It takes a lot of time and experimentation to eat safely with food allergies. Reading labels, researching ingredients, creating recipes, and locating allergy-friendly restaurants is a full-time job, according to members of MyFoodAllergyTeam.
“In the past, it took me an hour to do grocery shopping,” explained one member, who has become her family’s “food detective.” “Now, it takes three to four times longer because I have to read 40 different products, [just to find] one item [my son] can eat. It’s so frustrating.”
Finding the right packaged foods is a frustrating task for many members because labels often exclude hidden allergens or include misleading ingredient names.
One member with a soy allergy found and posted a list of 56 names for soy, or ingredients that could be derived from the substance. It included the following common fillers: Artificial and natural flavorings, gums (guar, xanthan, and vegetable), hydrolyzed vegetable and plant proteins (often used in meatless and vegan products) – even vitamin E.
“They have sneaky ways of adding soy without having to mention it,” she said.
Baking bread and sweets
Members report reactions to baked goods that are labeled gluten-free but contain trace levels of gluten, particularly in restaurants. Many have resorted to making their own gluten-free flour mixes, but finding the safest ingredients - and proportions - has been challenging.
“Tapioca or potato starch is always good in the mix. Almond flour makes amazing bread/pizza crust. And coconut flour is another good one,” recommended one MyFoodAllergyTeam member. “Rice flour is fine but makes a bread or cake dense/spongy by itself. [Don’t] overmix GF flour or your bread/cake will be dense. Just barely combine ingredients.”
Another member posted “a basic gluten-free mix” for optimum taste and texture:
One of the most-requested items on MyFoodAllergyTeam are recipes, particularly among newly diagnosed members just starting the “safe food” journey. Gluten-Free Girl is a popular site enjoyed by many in the community. Another member’s partner recommends The Gluten Free Spouse.
One member even started her own blog with recipes. “My goal is to help others and to let them know that they aren't fighting this battle with food allergies alone. It's not easy.”
Dining out or away from home is among the most challenging issues for members with food allergies. A survey by the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAII) gathered popular strategies for playing it safe in restaurants – many of which are also cited by MyFoodAllergy members:
One member tells servers: “‘My friend is being polite by simply stating she is allergic to peppers. If there are any peppers or pepper juices in her food, she will have an anaphylactic reaction and could seriously potentially die.’ I emphasize the words ‘any’ and ‘will.’ My friend has learned to live with me and my embarrassing statement, but she's still alive.”
Many carry Chef Cards that they create and print online, and hand to a chef or manager. “It has made it so much easier to feel safe when ordering food at a restaurant!“ said one member. “I printed out ones that are in Hebrew and English for my trip to Israel. Love being prepared,” shared another.
On MyFoodAllergyTeam, the social network and online support group for those living with food allergies, members talk about a range of personal experiences and struggles, including resources for eating safely.
Here are some conversations about resources for eating safely:
Here’s a question about resources for eating safely:
Have another topic you'd like to discuss or explore? Go to MyFoodAllergyTeam today and start the conversation. You'll be surprised by how many others share similar stories.