Hold the Peanuts.

Recently I had the privilege of attending a workshop on food preparation for those with food allergies and intolerances with the Virginia Dietetic Association.  It seems that everyone and their child has an issue with at least one food or another these days.  So I felt my very basic understanding of food allergies and various intolerances needed a little beefing up.  Now I get to share all the juicy information with you.  This was a four hour workshop, so I’ll stick to the major take-aways.

Before we get to the workshop let’s just clarify the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance.  In very basic terms a food allergy is when your body has an immune system response to a protein (usually) in a specific food. The response may range from very minimal (a rash) to life-threatening (anaphylaxis).   The most common foods that people have a reaction to are tree nuts, milk, shellfish, egg, peanuts, soy, wheat and fish.  A food intolerance occurs when your body as trouble fully digesting a food.  Now back to what I learned at the workshop.

  • Thou shall not cross-contaminate.  Engrain this in your brain.  Apply it to ALL situations.  That plate, cutting board, knife, towel, counter top, jar of jelly used to prepare PB & J sandwiches (you get the picture), they all have particulate on them.  Even if it is not visible.  Either start with fresh utensils or wash all of those surfaces.  Even better, designate separate cutting boards, condiments, etc.  so there is less chance  of cross contamination.  To put it in perspective, little more than 10 parts per million can cause a reaction.  So never assume that just because you can’t see it you are safe.
  • Hand sanitizer is NOT your friend.  You know that little bottle you carry around everywhere?  It is useless when it comes to removing allergens or other particulate from your hands.  The only way to “clean” your hands when handling food for your child with say, a peanut allergy  is to thoroughly wash them immediately before touching their food.  Even if you already washed your hands prior to preparing everyone else’s food.  Better yet, just make the food for your child with the allergy first.
  • Let’s talk gluten-free.  Face it, we can’t discuss allergies/intolerances without addressing this subject.  There is much grey area regarding this issue.  Gluten-free diets seem to be a big trend right now wether you medically need to be on one or not.  (I am not broaching THAT subject at this time.)  So assuming you notice your child is having issues related to eating wheat (etc.).  DO NOT immediately place him on a gluten-free diet.  Take him to the doctor to discuss it and to undergo the proper testing for Celiac disease.   It you try the diet first and your child does have the disease, it will result in a false negative on the test.  Now if your child does have Celiac disease or a legitimate gluten-intolerance all of the same precautions for typical allergies apply too.
  • Be your child’s biggest advocate.  Nobody knows them better than you.  Also, most businesses out there are only concerned with one thing.  Money.  So learn to read those labels and develop a real understanding of what all those claims and terms mean. Dining out can be scary.  You must not be afraid to ask questions, no matter how the person who is answering responds.  (But know that kindness and a little explanation can go a long way).  When in doubt speak to the manager/owner or even the chef.  Things can change back in the kitchen that the server/cashier may not be aware of.  Also be cognizant  of cross contamination, it is riskier at establishments that use pizza stones, woks or fryers.
  • Have compassion.  If you are one of the fortunate people who do not have to deal with food allergies/intolerances on a regular basis, taking the time to accommodate for your friends that do can make a world of difference.  Chances are they will not expect you to so it will be greatly appreciated.  Coping with food issues can be exhausting.  But do not be over-confident about it.  I’ll share with you an experience I had at my home recently.  (Prior to attending this workshop).  We had some friends over for a play-date that graduated into lunch.  Our friend’s younger daughter has Celiac disease.  Even though she brought separate food for her daughter to eat, I was trying to be considerate and offered to make her an almond-butter sandwich on apple slices instead of bread so that her meal would be more like the older kids’.  My friend very kindly obliged .  While I was preparing the regular sandwiches for the older kids, I realized that our jar of almond butter was probably completely contaminated with wheat particulate. My well intentions could have been a disaster later for our friends.  All-in-all, our friends were very appreciative of the extra effort, wether it worked out or not.

 

 

 

What does your body good?

