Is your son or daughter one of the 5%–8% of American children who have life-threatening food allergies? According to the International Food Information Council (IFIC), parents and teachers of these kids need to be vigilant and knowledgeable about such allergies.
The most common food allergies that kids experience involve peanuts, tree nuts (e.g., walnuts, pecans and almonds), milk, eggs and soy products. Less common allergens include other dairy products, wheat, fish and shellfish.
The IFIC says parents and teachers need to be aware of food allergy symptoms, which can run the gamut from mild itching and hives to anaphylactic shock and death. Parents can also take these steps:
- Meet with the school nurse and all of their child’s teachers to discuss the specific allergy and symptoms/treatment.
- Contact the school’s food service manager and provide him or her with a food allergy poster for food service workers (available in both English and Spanish on the IFIC website, http://ific.org).
- Provide the school with a copy of the child’s Food Allergy Action Plan (available at www.foodallergy.org, website of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network). This plan lists the typical symptoms of the child’s allergy and gives step-by-step care instructions to be followed in an emergency.
- Research other applicable resources, such as the School Nutrition Association (www.sna.org).
Source: September/October 2004 Food Insight.
As we go to press with this issue, the federal government has just announced the new 2005 Dietary Guidelines
for Americans. Look for details on these guidelines and what they mean in practical terms in the next issue of this column.
Bell peppers are a great source of essential nutrients, such as beta carotene, vitamins C and B6, and fiber. They are also a wonderful way to infuse your meals with an array of color, as they are now available in red, green, white, purple, yellow, orange and even chocolate-brown varieties.
Selecting Peppers. Make sure the peppers have shiny, even-colored skins that are free of bruises and blemishes. Pick ones that are plump, firm and well shaped and have a strong green stem.
Color Choices. Red peppers are actually the same as green peppers except that the red ones have been left to ripen on the vine; as a result, they tend to be sweeter. Purple and yellow varieties are generally the sweetest of all, whereas white peppers are very mild.
Best Uses. Bell peppers can be eaten raw as an appetizer, an after-school snack or a salad ingredient. They can also be stuffed or roasted. They make great toppings for pizza, pasta and omelets. Use them as a thickener in puréed soups or as a base for a quick stir-fry dinner.
Proper Storage. As a rule, green peppers will keep longer than the sweeter red, yellow and purple varieties. Store peppers in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper, where they should last for up to 1 week. Do not wash peppers before storing. To freeze them, remove the seeds and stems, but do not blanch the peppers first; frozen peppers can be stored in the freezer in airtight containers for up to 6 months.