Food Allergy Living Blog

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8 Questions with Kendra Valle, Nutrition Specialist

Posted 7.24.15 | Nutrition Specialist

We are happy to introduce Kendra Valle, our newest addition to the Food Allergy Living team! Kendra is a Nutrition Specialist in the Medical & Scientific Affairs Department, and serves as a resource to parents/caregivers, dietitians, physicians, nurses and other individuals who have medical- and nutrition-related questions about Neocate products. 

We sat down with Kendra to find out a little more about how being a busy mom of two daughters helps her to advise parents of children with a cow milk allergy (CMA).

Why did you choose to work in this field? What do you find most interesting about the medical foods industry?

There are so many areas of nutrition that a dietitian can be a part of. I chose to become a member of the Nutricia team because Nutricia sincerely believes in providing best care. We are able to help so many through nutrition while providing specialized medical foods that people actually enjoy!

How often do you draw from your own experience as a mom to help Neocate customers?

Pretty often.  I talk to many parents and caregivers on a daily basis who often share their personal situation with me. I put myself in their shoes and think, “If this were me, this is what I do.” I ask myself what I would do if this was one of my own kids. I believe that when providing the best care possible, empathy is a huge factor.

What was your best pregnancy memory?

My best memory was when the baby was moving around and I could feel life inside me for the first time. It was a pretty awesome feeling.

Provide an example of what you do when one of your daughter’s does not like a certain type of food (i.e. getting them to eat broccoli)

If they don’t like something that I offered, I do not force them to try it—instead, I encourage them. I found that the more I force them, the more they resist. In order to encourage healthy eating, I model healthy eating.

For example, my four year old daughter is a very picky eater. She started to see me eat a spinach salad on a daily basis, and eventually asked if she could eat it too. She loved it and soon was asking me to pack spinach in her lunch. I realized that by modeling healthy eating habits, she too would engage in healthy eating habits.

What are your children’s favorite Neocate products?

Neocate Junior chocolate—they love chocolate!

If you had one piece of advice for parents with children who have a cow milk allergy, what would it be?

If your child has been diagnosed with CMA, it is essential to keep their diet interesting. Drinking the same flavors  or eating the same foods everyday can become very boring for a child, so try to play around with foods they can tolerate. For example, you can vary recipes by mixing Neocate into a smoothie, or even into pancakes. I have written a blog post with allergy-friendly recipesthat any parent can use as a guide. 

I have also found that peer relationships matter when a child has food allergies.  So whenever your child is with their friends, try to come prepared with something that is similar to what the other kids are eating. I have a friend whose son has CMA and she always asks beforehand what will be served when he goes on an outing with his friends. That way, she can prepare foods for her son so he is still eating what other kids are eating and won’t feel left out! 

Cooking with Neocate

Posted 7.23.15 | Nutrition Specialist

We get emails and phone calls almost daily from parents, caregivers, patients and clinicians asking questions like "What happens if we cook with Neocate?" We know that there are a lot of creative ways that some families use Neocate, such as a replacement for cow milk in baked recipes. We've developed a handy one-page document to answer the most common questions that Neocate families want answers to. You can find your own copy of 'Cooking with Neocate' on the 'Recipes and Guides' page of the Neocate website, along with lots of other helpful materials.

As always, we recommend that you check with your healthcare team, because some forms of cooking can affect some nutrient levels in Neocate.

How have you gotten creative in using Neocate products in recipes?


When The Unthinkable Becomes Reality

Posted 7.16.15 | Nutrition Specialist

Our food allergy journey began in September of 2010 when our oldest was diagnosed with an egg allergy.  Within seven short months, our youngest had joined him with a food allergy diagnosis of dairy, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts. Following my little men’s diagnosis, my husband and I set some ground rules. At the top of the list was, “No new foods unless both of us were present.”  It seemed logical until one day, fancying myself Wonder Woman, I decided to throw our number one rule out the window.

It was a hot July afternoon and I was preparing lunch for my little men.  My youngest, just a month shy of his second birthday, wanted to eat what big brother was eating – hummus.  I carefully read the package and it appeared that the only ingredients he hadn’t had before were garbanzo beans and tahini.  I was feeling confident that the hummus was safe, so I called my husband at work and explained that I wanted to give it a try.  Surprisingly, he gave me the green light.

