Announcing the 2017-2018 AllergyBites discount card

Announcing the 2017-2018 AllergyBites discount card

Allergy-friendly restaurants, products and services. All in one place. That’s what the AllergyBites discount card gets you, and it’s launching before the year is up.

If you’ve been patiently waiting for news about the AllergyBites discount card, you’ll love this: We’ve got our first 10 businesses signed up and ready to go—yippee!

Announcing the 2017-2018 AllergyBites discount card

In terms of who’s on board as of today, we’re thrilled to say it’s quite an eclectic mix of allergy-friendly products and services. Some are local to Toronto, while others hail a little farther from home. (But not to worry, you can order these guys online.)

Wondering what the AllergyBites discount card can get you? Deals, deals and more deals… on the following and more:

  • allergy-safe makeup for mom
  • food allergy books, music and gear for the kids
  • allergy-related counselling or coaching services
  • meal planning and nutritional advice
  • nut-free products and places

But we won’t stop there. We’re in talks with many other well-known brands, and we continue to reach out to new allergy-friendly businesses every day.

Good thing, because our goal is to be the go-to spot for everything you need to make life with food allergies a little less stressful… and a lot more fun.

Want a sneak peak at the first 10 businesses to sign up? Click here to find out who they are and what discounts they’ll be offering 2017-2018 AllergyBites cardholders. And keep checking back! The list will only get bigger…

Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Review: St-Hubert

This article, St-Hubert: Allergy-Friendly Comfort Food, was originally featured on HypeFoodie. Republished with the author’s permission.

Our family just got back from another trip to Quebec to visit family. It’s a long 10 hour drive (or more depending on the kids) and we make this trek a few times a year, so I feel like we’ve become pros at road trips.

This trip we actually made it to our destination in time for dinner. Upon arrival, my in-laws had a hot meal waiting for us that they had ordered from St-Hubert Rotisserie, an iconic restaurant chain found in Quebec and Eastern Canada.

I had made many assumptions about St-Hubert in the past, but after a little bit of research, it turns out that many of my assumptions were misguided. We avoid peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, wheat and fish in our household, and there are actually many menu items that my family can safely consume.  A full allergen menu is posted online and provides a breakdown of all menu items and allergens that they contain. Fun fact: St-Hubert has not used nuts or peanuts in any of their dishes since 2004!

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We were able to enjoy a delicious, moist and juicy rotisserie chicken with fries and traditional coleslaw, completely free from top allergens. Unfortunately the BBQ dipping sauce contains wheat, so we just skipped it and used ketchup instead. It’s also important to note that the meal comes with a bun, so if you have a wheat allergy or gluten sensitivity, make sure to let them know, otherwise the bun will be included in the box and touching/contaminating the gluten-free fries and chicken.

Ever since we stopped eating at McDonald’s because of their new allergy policy a few months ago, we’ve been empowered to look for other more allergy-friendly restaurant options. St-Hubert is such a great allergy-friendly find and has opened up more options for us! There are many St-Hubert Express restaurants and drive-thrus located near highways and rest stops once you cross the Quebec border. There are also St-Hub Pubs that serve the same delicious food in a pub-like atmosphere.

Happy Dining!

About the Author
Pauline Osena is a writer, food allergy advocate, self-proclaimed allergy-friendly foodie and the mother of 3 kids under age 5. Pauline is the founder of HypeFoodie.com and editor at BestAllergySites.com, online resources for allergy-friendly living. This former dairy junkie became an expert in allergy-friendly cuisine while figuring out how to avoid 7 of the top 8 food allergens in order to feed her two children with multiple food allergies.

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Restaurants that appear on AllergyBites may have updated their menu or changed management since a review was posted. Please confirm that they are still allergy-friendly & that menu items don’t contain your allergen(s) before visiting or placing your order.

