Maybe you’ve suspected something has been wrong for quite awhile. You’re either always stuffed up, or perhaps you frequently have problems with indigestion. Your doctor has confirmed that you have a food allergy, and your diet has to change. Where do you start?
First of all, realize you’re in good company. According to “The Burden of Allergic Rhinitis,” in the Allergy Asthma Proc (2007;28:3-9), food allergies affect approximately 6% of young children and 3 to 4% of adults in the U.S. population.
Eight Major Food Allergens per the FDA:
- Crustacean shellfish
- Tree nuts
If you’re struggling with a food allergy in your family, Sarah Smith, community relations and marketing specialist at the Whole Foods Market in Carmel and Indianapolis, can help. Sarah has a wealth of information and resources to help you navigate the maze of food allergies.
Boot Camp 101 for Food Allergies
Be a label reader. “Well, as you learn really quickly when you’re starting a special diet, you have to become a label reader,” said Sarah. You may be spending more time in the grocery at first, because you have to read labels looking for the food to which you’re allergic. Sarah points out that by law manufacturers must list on the label if their product contains any of the eight major food allergens. She cautions that products change frequently, so even if you have been eating a certain product for years, still read the labels periodically to make sure the ingredients haven’t changed.
Attitude is key. “Attitude can play a big part when dealing with food allergies,” Sarah emphasized. “Mourn your loss for a bit, but focus on the foods you can eat,” she recommended.
Learn to bake. Being your own baker will save you money as you learn how to make your favorite foods.
Get support. “Remember you’re not alone,” Sarah advised. Lean on the experts and join support groups (see Resource List at the end of the article).
Be prepared. “Keep food with you at all times,” Sarah advises. You never know when you’ll be delayed, and children, especially, get hungry frequently.
Budget. Realize that having a food allergy doesn’t have to mean your grocery bill will skyrocket. Sarah recommends planning ahead, shopping the sales and using coupons to help control spending.
Surviving the Holidays
Holidays and special events can be especially tricky when dealing with food allergies, and once again Sarah has some good advice. “A little extra planning can go a really long way,” Sarah said. When attending a party, ask the host if you can bring a dish. Showing that it can be easy to fix a special dish may encourage the host to accommodate those with food allergies at future parties.
Another option is to eat before you go to the party. That way you won’t be hungry, and you won’t be tempted to take chances on iffy food. If you are going to an office party, Sarah suggests that you join the planning committee to ensure that there will be some allergy-free foods available.
As far as restaurants go, Sarah advises to call ahead and see if they offer food allergen menus. Many restaurants have this information listed on their websites. “Sometimes chefs will even prepare something special, while some others are not as open to that,” she said. “Call ahead; it’s easier for the staff.”
Look for allergen-free recipes of your favorite holiday meals (see the Resource List).
Ultimately, having a food allergy doesn’t have to doom you to boring, tasteless food. It can be the start of a healthier lifestyle for you and your whole family.
www.cookitallergyfree.com/iphone_ipad_app (A great allergy-free recipe app for iPhone and iPad.)
Whole Foods Market Resources
www.wholefoodsmarket.com (You can search for recipes based on food allergen.)
Gluten-free and gluten- and casein-free product lists available in the store
Numerous health brochures available in the store
Gluten-Free Store Tour
Smart Shopper Tour
Shopping on a Budget Tour
Gluten-Free Thanksgiving class, Gluten-Free Tasting event, Vegan Thanksgiving class December Holiday classes available
Check the Whole Foods Events Calendar for information
Carmel Whole Foods Market: (317) 569-1517
Indianapolis Whole Foods Market: (317) 706-0900