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Food Allergy Friday: Valentine’s Edition

by Emily Funcik

Valentine’s Day can be such a fun holiday for kids to celebrate with friends and classmates. Let’s help keep it fun and safe for those children who have food allergies.  Here are 5 tips for keeping Valentine’s day safe and inclusive for our kids!

1. Communicate. Talk with your child’s teachers and/or room mom(s) about your child’s specific allergy needs. Have them send out a note to other parents alerting them of the allergens to avoid when sending Valentine’s treats. Because my son is allergic to milk, we’ve asked that his classmates send only non-chocolate treats for his class Valentine’s party. With his type of allergy, we feel fairly confident that avoiding chocolate treats alone will allow him to stay safe.

2. Use non-food treats. There are loads of fun little toys, arts and craft supplies, tattoos or other non-food items that kids will love in place of candy. This would be an especially helpful way to handle the holiday if your child has multiple food allergies.

3. Read labels. Be sure to check the label of any food or candy your child receives for his or her allergens. If your child can read, encourage them to do this before they eat any food-based treat.

4. Look out for homemade goodies. While homemade treats are a kind and generous contribution, items sent from someone’s home kitchen do pose a risk to kids with food allergies. Teachers and students may not know exactly what ingredients homemade foods have in them, and there is the risk of cross contamination with foods not made in an allergy-friendly environment. Some schools have started putting limits on homemade items allowed in the classroom. If your child’s school still allows homemade treats to be sent in, offer to send something yourself that you know will be appropriate for your child to eat. You could also ask that parents label foods really well or include a recipe or ingredient list.

5. Practice the language. Give your child phrases to use when asking about the ingredients of a food and politely but firmly refusing items that could cause a reaction. This empowers the child and also helps keep them safe.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Enjoy the ones you love!

Be sure to follow Emily’s blog here and check back with her next week for a yummy Valentine’s Day recipe,

Red Velvet Cake

There are tons of recipes on the internet for red velvet cake. Unfortunately almost all of them call for an insane amount of red dye, anywhere from 3 tablespoons to 1/4 cup or even a blank statement calling for “2 bottles” of dye. I painstakingly experimented with many recipes – some calling for grated raw beets while others called for cooked mashed beets. Many many experiments later, I created my perfect dye-free red velvet cake! Instead of artificial dyes, I use organic beetroot powder to obtain some of that redness in this iconic cake. I had to balance the redness and the density of the cake by manipulating the pH and CO2 amounts. My ever-so-loving scientist husband was ecstatic to give me a lesson in dilution factors to help quantify my baking experiments. Check out this fancy chart he created for me.

The left y-axis shows the “redness” of the cake as we go from no baking soda to a full dose (1/2 teaspoon) of baking soda as per my recipe. The right y-axis shows the rising height of the cake. I read that baking soda decreases the redness of beets in recipes which is quite evident in my experiment here. Although we found this to be generally true, we also noticed that you needed some baking powder to enhance the redness. The peak in the redline shows that a 3:2 and 2:3 ratio maximizes the redness, however, it greatly affected the height and density of the final product. Putting in a full dose of baking soda gave us a nice and fluffy but brown cake. The 1:4 ratio gave us the best outcome in fluffiness and redness. I was surprised to find out that just a tiny bit of baking soda made a huge difference. I will never be able to obtain that ruby red cake that artificial coloring gives to red velvet cake but I can provide a much healthier and equally, if not better, yummy final product.

Artificial Coloring and Food Allergies. There’s a ton of published literature on the effects of artificial coloring on people. The Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Journal, the official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology has a large collection of articles that address the effects of artificial coloring and its relationship to food allergies in children and other groups of individuals. In most instances, its hard to pinpoint an actual artificial coloring allergy. The effects of artificial coloring may be more evident in children who already have an existing food allergy (FA). The intolerance may adversely affect a child’s behavior or express itself in the form of eczema. There are even instances when an FA person may suffer anaphylaxis shock from ingesting commercially processed food containing artificial dyes. In 1977, the FDA stepped in and mandated that artificial coloring must be disclosed unless the unit is “so small that a statement of… artificial coloring… cannot be placed on such units with such conspicuousness as to render it likely to be read by the ordinary individual under customary conditions of purchase and use.” I conclude that it’s best to maintain as much as an artificial dye-free diet as possible and eating my dye-free red velvet cake made with organic beet powder is a great way to start!




Food Allergy Basics

by Emily Funcik

What is a food allergy?

