The Camping Trilogy: Part 1 – Managing Food Allergies

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This weekend Mike and I went camping near China Beach, on Vancouver Island. I have been wanting to go camping for quite sometime however a busy work schedule and chronic pain has limited our ability to go camping until now. However, we were able to have a wonderful weekend with some short hikes along the coast and the beach.

As many of you know, when you have food allergies, asthma and/or environmental allergies, a camping trip requires a fair bit of planning. With all the preparations you need to make, it is easy enough to feel overwhelmed even before you hit the road! However I have found that the easiest way to minimize that overwhelming feeling is to make a to do list, or even a couple different lists.

Tackling the food allergies: I started by making a list of how many breakfasts, lunches and dinners we would need. Then I tried to think of what foods we could have that wouldn’t require too much cooking, so we would have more time to hike and enjoy our time in the outdoors. We planned simple dinners, like gluten free pasta and a homemade sauce (which I made the day before) and decided to have breakfast sandwiches as a nice treat as we don’t have those very often. Having food allergies does not in any way mean you should have to miss out on treats and a fun camping trip! It may require a little more work but I assure you it is worth it!

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Everything we brought was “Erika-friendly” when you are out in the woods with no cell phone reception, it’s important to limit or entirely restrict the chance of an allergic reaction. I ALWAYS trust the Enjoy Life brand with my peanut, tree nut and soy allergies as well as my gluten and dairy sensitivity. So I packed some of their granola and their “no nuts! Fruit and Seed Mix” which we love! I knew that those would be safe. Whenever I travel on a plane or am far from medical care, my golden rule is; “only eat products I have eaten before and trust the company and their labels”. This may seem limiting, however all it means is that you should try things you want to take with you well before you go away. So really in truly, the only difference is no new treats on your trip.

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If you are camping with friends and/or family, it is up to you what you feel most comfortable with. In the past, I have always asked that those I go camping with please not bring foods I am allergic to. To this day, I have not had any disagreements or had anyone argue with me over it, because I have always been 100% honest with them and explained that being so far away from medical care, the chances of cross-contamination were too risky for me. Especially when going out into the back country. It is only a few days, and people who care about your well-being should be willing to discuss this topic and perhaps share some other ideas they have in terms of mitigating the risks. Perhaps you can provide the food and they can each give you some money towards the cost…

What do you do when camping with food allergies? When camping with others, do they bring food you are allergic to?

Stay tuned for:

The Camping Trilogy: Part 2 – Asthma and Environmental Allergies

The Camping Trilogy: Part 3 – Managing Chronic Pain

BC Summer Games – A Memorable Experience

A month ago I was preparing my meal plan, food, and all our zone athletes for BC Summer Games. Time sure has flown! Preparing for the Games with my allergies was a tough one, 4 days and 3 nights of food to fit in a cooler and wasn’t sure if I’d have access to a microwave for dinner so my meals were simple. Though I had the same food every day I enjoyed every meal. My homemade food was really good, hard boiled eggs and fruit for breakfasts, gluten free sandwich with chicken I cooked before leaving, cherries and peaches for an afternoon snack and then turkey stew for dinner. After a busy day of coaching I didn’t even mind cold stew!

I had a really wonderful experience, my pain was well managed and I took antihistamines for my allergies. My asthma did flare up, due to the fact that we were sleeping on the floor of a school which had been closed for a month, however my rescue inhaler and antihistamines helped create relief from the regular flare ups. Even though it was a whole lot of work, organizing food – where to keep the food while we stayed at a school and also managing allergies, asthma and pain, it was an experience I will definitely repeat! Loved the atmosphere! Even though there were many hurdles/challenges I overcame them and came out stronger and also more patient as a result!

I truly love being a sprint kayak/canoe coach because I get the opportunity to support youth who are really keen and determined.

Over and out for now!!! :)

Here we go!

I’m on the bus heading to the BC Summer Games with my athletes! It’s actually a beautiful ride with the sun rising.

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Cooler is packed for 4 days away from home! Breakfasts consist of hard boiled eggs and fruit, lunches will be chicken/lettuce sandwich with avocado and some carrot/celery sticks and cherries as my snacking food. Lastly, I’ve got turkey stew for dinners! Who said being away from home for 4 days had to mean I wouldn’t eat good food?! It can be a whole lot of work to organize, but I am soo happy I know what I will be eating and don’t have to worry about that whole portion of the Games!

I can now focus on my athletes and not worry about having a reaction. Let the Games begin!

Juggling food allergies, environmental allergies and asthma while in a high responsibility role – BC Summer Games

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It’s Tuesday morning and I am working on my to do list for the BC Summer Games. My emotions are very mixed. I am excited to be going to the Games and have been selected as head coach, however I am anxious about my food/environmental allergies, asthma and chronic pain I am dealing with. As head coach for our zone in Canoe/Kayak I have a lot of responsibility during the Games, but also prior to the Games. I have 12 athletes to get organized and make sure they all meet at the same place and time on Day 1. I’ve spent most of yesterday dealing with last minute registration issues and emailing parents and finally today, have some time to do my own work and get myself ready for this 4 day affair!

