Dealing with Food Allergies Around the Holidays

The holiday season is a festive time, but can present unique challenges for children with food allergies and their parents. We spoke to Vanessa Chrisman, a clinical pediatric dietitian at CHOC Children’s, who has advice for parents on navigating a season often filled with parties and treats while managing their child’s dietary restrictions.

What are some of the most common food allergies/dietary restrictions that children face?

The most common food allergies that children face include: wheat, dairy, egg, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish and fish. They are known as the top eight, as these foods account for 90 percent of all allergic reactions to food. The severity of an allergic reaction really varies from one child to the next. An example of a mild reaction would be a small rash on one hand that goes away in a couple hours. A more severe reaction could involve swelling of the face, vomiting and diarrhea, and/or coughing or wheezing. Severe reactions can be life-threatening.

How does suffering from food allergies complicate festive occasions such as holiday celebrations?

Children with food allergies often are restricted from eating the foods that are offered at holiday parties. As a result, these children may feel like they are missing out or being punished for having food allergies. To help ease this problem, parents need to be proactive and plan ahead when it comes to approaching holiday parties and meals. Bringing allergen-safe food along to parties or preparing special baked good for the child with food allergies are two examples of how to deal with this.

What can parents do in their own home to accommodate dietary restrictions that one child faces, when there are other children in the home without that allergy or restriction?

Depending on the food allergen, parents can decide whether or not they will keep food allergens out of the home or not. Labeling areas as safe zones (allergen-free) both in the pantry and the refrigerator is helpful. Keeping unsafe foods tucked away and stored in air-tight containers is also advised. Everyone in the family should learn how to read food labels and ingredient lists. To prevent the transfer of food allergens, all family members should wash their hands before and after eating. Practicing safe food preparation is important for avoiding cross-contamination. Counters and tables should be scrubbed down before and after meals. When eating or serving food use separate utensils that have not come into contact with allergens. Parents can educate their children on food allergies, as well as the importance of keeping food allergens away from the child who is allergic.

How can parents accommodate their child’s allergies when partaking in festive events outside the home?

Parents should talk to their child’s teacher and school nurse at the beginning of each school year so they can be prepared for any celebrations at school where food is involved. When their child is going to a birthday party or to a friend’s house, parents need to talk with the parents who will be watching over their child. Explain your child’s food allergy, what foods to avoid, what symptoms to look for, what specific foods are safe to give and how to practice safe food handling. Parents can also send their child with special “safe foods” to be consumed when outside the home. For those with a prescription for an epinephrine injection for anaphylaxis, ensure your child has it with them at all times and that other care providers know how to administer it.

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CHOC Toy Drive December 17

Community members wishing to spread holiday cheer to CHOC Children’s patients and families are invited to participate in CHOC’s annual toy drive. The event will be held Saturday, Dec. 17 from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. outside our employee parking structure, located at 557 S. Main St. in Orange.

Due to limited storage space, gift cards are encouraged, to places such as: Target, Toys “R” Us, Wal-Mart, Michael’s and Amazon.  Visa gift cards are also appreciated, as are grocery store or gas station gift cards that can be distributed to families in need. Gift cards allow trained child life specialists to hand-select toys, games and activities that best meet the needs of our patients.

Those wishing to donate toys are encouraged to view our wish list prior to the toy drive and choose from items our child life specialists find most appropriate and popular among our diverse family and patient population. Donors are encouraged to sort and box their gifts before delivery.

“We do everything we can to make this time of year very special and festive for our patients who have to spend the holidays in the hospital,” says Stephanie Chami, manager of CHOC’s child life department. “Every day of the year, child life specialists strive to normalize the hospital experience for kids and teens, and these gifts are just one way we keep patients encouraged and engaged.”

Community members unable to participate in the toy drive can view the hospital’s wish list via our Amazon registry by searching Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Donations will be shipped directly to CHOC. During the month of December we are unable to accept donations in the main hospital lobby.

Due to infection control guidelines, all donated items must be new. We are unfortunately not able to accept used toys, handmade items or stuffed animals.

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Tis the Season for Healthy Holiday Eating

By Lindsay Rypkema, registered dietitian at CHOC Children’s

The holidays are a time filled with family, friends and food. It is important for parents to model good eating habits as well as provide healthful meals and snacks in a season often filled with overindulgence. Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to forgo all the holiday goodies your family loves, but small modifications can make a big impact. Below are some tips for healthy holiday eating.

  • Snack before you go: Never attend a holiday party hungry! To avoid overeating, consume a light snack at home such as vegetables and hummus or Greek yogurt and fruit. Protein and fiber will keep you full longer.
  • Prepare balanced meals: Choose one item from every food group. Limit the dessert options and always have fresh fruit and vegetables available.
  • Limit sugary drinks: Instead of cider, juice and soda, try infusing water with seasonal fresh fruit such as pomegranate, cranberries or blood orange. Wash fruit, slice and add to water pitcher. You can also use cookie cutters to make holiday shapes.
  • Limit sugar in baking: Baking is a fun holiday tradition but can result in excess calorie and sugar intake. Decrease sugar by 50 percent and add other spices such as vanilla, cinnamon or nutmeg for added flavor. Try replacing the recommended oil with unsweetened applesauce or mashed banana in a 1:1 ratio to decrease calories. This works well in cakes, muffins and breads.
  • Try making a visual and healthy treat: Healthy snacks and desserts don’t have to be boring. For example, you can make a candy cane out of banana and strawberries. Pinterest has some great ideas to make a Santa out of strawberries or a Grinch out of grapes.
  • Get a jump start on your family’s resolutions: Don’t wait until the New Year to increase physical activity. Take a walk or play flag football after your holiday meal. Exercise is an important part of healthy living.
  • Consider simple swaps: Side dishes such as mashed potatoes and stuffing are often a family favorite but can be very high in calories and tempting to overeat. Try offering quinoa in place of stuffing for a healthy, high protein option. Consider using plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream for added protein. You can also make mashed potatoes out of cauliflower. Try this easy recipe this season:

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

2 head cauliflower, cut into florets

2 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

2  tablespoons reduced – fat cream cheese

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

*Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Steam or boil cauliflower until tender. Mix olive oil, Parmesan, cream cheese, & garlic powder in bowl. Use food processor to blend cauliflower on high. Slowly add your oil/cheese mixture until completely blended. Salt and pepper to taste.

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Don’t Let Motion Sickness Interfere with Holiday Travel Plans

The holidays are right around the corner, often triggering an extra-busy travel season. For some kids, more travel can mean more motion sickness putting a damper on family festivities.

Motion sickness, most common in school-aged children, occurs when one part of your balance-sensing system (eyes, ears, sensory nerves) knows your body is moving, but the other parts don’t, sending mixed signals to the brain.  For example, when riding in a car, a child’s inner ear can sense movement, but if he’s too small to see out the window, the brain is also getting messages that the body is still.  The brain gets a little confused, which can result in symptoms associated with motion sickness.

There are several things parents can do to help prevent their young travelers from experiencing motion sickness.

  • Avoid greasy food or big meals right before a car or airplane ride, since that can upset an already queasy tummy.
  • When possible —and safe to do so— have the child ride in the middle seat, which has the least amount of motion. Keep in mind child passenger safety guidelines.
  • Sing along to music or ask kids to play an “I Spy” game — easy distractions that can help your children keep their minds off potential motion sickness. Reading books or watching movies can make motion sickness worse.
  • Make sure children who are prone to motion sickness can see out the window. If possible, roll car windows down for fresh air.

When packing for holiday travel, be sure to include dry crackers, water or juice, “barf” bags and an extra set of clothes, should your child get sick.  If motion sickness strikes during a car ride, pull over to the side of the road as soon as it’s safe to do so.  If you’re able to, find a safe location for your child to get out of the car. If possible, place other passengers away from kids with motion sickness.  Sometimes, watching someone get sick can trigger a similar response in others.  Remind children that motion sickness is not contagious

Some anxiety could be brought on by getting carsick regularly. Remind kids and other siblings that it’s not their fault, and they didn’t do anything wrong that caused them to get sick.

Motion sickness is not a gastrointestinal disorder. A fever, decreased appetite, or other symptoms may be signs of another illness, warranting a call to the pediatrician.

Although not the first line of defense, there are several over-the-counter and prescription medications that can help kids cope with motion sickness. Check with your child’s pediatrician before administering any medication.

December 14 is National Roast Chestnuts Day

By Jill Nowak, RD, CDE, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s

It’s that time of year we sing about “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire….” But, did you know that this delicious chestnut is packed with numerous health benefits?  They are moderately lower in calories and contain less fat than other nuts and seeds.  A 1 ounce serving provides 69 calories and 0.6g fat.  Sounds like the perfect snack this holiday season!

Chestnuts are the edible seeds of the chestnut tree.  The sweet, starchy seeds sit inside a prickly outer shell called the burr, which splits open as they ripen.  Chestnuts are in season and available in markets from October through March. Fresh chestnuts are often displayed and sold in the fresh produce section. You can also buy chestnuts dried, vacuum-packed, or canned.  To verify freshness look for creamy white seeds. Avoid a greenish, mold-like appearance. When preparing fresh chestnuts, they must be peeled and cooked before consuming.

Add cooked, peeled chestnuts to stuffing, rice or savory pie filling. Incorporate cooked chestnuts into soups, stews, casseroles, or vegetable dishes. Or add pureed chestnuts to mashed potatoes.

Here are additional health benefits from chestnuts:

  • Chestnuts are rich in vitamin C. They are the only nuts that contain this vitamin. They also contain B-vitamins and folate.
  • Chestnuts contain a rich source of mono-unsaturated fatty acid (MUFAs). MUFAs are part of a healthy diet and help to improve our lipid blood profile by reducing LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing HDL (good cholesterol) levels.
  • Chestnuts are a good source of potassium, which helps in lowering blood pressure. In addition, they are good sources of copper, manganese, and selenium, which are all important components in the body’s antioxidant and anti-flammatory responses to harmful free radicals.

 Wild Rice with Water Chestnuts and Mushrooms

1 13 cup wild blend brown rice

2 23 cup 99% fat free chicken broth

1 8oz can water chestnuts (drained)

1 can (8 oz dry weight) mushroom pieces and stems (drained)

1 tbsp butter

Directions:

Cook rice in chicken broth – bring to a boil then simmer, covered for 45 minutes.  Sauté water chestnuts and mushrooms in butter. When rice is done, add together and stir well.

Nutritional Information:

Servings per Recipe: 5, Serving Size: 1 cup

Calories: 202, Total Fat: 3.9 g, Total Carbs: 41.9 g, Dietary Fiber: 4.5 g, Protein: 5.8 g

Source: www.sparkrecipes.com and http://www.healthcastle.com/chestnuts-food-month