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Review of an Allergy-Friendly Bakery: Bunner’s Bake Shop

This allergy-friendly restaurant was reviewed by guest blogger, Claudia Mokbel. Born and raised in Toronto, Claudia is excited to see dairy- and egg-free restaurants popping up all over the city so she can visit them with her vegan husband. She enjoys being active in her spare time to compensate for all the eating. All opinions are her own. 

Anyone who follows a vegan or gluten-free diet is no stranger to the name Bunner’s Bake Shop. The original 300-square foot bakery is nestled in the centre of the Junction, while a newer and bigger version opened in another favourite Toronto neighbourhood: Kensington Market.

When I first walked into the Junction location, I was greeted by the sweet smell of desserts and baked goodness, followed by two sweet smiles from behind the counter. While Bunner’s is known for their heavenly cinnamon buns, they have a variety of other pastries like cookies, butter tarts, donuts, muffins, cakes and breads.

 

The truth is, I couldn’t help but wonder: How on earth could they make CINNAMON BUNS without dairy, eggs and wheat?! And more importantly, how would they taste?? While I had my heart set on one of their yummy-looking cookies, I was glad my friend ordered their famous bun. I made sure to interrogate her as she nibbled away.

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“Well, the topping is creamy and rich in flavour, and the bun is loaded in gooey cinnamon deliciousness. Exactly what you’d expect of a cinnamon bun,” she assured me. “While I can definitely tell that something is different, I would have attributed it to their own unique recipe, rather than a few missing ingredients. I give it a thumbs up.”

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Apparently, when it comes to their allergen-free cinnamon buns, nothing is amiss. (Groan.)

I, on the other hand, had the pleasure of being able to sink my teeth into their (super) large Supersonic cookie. Easily one of the juiciest trail-mix type of cookie I have ever tasted, the cookie brought together some of my all-time favourites with chunks of chocolate, tangy cranberry and three types of seeds: sunflower, flax and pumpkin. What a bargain at $2.50 a piece!

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It’s worth mentioning that while we were there, the clerks were happy to remind us that nothing in the store contained eggs, dairy or gluten. And while they do try to ensure their facilities are allergen-free, some of their flours and raw materials are manufactured in facilities that process nuts—you’ll find this boldly displayed on the website in case you need a reminder. So while they do not bake with nuts and have no nuts onsite, they are careful to warn patrons that “trace elements may be present.”

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20170814_131826While the storefront is plentiful, the actual shop is small, and is designed for a grab-and-go customer experience, so don’t plan on spending much time in there after they hand you your scrumptious snack. They also take pre-orders for celebratory cakes and might even deliver depending on your location and how much advance notice you give them.

If you’re ready to fall in love with a dairy-free cinnamon bun, be sure to stop by Bunner’s! And, if you like a good love story, you’ll be happy to know it was a boyfriend & girlfriend duo that opened the bakeshop after seeing a need for vegan and gluten-free goods in the city. Ah, love.


Restaurants that appear on AllergyBites may have updated their menu or changed management since a review was posted. Please confirm that they are still allergy-friendly & that menu items don’t contain your allergen(s) before visiting or placing your order.

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Why a food allergy discount card? Why now?

Earlier this month, I unveiled the first 10 allergy-friendly businesses to team up with AllergyBites. They’ll be generously providing cardholders with exclusive discounts that last year-round. I was pretty excited that we were starting with an eclectic mix of allergy-friendly products and services—since I felt this mix perfectly reflected the vision I had for the card.

In case you didn’t know, my goal is to make AllergyBites the go-to place for everything allergy-friendly. And the discount card is only one part of this much larger vision.

I shared this vision with many in the community and naively believed sales would go through the roof after making the announcement. I say “naive” because, hey, I get it. There were only 10 businesses on the card, and who’s to say I’ll have that many more by 2018?

I’m asking people who have never met me to put a lot of faith in an idea. I get it.

Pre-ordering the card at this stage is definitely taking a bit of a risk. But you’re also making an important investment—not just in AllergyBites but in the future of the food allergy community. Our community.