The National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) defines a food allergy as “an adverse health effect arising from a specific immune response that occurs reproducibly on exposure to a given food.” So basically, your immune system recognizes a particular food as a threat and reacts in a negative way consistently when it is exposed to that food. Food allergies have a very specific immune response: either IgE mediated or non-IgE mediated. Symptoms can present in a variety of ways that could include the skin, the intestine, the cardiovascular system, or the respiratory system. Some food allergies are life threatening. IgE mediated responses can happen within minutes of eating the offending food. Non-IgE mediated responses can take hours or days to show up. The 8 main food allergens are eggs, milk, soy, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and wheat, but any food ingredient can be an allergen.

Are food allergies, food intolerance, and food sensitivities the same?

The short answer is no. Food intolerances and food sensitivities show up in similar ways to a true food allergy, but may not involve the immune system. While true food allergies develop when your immune system reacts to a protein in a food, food intolerance can occur when your body reacts to other components of a food. For instance, lactose intolerance occurs when the body cannot properly digest lactose, a sugar found in cow’s milk. Generally speaking, while food sensitivities and intolerances can be very uncomfortable, they are not life-threatening. Some individuals with food sensitivity only experience symptoms when consuming raw food, but can tolerate the offending food when cooked. Some with food sensitivities may be able to tolerate a small quantity of the food before having a reaction.

How do I know if I have a food allergy?

Food allergies can be tough to diagnose. Some allergic reactions are obvious, as in cases of anaphylaxis. (Think the guy reacting to the shrimp he ate in the movies…hives, trouble swallowing or breathing, etc) Some are much more subtle, as with skin reactions or reactions that involve the intestine. If you suspect that you have a food allergy, seek out the advice of a board certified allergist. It is likely that they will perform a prick skin test (PST) to begin to gauge your reaction to certain allergens. The allergist then may do blood work to further determine your body’s immune response to allergens. The “gold standard” for diagnosing a food allergy is an oral food challenge. During a food challenge, the allergist will have you bring the suspected allergen into his or her office with you and eat a small amount over time while you are in the office for observation.

I’ve been diagnosed, so now what?

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with a food allergy, keep your head up. There are so many great allergy-friendly resources and foods out there. Avoidance of your food allergen is going to be key to keeping you healthy and safe. Focus on incorporating “whole” foods into your diet more than packaged or processed foods. This is a healthy rule for just about anyone, but will also limit the number of places your particular allergen can hide. Read food ingredient lists like crazy. Packaged foods that contain one of the 8 main allergens should include a “contains” statement, (i.e. CONTAINS: WHEAT) so start by looking for that. If you do not see a “contains” statement, check the ingredients anyway.

Take it seriously. Food allergies can be somewhat unpredictable. So what started as a minor reaction can escalate into something serious quickly. Get tested regularly, as well. Food allergies can develop unexpectedly to foods you have previously eaten with no trouble. Likewise it is possible to “outgrow” allergies. Testing with some regularity can help you keep your diet as liberal as possible.

Seek out the help of a registered dietitian for more information. I have a great bundle of sessions designed specifically for people newly diagnosed with a food allergy here. Let me know if I can help!

Click here to follow Emily’s blog!

Meet Emily Funcik, Dietitian Nutritionist

Hey all. I’ve asked local licensed and registered dietitian nutritionist, Emily Funcik, to guest post for PLUFF CAKES’s blog monthly. Please meet Emily.

Emily Funcik is a registered dietitian nutritionist with a private practice in Mount Pleasant where she sees clients for wellness, weight management, and food allergy management. Child feeding is a big passion for Emily as well. She graduated from Clemson University with a bachelors degree in food science and human nutrition before completing her dietetic internship at the Medical University of South Carolina. Emily worked for Roper St. Francis healthcare for several years as the cardiac rehab and general outpatient dietitian before the birth of her first son in 2015. In December of 2015, Emily’s son was diagnosed with an allergy to milk, and this really spurred her interest in helping others thrive despite the diagnosis of food allergies. Since that time, Emily has completed the certificate of training in food allergies and intolerances through the Commission on Dietetic Registration and assisted clients and their families as they learn to navigate food labels, grocery shopping, and food preparation to avoid allergens. Emily is passionate about seeing people live their fullest life with balanced, realistic nutrition and health practices.

You can follow Emily’s blog here and follow her on Facebook here.

New chocolate cake recipe!

I love experimenting with cake recipes, trying new flavor combinations or simply refining an existing recipe I already love. But then there are the classic chocolate and vanilla cake recipes that one must strive to perfect. I’ve experimented with dozens of vanilla cake recipes and I think I have it down. Today, I experimented with a new chocolate cake recipe and I think I have a new go-to!

I think this is even better than my regular non-vegan recipe. So from now on, my standard go-to chocolate cake will always be vegan! I also experimented with a gluten free version. And guess what! It’s just as good.

For Valentines Day, I’m offering this chocolate cake with strawberry ermine frosting, topped with chocolate dipped strawberries. 1/2 orders are available for Valentines Day only!

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