Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Omega 3 Red Smoothie (because green drinks are SO last year)...

I remember when all anyone would talk about was kale. Yuck! I made a few kale smoothies, but was never a big fan. Sure, it's REALLY healthy, but meh.

Well, it seems red is the new green! WebMD has a great article about the benefits of red foods. I will point out that I think it's important to get a color-balanced diet, but it's fun to experiment sometimes!

Since I'm in my third-trimester, I'm trying to focus on getting Omega-3s for baby brain development. For non-pregnant people, they can offer anti-inflamatory benefits, help with arthritis, asthma, etc. Being a non-fish eater I only use flax to get my omegas.

I was at Target the other day and came across a 'red power' smoothie drink. It was quite expensive, but I wasn't going to be home anytime soon and was craving something sweet. I turned it around, and they were nice enough to give me the recipe!

Wahoo! Guess who's making smoothies?!? A quick trip to the grocery store rounded out my supplies (I had the flax, grapes and bananas on hand).

Since I wanted to make a giant batch of juice, I tweaked the recipe. I ended up using:

  • 20 red seedless grapes
  • 2 bananas
  • 3 red delicious apples
  • 2 naval oranges
  • 1/2 small bottle POM juice
  • 1/2 small bag frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 small bag frozen raspberries
  • 1 cup 100% apple/cranberry juice
  • 5 tbsp ground flaxseed meal

I put as much fruit in the blender that would fit! Then, after it reduced, I added the remaining ingredients (except the flax seed).

I wasn't sure how 'gritty' the smoothie would be, so I thought I may strain it before adding the flax. Since there weren't any seeds, the mix was very 'smoothie-esque' so I went ahead and added the ground flax. It's very finely ground, so it's not like you have seeds in your drink. If you had a really watery juice you may notice it, but in a smoothie it practically disappears.

I ended up with a full pitcher of the juice. It's slightly tart, but not cranberry juice tart. I had some fresh watermelon on hand I thought about adding, but it's so delicious raw that I didn't want to waste it! It would definitely be a good addition if you like a more sweet juice. 

I wasn't brave enough to add any red veggies (beets, rhubarb, etc.)... maybe next time!

What red juices have you tried? What are your favorite fruits/veggies to spruce up a smoothie?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Food Allergy Insights

I think one of the most stressful things for a parent is to have a child with food allergies. Even more so if the parent doesn't have food allergies. 

I've spent my whole life dealing with food allergies. It becomes part of your life and you go on auto-pilot reading labels, researching restaurant menus, asking for special cooking requests, etc. When the babe was diagnosed with a food allergy, I was sad for him, but was confident that I would be able to cope fairly easily.

Unfortunately, until he reaches a certain age, he doesn't realize that some things he puts in his mouth can kill him. On a playdate his friend may want to share their snack, or a substitute church nursery volunteer may offer him some of the wrong crackers, or someone may leave an empty cereal bowl on the coffee table and he gets his hands on the spoon (true story - I felt TERRIBLE): 

I think there are so many misconceptions, misinformation, and basic ignorance about food allergies in general. The babe most likely has allergies because I did, but not necessarily the same allergies. Having a food allergy doesn't mean you "don't like" a food, it means your body's immune system is reacting to the food. It can be a mild reaction (itchy nose) or a severe reaction (death). 

The most common way to test for allergies is a skin test. Blood tests are becoming more common and more accurate, but skin testing is still the most prevalent and widely accepted testing method. The process (in laymen's terms) involves dipping a needle in a solution that includes the allergen protein and pricking the skin (so the allergen gets into the body). They have 'pads' of needles, so you can do 10 pricks at a time. They mark each prick spot so they don't get lost on the skin. Adults often have this done on their forearms, but children get it on the back for the surface area.

Then you wait, and see what happens. Any hive/welt that appears indicates an allergy to that substance. You can see the babe has 3 allergic reactions:

Unfortunately, not much is known about food allergies. They can't pinpoint what causes the condition, they're not sure why so many more kids have allergies these days, and you don't know what your reaction may be. One day you may be exposed to the allergy and just get itchy skin, but the next time, you may go into anaphylactic shock: 
  • Skin—itching, hives, redness, swelling
  • Nose—sneezing, stuffy nose, runny nose
  • Mouth—itching, swelling of lips or tongue
  • Throat—itching, tightness, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness
  • Chest—shortness of breath, cough, wheeze, chest pain, tightness
  • Heart—weak pulse, passing out, shock
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) tract—vomiting, diarrhea, cramps
  • Nervous system—dizziness or fainting
Most people with severe food allergies carry epinephrine injections with them that will help if their throat begins closing: 

It can be frustrating when people don't understand food allergies. It's not that people don't 'like' milk, eggs, peanuts, thee nuts, fish, shellfish, soy or wheat (the most common food allergies - so common they are required to be identified on food labels). It's not that someone on an airplane hates you, and doesn't want you to eat peanuts for your flight. I guarantee you'll be much more angry if your plane gets diverted for a medical emergency than you will be waiting an hour to have a salty snack... 

It's also stressful that people unfamiliar with food allergies aren't as vigilant when preparing food. Did you know some dinner rolls have milk in them? Or that Worcestershire sauce has anchovies? Or that Trader Joe's Carrot Orange juice has tilapia fish gelatin and anchovy & sardine oil ?!? 

Oils are a tricky issue. People allergic to a food may not be allergic to that food's oil - depending on how it is processed (highly refined versus cold-pressed/expelled) and wether or not natural flavor has been added back in. Some processes take out all of the food proteins (no allergens left) and others don't. So if you know someone with a peanut allergy who has eaten at Chic-Fil-A (who exclusively uses Peanut Oil to fry), it doesn't mean they really don't have a peanut allergy - the company committed to using the most highly refined/processed oils to be a peanut-safe product.

As someone with severe food allergies, and now as a mom of a kiddo with allergies, I have to follow some rules to stay sane. I have a mental list of restaurants, brands, and foods that I don't have to worry about. Being adventurous with food isn't an option - If I don't recognize it or see the label, the risk isn't worth it. Trust me, I would LOVE to try everything at least once.

If you're a server, know that I'm not asking for special treatment because I'm picky...
If we're meeting up for dinner, know that I'm not trying to deny you of a meal at your favorite restaurant...
If you're hosting a dinner, don't be offended if I bring a 'safe' dish to the party...

They are making strides in allergy research. There have long been allergy shots for environmental allergies, but food allergies haven't had many options. Recently, oral immunotherapy (gradually exposing allergic people to their trigger over time in a controlled environment) has proven successful, and is becoming a common treatment for severely allergic patients (I'll be looking into this soon). 

Please be patient and understanding with people suffering from food allergies - if you want to learn more about food allergies, visit