When I first floated the AllergyBites idea around in a couple of online forums, the response was overwhelming. I was surprised to see suggestions that I set up a Go Fund Me account with promises of donations to help me get it off the ground. I was touched by the generosity of strangers and thrilled to see the interest was there, but something about the idea didn’t sit right. I didn’t feel comfortable accepting people’s money just like that, and realized I would rather provide the community with something in exchange for their hard-earned dollars. We have several ideas in the works, but the first to come to fruition was the discount card.

If I can help build something that makes all of our lives a little bit easier (and a lot more fun), wouldn’t you like to help us (all) get there?

I’m going to be really honest here: I’ve made very few sales so far. Very, very few. Each day, my husband comes home from work, and asks: “Did you sell any cards today?” And most days, I shake my head no, feeling like I’ve let him down, wondering if I made the right decision to cut back on my paid work to focus on this new business of mine. I worry my husband silently wonders the same.

I’m not a businesswoman. Or a salesperson. I’m the mom of a toddler with 6+ allergies. I’m also a foodie, a writer and a bit of a dreamer. And while finding local eating spots that accommodate the food allergy community was the dream that initiated all of this, the AllergyBites vision has definitely evolved into something a lot bigger… and a lot more inclusive. I mean, can you imagine if you could find all the food allergy info you needed in ONE simple place?! That’s the dream. No more hours spent (wasted?) searching online.

Where can you safely eat out with your food allergic child? Which “allergen-free” products are actually free of your child’s allergen? Where can you find affordable options when allergy-safe stuff is so darned expensive? The goal is for AllergyBites to be the place where you can find all of the answers to your very important food allergy questions… and more!

This information, including allergy-friendly product & restaurant reviews, will be 100% free to members. So will the app—yup, we’re working on it! And I also plan to give back to the community by donating $1 of each sale to a national food allergy charity. (Charity TBA!) But yes, I do need to charge a small annual fee for the card.

So here’s my ask: If you believe in the AllergyBites vision… if you want to see it succeed… if you’d like access to exclusive discounts on allergy-friendly brands… I would super duper appreciate it if you’d show your support by pre-ordering an Early Bird version of the 2017-2018 card. Not only will you get it a waaaay cheaper price, your early interest will be instrumental in getting other allergy-friendly businesses on board. If I can demonstrate that sales went through the roof before the card even launched, interest from relevant businesses will skyrocket. And the more businesses on the card, the more value to you!

So there you have it. I hope you decide to take the leap and support AllergyBites in its early stages. Your support now will be a HUGE help as we work hard to make this program succeed.

Pre-order your card today for only $15. That’s less than $2 a month. And waaaay less than your morning latte.

Psst! It’s even cheaper for members of the AllergyBites community. Join us today.

 

Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Review: Planta

Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Review: Planta

This allergy-friendly restaurant was reviewed by guest blogger, Jessica Campbell. Originally from Vancouver, Jessica made her way east to experience Toronto’s energizing lifestyle.  She writes about the food and flavours that inspire her to keep her family happy and healthy. All opinions are her own. 

Herbivore, omnivore or whatever vore you may be, the plant-based food movement is making waves in the restaurant world, and in my opinion, everyone should give it a try!

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Planta opened near the end of 2016, adding to the list of fine establishments by Chase Hospitality Group (Chase Fish and Oyster, Kasa Moto, Little Fin), and is thriving in the heart of Yorkville on Bay and Bloor. My one-year-old daughter and I were welcomed on a Thursday afternoon, stroller and all, by a friendly host and were seated at a beautiful corner table for lunch.

The space was a lot bigger than I had imagined. It had a casual fine dining feel to it, with white-washed brick walls, pops of beautiful green plants everywhere, and rose-gold metallic accents poking through. While the menu is entirely plant-based, it’s speckled with wheat products and nuts. This bodes especially well for those with dairy allergies (like us), because all of their “cheeses” are made of nuts. And almost all are done in-house. It’s difficult to find a restaurant in the city that’s completely dairy free because, let’s face it, you would be hard pressed to find a chef in the city without butter in his menu.IMG_3146

Our server was knowledgeable about food allergies and honest with us. We were told that they take allergies very seriously, but can’t completely prevent cross contamination with certain foods. For example, they make both gluten and gluten-free pizza crusts in the same oven, so when it comes to their pizzas, cross contamination is pretty much inevitable.