I pulled off the foil lid of the hummus cup, grabbed the bottle of Benadryl, and EpiPens.  He attacked the hummus with his veggie straws while I watched his every move from across the table.  Only four bites in, I began to notice hives forming around his mouth.  I whisked him away from the table, washed his hands and face, and gave him a dose of Benadryl.  I notified my husband of the reaction, noted the time, and began to watch my little man closely.  With previous reactions, a dose of Benadryl always did the trick within fifteen minutes.  Not this time. This time was different.

Within ten minutes, I knew something was wrong.  He was crying uncontrollably and turning bright red, which I figured was from all of the crying.  I didn’t EpiPen him because he appeared to be stable – uncomfortable, but stable.  I called 911 because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get him to the hospital in time, should he take a turn for the worse.   The paramedics arrived quickly and my little man’s state had not changed.

I explained the situation to the paramedics and asked them whether or not he needed an EpiPen.  They took one look at me and said the same thing, “He is clearly uncomfortable, but appears stable.”  I breathed a sigh of relief that I had made the “right” decision in not giving him the epinephrine.  However, we all agreed that he needed to go to the hospital. 

Upon arriving at the hospital, we were quickly taken to a room where ER staff gave him Pepcid and steroids.  Within minutes, everything began to change; his crying stopped, his eyes became glazed over, and although he was still breathing, he went limp in my arms.  The ER nurse quickly called for an EpiPen.  I explained to the nurse that I had four EpiPens in my bag.  Her response still shakes me to my core, “No ma’am, we have to use the one that we’ve called up from the pharmacy.”

As I prepared to lose my son, I insisted that my husband, who had made it home just in time to follow us to the hospital, take our oldest out of the room.  I didn’t want him to witness the loss of his brother.  As they stood to leave, a medical entourage stormed the room with an EpiPen.  I handed my beautiful, brave, little man to my husband and stepped out of the room with my oldest because I was struggling to keep a calm composure.  Even Wonder Woman, in all her glory, can only handle so much.  I heard the “click” of the EpiPen, my son’s scream immediately after that, and a few seconds later the door to his room opened and I was given the “all clear” to go back in.  He was shaking from the epinephrine, but he was alert. Within a few minutes, was smiling again. 

I learned many lessons that day, the first being that my son is allergic to sesame, which when ground up is called tahini. More importantly, I learned that anaphylactic reactions don’t always involve a closed airway.  My little man’s body turning bright red was an outward indicator that his blood pressure was dropping, a sure sign of anaphylaxis.   I could go on and on about the lessons I learned, but perhaps the greatest lesson I learned was: when in doubt, ALWAYS give the EpiPen.  I can assure you that next time, if there is a next time, I won’t hesitate.


About the Author 

Lauren Kossack is the founder and author of the blog, "Our Life as an Epi-Family." On "," Lauren writes with a mix of vivid stories, food allergy news, recipes, parenting tips, and questions of faith.  Lauren bares her heart as she shares her family's struggles, victories and daily adventures.  She is a proud wife and mom to two young boys who have life-threatening food allergies who appear often on her blog.  Lauren and her family currently live in Indianapolis, Indiana. For more information about Lauren and her family, visit  You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.


Challenging Changes - Transitioning to Neocate

Posted 7.10.15 | Nutrition Specialist

Infancy is a time marked by rapid growth, requiring lots of nutrition in the form of breast milk and/or infant formula. You may need to make changes from breast feeding to Neocate, or from another formula to Neocate due to food allergies and related symptoms, or you may need to add Neocate to an elimination diet. Any transition to a new formula, like Neocate, can present challenges. Nutricia recognizes that assistance is welcomed for any of these scenarios and has worked with a Feeding Specialist in developing helpful tips to use in these transition situations. You can find two printable, 2-page documents with helpful tips titled ‘A Guide to Transitioning to Neocate’ and ‘Feeding Tips for a Successful Transition’ on this page of helpful resources. The key strategy for most transitions is a process called 'fading.' Fading involves adding the new formula (Neocate) to the old one in increasing amounts over time. Here are some of the highlights:

  • First, remember that schedules and routines are important when embarking on a transition. Keeping consistent with these will have an impact on your success. Be patient and relax.
  • The overall goal is to have your child accept the new combination as they work their way into the overall change. This might require lessening the first amount of Neocate that’s introduced, however; try to avoid returning to 100% of the previous product.
  • Transition times will vary between children. Some may readily accept the new combination while others may require more time. The goal is to move forward with success even if the pace is very gradual.
  • Transitions impact the GI system and can be earmarked by changes in body outputs- stools, gas and spit-up. These might be something new or existing habits can be altered. See our FAQs page and read the ‘What you may see’ entry for more details.
  • If changes feel a little too unsettling, talk to your healthcare provider or seek help from a Feeding Specialist.

