The Most Common Food Allergens
Steps to Avoid Allergens in Foods
- Read Ingredients Labels – Always know what is in the food you are eating. Do this by reading the ingredients label on any packaged food you eat or drink. Food makers must alert consumers when any of the 8 major food allergens are included in a product. If the specific allergen isn’t actually listed in the ingredients list, you will find a warning at the bottom that says, “Contains…” (i.e. Contains Wheat, Milk, and Soy.)
- Prepare Food Yourself – It is always better to make your meals and snacks yourself from unprocessed foods that have few added ingredients. This ensures that no sneaky additives will make you sick.
- Avoid Cross-Contamination of Allergens – Cross-contamination happens when one food mixes with another food by accident. This can occur in several ways. One common way is when you use a knife, cooking utensils, or cookware to prepare a food that contains allergens, and then don’t thoroughly clean that item before preparing a safe food. To eliminate this problem, use a special plate, pot and utensils when preparing food for the person with allergies. Buying a few plates and a set of utensils in a single color, or marking them “allergen free” will help you remember which ones to use.
- Ask Questions – When eating away from home, you must be sure that what you are served is safe. Ask questions about how the food was prepared, what ingredients were used, and if you can have a dish modified so that it will be safe to eat.
- Pack Safe Snacks – Always be prepared. Find a go-to treat that you know you can eat. Many fruits are safe and naturally portable making them a great base to a meal or snack away from home. Bananas, apples, oranges, pears, and grapes are all healthy choices.
Fruits & Vegetables are Safe
In order to save money when buying fruits and vegetables, look at all the options - fresh, frozen, and canned. When buying frozen/canned fruits and vegetables, look for those without sauces or additives.
Dairy Food Replacements
- Soy or rice milks are available in most stores next to the cereal in shelf-stable boxes and in the dairy section.
- Almond, cashew, or coconut milks and yogurts are also available in the dairy section.
For more info see, Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium from MyPlate.
Options for Peanut Allergies
- Sunflower butter is a safe alternative to peanut butter. While it does cost more, a little spread can go a long way. Use it on celery sticks topped with raisins to make a kid-friendly snack, “Ants on a Log”.
- Sunflower seeds are the most economical of the seeds and they can serve as a healthy snack on their own or in a Trail Mix.
- Try Roasted Chickpeas for a healthy snack that mimics the crunch of nuts.
Inexpensive, Allergen-Free Recipes
Need More Info on Food Allergies?
- “What You Need to Know about Food Allergies” – from the FDA
- Tips for Avoiding Your Allergen (PDF) - from Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE)
Watch for next month when we talk about Eating Gluten-Free on a Budget.