Common Food Allergies
While some meals contain allergens as a main ingredient, others may only have trace amounts and may not be obvious. This means you might not recognize a problem until someone has a reaction.
Approximately 2.5% of children younger than 3 years of age are allergic to milk. Nearly all infants who develop an allergy to milk do so in their first year of life. Most children who have milk allergies will outgrow it in the first few years of life.
Fortunately, milk is one of the easiest ingredients to substitute in baking and cooking. It can be substituted, in equal amounts, with water or fruit juice. (For example, substitute 1 cup milk with 1 cup water.)
Some Hidden Sources of Milk
- Deli meat slicers are frequently used for both meat and cheese products.
- Some brands of canned tuna fish contain casein, a milk protein.
- Many non-dairy products contain casein (a milk derivative), listed on the ingredient labels.
- Some meats may contain casein as a binder. Check all labels carefully.
- Many restaurants put butter on steaks after they have been grilled to add extra flavor. The butter is not visible after it melts.
- Some medications contain whey.
Egg allergy is estimated to affect approximately 1.5% of young children. But it’s also a food allergy that is one of the most likely to be outgrown over time.
For each egg, substitute one of the following in recipes. These substitutes work well when baking from scratch and substituting 1 to 3 eggs.
- 1 tsp. baking powder, 1 T. liquid, 1 T. vinegar
- 1 tsp. yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 1/2 T. water, 1 1/2 T. oil, 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 packet gelatin, 2 T. warm water. Do not mix until ready to use.
Some Hidden Sources of Egg
- Eggs have been used to create the foam or milk topping on specialty coffee drinks and are used in some bar drinks.
- Some commercial brands of egg substitutes contain egg whites.
- Most commercially processed cooked pastas (including those used in prepared foods such as soup) contain egg or are processed on equipment shared with egg-containing pastas. Boxed, dry pastas are usually egg-free, but may be processed on equipment that is also used for egg-containing products. Fresh pasta is sometimes egg-free, too. Read the label or ask about ingredients before eating pasta.
- Egg wash is sometimes used on pretzels before they are dipped in salt.
Allergy to peanuts appears to be on the rise. One study showed that from 1997 to 2002, the incidence of peanut allergy doubled in children. Peanuts can trigger a severe reaction. The severity of a reaction depends on how sensitive an individual is and the quantity consumed.
Some Unexpected Sources of Peanut
- Sauces such as chili sauce, hot sauce, pesto, gravy, mole sauce, and salad dressing
- Sweets such as pudding, cookies, and hot chocolate
- Egg rolls
- Potato pancakes
- Pet food
- Specialty pizzas
- Asian and Mexican dishes
- Some vegetarian food products, especially those advertised as meat substitutes
- Foods that contain extruded, cold-pressed, or expelled peanut oil, which may contain peanut protein
- Glazes and marinades
*Note: This list highlights examples of where peanuts have been unexpectedly found (i.e., on a food label for a specific product, in a restaurant meal, in creative cookery, etc.) This list does not imply that peanuts are always present in these foods; it is intended to serve as a reminder to always read the label and ask questions about ingredients before eating a food that you have not prepared yourself.
An estimated 1.8 million Americans have an allergy to tree nuts. Allergic reactions to tree nuts are among the leading causes of fatal and near-fatal reactions to foods. Tree nuts include, but are not limited to, walnut, almond, hazelnut, cashew, pistachio, and Brazil nuts. These are not to be confused or grouped together with peanut, which is a legume, or seeds, such as sunflower or sesame.
Like those with peanut allergies, most individuals who are diagnosed with an allergy to tree nuts tend to have a lifelong allergy. As you’ll see below, tree nuts can be found as ingredients in many unexpected places.
Some Unexpected Sources of Tree Nuts
- Salads and salad dressing
- Barbecue sauce
- Breading for chicken
- Meat-free burgers
- Fish dishes
- Mandelonas (peanuts soaked in almond flavoring)
- Mortadella (may contain pistachios
*Note: This list highlights examples of where tree nuts have been unexpectedly found (i.e., on a food label for a specific product, in a restaurant meal, in creative cookery, etc.) This list does not imply that tree nuts are always present in these foods; it is intended to serve as a reminder to always read the label and ask questions about ingredients before eating a food that you have not prepared yourself.
Wheat allergy is primarily common in children, and is usually outgrown before reaching adulthood. Wheat allergy is sometimes confused with celiac disease, which is a digestive disorder that creates an adverse reaction to gluten. Individuals with celiac disease must avoid gluten, found in wheat, rye, barley, and sometimes oats. People who are allergic to wheat have an IgE-mediated response to wheat protein and may tolerate other grains. Symptoms of a wheat allergy reaction can range from mild to severe.
A wheat allergy can present a challenge for the diet as well as for baking, because wheat is the nation’s predominant grain product. Someone on a wheat-restricted diet can eat a wide variety of foods, but the grain source must be something other than wheat. In planning a wheat-free diet, look for alternate grains such as amaranth, barley, corn, oat, quinoa, rice, rye, and tapioca.
Read food labels carefully, even if you would not expect the product to contain wheat. Wheat has been found in some brands of ice cream, marinara sauce, play dough, potato chips, rice cakes, and turkey patties, and at least one brand of hot dogs.
When baking with wheat-free flours, a combination of flours usually works best. Experiment with different blends to find one that will give you the texture you are trying to achieve.