I have to prepare my food for 3 meals a day over 4 days where I won’t be able to prepare anything. I’ll have access to a microwave and that’s it. The schedule is pretty busy too, so won’t be able to go to the grocery store for food. So this is the challenge. It reminds me of the training camps I used to have when I was a competitive cross-country ski athlete, that were 3-4 days. Except I also am responsible for 12 other people now, so it is a little different…

You see, on Thursday morning I’ll be getting up at 3 am and my wonderful boyfriend will be driving me to the chartered bus pick-up location for 4:20 am! Yeah, that’s really really early! I am lucky to have a partner willing to drive me that early in the morning! We’ll be sleeping in a school, so I also need to make sure I have full asthma inhalers and lots of antihistamines at the ready.

This may be the last post for a little while because I don’t foresee much time to post while at the event. I’ll definitely be sharing my experience after the fact.

Conferences, events, and hotel food

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If you are living with life threatening food allergies, you have likely attended a conference or other catered event. Whether the event was a wedding, a holiday party or perhaps a conference, having a safe meal, or multiple safe meals can be challenging. Have you had an exceptional and memorable experience with hotel staff, or catering staff? Have you ever had an experience that may have resulted in a reaction?

I have attended numerous conferences and catered events, for all different occasions and each one has taught me a new tip and raised my awareness a notch.  A few action items I HIGHLY recommend are:

1. Provide a list of ALL your allergies prior to the event (either to event staff, or hotel management)

2. Before the first meal, ask to speak to the “Maitre D” or Kitchen Manager/Head Chef

3. If you genuinely don’t feel comfortable eating from the buffet, then do NOT hesitate to tell them. Tell them you would feel much safer having a separate plate for each meal. They should understand that.

Just because you have food allergies or food sensitivities, like I do, to gluten or dairy, it doesn’t mean you need to miss out on good food and dining! Live the conference, wedding or other event to the fullest while enjoying tasty food just like your friends or colleagues! Speak up! :)

I used to keep quiet and not eat very well. Now, I often eat better than others at the conferences. Some managers have even brought me meals personally! AND placed the napkin on my lap and pushed my chair in! While others were getting their own food from the buffet! Don’t get down because you have food allergies. Don’t let having food allergies be “unfair” they don’t have to be! Trust me on this one!

 

A new dessert…

This afternoon, I decided I would try a new recipes I found for a dairy free mint/chocolate chips ice cream and decided I would try it! I headed off to the grocery store with my list of ingredients and returned home, extremely excited to attempt this ice cream. Here’s a before picture with the ingredients the recipe called for… It’s my very first time making ice cream with avocados! I love avocados so am VERY excited. :)

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Once I’ve tried the recipe, I’ll be tweaking it a little before sharing, to make sure it’s the tastiest it can possibly be!

Are you trying any new recipes this weekend?

 

A small price to pay – Cost of living with food allergies

Shopping basket fruit and vegetables isolated on whiteI’ve recently started a part-time job at a grocery store nearby. Life with food allergies and dietary restrictions can be very costly. Because of my allergies to soy we buy all local/free range poultry and meat as I often have a reaction from poultry and meat bought at the big chain grocery stores. This makes cost of living go up quite a bit and getting an extra part-time job has been a good way to help with that higher cost of living.

When it comes to meals, my partner and I usually eat vegetables with poultry, fish and meat. I can’t buy the cheaper foods because well, they happen to have most of the things I am allergic to. The rice crackers I can eat that do not have any of my allergens in them are more expensive than others and regular crackers. When it comes to a cheaper protein option to have with lunches, I recently had a reaction to a brand and type of canned tuna that I had been eating for years. A few weeks ago, I had some on my salad and had a reaction. It had soy. Obviously, un-declared. There went my one easy protein source that I don’t have to cook and can take on the road with me when I travel. I don’t react to other more expensive tuna, however these cans can be $6 per can! Way more than I can afford with part-time work and school… I know the high cost of groceries for us is just a fact of life and don’t worry too much about it because I also know that we are eating as healthy as we possibly could be.

I look at it like this… When it comes to groceries, it is really expensive having food allergies however I’ve long realized that having food allergies and other dietary restrictions like gluten and dairy is in fact keeping me healthier. I am not eating any processed foods and eat far more vegetables than most. Most days, I find my food allergies have had a positive impact on my life, in more ways than just eating healthy.Most days, I don’t get frustrated when I can’t eat something others are eating. Instead I tell myself “so glad I’m not able to eat the cake or deserts” because I know it would go straight to my hips! Obviously I haven’t always thought this. As a kid I would feel left out when I missed out on things. My perspective has definitely changed over the years. I’m now happy to have food allergies as it has taught me how to speak up, be very attentive and has helped my self-confidence.

Do you find you spend more on groceries than perhaps your friends or family members do? What tricks have you found to help you save money when shopping? What are some things that you simply can’t save on?