There’s an App for That: Managing Food Allergies When Dining Out

Mobile phone app in restaurantSecond in a series about food allergies

By Alison Acerra, MS, RD

Since restaurants aren’t required to label food allergens, your best course of action before ordering is to share your allergy concerns with the staff. Don’t be hesitant to ask how foods are prepared, along with the ingredients used. And feel free to request modifications to accommodate your food preferences.

Food, Restaurant Apps Help You Avoid Problems

For food allergy sufferers, the more you know about food ingredients, the better your chance to enjoy a meal. Here’s where technology is your friend, with the explosion of apps to guide your food choices. Among my favorites:

  • iAvoid Food Allergy: Helps users identify presence of any of the Top 8 by entering product names and or ingredients.
  • Eatfindr: Whether you are going soy free, dairy free or all organic, this is an easy-to-use app which helps find local restaurants that match your food preferences.
  • Yummly: For iPhone and iPad, this app and site lets you search for recipes that meet your lifestyle preferences, including dietary restrictions.
  • My Food Facts: This iPhone app and site lets you choose your favorite recipes and swap out common food allergy ingredients with safe substitutions.

Alison Acerra, MS, RD, is the national nutrition and wellness manager for Guckenheimer, a food service organization that is focused on the impact of food on wellness in the workplace. Alison has worked in a variety of clinical settings at high profile Silicon Valley companies and specializes in weight management, cardiovascular disease and diabetes prevention and management, as well as culinary nutrition.

Look to the Label: Managing Food Allergies

Managing Food AllergiesFirst in a series about food allergies

By Alison Acerra, MS, RD

Food allergies are a growing issue affecting more children and adults than ever. And the bottom line is: The only way to manage a food allergy is to avoid the offending food and ingredients that contain it.

A food allergy is an auto-immune response and the body’s way of defending itself against what it perceives as a harmful substance. Symptoms can range in severity from a mild skin rash to a life threatening reaction.

Spotting Allergens Using Food Labels

Fortunately, it’s now much easier for individuals with common food allergies to make safe choices. These allergens are known as the “Top 8” and include wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy, nuts and tree nuts. FDA labeling laws require manufacturers to list the presence of an ingredient that is, or contains, protein from one of the Top 8 on nutrition facts labels.   This information is provided in one of two ways:

  1. In the ingredient list: the ingredient that contains an allergen may be listed and followed by the food allergen it contains in parenthesis. Example:   Ingredients: Enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), sugar, whey (milk), eggs)
  2. The label may include a “contains” statement. Example: “Contains Wheat, Milk, Egg, and Soy.”

Some food labels will include advisory statements such as “processed in a facility that also processes (name of allergen), however this is not mandated. Unfortunately, the current regulations do not alert consumers of presence of allergens through unintentional cross-contact which might occur in the manufacturing process.

Alison Acerra, MS, RD, is the national nutrition and wellness manager for Guckenheimer, a food service organization that is focused on the impact of food on wellness in the workplace. Alison has worked in a variety of clinical settings at high profile Silicon Valley companies and specializes in weight management, cardiovascular disease and diabetes prevention and management, as well as culinary nutrition.


Three Myths about Sun Exposure

#SunWiseSelfieHow do you safely enjoy the sun? Enter to win a $100 gift card by sharing a pic of you enjoying the summer sun safely! Grand prize drawing July 7 for a private sailing adventure on Puget Sound!

By Gary Strong, PA

Myth 1: Sun exposure is okay as long as I don’t get burned

Sunburn indicates that you have absorbed too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation, but skin damage occurs even before you have one.

Two types of UV radiation reach the earth in significant amounts:.

  • UVB makes up 5% of the UV radiation that reaches the earth and the UV index is a measurement of this radiation. (Check your local index here.) It is most highly concentrated in the middle of the day from 11am-3pm. UVB is primarily responsible for redness, sunburn, inflammation, and development of darker pigment or even skin cancer.
  • UVA makes up 95% of the radiation that reaches the earth. It is constant and even penetrates clouds and stays relatively stable throughout the year. UVA can cause damage similar to UVB but to a lesser extent. However, it has greater potential to cause pigment darkening, skin aging, and wrinkle development.

