Food allergies can be a pain. It can often feel like nearly half of the things available are eliminated because of your allergy, or that nothing you can eat has flavor. There is a common misconception that people with food allergies have them their entire lives, but that’s not the case. It’s common to develop food allergies in young adulthood. If you’re dealing with a new food allergy, it’s time to get acquainted with some alternatives. We’re tackling the most common food allergies and how to keep life tasty in spite of them.
Lactose Intolerance or dairy allergies
This one can be tough. It seems like milk, cheese and butter find their way into seemingly every product on the market, but all is not lost! If you miss the taste of dairy, there are still ways you can get the taste you love without the repercussions of triggering an allergy. Dairy is full of calcium, so you might want to consider taking a calcium supplement.
What to look for:
Non-dairy or lactose options in the vegan or specialty foods aisle are your new best friends. Vegans do not eat any animal products or byproducts, which includes dairy. If you’re shopping at a store with a well-stocked vegan selection (Kroger actually has a big selection), you’ll be able to find everything from vegan cheeses and yogurts to ice cream and smoothies.
Note that there are usually three different types of milk-based substitutes that offer the nutrients and similar taste found in regular dairy milk (and they offer chocolate options!):
This is a light almond tastes and is thicker than regular milk. Some people say it feels more filling than regular milk, so a little goes a long way. Many often liken the taste of original, unsweetened almond milk to whole milk. It is also available lightly sweetened and vanilla flavored.
Obviously a no-go for those with a soy allergy, soy milk is the most common milk alternative. Like almond milk, it comes sweetened and unsweetened, but many prefer the vanilla flavor.
This has a lighter, more watery consistency than soy or almond milk. Rice milk tends to last longer than the other two options, primarily because it does not need to be refrigerated until opened.
Other lactose/dairy-free swaps you might not know exist:
Ice cream – usually comes in soy, almond, or coconut milk options
Cheese – look in the vegan section!
Butter – look for non-dairy margarine spread
Yogurt – often made using coconut milk
NOTE: If consuming dairy gives you swollen lips, hives, or other symptoms more consistent with a traditional allergic reaction, you may have an allergy to casein. A protein in milk, casein allergies are more difficult to diagnose and symptoms are much more severe. See a doctor to get tested.
Allergic to eggs
The majority of people allergic to eggs have egg white specific allergies (as in, NOT the yolk). Depending on how severe your allergy is, you may not even be able to eat brownies or cookies. However, most people have what is referred to as a whole egg allergy, where one egg spread throughout a cake will not cause a reaction, but eating something where egg is a primary ingredient will. With egg allergies, unfortunately, there are not many substitutes as far as ingredients. Having positive food experiences will mostly come from understanding what to avoid.
What to avoid:
This might seem obvious, but how often do you know the type of noodle you’re consuming by name? Many soups use egg noodles, as do some restaurant pasta dishes (sorry, buttered noodles at Noodles & Co. is a no go). Always double check before you eat!
Commercially breaded items
Many times, breaded meats and dinners use an egg mixture for the breading. When at a restaurant, there’s no harm in asking what they use to prepare a meal!
Certain salad dressings
Eggs are often used to thicken salad dressings, particularly in restaurants. The creamier dressings are usually the culprits, so don’t worry if you’re into Italian!
Also avoid mayonnaise, which is made with eggs, oil and vinegar.
Allergic to a type of nut
A common misconception is that if you are allergic to one type of nut, you are allergic to all nuts. That’s not the case! An individual who is allergic to peanuts may have no trouble eating almonds or walnuts.
Once you find out where your allergy falls on the nut spectrum, you can start experimenting with swapping items. No tears will be shed over having to swap peanut butter for Nutella!
It is important to check labels, especially with candies or products that may be made alongside other products that can contain nuts you cannot have. Nuts have a lot of protein, so if you have to cut them completely be sure you are supplementing protein in another way (beans are a great substitute).
Gluten or wheat allergy
While gluten-free diets have become somewhat of a craze, gluten allergies are actually quite serious and come in many forms. Gluten refers to a particular protein found in wheat, and like dairy, is seemingly found in everything. For those with an allergy, finding breads, pastas, and cereals can be a challenge. Even beer contains gluten!
Thanks in part to the newfound popularity of going gluten free, finding ways to keep an allergy at bay is easier than ever. Restaurants are specializing in gluten-free dishes, stores are stocking up on specialty products – even the cafeterias on campus have gluten free options!
So if you discover you have a food allergy, don’t give up hope! There are a lot of options hidden in the aisle of the grocery store for any type of allergy.