Whole, skim, almond, organic and everything in between. There are so many options for “milk” out there it can be incredibly daunting deciding which one is right for you and your family. Some people have allergies/intolerances to dairy, nuts or soy that limit their selection. For the majority of Americans, all the possiblilities are available so they must choose the best one for them. According to the USDA general guidelines, children ages 2-3 years old need about 2 cups of milk a day, children ages 4-8 need 2 1/2 cups, and anyone ages 9 and older need about 3 cups a day. It is also important to know that babies under 12 months of age should not be fed any milk other than breast for formula and that toddlers under the age of two should be drinking whole milk. (The USDA guidelines provide other options that equal one cup, such as 1 1/2 oz hard cheese, 1/3 cup shredded cheese or 1 cup yogurt). Now, one of the main purposes of consuming dairy is to have enough calcium in the diet, which brings us to having many more choices besides cow’s milk due to fortification and other products that naturally contain calcium.
The body needs calcium and vitamin D for bone health. However, more is not necessarily better, too much calcium can cause kidney stones or impair the body’s absorption of other important nutrients. Here are the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI’s) for both calcium and vitamin D.

Calcium Vitamin D
0-6 months* 200 mg 400 IU
6-12 months* 260 mg 400 IU
1-3 years 700 mg 600 IU
4-8 years 1000 mg 600 IU
9-13 years 1300 mg 600 IU

*Adequate intake (AI) for babies under 1 year.  Over 12 months recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is given.

Some of other options for those who choose not to or cannot consume cow’s milk or other dairy are as follows:

Cheese (swiss) 1 oz has 270mg calcium           Cod liver oil, 1 T has 1,360IU vitamin D

Yoghurt (nonfat, plain), 8oz, 490mg                Salmon, 3oz, 497 IU

OJ, (Calcium fortified) 3/4 c, 260mg                Tuna (canned), 3oz,  154 IU

Ice cream, 1/2c, 90mg                                           Yogurt (varies by brand), 6oz, 80 IU

Let’s begin the great organic versus conventional debate. There are positives and negatives on both sides of the argument. Conventional cow’s milk is considerably less expensive and easily available to most people. Also in a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Organic Foods, Health and Environmental Advantages, they found NO nutritional difference between organic and non-organic milk. The negative aspects of conventional milk centers around the farming practices of the cows. Some of the largest concerns are related to hormone and medication delivery and feed composition.
Organic milk has a high set of standards that the farmers must abide by to be certified organic. These include cows that are fed exclusively organic feed, no administration of hormones/growth promoters or antibiotics in the absence of disease. It is often ultra-pasteurized, which gives it a longer refrigerated shelf-life. This could be a plus or a minus depending on your point of view as there are many that oppose pasteurization due to the vitamins, minerals and other properties that may be lost during the process. (Personally I believe, along with the federal government, that it is a necessity to ensure a safe product for the masses). But when you pay an upwards of $4 a half-gallon, you don’t want a single drop to go to bad. Which brings us to the major negative aspect of organic milk. It seems like if you can find it for around $3 a half-gallon you are getting a great deal and anything less is a steal. Now in case you were wondering, in our house we use a milk delivery service that brings us regionally sourced whole and 2% milk. The milk is not organic, but the cows are humanely raised, only given medication when ill and are not administered hormones. Extravagant? Yes, but it is a premium we are willing to budget in for the product and the convenience for this family of four that consumes much of three different types of dairy. We also have soy milk in the house since I am lactose intolerant.
Here are the nutrition facts for some commonly used “milk” products that can help you to decided what one is best for you and your family.

Whole 2% Skim Soy* Almond* Rice**
Calories 146 122 90 90 60 120
Fat 7.9g 4.8g 0g 3.5g 2.5g 2.5g
Saturated Fat 4.6g 3.1g 0g 0.5g 0g 0g
Protein 7.9g 8.1g 8g 6g 1g 1g
Calcium 275 mg 285.5mg 300mg 450mg 200mg 250mg
Vitamin D1 25% 25% 25% 30% 25% 25%
Cholesterol 24mg 20mg 5mg 0mg 0mg 0mg
Potassium 348.9mg 366mg 400mg 300mg 180mg ~

All values are based on 8oz or 1 cup.

*Silk brand, unsweetend

**Rice Dream Brand

1- Percentage based on a 2000 calorie diet.

 

These are some helpful websites and documents that I used when researching this blog.

iom.edu 

usda.gov (Organic Foods Production Act of 1990)

Calorieking.com

ods.od.nih.gov