You might have only been recently diagnosed with a food allergy, or it be a problem that you know of already and have been struggling with your whole life; whichever happens, to be the case, food allergies can be a huge change to your lifestyle – it means that you have to adapt everything you eat and be careful to make sure that what you’re about to eat – even at a restaurant – doesn’t contain the allergen that you should be avoiding.
There are many different types of food allergies and you can be allergic to everything from wheat to milk to peanuts – and how easy it is to avoid the ingredient depends on how common it is in the foods that you buy and the restaurants that you visit. But allergies don’t have to have a major impact on your life: Here are ten amazing tips for dealing with food allergies if you’ve been finding it a hard adaptation to get used to.
1. Have an Allergy Screening
Do you suspect that you might be suffering from food allergies? Some symptoms and signs of a food allergy include hayfever-like symptoms every time you consume the product you’re allergic to – but allergy symptoms can also be much more severe and end you up in the hospital with anaphylactic shock.
If you suspect that food allergies might be the reason that your eyes start swelling up or you start having stomach pain every time you drink milk, then you should go for a generalized allergy screening to find out just what you are allergic to; even if you already know that you have allergies, then you might want to go for screening anyway: It can point to any other allergies that you might have and didn’t know about, and it’ll make your condition much easier to deal with in the long run. Most doctors can do an allergy screening for you.
2. Ask Restaurants First
One of the most common causes for discomfort for people who are suffering from food allergies is the fact that they might find themselves going out to eat at restaurants less and less because of the fact that they feel the restaurant won’t accommodate their allergies – or because they’ve had a bad experience in a restaurant before. What if you ordered a salad and it contained nuts when you are very heavily allergic to them?
You should know that many restaurants understand this risk – and most of them will be happy to tell you about allergen-free options that they have on the menu; at the very least, you should ask a restaurant to tell you just what dishes contain the ingredient that you are allergic to so that you know what not to order, and make sure that you ask the chef if these dishes are prepared separately from those that contain the allergen.
3. Ask For Alternatives
So, once you’ve asked your restaurant or store which dishes contain the allergens that you should be avoiding, whether this allergen happens to be egg, milk or peanuts – which are some of the most common food allergies around – then what’s left to do? Most restaurants already list the dishes that contain common allergens in their menu, and as we’ve just told you if you’re not sure then you should ask the restaurant’s waiter, chef, or manager what’s safe for you on the menu.
If you are for example allergic to gluten, then many pizza restaurants do offer a gluten-free base as an alternative as long as you ask for it. If you’re going out to a restaurant, these days you should even be able to find this information on their website – or if it’s not available there then you can call the restaurant ahead and find out before you go there yourself.
4. Always Read the Label
The grocery store can be a huge culprit for things that will set off your allergies if you are allergic to certain foods – and these are allergens that you might not even think that you would have found there. One example we can mention is the fact that many types of wine contain egg as a fining agent, and that means that anyone with an allergen to the egg will have an allergic reaction to it – but this is something that almost nobody thinks to look at on the bottle’s label because they really don’t think it will be there.
It’s usually law in most states or countries for a label to have to list the allergens the product contains to avoid anyone having a reaction to the product – so you should always read the label of a product for the ingredients list to make sure it doesn’t contain what you are allergic to.
5. Buying Alternatives to Allergens
There are many allergens where we can say that the foods you should be avoiding are extremely obvious – for example, in the case of a wheat allergy you will very obviously want to avoid anything that contains flour, like cupcakes, cake, and bread; this will also include things like pizza. With an egg allergy, you will want to avoid cake and anything else that very obviously contains an egg – you wouldn’t go eating a scrambled egg breakfast if you are allergic.
Once you’re in the grocery store to make your pick of what you should buy, then you should learn to always check for allergen-free alternatives to your favorite products – in most cases, there is something available that is close to your favorite product but doesn’t contain the allergen that you should stay away from. There is, for example, egg-free mayonnaise and gluten-free pasta – and that’s only two examples of a thousand different ones that you can buy if you have an allergy.
6. Notify Friends for Dinner
You should always let friends know about your allergies if you intend to eat over at their place – even if they won’t be preparing the food themselves, it’s vitally important that they know which allergies you should be staying away from so that the night’s menu can be planned accordingly. If you don’t tell people that you are allergic to something in advance, they might end up ordering or making something that contains a fair (or something minute trace) amount of the allergen – which can set of an allergy attack at the worst time.
You don’t want to go to the emergency room when you’re right in the middle of dinner, do you? So make sure that everyone knows about your allergies in advance, even if you will be ordering take out for the night instead. This can be a little bit of an inconvenience, but a trip to the emergency room is guaranteed to be much worse and will spoil the entire night.
7. Making Alternatives at Home
If you are a home cook who loves spending time in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes and ideas then you have plenty of options that are available to you when it comes to changing your diet to accommodate your allergy. There are thousands of websites on the internet that have fantastic recipes that are adapted to help people with allergies, and a simple trip to the grocery store will be enough; make sure that you have plenty of alternatives to your allergen in the house, and do your research to find out what will make a good replacement for it.
For example, eggs can be replaced with cooked apple mousse when you are baking, and it serves the same purpose that the egg would have in the recipe by holding everything together – making it a great alternative if you happen to be baking a cake for someone with an egg allergy. And there are thousands of other examples where you can replace your allergen pretty easily at home.
8. Keep Antihistamines
If you know that allergens are a common problem in your daily life, then you should consider getting some over the counter antihistamines from your nearest drug store and carry these with you most of the time. When you know that you will be exposed to what you are allergic to, take an antihistamine as a precaution – it might not stop an allergy attack immediately, but it will give you some relief from the symptoms.
This is especially true if you are allergic to other things too and if a field of flowers during the flowering season is enough to give you an instant attack of hayfever: You can benefit from taking antihistamines on a regular basis, so make sure that you always keep them with you. And, remember to avoid your allergen as much as possible, especially if it’s something in your food: Many allergies can’t be controlled by simple antihistamines.
9. Cross Contamination Care
Have you ever thought about just how cross-contamination works? The simplest way to explain it to someone is to imagine that their hands are full of paint – and that everything they touch will be painted with the same paint that they currently had on their hands a second ago. Now imagine that the paint is instead your allergen – and imagine that the surface you touched is where your food has just been prepared.
Even if you are preparing an option that seems completely free from allergens, this will mean nothing if it has been prepared on a surface that has been touched by the allergen you need to avoid – and this is especially true for certain allergens such as peanuts. You should always be sure to ask restaurants if your food is being prepared on its own, and you should always be aware of the dangers that cross-contamination can hold when you are preparing food at home.
10. Replace What You Should
There are thousands of replacements available if there is a certain ingredient that you need to be avoiding. There’s no need to feel left out if you have an allergy anymore – all you have to do is make a few small changes in your life to avoid your allergen as a whole, and if you still can’t find what you’re looking for in a store then you can always make your chosen dish at home without the allergen.
A simple search will tell you what can be used as a replacement when you’re cooking – like using apple mousse in baking when you want to use egg, or instead of using soy milk when the ingredient list calls for traditional milk instead: There is almost always something that you can replace your allergen with or something that you can buy that doesn’t contain your allergen; there’s no reason to let a food allergy destroy your diet.