Myth 2: I should get a “base tan” for protection

Tans are a sign of UV damage. When you get a “base tan” you are damaging your skin! Your body tries to protect itself by creating pigment in response to UV damage. While the tan may give some temporary protection from future sunburns, UV damage still occurs with sun exposure. Those who have “base tans” tend to spend more unprotected time in the sun so are more likely to get more UV absorption and damage overall.

Myth 3: Sun damage is only a concern in the summer

UVA is always around and although less commonly implicated in sunburns, leads to brown spots and premature skin aging (wrinkles). UVA even penetrates car windows although most windows and glass do provide UVB protection. UVB is not as prevalent during winter months especially in the more northern climates.

Gary Strong works as a Dermatology Physician Assistant at Northwest Dermatology in Edmonds, WA. He attended Arcadia University in Glenside, PA where he earned master’s degrees in Medical Science and Public Health.

Winning by Losing: How a Premera Employee Won Its Biggest Loser Challenge

Roland_Joseph 2Losing weight is tough. No doubt about it. But when you have an army of supporters next to you fighting through the same challenges, it can be a lot easier to handle.

That’s exactly what 215 Premera employees did.

Twelve weeks ago the Operations group at its Mountlake Terrace office began JUMP’s Biggest Loser Challenge. At least 1,256 pounds lost later, they stand together healthier and happier. Especially the man who lost the most weight.

Joseph Roland committed himself to a new routine, and he lost nearly 14% of his total body weight. Did he have a big secret? Starting small and setting realistic goals. He also fought through a back issue at the start of his journey.

“The issues with my spine affected my ability to be active,” he said. “I did the only things that I could do to help get the weight loss started, which was a healthy diet and walking. I walked five miles a day. The pain in my spine decreased, so I was able to start doing other forms of exercise. At the end of the challenge I worked up to over two hours of exercise a day.

Setting a goal before I completed the competition helped me keep moving forward. It’s important to set realistic goals along with benchmarks, which help mitigate procrastination that can so easily happen when trying to lose weight.”

Using a fitness tracking device also helped him greatly. By keeping tabs on everything he was doing, he was able to ensure a 1,000 to 2,000-calorie deficit through virtually every day of the competition.

Have your own inspiring story to share or some fantastic fitness tips? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!

Ditch the Salt: How to Spice up Your Food without Sodium

By Heather Snively MS, RD

We get used to the high levels of sodium in restaurant foods and packaged products. If you’re ready to make a change and reduce your intake, keep in mind there is a “lag period” for taste buds to adjust and at first, foods may taste “bland”. Allow about two weeks for taste buds to adjust and look for other ways to flavor foods such as using herbs and spices. These excellent alternative seasonings provide flavor and can help lower inflammation in the body, which is associated with chronic health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.

Use these helpful hints for improving flavor while reducing salt:

  • Layer flavor with cooking techniques: roast, caramelize, brown and toast.
  • Instead of adding salt during the cooking process, add less salt just before serving the dish to deliver a satisfying salty flavor on the front end of the palate.
  • Incorporate an acid such as vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest or orange juice to help tenderize meats when used in marinades and enhance flavor without additional salt.
  • Build in “umami”, or savory taste with tomatoes, mushrooms, and low sodium options for condiments like soy sauce and fish sauce.
  • Use bold flavors from herbs and spices like garlic, curry and paprika.
  • Finely chop salty ingredients like anchovies, olives and capers so their salt and flavor spread evenly throughout the dish.
  • When working with salty ingredients, don’t add more salt to the dish.

Have tips? Comment below, on Facebook or on Twitter!

Heather Snively, MS, RD, is a nutrition and wellness manager at Guckenheimer, an on-site corporate restaurant management and catering company.  She received her Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Washington in 2011.  Heather is passionate about helping others determine the best way to enjoy food and stay healthy.  Her food philosophy is simple:  moderation in all things, except for vegetables—eat all the vegetables you like.


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