However, they will try their best to accommodate most allergies, and will bring those with food allergies a customized list from the kitchen. This list includes allergen-free items and even modified versions of existing menu items for specific allergies. Jackpot.

Everything on the menu sounds unreal and I literally almost ordered five different plates, but decided against it knowing my lunch date wouldn’t be helping me out much in the eating department… being a baby and all.

We ordered a Field of Greens cold pressed juice with cucumber, apple, kale, celery, romaine and lemon while we waited for our lunch to arrive. It lived up to its name, green and refreshing. They make their cold pressed juices to order therefore cross contamination with certain fruits and vegetables is also inevitable.

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To start, the kale Caesar a vegan staple. The mushroom bacon was smoky and offset by the pickled onions. The dressing had a nice creamy garlic balance and the almond parmesan was tasty and had a very realistic texture. All in all, a tasty salad, but would I have it again? Probably notbut only because they have other salads that look too enticing not to try.

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The Bianca pizza came next and was definitely the main attraction. Roasted rosemary potatoes, olives, fried capers, kale and hot chili oil. Put chili oil on anything and I’m almost always going to love it.

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All in all, everything was vibrant and flavourful.

Planta was a pleasant afternoon in a beautiful setting. What would bring me back more than anything is the knowledgeable staff and reassurance that what is being served is safe. Priceless. Insert Mastercard ad here.

Chase Hospitality Group is opening another restaurant inside Yorkville Village this summer, called Palm Lane, which will also have a very plant-forward menu with gourmet greens. I’m very much looking forward to it.

Side note: CHG’s president is part of the innovator program with the Sick Kids Foundation. We spent quite a long time there when my little one was born, so if I can choose to eat somewhere that supports something near and dear to my heart AND be assured I’m eating allergen-free food, I’m in!


Restaurants that appear on AllergyBites may have updated their menu or changed management since a review was posted. Please confirm that they are still allergy-friendly & that menu items don’t contain your allergen(s) before visiting or placing your order.

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Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Review: Drake Commissary

When posts about the newly opened Drake Commissary first hit my newsfeed, I couldn’t believe it. It was probably the coolest thing to move into the neighbourhood in years. And yet, I had just moved out.

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A cozy space to get some work done. An eclectic menu featuring dishes that can only delight the senses. Friendly staff that is unbelievably accommodating to food allergies. And a 5-minute walk from my previous home. (Argh.)

Drake Commissary is exactly what I need in my life right now. Minus the longer commute.

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The thing is, a quick Google search or a look at their website wouldn’t clue you in to the fact that this one-of-a-kind eating spot is really, really allergy-friendly. I had to do a bit of investigating to find out.

The first time I popped in to take a look, I chatted with the friendly hostess and asked her the usual ‘allergy parent’ questions. She didn’t miss a beat when she told me that the kitchen could absolutely prepare meals minus top allergens, and only hesitated a bit when I admitted my son had 6+ to deal with. Because she wasn’t 100% sure and didn’t want to make any promises she couldn’t keep, she suggested I speak with management to confirm.

After getting in touch with the Food & Beverage Supervisor via email (and assuring him that I’d be happy if even one of their dishes were safe for my little guy), I was absolutely floored when he told me that at least 8 of their dishes were safe as is, and that they could play around with others to make sure they were free of my son’s allergens.

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AS IS: The Avocado, Lemon and Gruyere Tartine

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MODIFIED: Kale & Cheese Breakfast Muffin (minus the egg)

8 safe meals for my kid with 6+ food allergies?! Now this was a first.

It seemed too good to be true, so I asked him if he could share what ingredients were in my top 3 choices. He promptly did, polite as ever.

