This blog post was written by Dietetic Intern Sharee Osborn
Food allergies are becoming more and more common in our world today. Chances are you or someone you know has been diagnosed with some kind of food allergy. Luckily, there are so many ways to still enjoy food while living with a food allergy. Whether you have been diagnosed with a food allergy, or you just want to know more about helping those who have, here is some great info to help you live fearlessly with food allergies.
What is a food allergy?
Many people confuse a food allergy with a food intolerance, but they are completely different. A food allergy is when someone is allergic to a certain protein in a food and their immune system reacts to it. This reaction can range from minor hives and watery eyes to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction. A food intolerance deals with the digestive tract and happens when a person doesn’t have the right mechanism in their digestive tract to break down and absorb certain foods. This can lead to gas, bloating, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.
There are eight major food allergens known as the “big eight” allergens. These include wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, soy, eggs, fish, and shellfish. While these are the most common allergens, a person can be allergic to any kind of food.
Eating Out with a Food Allergy
Eating away from home may be intimidating with a food allergy but it doesn’t have to be. Most restaurants and managers are more than willing to help accommodate your allergy. Try following these tips to make sure your experience runs as smoothly as possible.
- Let those you eat out with know you have an allergy. This way you can choose a safe restaurant you can all enjoy.
- Call or go online before going to a restaurant. Many restaurants have allergen menus posted online, so you know what foods are safe before you get there.
- Notify the waitstaff and kitchen about your allergy. This way they can help guide your decisions and prevent any possible cross-contamination in the kitchen.
- Ask the waitstaff for an allergy menu. Most restaurants have one available.
- Ask to read the food labels of products you are unsure of.
Shopping with a Food Allergy
Shopping with a food allergy can also be simple. The first step is to learn to read food labels to recognize your food allergens in different products. It is required by law that if a product contains one of the eight main allergens, those allergens are listed in plain language somewhere in the ingredients list. While this makes reading food labels so much easier, you should also become familiar with different food terms that could signify a product contains your allergen. Make sure to check labels frequently as they could add or remove your allergen without notice.
Next, become familiar with allergen friendly products. Below is a great list of products that are free of all eight major allergens! If you have more questions about grocery shopping with your food allergy, talk to your local Harmons dietitian.
Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks
Harmons Organic Gluten Free Spaghetti
Food For Life Brown Rice Tortillas, Gluten Free
SunButter Sunflower Butter, Natural
Haagen-Dazs Sorbet, Zesty Lemon
Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Shreds, Mozzarella Cheese Alternative
Smart Balance Buttery Spread, With Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Great Food Allergy Resources
There are so many great resources if you have questions about food allergies. Check out the links below for more food allergy information.
Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE): The FARE foundation has a great website to help navigate your food allergy.
For more questions about food allergies, reach out to your local Harmons dietitians at firstname.lastname@example.org