Monthly Archives: November 2016

Surviving the Holidays With Food Allergies


The holiday season is upon us. It is the time of year for family gatherings, parties, and celebrations that only come once a year. The season of giving should be care free and stress free…or at least it should be if you are not the host of the party!

When I ask a patient what is the most enjoyable thing about their holiday, the one thing that I unfailingly hear is the food. A holiday is based on traditions, and traditions that are passed down from generation to generation 99% of the time have to deal with food.


Thanksgiving is upon is. It is a day filled with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, apple pie, and various other traditions that stem from past generations. The experience of the holiday is the sharing of these foods. What was left out of that story is a difficulty that today’s world deals with more often than in the past, the forgotten difficulty of food allergies.

To reveal a truth, each year as the holiday season approaches, while everyone was getting prepared and excited to consume all of these holiday foods, take out the stretchy pants, and try a little bit of all the different pies on the table, I was filled with bitterness. At the time, I was recently diagnosed with food allergies to gluten, nuts, and dairy…three things that were in almost EVERY dish.


Each holiday always went the same. Family members noticed I wasn’t eating, and would feel guilty and try to give me foods they thought did not contain those three allergens. When I asked what they made the foods with, I discovered the allergens were within these foods. Then they would ask what would happen if I did consume them, and I would have to provide every gruesome detail. This made me dread the holiday season.

As the years went on, family members tried to cater to my needs so I would feel included. They would make a gluten free dish, a dessert that tasted like cardboard that I had to eat because it was made for me, mashed potatoes without the milk, and really tried to cater to my needs. However, I would never fail to get sick, most likely due to cross contamination upon cooking with the same utensils.


The holidays seemed to be a never ending trap of reminding me what I was restricted from, or that I could never just choose a dish without asking how it was prepared, what exactly was in it, and a dictionary of every morsel of ingredient. By the time I found out from the host, my food would be ice cold!

It took years to learn these simple steps to overcoming (and enjoying) the holidays with food allergies. My hope is that someone stumbles upon this gem to learn what I wish I knew the past few years. Here are the tricks I picked up to enjoying the holidays!


  1. Be the host. Volunteer to host at your house so you are in control of the majority of the foods. If you are the one doing the cooking, you know that you used the spoon only for the mashed potatoes, and the tongs only for the turkey while cooking. This will reduce potential allergen risks that are not always identifiable during the holidays.
  2. Prepare a few dishes to bring to the feast ALONG with the utensil for them. This is a fool proof way to have a balanced meal, while reducing the risk for cross contamination (and you will appear to be an AWESOME guest!)
  3. Always try a recipe before the day of the holiday. Even though gluten free, dairy free, and nut free recipes can be listed as “delicious” online, more often than not autocorrect must have stepped in and thought “tasteless” meant “delicious”. Always prepare a test batch and serve them to your most honest friends that aren’t afraid to reveal the truth. Foods that lack gluten have a VERY different composition, so different substitutes might be needed.
  4. Always use digestive enzymes. Whenever I go out to eat or choose to eat something out of the ordinary, I always take a couple of digestive enzymes before the meal to give me a little extra gut power! There is ALWAYS a risk of cross contamination, or just foods that your body is not used to digesting when someone else prepares the food. This will help alleviate any uncomfortable or embarrassing side effects from the food…which can make our holidays a drag as well!
  5. Don’t be afraid to communicate. Although it may feel embarrassing and you may feel like a burden to the host, always remember: you are your own advocate. Avoiding the questions and details is NEVER worth getting sick over the holidays. You deserve an enjoyable, tasty holiday just as much as anyone else does.


Do you need recipe ideas that have already been tried and taste tested by a valuable (and honest) source? Do you need further tips, or need a professional who actually understands what you are going through? Do you just need an ear to listen?

Call 609-738-3143 today to schedule an appointment with one of our dietitians. Spots are limited, secure your time today!





Michele Wroblewski, RDN

Caruso Physical Therapy and Nutrition, LLC

1278 Yardville Allentown Rd. Suite 3

Allentown, NJ 08501


Coconut Oil is Not All That it is Cracked Up to Be



You see it on infomercials. You see it on popular television shows. You see it on recipes, healthy website forums, and baking ideas. Coconut oil seems to be a fad that is sweeping the nation. The question is, why?

What is coconut oil’s secret that is making everyone go bananas? Studies dated back to the 1960s and 1970s showed that coconut oil may not be as dangerous as expected. “Islanders of Tokelau and Pukapuka ate a diet that consisted of 35%-60% fat, but still had virtually no atherosclerosis, heart disease, colon cancer, digestive issues, weight problems, or kidney disease.”


Although a majority of these islanders’ calories stemmed from fats, their diet was healthy overall, filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, large amount of fish, and very little processed food. They were also very active due to their daily lifestyle. Therefore, coconut was most likely not the cause of preventing disease. Rather, it was moderation!

Coconut oil is composed of 90% saturated fat. Saturated fat has been known to raise cholesterol and triglyceride levels. So why has everyone become so coconut crazy? Although the facts are there, controversy still continues to exist.


Several myths have come to rise along with the rise in the use coconut oil. These include the following:

1. Improved thyroid function: “No proof exists to show that coconut oil can improve thyroid function. In fact, some proof shows that it actually can worsen preexisting hypothyroidism.” Receive the facts from a credible source, aka seek out a Registered Dietitian. Not a TV Personality looking for popularity.

2. Cholesterol levels: “Studies repeatedly have shown that hydrogenated oils increase cholesterol levels. This holds true for hydrogenated coconut oil, as well.” Yes, coconut oil is natural, but so are other sources of saturated fat. Natural does not necessarily mean beneficial for our bodies.

3. Coconut oil vs other oils: “No clear-cut, unflawed studies prove that coconut oil is any more healthful than other oils. In fact, it possibly is less healthy than oils such as canola, sesame, walnut, olive, and flaxseed.” Olive oil, walnut oil, canola oil, and flaxseed oil all contain unsaturated fats, as well as monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats have been shown to lower our LDL cholesterol (typically termed as bad cholesterol) and raise our HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). Therefore, these carry many more heart healthy benefits than coconut oil, which has been shown to raise all cholesterol in our body.

4. Calories and fat: Coconut oil contains 9 calories per gram of fat, just like any other fat, and 14 grams of fat per serving, with 12 of those grams of fat being saturated fat. However, it is not the fat that creates fat in our bodies. Instead, it is excess calories that create weight gain. Fat carries more calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein; therefore, reducing fat intake helps us further reduce calories.


No matter what the food is, all foods that are a part of a healthy diet are only healthy if used in moderation. However, the studies don’t lie; coconut oil can be beneficial if used in moderation, but ultimately should not be used without monitoring frequency. However, it is important to note that research is forever changing and varying. There is evidence that leans in many directions. Use your judgement and choose credible sources to determine your decision.


Need a substitute for oil in your recipes? Need a fat replacer in your baked goods? Contact one of our dietitians at Caruso Physical Therapy and Nutrition and call now 609-738-3143. Appointments are limited; call to be sure you get the prime spot on our schedule TODAY!


Michele Wroblewski, RDN

Caruso Physical Therapy and Nutrition, LLC

1278 Yardville Allentown Rd. Suite 3

Allentown, NJ 08501



Retrieved on October 27, 2016,

Retrieved on October 27, 2016,

Retrieved on October 27, 2016,