Then it hit me that 2 of the 3 dishes had a bread product in them. (Red flag! Wouldn’t they contain egg? Or soy?? Or sunflower?!) I was concerned he may not have gone the extra step and double checked the ingredient’s ingredients. But when I followed up to ask, he sent me the lists, and assured me they were indeed safe: “We proudly bake every last one of our breads, pastries and other baked goods in-house, daily.”

You know what that means? They know what’s in the bread.

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Of course, I had to ask about the risk of cross contamination next. He let me know that I need not worry unless my son’s allergies are airborne (which they aren’t). Score!

“Our protocol is to prep, plate and send these dishes from fresh & clean stations with clean hands, but peanuts, egg, sesame, soy and sunflower are always present on-site,” he explained. “We make a smoothie behind the bar that contains peanut butter, and we’d take the same precautions, but that peanut butter scent may be airborne.”

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Here’s the other thing about Drake Commissary. You can’t help but feel safe when every single person you are dealing with—from the faceless person over email to the friendly host that greets you to your smiling server—all of them are able to properly list your child’s allergies and assure you that they are not in the foods in question.

Just make sure to call a few days beforehand and let them know about your child’s allergies. That way, they can make sure to have a safe space to prep in advance of your visit. (I can’t guarantee that they’d be as accommodating with walk-ins, but I’m sure they’d do their very best to find something safe for your food-allergic child.)

All I can say about my experience at Drake Commissary is WOW. Now if only my toddler would learn to appreciate gourmet food. But that’s another story…

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Below is a list of the 8 menu items* that are safe for my son to eat. He’s allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, egg, sesame, soy and sunflower.

1. Avocado, Lemon and Gruyere Tartine
2. Freekeh, Quinoa & Broccoli
3. Zucchini, Asparagus & Pea Salad
4. Margherita Pizza
5. Wild Mushroom Ragout & Espresso Pasta
6. Veggie Side:  Smoked Baby Potatoes
7. Dessert: Strawberry Sorbet
8. Fresh squeezed juices

*Keep in mind that I specifically asked about these dishes, so there may be additional menu items that are safe.

I feel the need to mention that I went to Drake Commissary with my Foodie Club one evening and we absolutely loved the following dishes. NOTE: As none of us has food allergies, I can’t say with certainty whether or not these dishes are free of the allergens listed above.

1. Roasted mushroom and espresso pasta
2. Miso cauliflower
3. House smoked spicy brisket
4. Rotisserie jerk chicken
5. House cured charcuterie & meats
6. Banana cream pie
7. House-made scones


Restaurants that appear on AllergyBites may have updated their menu or changed management since a review was posted. Please confirm that they are still allergy-friendly & that menu items don’t contain your allergen(s) before visiting or placing your order.

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Review of an Allergy-Friendly Cafe: The Coffee Bouquets

When I first stumbled upon The Coffee Bouquets, nestled on a side street just north of Bloor and west of Jane, I was delighted. And not just because I had finally found the perfect little spot to get some work done while sipping on a latte… but because, as I sped by, this sign happened to catch my eye:

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Nut-free?! And in my neighbourhood? Yes, please!

So I popped inside to see what I would find. And lo and behold, it didn’t disappoint. Not only was it a cozy, welcoming little spot, but Viktor, the friendly owner, was happy to answer all of my questions about which allergens do and don’t make an appearance in the pastries he carries.

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Most of his baked goods come from Sweets from the Earth, which means half are nut-free, while the other half are gluten-free. But make sure to check the ingredient lists, because you’ll find many treats that are free of dairy, egg, sesame and wheat too.

Similar to the allergy-safe facility (known for using different lines for their different products) where the yummy sweets from the Sweets of the Earth are made, Viktor and his staff use colour-coded utensils to ensure cross contamination is not an issue. Not only that, but he keeps all of his allergy foods safe in these clear cookie jars.

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Want something a little fancier than cookies? You got it! Sneak a peek inside The Coffee Bouquets’ well-stocked fridge and you’ll find a few more allergen-free treats inside, like these mini cakes.