Below are links to further posts from our Food Allergy Living blog that address transitions.

As always, if you have questions about using the Neocate formula, please give our Nutrition Services team a call at 1-800-365-7354, Mo-Fr, 8:30am-5:00pm, EST.

What tips have you found helpful in your transition?

-Jody L. Benitz, MS, RDN

Image from Abigail Batchelder

Enriching Your Family’s Food Allergy Journey

Posted 7.1.15 | Nutrition Specialist

By Kimberly Pellicore, The Food Allergy Mom 

Kimberly has celiac disease and is a proud mom to two children, one of whom has severe, multiple life-threatening food allergies and asthma.  After years of being largely dissatisfied with the lack of credible online and local support systems, she established to offer parents and caregivers of children with celiac disease, food allergies, and asthma a POSITIVE support network. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

THAT day— the day before I took my child to the allergist and they sent us home with an epinephrine autoinjector and a food allergy diagnosis— I was a regular mom kissing boo-boos and inciting laughter.

The next day, life looked and felt different…for me and my son.

Food allergies?  No one in my family had food allergies, or my husband’s that I was aware of.  How was this possible?  Could the test have been wrong?  What on earth was I going to feed my child from this point forward?  Would this diagnosis affect his growth?  How would these new dietary restrictions impact his nutrition?

Do these thoughts sound familiar?  For me, it signaled the starting line.  Like it or not, I was running a marathon and it was time to start thinking strategy.

Here are 10 proactive strategies to employ in your food allergy journey:

1.       Breathe:  You and your child are the exact same people you were before this diagnosis.  Your love for each other has not changed.  Give your child a warm cuddle to make sure he/she knows it.

2.       Set Boundaries:  Food allergies absolutely cannot define you, your child, or your family, unless you allow them to. 

3.       Make A Food Allergy Action Plan:  Be sure the plan is approved and signed off on by your child’s allergist.  Keep the hard copy for yourself and make additional copies for other caregivers of your child.  Not sure where to start?  Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) has an excellent example here.

4.       Learn To Read and Understand Ingredient Labels:  Learn how to scan and read ingredient labels so you can buy and stock up on safe foods.  Not sure how to correctly read a label?  For a clearer explanation, visit FARE’s website.

5.       Educate Yourself:  When looking for information, it is crucial to find accredited, credible, and positive resources.  A few of my favorites are Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), Kids With Food Allergies (KFA), Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), and Allergic Living Magazine.

6.       Get Familiar With Your Child’s Prescriptions:  Now that you’ve filled your child’s prescriptions, learn how to properly use them and make sure others who care for your child know how to use them as well.  Some companies even offer instructional apps for your mobile devices.

7.       Get To Know Your Allies:  If you find a product that plays a major role in your food allergy journey, take time to visit the company’s website and social media outlets as they often offer additional tips and recipes.  For example, you can buy Neocate formula at the store, but only if you visited their website would you find that they offer a food allergy cookbook.

8.       Be A Role Model:  Your child, no matter his or her age, is watching your reactions closely. This means it is okay to show some frustration, as long as the child also sees you resolve it.  It means remaining calm (or at least faking calm) in a food allergy crisis situation so the child does not experience additional panic.  It means living life with a smile, even on the hard days.

9.       Find A Confidant:  Every parent and caregiver needs and deserves a caring support system.  Enlist a friend to lend his or her ear when you need to regroup and talk things out.

10.   Repeat:  The food allergy learning curve is forever changing and a caregiver’s education is never complete.  This is not a burden, but a gift, as scientific breakthroughs often change our food allergy journeys for the better.

I’ve been utilizing the above steps for more than 10 years and I continue to walk the food allergy journey daily with my son.  So, how has life changed?  It hasn’t…not really…thankfully.  I’m still just a mom who loves her sweet son- a boy who loves Legos, lives life to the fullest, has a great smile, and, oh yeah, lives with food allergies.

Happy Birthday America!

