setting up a meeting with the restaurant staff to further discuss your dietary needs.

COOKIES: CHOCOLATE CHIP, WALNUT, ALMOND, PECAN SHORTBREAD, PEANUT BUTTER

BREADS: RICE/PLAIN BAGLE, RICE WHITE BREAD, RICE/MULTIGRAIN BREAD, HAMBURGER BUN, HOT DOG BUN, ENGLISH MUFFIN, BLUEBERRY MUFFIN, WAFFLES

CEREAL: CORN CHEX, CINNAMON CHEX, FRUITY PEBBLES, COCOA PEBBLES

PASTA: ELBOW, FUSIL (SPIRALS), PENNE, SPAGHETTI

OTHER: PIZZA CRUST, TOMATO/SPAGHETTI SAUCE

Looks like cookies are out for me :[    But the bread and cereal selection, as well as pasta selections are great.  You can still meet with the kitchen staff if you don’t have a butler.  I was advised before I upgraded to a suite to meet with the Restaurant manager once onboard.  I have to say that Norwegian has been very attentive.

Here are the PDF files to all of the onboard restaurants:

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More updates to come!