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I don’t know about you, but our nut-free household misses carrot cake!!

Speaking of fancy, coffee connoisseurs will be excited to learn that The Coffee Bouquets will soon be offering “rare and exclusive” coffee and teas. Keep your eyes peeled for their newest line of coffee, Silver Fox, on your next visit.

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And if you’re simply looking for a spot to hang out with health-minded friends who don’t necessarily have food allergies, most of the products at The Coffee Bouquets come with health benefits—or are at the very least organic.

Take these healthy versions of pop, for example. Play is a sugar-free ginger ale produced by an award-winning, local company called Deluge Water. And Crazy D’s fizzy stuff is a mix between kombucha and cold-pressed juice. Chock-full of prebiotics, this is one pop that is great for your gut. Soda without the guilt is right! (And it’s local too.)

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At the end of the day, I’m just happy I found a nearby allergy-friendly spot to enjoy. This just might be my new favourite place in the ‘hood. (And I live near the Cheese Boutique, so that’s saying a lot!)

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Cute, local and allergy-friendly… could I ask for more?

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Paintings by local Anya Romanenko, who shares Viktor’s Ukrainian heritage

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My dark roast + crumbly blueberry muffin combo was divinely delicious.

Have you been to The Coffee Bouquets? Let us know about your experience in the comments below.


Restaurants that appear on AllergyBites may have updated their menu or changed management since a review was posted. Please confirm that they are still allergy-friendly & that menu items don’t contain your allergen(s) before visiting or placing your order.

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Food Allergies… Rock?

Last month, I wasn’t feeling very good about this whole food allergy situation. So when this contest came up in my Twitter feed, I wondered if I could honestly answer the question: “Tell us why food allergies rock.”

Good timing, though, because it forced me to think about the good that has come out of my son’s diagnosis.

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Since then, I’ve realized that there are more positives than one single tweet would allow for.

So, in response to a post I wrote on how raising a child with food allergies impacts mental health, I decided to focus on the brighter side of things. Kind of like that Kyle Dine CD, I want to take a moment to talk about the silver lining of food allergies, to offer readers a bit of hope (when they’re feeling hopeless) and direct them to avenues of support (if and when they need it).

Here are the top 5 recent events that have made me feel a little more hopeful and lot more supported. If you’re feeling blue or overwhelmed, I highly recommend forcing yourself to write a similar list. It’s an instant pick-me-up, and it makes you realize things aren’t always as bad as they seem.

1. I met the lovely Samara Carroll, who counsels food-allergic children and their parents.

Samara has lived with food allergies since she was a little girl, so she completely understands what our little ones are going through. And she’s the type of person whose friendly personality shines through the moment you meet her. I wouldn’t doubt for a moment that most children feel very comfortable opening up to her about their food allergy journey.

She also works with parents whose anxiety is through the roof since their children were diagnosed and—take note!—she does couples counselling as well. (Because we all know the strain this sort of thing can put on a relationship.)

Now you can meet Samara too! Join us at Jill and the Beanstalk this August for a talk she’ll be hosting on how not to raise a child with food phobias. (Details TBD.)

2. I got my own personal allergy-friendly tour of a supermarket.

If you’ve ever been in contact with food allergy mama Allison Venditti, you probably know she’s one of those people who goes out of their way to help others. She doesn’t hesitate to provide words of wisdom to parents newly navigating food allergies—or give them a (virtual) shoulder to cry on. I’m lucky to know her in a business context as well, so I know just how generous she can be with her time and her advice.

So when I had my mini breakdown last month, Allison sweetly offered to take me on a personalized tour of Fiesta Farms. Since her son once shared many of my little guy’s allergies, she was able to point me in the right direction, aisle after aisle. Thanks to Allison, my son got to try his first store-bought “kuu-kies,” and I have a new list of safe products I can buy for him.

3. I won not 1, but 2, Kyle Dine CDs

Yup, that’s right. HypeFoodie held a contest for Food Allergy Awareness Month… and I won! I’m pretty sure this is the first time in my life that I’ve ever won anything. Coincidence? I think the universe was trying to tell me something.