Posted 6.30.15 | Nutrition Specialist

The Fourth of July - Independence Day for America - is celebrated with patriotism, parades, fireworks and food. Outdoor food activities like picnics and barbeques are part of the day’s tradition and are fun for everyone. If you have food allergies though, caution is necessary. Here are some tips for celebrating worry free:

  1. You never know what might be leftover and clinging on public grills. Before using them, cover them with heavy duty aluminum foil or, better yet, use a disposable grill cover or aluminum pan to avoid potential contamination with allergens.
  2. Like a public grill, the public picnic table can also be risky. Consider using a festive, disposable table cloth as well as dishes and utensils. Not only are they worry free, they are fun and easy. Don’t forget sanitizing wipes too, which can be used on most any surface.
  3. Potluck-style meals are popular at picnics and barbeques. You don’t always know if foods prepared by others are truly free of allergens and safe. Here is a reference for recipe substitutions that might be useful for some traditional picnic foods that you can share this with folks responsible for food preparation.
  4. Food labels are a good idea and often seen at celebratory gatherings that include a lot of people and food. If you’re preparing a dish, it’s a good idea to include common allergens on the label. Also, why not have some fun with food allergy labels? - This site offers ideas to use as stickers, labels, and tags and there are options for other major holidays too.
  5. You may want to bring your own food to the festivities, just to be safe. Check out these sites for ideas:
  1. Some excellent ideas and resources can be found in our past Food Allergy Living blog posts. Here are some that have relevance to celebrating the 4th of July:

Happy Birthday America! What are you doing this year to prepare and have fun enjoying Independence Day?

-Jody L. Benitz, MS, RDN

Image from Beverly & Pack

A New Use for Neocate Nutra!

Posted 6.16.15 | Nutrition Specialist

Oral Budesonide, a Steroid Medication, Mixed withNeocate Nutra

For those of you who are not familiar with Neocate Nutra, it is the first and only hypoallergenic, amino acid-based semi-solid medical food. It contains essential vitamins and minerals to promote balanced nutrition in children and infants over 6 months of age with cow milk allergy, multiple food protein intolerance, eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), short bowel syndrome (SBS) and other gastrointestinal conditions.

While an elemental diet or an elimination diet can be used to manage EoE, sometimes steroids are used; at this time no medication has FDA approval for management of EoE. Steroids, like oral budesonide, have been shown to be effective in managing EoE for more than half of patients. However, steroids may not be the best long-term solution for everyone. Children and adults who use steroids for EoE may mix the medication recommended by their physician with something that causes it to thicken, so it can help to coat the esophagus with the steroid.

The original research of oral steroids for the management of EoE used Splenda as the means of administration. However, between June 2008 and June 2013 researchers in the Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disorder program at Boston Children's Hospital conducted a study that showed oral budesonide mixed with Neocate Nutra is as effective as oral budesonide mixed with Splenda at managing EoE in children. The researchers concluded that Neocate Nutra is an effective and palatable mixing agent to create a thick budesonide mixture for families who prefer not to use the standard recipe with Splenda. The cost of the mixture with Splenda vs. Neocate Nutra is comparable.

Please visit this link to see the research abstract for the Boston Children’s Hospital study:

If you would like to know the recipe for mixing oral budesonide with Neocate Nutra that was used in the team's research, ask your healthcare professional. If they don’t have the recipe, they can contact Nutricia North America for a copy of the recipe.

-Kathleen Smith, RDN, LDNy

Reference: Rubinstein E, Lee JJ, Fried A, Lofvineneko, T, Ngo P, McDonald D, Hait EJ. 2014. Comparison of delivery vehicles for viscous budesonide to treat eosinophilic esophagitis in children [Abstract] Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, 59(3):317-20.

Splenda is a registered trade mark of McNeil Nutritionals, LLC

Allergy-Friendly Birthday Party Recipes and Activities

Posted 6.11.15 | Nutrition Specialist

Are you hosting a birthday party for your food-allergic little one, or maybe you’re expecting food-allergic guests? No need to reinvent the wheel! In this blog, you’ll find links to several blogs we’ve previously created which include a number of allergen-free party activities and recipes/snacks!


We like some of these recipes so much that we’d even serve them to non-allergic guests. Nobody would know the difference!

