Zestfull: how to live with allergies without fear

Written by Veronica Lavenia


Shahla and Kortney are two young women who share the same experience: managing major food allergies.

Kortney is a food allergy adult living in Europe and Shahla is a food allergy mom, living in the United States who both have experienced, in different times and ways, the issues that arise from managing a condition such as food allergies. Their life path leads them to change their habits, especially in the food sector, to become experts in this field.

They have shared their experiences on social networks, on their sites, until, thanks to technology, they met and, together, decided to grow in their project of disseminating their experience. Thus, they created a site, “Zestfull“, a platform entirely dedicated to the world of allergies.

Let’s find out more about this project, from Shahla’s words.

©Shahla Rashid

When and how Zestfull was born?

Zestfull was launched in September 2020.

Kortney and I started our blogs about 5 years ago and became Instagram friends. Kortney’s blog was one of the first food allergy blogs I came across from an adult perspective!

As a mom to a child with severe allergies, I found it incredibly valuable that she shared not only her childhood experiences but also her experiences as an adult living with food allergies.

We worked together on several food allergy campaigns on social media. Several years later, Kortney visited my family and I in Berkeley which was a special gift to finally meet in person!

The pandemic gave both of us time to reflect and re-evaluate our purpose. We both realized that we no longer wanted to go at it alone. So, we came together to create a platform where we could share not only our stories but the diverse stories that exist within the allergy community.

How did the idea of the site name come about? Coming up with a name took us months and it felt like we were naming our first born child!

Zestfull is a play on the word “zestful” which means to be full of energy and enthusiasm which felt like the perfect word to describe the feeling we hoped our visitors would experience when first clicking onto our site.

The name Zestfull also supports our mission which is to celebrate life with food allergies. We believe that despite the challenges associated with food allergies, you can still lead a joyful life, have a plate full of color and flavor and thrive, not just survive with food allergies.

Two young women united not only by a great passion but also by the need to share their experience in the field of food allergies. Can you briefly tell us about your experience?

I started blogging at My Berkeley Kitchen as a way to share allergy-friendly recipes I was cooking for my family at home.  I had just finished a program at a local culinary school that focused on holistic nutrition so I also wanted to share what I recently learned at school.

At the same time, my daughter had been newly diagnosed and I felt very alone. My husband and I were completely unprepared for the social, emotional and physical impact that food allergies can have on a family. Slowly, my posts became about my life managing my daughter’s food and environmental allergies.

Blogging gave me a chance to connect to others in the food allergy community, spread awareness and give back to a community that was a huge source of support for me.

©Kortney and Shahla

Do you think Zestfull is just an experience for the allergy community?

Not at all! There are 32 million people living with food allergies so chances are if you don’t live with food allergies, you may know someone or you will meet someone with food allergies.

Food allergies are unique in that sometimes, we must ask for help to keep us safe and included. Especially with young children as often they do not yet know how to protect themselves.

The more we understand food allergies, the better prepared we will be to work together to support each other. For example, instead of assuming someone with food allergies cannot come to your dinner party, you can ask them what you can do to accommodate them.  Most often, food allergy folks will tell you what they need and are so appreciative of being included.

Perhaps, you can purchase something safe that everyone can eat together or your food allergy friend will bring their own safe food. Or you can cook together.  We have many allergy-friendly recipes on our site!

Food allergies affect our daily lives so the more you know about food allergies, the more empowered you can feel to help someone live their best life.

At Zestfull, we believe in fact based information and our contributors manage food allergies themselves. We hope our site helps you to become an ally to the food allergy community even if you live without food allergies.

Not only recipes but also a shop where we can find quality products. Do you select based on your personal experience?

We understand that food allergies aren’t just about foods because we have to consider beauty, fashion, wellness and more.  We thoughtfully curate our shop with care and research. Recommendations also come from contributors who manage food allergies so yes, selections are often based on personal experiences.

A typical day of yours managing a “Free from” food plan

A typical day managing a free from food plan includes meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking mostly every day!

Often trips to the grocery store may take longer because we are spending time reading food labels since ingredients can sometimes be listed in different ways. Brands may change labels or ingredients without warning so we check every time at the store, when we get home and before we cook or eat any packaged food.

Simple, fresh, whole ingredients, preferably seasonal are best when cooking with food allergies.


What tips can you give to young mothers with allergic children? On your site, among other things, you give advice not only on food but on everything that can cause allergies or intolerances.

When our child was first diagnosed with food allergies, I felt an overwhelming sense of fear so I focused on learning skills to help me manage their food allergies like meal prepping to make cooking easier. Slowly over time, I built confidence and my fear lessened.

My advice to young food allergy moms is don’t be afraid to advocate for your child’s needs. Your child’s safety is the number one priority. Don’t apologize when asking for accommodations like requesting to make a birthday party free from your child’s allergens. Use opportunities to spread awareness to those that may not understand by sharing stories of daily life with food allergies.

In addition, find a solid medical team of doctors that support you and your child’s food allergies.

Do you think that “society” still gives little importance to allergies? I am referring, above all, to restaurants, hotels, the food companies themselves…           

I think we’ve come a long way but It would be nice to see a greater awareness of food allergies and more consistent practices in restaurants so that the food allergy community can feel safer when dining out.

Often people think just because you have food allergies, you should not or cannot dine out but that is far from the truth. People living with food allergies should be able to eat out just like everyone else just with safety measures in place.

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About the author

Veronica Lavenia

Her scientific papers have been published in some of the most renowned international literary academic journals.
Italian based writer and magazine contributor.
Author of six books, some of her works have appeared in the most popular International Food magazines.
Food Connoisseur.
EVOO Communicator. Founder of the EVOO Column at "The Wolf Post".
Writer| Translator| Communication Manager at "The Wolf Post", since the birth of the magazine.

She has always lived in the countryside. She has learned to "get her hands dirty", working and reaping the benefits of the fields, since she was a child. She participated in grape harvests, olive picking and assisted in the subsequent stages of production.
Food & Wine tourism were the family holidays that educated her on the subject.

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