The great thing about Kyle’s music is that his lyrics are really empowering. My toddler may be too little to understand right now, but one day, I like to imagine these songs will lift him up when he’s feeling down, remind him that having food allergies doesn’t make him weird or weak, and give him the confidence to speak up in situations when he is feeling uncertain or unsafe.

4. I finally bought a breadmaker.

As I write this, the aroma of fresh bread is wafting around me, making my stomach growl and my mouth water. But I digress…

It’s actually a lot more fun—and a lot less work—than I initially imagined. It’s also a delicious, affordable alternative to store-bought bread. Not only that, but it gives me peace of mind knowing exactly what’s in the ingredient list. (Need I say more?)

A huge thank you to all the people in the allergy community who recommended I purchase this sanity-saver… And to allergy support group founder and writer Pauline Osena for sharing a couple of bread baking books with me!

In case you’re curious, I got myself the Hamilton Beach breadmaker. I love it so far!

5. I was reminded, yet again, how the food allergy community has got each other’s backs.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You guys are amazing. I can’t believe how many warm messages I got in response to this post. And then again when I shared my pizza fail with the AllergyBites group.

So many people reached out to me with creative ideas, safe brands, or words of empathy. I have to say I was overwhelmed by your heartwarming messages of encouragement and solidarity.

I’ll end this post by linking to a few supports, either in-person or online, that you can access if and when you’re having a tough day (or month!).

AllergyBites FB Group
Best Allergy Sites
Carroll Counselling
Food Allergy Canada
No Nuts Moms Group of Ontario, CAN
Parents of Kids with Food Allergies in Toronto/GTA
The Friendly Pantry

Any I’m missing? Comment below with a link to an avenue of support you think should be on this list.

Travelling with food allergies? Triple check your travel insurance.

Planning a trip? Treat food allergies the way you would a pre-existing condition—because they are one.

When it comes to buying a new food for your food-allergic little one, you always triple check the ingredient list, right? Well, if you’re planning a family trip, I highly recommend you do the same with your travel insurance policy.

Seriously.

I used to work in travel insurance, so I know how confusing it can be. I also know how easy it is for travellers to mistakenly think they’re covered when they’re actually not.

Whether or not you have travel insurance through your workplace benefits…
Whether or not you’ve been buying the same travel insurance for years…
Whether or not you were once assured that your child’s allergies were covered…

… the truth is, they might not be covered. And depending on where you’re travelling, and how expensive health care is in your destination country, a little mistake now could cost you BIG bucks later.

I’m not trying to scare you. I just want to make sure you’re informed before your next trip.

If you’re not convinced you need to do some serious triple checking, please take a moment to read a post I wrote on this topic. You’ll see that I was wrongly informed by my insurance company, and if I hadn’t kept digging, I could have owed tens of thousands of dollars in the event my toddler fell ill while we were in the US. (I’m not kidding.)

Read the full article: Travel Insurance & Food Allergies: Make Sure You’re Protected During Your Travels. Then share it with your food-allergic friends!

Profile of an Allergy Parent: Allison Venditti

PROFILE OF AN ALLERGY PARENT: Allison Venditti Allison Venditti is the mom of 2 little boys who are allergic to various foods. She founded a local support group after her first son was diagnosed with food allergies in the double digits.

KO: What foods are your children allergic to?

AV: My oldest – peanuts, tree nuts (some), eggs, soy, sesame and mangoes. He has outgrown sunflower, poppy, mustard, fish, almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans, peas, pitted fruit (nectarines, plums) and tomatoes. So it was a bit overwhelming at the start.

My youngest – peanuts.

KO: Can you describe the first time you realized (or suspected) they had a food allergy?

