Chick-fil-A: Today’s the Day!!!

Chick-fil-A is one of the most controversial kid spots among food allergy parents we have encountered.  Some are adamantly against setting foot inside the door, while others insist that there is no risk of a reaction.  The real issue is whether or not 100% refined peanut oil poses a threat to those who are allergic to peanuts.

In a nutshell (pun intended) the debate is as follows.  Allergic reactions are caused by food proteins.  The process of refining peanut oil is said to remove all peanut proteins, leaving a product that is very different from peanuts or peanut butter, from an allergy perspective.  Some trust the process, while others remain skeptical that the process could be completely flawless, yielding a hypo-allergenic refined peanut oil.

Here is how Chick-fil-A addresses the controversy… http://www.chick-fil-a.com/Food/Ingredients-Peanut-Oil.

For us, Chick-fil-A has always been a sore spot.  We have subscribed to the “don’t set foot in the door” camp since Elena was diagnosed in September of 2009.  Being anaphylactic to egg and dairy, as well as all nuts didn’t help our comfort level.  Considering the fact that their nuggets and chicken strips contain both dairy and egg ingredients and their buns are processed on shared equipment with milk, we would pretty much be left with a fruit cup.  It was an easy stance to take.  After all, who is going to take even the slightest risk just to take your child into a place where other kids are enjoying mounds of delicious looking nuggets with all sorts of wonderful dipping sauces, fries, ice cream cones, etc., and all they can have is a fruit cup?  Not us.

The tables were turned for us with two recent changes.  We can only assume that someone put a bug in that cow’s ear.  Chick-fil-A made the switch from peanut oil to canola oil for their fries.  Mind you, this switch was only for fries.  The chicken, which contains our other allergens anyway, is still cooked in peanut oil.  But now, the fries are safe.  Suddenly we are at fries and a fruit cup.  Hmmmmmmmmm.

Next, Chick-fil-A came out with their grilled nuggets.  We knew these had potential to be safe.  After I emailed the company and received allergen information on the new grilled nuggets, we turned a corner.  We now have fruit cup, fries, grilled nuggets, and let’s not forget polynesian sauce for dipping.  Yes folks, that’s a full meal.

A couple of weeks ago, we ventured into Chick-fil-A for the first time with our 3 ½ year old.  She ate, she dipped, she played.  She talked about it for days as if she had been to Disney World.  She since has been a handful of times and every experience has been wonderful.  She gets the grilled nuggets kids meal with fruit and apple juice.  We haven’t done the fries yet, but I’m not afraid of them.  “I’m afraid of fries” seems like a funny thing to say to most people, but I know you other food allergy parents feel me.

 

Chick-fil-A is almost a rite of passage for kids in our region.  It is a special treat, a reward for good behavior, a place to play and eat, a play-date spot, a daddy daughter date night destination, and for us, it is now an option.  It’s so amazing to add even one food option to your list when you have a child with life threatening food allergies.  Also, people start to recognize you.  After several visits, we quickly became known as the grilled nugget family.  We all get grilled nuggets and try to keep our table as safe as possible.  Among us, there are probably 30 grilled nuggets at the table and fruit cups galore.  What a blessing to be able to experience this rite of passage with our little girl. 

Cunningham family, you have successfully added Chick-fil-A to your safe dining repertoire.  What are you going to do next?

We’re going to Disney World!!!!!

Seriously, we’re going to Disney World next week.  Check back soon for some truly magical blogging from the happiest place on earth.

Halloween Success!!!

My last post outlined my carefully laid plans for Halloween night.  We had a pre-trick or treating party at our house, which was my way of controlling our environment without foregoing the fun and excitement of the most frightfully fun night of the year.

We had a lot of fun with the menu for our party. Everything was free of dairy, egg, peanut, and tree nut ingredients. Our goal, as always, was to create a safe worry-free environment for Elena in our home.

 
 

The cupcakes were made from a safe chocolate cake mix, a can of pureed pumpkin, and 1/2 cup water. That’s all!!! We decorated with safe candies (hint: Jelly Belly brand candy corn and jelly beans contain no egg, dairy, or nut ingredients). Rold Gold pretzel rods made excellent branches.

 

 
 

These smiley apples are made from a dab of Wow butter (soy) and candy eyes I found at Michael’s.  Soak your apples in water and lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.

The Veg-O-Lantern makes for fun presentation of raw veggies.

This skeletal veggie man was fun and easy to put together.  His head is a bowl of safe hummus, which is our go-to veggie dip.  Kids do love dipping.

The snake is filled with a mix of ground turkey (seasoned with cumin, chili powder, and oregano), rice, and salsa.  He was our main course.

With a belly full of safe food, we headed out for some trick-or-treating fun.

The excitement of trick-or-treating is all over her face.  She loved every minute and, luckily, never tried to remove any candy from her bag.

At home, we sorted her candy into a safe pile and an unsafe pile.

Then we used the unsafe pile to fill bags for the goblins.  I read the ingredients to her and when she heard one of her allergens, she put the candy in the appropriate bag.

Is it crazy that I was nervous about letting her touch the outside of the wrappers?  I did decide to let her place them in the bags herself, but I can’t say it was comfortable to watch.

I don’t even think she realizes that this isn’t what every other kid does when they get home after Trick-or-treating.  Filling bags for the goblins was as much fun as the rest of the night.

 

In the end, we had a great, fun, safe night. The goblins brought gifts in exchange for the candy and Elena never asked about missing confections. In fact, we ended up trading in most of her safe candy at Earth Fare for a free kids meal and a prize. Safe or not, who wants their kids having that kind of sugar access?