Here’s a delicious alternative to your traditional birthday cake:

Is your child receiving his/her nutrition via a feeding tube and unable to eat by mouth? Check out this “foodless birthday cake” that our colleague Mallory created for her sister:

If you’re a parent to a child who does not have food allergies, however would like to learn more about food allergies in order to host a “food-allergy friendly party”, try reading this blog:

This post has it all, including information on hosting a party with guests who have food allergies, sending your food-allergic child to a party, and various recipes:


Non-Food Activities

In our society, we tend to center most of our celebrations around food, however this does not have to be the case! We can enjoy our birthdays (and any other celebration) without involving food at all! Check out these links for non-food related party activities:

These web sites suggest party activities for school celebrations; however these ideas can easily be adapted for home celebrations as well!

How have you celebrated your little one’s birthday in an allergen-friendly way? We’d love to hear your ideas!

-Kendra Valle, RDN

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Image by ND Strupler

Frozen Neocate Pops

Posted 6.8.15 | Nutrition Specialist

Who doesn’t love an ice cold treat on a hot summer day? Finding a frozen allergen-free treat can be a challenge. However, we’ve created a delicious allergen-free frozen treat for you or your little one to enjoy…frozen Neocate pops! We found a fabulous ice cream mold to use with our liquid Neocate products. The result...frozen Neocate in the shape of an ice cream cone! This can be done in just a few simple steps:

1)      Shake and open your Neocate drink box. Separate the two pieces of the ice cream mold. Flip the clear piece of the ice cream mold upside down, and pour Neocate into the clear piece.
2)      Place the bottom piece of the ice cream mold (the cone) on top of the clear ice cream mold. Keep the ice cream mold upside down.

3)      Place ice cream mold in the freezer for at least 3 hours.


4)      Remove frozen ice cream molds from the freezer and allow frozen Neocate pops to sit for 1-2 minutes (this will make the removal of the clear piece a little easier).Description: C:\Users\valleke\AppData\Local\Temp\notesE8B3C6\FullSizeRender.jpg
5)      Remove the clear piece of the ice cream mold and enjoy!

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There are many ice cream molds available however the one we used is from a company called Tovolo (

You can even take these pops to the next level and add some color by rolling them in colored powdered sugar! Or add a “safe food” to Neocate before freezing. For some this may be fruit juice or chopped up fruit such as strawberries or mango. This would be a great opportunity to get your little ones involved!

Frozen Neocate that thaws may discolor and/or separate therefore we recommend you enjoy your frozen pop shortly after removing from the freezer.

It is important to note that freezing Neocate products can affect some nutrient levels: The nutrition information on Neocate packaging reflects the nutrient levels when prepared as directed on the packaging. Healthcare teams may allow some Neocate servings to be frozen to help meet a Neocate goal for certain patients, but this is a case-by-case decision. Ask your healthcare team for advice before you prepare Neocate any way other than as directed on the packaging. Your healthcare team should advise you how to store and how long to keep frozen Neocate products.

Have you tried this before or done anything similar with your Neocate products? We’d love to hear from you!

Kendra Valle, RDN

Preparing Your Child with Food Allergies for Summer Camp

Posted 6.4.15 | Nutrition Specialist

Summer camp season is right around the corner! For the nearly six million children in the U.S. with food allergies, it is important that camps have established food allergy policies. We understand that it takes a little bit more prep and work to send your child off to camp when they have food allergies. Therefore, we are here to make your life easier and have provided some tips and information to help ensure that your cutie has a safe and fun camp experience.

·         Consider enrolling your child at a camp that is designed specifically for children with food allergies.  Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) provides a thorough list of 2015’s “Food Allergy-Friendly Camps.”

·         Notify the camp of your little one’s food allergies by filling out and providing them with FARE’s Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan.

·         Watch Kids with Food Allergies’ free educational webinar called "Off to Camp with Food Allergies", which includes information on: 

·         How to choose a camp

·         Questions to ask the camp staff

·         How to store epinephrine at camp

·         Food allergy management at camp

·         Educate your child on how to properly manage their food allergies at camp and ensure that they are aware of:

·         Safe and unsafe foods

·         Strategies for avoiding exposure to unsafe foods (i.e. NEVER trade food with other campers)

·         Symptoms of allergic reactions (i.e. NOT to go off alone if symptoms are beginning);

·         How and when to tell an adult about a possible allergic response

·         How to read a food label (if your child is younger, plan with the camp how to handle this)

·         How to use epinephrine 

Feel free to share with us any other resources that you have used in prepping your little one with food allergies for summer camp!

Have a great summer!

-The Neocate Team 


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About Us

Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.