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Jill Castle, MS, RD

Food Allergies Blog


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You CAN Have a Cookie!

Tuesday May 27, 2014

Sweet Debbie's Cosmic Chocolate Chip Cookies

One of my favorite desserts is a chocolate chip cookie. It's my Dad's favorite cookie too. I cannot imagine giving up my chocolate chip cookie!

What a joy to have the opportunity to review Sweet Debbie's Organic Treats: Allergy-free and Vegan Recipes! A cookbook for the food allergic family, Sweet Debbie's Treats offers a slew of desserts. I highlighted Debbie's recipe for Cosmic Chocolate Chip Cookies, which is a common favorite amongst kids and adults. Sweet Debbie uses an alternative gluten-free flour, makes her own chocolate chips and avoids eggs and nuts.

Many, young and old, believe that they have to give up desserts if they have a food allergy. Desserts can be a mine field for milk, egg, nuts, peanuts, and wheat. Other than fresh fruit, many folks with food allergies steer clear of anything sweet.

But you don't have to anymore!

Check out these other recipes for allergen-free desserts:

Egg-Free Sugar Cookies

Egg-Free, Dairy-Free Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Allergy-Free Pumpkin Muffins

Dairy, Soy & Egg-Free Lemon Vanilla Cake

Egg-Free Mexican Chocolate Wacky Cake

If you're not a baker, or you are intimidated by the array of substitute ingredients, don't forget about the option of the allergen-free bakery. Many cities are hosting allergy-friendly bakeries, supplying desserts and bakery items free of the top 8 allergens and gluten-free too.

And, check out this post for the Best Allergy-Friendly Sweets of 2012.

Where's the Wheat?

Tuesday May 20, 2014


Remember that commercial from the '80's that asked the question, "Where's the beef?", which then went on to tout the size of the all-beef patty found in a Wendy's hamburger. Admittedly, I am playing off that title in this blog post. As the beef in the Wendy's commercial was bigger than the beef from other fast food restaurants, the presence of wheat in our food supply is bigger than you may realize.

Wheat is a staple in many food products today. In fact, you can find it in obvious places, like Triscuit crackers, or hiding in foods you may not realize, such as graham crackers. On top of that, there's a whole new terminology you need to familiarize yourself with, as the whole grains department is exploding, particularly with the growing importance of a whole grain diet and its health benefits.

I've covered this and more in my latest post entitled, You'd Never Guess Where the Wheat is Hiding, where I cover 22 food sources, including the code words for wheat and why manufacturers include it in their products.

If you have a wheat allergy, you know all about wheat and are probably very familiar with gluten, as well. They go hand in hand. If you need to brush up on the differences, check out this article. Being able to identify foods with wheat isn't always easy, but the good news is wheat is an allergen that must be listed on food packages. Just be careful when you don't have a package to look at, like when you are dining out.

I'm curious, did you know there was wheat in all these foods? How about those whole grains? Did you know which ones were produced from wheat?

Tips for Choosing an Alternative Milk

Wednesday May 14, 2014

Hemp milk by Greg Andrews

I have seen so many little ones with multiple food allergies struggling to gain weight and meet their growth milestones in my years as a dietitian.

One of the challenges families and their children face when dealing with multiple food allergies is finding the best nutrient-rich milk alternative.  While this isn't as big a deal for adults, it can be a real problem for young children who drink a good amount of their nutrition.

When allergic to cow's milk, families are often queried about soy milk allergy as well, because there is often co-existing allergies to both. If soy is a problem too, they are then pointed in the direction of alternative "milks." This could be rice milk, nut milks, hemp milk, coconut milk, or other grain-based milks.

Many parents are relieved to find a slew of options to choose from, but they may not recognize that alternative milks are not created equally. Alternative milks may be missing adequate amounts of important nutrients like calcium or vitamin D. Or they may fall short in comparison to cow's milk in the protein and fat department, nutrients which are essential in the growth and development of young children.

My advice is to always look for the best option for the growing child. For example:

-If the child is not a big fan of meat or beans, make sure to select an alternative milk with a higher protein content, like hemp milk or soy milk if not allergic.

-If every calorie counts (read: your child is a light eater, and is a slow weight gainer), then find an alternative milk that has a higher fat content, like coconut milk or hemp milk.

-If growth is an issue, then consult with a nutrition professional to assure the whole diet is meeting the child's growth needs.

-If the child is a good eater despite his food allergies, and doesn't have any issues with weight gain and growth, then the alternative milk field is wide open.

Have you check the nutritional profile of the alternative milk your child is drinking lately?

Why I Know We Need a Food Allergy Awareness Month

Thursday May 8, 2014

Food Allergy Infographic

The other night during our family dinner, my oldest daughter made a random announcement to my son with a tree nut allergy:

"Did you know that if you eat a whole cucumber in under 2 minutes, you'll cure your food allergy?"