Try substituting 1 cup wheat flour with one of the following:
- 7/8 cup rice flour
- 5/8 cup potato starch flour
- 1 cup soy flour plus 1/4 cup potato starch flour
- 1 cup corn flour
Soybeans have become a major part of processed food products in the United States. Avoiding products made with soybeans can be difficult. Soybeans alone are not a major food in the diet but, because they're in so many products, eliminating all those foods can result in an unbalanced diet. Consult with a dietitian to help you plan for proper nutrition.
Symptoms of soy allergy are typically mild, although anaphylaxis is possible. Soybean allergy is one of the more common food allergies, especially among babies and children.
Keep in Mind
- Soybeans and soy products are found in baked goods, canned tuna, cereals, crackers, infant formulas, sauces, and soups.
- At least one brand of peanut butter lists soy on the label.
- Studies show that most soy-allergic individuals may safely eat soybean oil (not cold pressed, expeller pressed, or extruded oil). If you are allergic to soy, ask your doctor whether or not you should avoid soy oil.
An estimated 2.3% of Americans – that’s nearly 7 million people – report allergy to seafood, including fish and shellfish. Salmon, tuna, and halibut are the most common kinds of fish to which people are allergic.
It is generally recommended that individuals who are allergic to one species of fish avoid all fish. If you have a fish allergy but would like to have fish in your diet, speak with your allergist about the possibility of being tested with various types of fish.
Fish allergy is considered lifelong; once a person develops the allergy, it is very unlikely that they will lose it.
Approximately 40% of those with fish allergy first experienced an allergic reaction as an adult. To avoid a reaction, strict avoidance of seafood and seafood products is essential. Always read ingredient labels to identify fish ingredients. In addition, avoid touching fish, going to the fish market, and being in an area where fish is being cooked (the protein in the steam may present a risk).
Some Unexpected Sources of Fish
- Salad dressing
- Worcestershire sauce
- Imitation fish or shellfish
- Barbecue sauce (some are made from Worcestershire)
*Note: This list highlights examples of where fish has been unexpectedly found (i.e., on a food label for a specific product, in a restaurant meal, in creative cookery, etc.) This list does not imply that fish is are always present in these foods; it is intended to serve as a reminder to always read the label and ask questions about ingredients before eating a food that you have not prepared yourself.
An estimated 2.3% of Americans – that’s nearly 7 million people – are allergic to seafood, including fish and shellfish. Shrimp, crab, and lobster cause most shellfish allergies.
Allergy to shellfish is considered lifelong; once a person develops the allergy, it is unlikely that they will lose it.
Approximately 60% of those with shellfish allergy first experienced an allergic reaction as an adult. To avoid a reaction, strict avoidance of seafood and seafood products is essential. Always read ingredient labels to identify shellfish ingredients. In addition, avoid touching shellfish, going to the fish market, and being in an area where shellfish are being cooked (the protein in the steam may present a risk).
Keep in Mind
- If you have seafood allergy, avoid seafood restaurants. Even if you order a non-seafood item off of the menu, it is safer to always assume that cross-contact is possible.
- Asian restaurants often serve dishes that use fish sauce as a flavoring base. Exercise caution or avoid eating there altogether.
- Shellfish protein can become airborne in the steam released during cooking and may be a risk. Stay away from cooking areas.
- Many people who are allergic to shellfish are allergic to more than one kind. Talk to your doctor so that you know for sure what foods to avoid.
WHAT IS A FOOD ALLERGY
What is a food allergy?
When you have a food allergy, your body thinks certain foods are trying to harm you. Your body fights back by setting off an allergic reaction. In most cases, the symptoms are mild—a rash, a stuffy nose, or an upset stomach. A mild reaction is no fun, but it isn't dangerous. A serious reaction can be deadly. But quick treatment can stop a dangerous reaction.
Allergies tend to run in families. You are more likely to have a food allergy if other people in your family have allergies like hay fever, asthma, or eczema (atopic dermatitis).
Food allergies are more common in children than adults. Children sometimes outgrow their food allergies, especially allergies to milk, eggs, or soy. But if you develop a food allergy as an adult, you will most likely have it for life.
Food allergy vs. food intolerance
Many people think they have a food allergy, but in fact they have a food intolerance. Food intolerance is much more common. It can cause some of the same symptoms as a mild food allergy, like an upset stomach. But a food intolerance does not cause an allergic reaction. A food intolerance can make you feel bad, but it is not dangerous. A serious food allergy can be dangerous.
HAVE A PLAN
No matter how hard you try, you may eat the wrong thing by accident. Stay calm and follow your emergency plan. What's an emergency plan? Before a slip-up happens, it's a good idea to create a plan with your doctor, spouse, friends and parents. The plan should spell out what to do, who to tell, and which medicines to take if you have a reaction.
This is especially important if you have a food allergy that can cause a serious reaction (anaphylaxis). For serious reactions, people may need a shot of epinephrine (say: eh-pih-neh-frin) with them. This kind of epinephrine injection comes in an easy-to-carry container that looks like a pen, commonly known as an epi-pen. If you are a child then you and your parent can work out whether you carry this or someone at school keeps it on hand for you. Children will also need to identify a person who will give them the shot.
You might want to have antihistamine medication on hand as well, though if anaphylaxis is occurring, this medicine is not a substitute for epinephrine. After receiving an epinephrine shot, you would need to go to the hospital or a medical facility, where they would keep an eye on you and make sure the reaction is under control.
Recipes by Gina - Recipe of the Moment
Potato Cabbage Soup
1 Tbsp unsalted butter #44115
1/2 head Savoy cabbage, shredded
3 scallions, trimmed and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1/2 tsp kosher salt #13792
4 cups chicken broth #44151
2 cups boiled potatoes, cut in 1/2-inch slices #87113
Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.