AV: Looking back, my oldest always had terrible eczema. He used to throw up breast milk constantly and we actually had to switch him to formula. I gave him a tomato at 6 months that covered his arm in hives (he didn’t even get it in his mouth). At 8 months, he had eggs for the first time and his eyes swelled shut and his face was so swollen he was unrecognizable. His first anaphylactic reaction was at 10 months when he had soy milk.

KO: How many anaphylactic reactions have they experienced?

AV: My oldest – 4 times (soy, sesame, mustard and egg). My youngest – once (peanut).

KO: What did your grieving process look like? Do you feel that you’re in the “acceptance” phase now?

AV: I don’t think we were afforded the time to grieve, honestly. Our allergy journey was not a slow build – it was like a boxing match – the swings just kept coming. We saw the allergist over a dozen times in the first 2 years. Every time we came home with new allergens, we had to re-evaluate, restructure and regroup. By the time we had figured out all my oldest’s allergens, we were already starting to challenge ones that he had outgrown. In the past two years, we have done 5 oral challenges – and passed them all.

I remember when my son turned 2 and started to become aware of his allergens, I spent a few days having a really hard time realizing that this was becoming his issue and one day would not be mine at all. I wrote down all the things I didn’t want for my son (fear, worry) and all the things I did want (confidence, love, independence). I realized this starts now – and I am the one to teach him this. That day, I took him to the grocery store. We read labels. We started naming safe things. I started talking about it out loud. (I had never really included him in shopping before that.)

For me there was nothing to accept. These are my children. This is a piece of who they are – always has been – it just took us some time to find the language to name it. Now I realize that this will always be a journey – ever changing!

KO: What are your biggest challenges as the mom of 2 food-allergic kids?

AV: Exclusion. Not being able to go to the ice cream truck. Potlucks and bake sales. The lack of spontaneity to just go to that birthday party and just eat whatever. This has been solved in large measure by finding great friends, other parents who go out of their way to get my sons safe foods and really make them feel included. Thank you to all these people – you make our lives infinitely better.

For me, I want my kids to decide what they want to do – whether it be rock climbing, hockey or travelling – and to know that they know that we will always try to find a way to make that work with their allergies. I am already seeing that this belongs to them and not me. These are their allergies. This is their allergist. Ultimately treatment, etc. will be up to them and I have to be okay with that eventually. (Not yet!)

KO: How have your children dealt with their food allergies?

AV: This is the only way they have ever known. This is a piece of who they are just like having brown hair.

KO: How often did you eat out before the food allergy diagnosis? How often have you eaten out since?

AV: Not that often. Both my husband and I were raised that eating out was a special treat and we have tried to maintain that. We don’t eat out that often now – but honestly we have a 3 & 5 year old. Who wants to go to a restaurant with a 3 & 5 year old?

KO: Where are your go-to SAFE eating spots in Toronto? Can you tell me why they make you feel safe?

AV: Famoso, Sorelle and Co, Swiss Chalet and Pizza Pizza. They all are great and answered all my questions and followed up with me to make sure everything was right.

KO: Tell me about the support group you started.

AV: I started my support group after I was unable to find a place to share. There were other groups that did presentations and had speakers but all I wanted was to find other people who were feeling the same things that I was. We have a pretty solid group. When we started, there were about 6 of us. We get about 10 people at each in-person meetup these days (some new, some regulars). A member of the group, Pauline Osena, started a Facebook support group that most of the members joined so we keep the conversation going and can check in even between meetings.

KO: And final question…. How do you find the time to raise 2 kids with serious allergies, manage a support group (or 2), and run a successful business?

I make space in my life for the things that are important to me. I left my 9-5 job to start Careerlove.ca – career coaching for moms & women, and Moms@Work because they gave me two things: the ability to do what I love, and to be available for my children.

The support group came naturally to me – it was a way to connect with others and create another community. I have spent my whole life starting teams, building clubs, starting moms groups – it is who I am – I connect. I don’t want to leave this place remembered as that person who became CEO or VP of sales. I want to be remembered as that person who made a small difference in your life whether I was the first person who made you feel like you could do something great or that person who shared their story and made you feel like it would be okay.