My son perked up, eyes wide, and said, "Really?!"

Being the food allergy expert, nutritionist mom that I am, I jumped right in and said, "That's an urban myth."

Then I looked at my son and told him that there was no way this was true, and that a myth like this was proof that many people don't understand what food allergies are, or how they work.

This isn't my first time hearing outrageous claims about curing food allergies. I've written about some of the science around oral immunotherapy, which is one way scientists and clinicians are approaching a cure for some food allergens.

It's also not uncommon for me to hear people tell me they have a food allergy, and when asked about the symptoms, find out it really isn't a food allergy, but a food sensitivity or a food intolerance. What identifies a true food allergy is the presence of immunoglobulin E in response to eating certain foods, which triggers a series of potential reactions affecting the skin, mouth, gastrointestinal tract and the respiratory system.

This is not to say that people with intolerances and sensitivities don't experience difficulty and challenges in the world of food and eating, similar to those with food allergy. They do. But a headache after eating does not constitute a food allergic reaction, or a food allergy.

Urban myths, like the one my own daughter repeated, are also proof that we have a long way to go in building awareness about food allergies, especially among our youth who don't have or live with food allergy.

The presence of peanuts on airplanes, and schools without clear, protective mechanisms in place for food-allergic children (what good is an EpiPen that sits in the nurse's office while the food allergic boy on the soccer team is outside on a far away field?) are just two more examples of where awareness, education and policy can benefit many.

I, myself, am happy to know that Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) has expanded their week of food allergy awareness and education to a month-long endeavor. This will only help us move forward in spreading the truth about food allergy, building awareness, and educating the public.

Did you know it was Food Allergy Awareness Month?


Everything You Need to Know About Curds and Whey

Tuesday May 6, 2014

Cottage cheese is curds and whey.

If you are allergic to cow's milk, you probably know about curds and whey, and where to find them. But, maybe you don't. In this post, I define curds and whey and give you some background on where they are found.

Just so you know.

Personally, I love cottage cheese, and it's a good example of real life curds and whey. In fact, all cheese we eat today goes through the process of being "in the state of" curds and whey at one point or another. To make cheese, manufacturers get rid of the whey (protein-concentrated liquid), and take the curds and form them into a block or round. Then, as you know, the aging process begins (or not).

Obviously, if you are allergic to milk, you will avoid curds and whey and all products coming from them. Even the protein supplements made with whey protein!

In my post on hidden sources of milk, some of the products contain hidden sources including whey or casein sources, and are a big no-no for those allergic to milk.

So, tell me, did you already know about curds and whey and all the potentially related food sources?

Hidden Allergens: Surprising or Par for the Course in Today's Food Environment?

Tuesday April 29, 2014

Homemade Chili without peanut butter

I have been writing about hidden food allergens in everyday food. Why? Because I think you need to know. And I think your people (friends, family, teachers, caretakers, coaches, etc.) need to know.

There are many foods and non-foods with hidden ingredients-and they will surprise you, most likely. In fact, because today's food environment is complicated food is no longer straight-forward and easy to identify, nor does it make sense all the time.

Because of this, I have written two recent articles that will help you identify the hidden sources of peanut and surprising sources of milk-all in common day foods.

Ingredients can be misleading. Take, for example, "artificial nuts." These may contain peanuts, but if you read the ingredient label, the word "artificial" may lead you to think they are safe to eat for a peanut allergic individual.

Fake nuts. Not real. Safe, right? Wrong.

You also have to deal with weird names that you may not recognize. Mandelonas, for instance. What are those? They're peanuts! Yes, mandelonas are peanuts that have the flavor and color removed, and other nut flavorings added to them. They look and taste like a different nut, and are much cheaper to purchase. In fact, peanuts are almost always cheaper than tree nuts.

And, did you know that peanut butter is often added to chili and spaghetti sauce? It is an excellent thickening agent and flavor enhancer. These are the little secrets that can get any food allergic individual into trouble.

When it comes to milk, I will never forget as an intern in training, the day I included sherbet as a safe alternative to ice cream for food allergy to milk. Thank goodness I was developing a handout, and my mentor corrected it for me. Sherbet may have milk fat or cream, so you need to read every sherbet ingredient label.

Chewing gum is another surprising offender. Who would think gum may contain milk? Makes no sense, but it is certainly possible.

So, while you may have a good read on your own personal food allergens, the other people in your life may get tripped up by these hidden sources. For a post on surprising soy sources, read this article.

Which hidden sources surprised you the most?


Finding Soy in Common Foods

Sunday April 20, 2014

edamame & quinoa salad

In my years of private practice, I saw many kids with food allergies. Soy allergy was one of them and often combined with milk allergy.

"I stay away from edamame, tofu and soy sauce," said one mom.

"Yes, these are obvious sources of soy," I agreed.

I always want to know how a family is managing factory-made, processed food because these sources can be filled with soy. Granola bars, deli meat and peanut butter can surprise even the most savvy, label reading, food allergic person. And don't forget the Asian sauces--they're loaded with soy.

No doubt, the presence of soy in our everyday food supply can be surprising. While you probably know how to look for soy ingredients on labels, that doesn't always work for restaurants and community gatherings. You need to know these surprising foods containing soy off the top of your head! No worries, I have summed them up, along with why soy is included in many foods.

Of course, there are other hidden sources of allergens in everyday products too--not just food.

What foods containing soy do you find the most troubling?


A Lupine Allergy?

Monday April 14, 2014

Easter basket

Well, it's true.

In my research and writing about immunotherapy for food allergy, I came across a new allergy with which I wasn't familiar: lupine allergy.

Rare in this country, lupine is a pretty purple flower whose seeds are ground and used in baked goods, especially in Europe. You can read more about the connection of lupine to peanut allergy and much more in my article. Maybe you will learn something new like I did!

Speaking of peanut allergy, I had some fun writing about the surprising foods that contain peanut. I highlighted 12 foods--see if you know them! If you are not careful about reading ingredient labels, you could get blind-sided, as peanut is used in many different food products as a thickener, flavor enhancer and more. I give you the background on WHY peanut is included in some of the most unlikely foods.

How is your week going? Are you getting ready for Passover or Easter? Here are some fun Easter recipes from the website:

Easter Baskets for Children with Food Allergies

Allergy-Friendly Easter Candy

Allergy-Safe Easter Menu

Allergy-Safe Alternatives for Your Seder Plate


Do You Know About Immunotherapy for Food Allergy?

Friday March 28, 2014


Research for treating food allergies may involve oral immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy is a big word, but an area in food allergy research that is evolving and comes up in the media every now and then. You may be curious or confused about what this trending research is all about. What is it? Is it something you can do? Where can you find more information?

Immunotherapy for food allergy is under research investigation for the treatment of food allergy. In general, the individual with food allergy is enrolled in a research study and tested with small amounts of a food allergen in order to build up a tolerance to that food allergen.

While there are many treatment options being studied, oral immunotherapy for food allergy is one of the long-standing studied approaches to find a way for people with food allergies to withstand accidentally eating their food allergen. The idea being this: if there is a level of allergen tolerance, an accidental ingestion won't cause adverse allergic reaction. And that is what researchers are trying to prove.

For example, oral immunotherapy for peanut allergy is of interest for those individuals with peanut allergy, as an accidental exposure to peanuts could be life-threatening. Because allergy to peanuts tends to be persistent, oral immunotherapy is one of the most studied types of immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy for egg and milk are also being researched. These are two allergens that may be outgrown in childhood, so research in this area has shown both success and some drawbacks. I summarize the latest findings for each of these areas of immunotherapy so you have a general idea of the research that is ongoing.

The most important points for you to understand:

This is research. It is not for general use with the public yet. Those who are doing immunotherapy are generally enrolled in a research study. If this is something you are interested in, check out this website for more information about getting involved in the research.

Significant allergic reactions may occur. From skin reactions to anaphylaxis, using oral immunotherapy should be done under the guidance of medical professionals who are experienced in this line of work. It should never be done on your own.

We still have a lot to learn. Beware of any guarantees, quick fixes or other seemingly too-good-to-be-true promises for a food allergy cure. The science isn't there to back up these claims.

Have you had experience with oral immunotherapy for food allergy?

The Million Dollar Question Every Person with Food Allergy Wants Answered

Tuesday March 25, 2014

Mushroom and Farro

What can I eat? No.

Where can I eat? No.

Will I outgrow this dang food allergy?


As a pediatric dietitian, almost every person I have ever encountered with food allergy has asked me, "When will I (or he, or she) grow out of this food allergy?"

My sister had a milk allergy when she was a toddler. I remember my mother using orange juice as a substitute for milk in her cereal. By the age of two, my little sister had outgrown her milk allergy and hasn't had any problems with milk since.

Some people like my sister will outgrow their food allergy, and some won't. I cover the latest information on the rate of outgrowing a food allergy, as well as why you should be checking in with your food allergist on a regular basis in this article. I think you will appreciate the information.

I also did some experimenting with farro, a whole grain with which I had never cooked. I am in love with mushrooms, but unfortunately my family is not, so whenever I can, I cook with mushrooms (or order them at restaurants)! I came up with this Baby Bella Mushroom and Farro recipe that I have to admit, was so good. If you're a fan of mushrooms or risotto, this is a terrific whole grain stand-in.

Last, I finished the installment of what to expect with your child's eating in this installment entitled Great Expectations: Your Food Allergic Teen (13-18 years). If you want to know what's going on with teens and their eating, and how it affects food allergy management, this is the article for you. Take a look and know what to expect! It will help you and your teen get through this stage of development.

Do you ever wonder if you (or your child) will outgrow your food allergy?

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