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Allergy-free alternatives to kids’ favorite foods

By Michelle Edelbaum, August 4, 2011 - 10:31am

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We’re fortunate not to have food allergies in our household (now seasonal allergies are another story…). But through my friends and avoiding certain ingredients when I pack lunch for my son to take to school, I know how hard, and increasingly common, it can be to need to eat around certain foods.

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network says scientists estimate about 12 million Americans have food allergies, according to a story in EatingWell Magazine by Cheryl Sternman Rule. A true food allergy causes the body’s immune system to attack the proteins in a particular food, releasing chemicals (histamines) that cause symptoms like hives, gastrointestinal or respiratory distress. Symptoms, whether mild or severe, occur quickly: within a few minutes to two hours of eating. In the most severe cases, they progress to anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal condition in which the allergic reaction overtakes the entire body.

At my son’s school, like many others, we pack around one common allergy: peanuts. So I decided to turn to EatingWell’s editors and Test Kitchen cooks for advice on how to cook around food allergies and for some tasty peanut-free recipes, plus allergen-free alternatives to other common food allergies.

For Peanut Allergies
Foods to Avoid: Peanut butter, mixed nuts, beer nuts, peanut oil. Note: Experts often caution those with peanut allergies to avoid tree nuts, due to cross-contamination risks. Plus, about one-third of those with an allergy to peanuts (which are legumes like beans) have or will develop an allergy to one or more true nuts, which grow on trees.
Common Hidden Sources: Sauces used in ethnic—Asian, African and Mexican—meals (e.g., mole), candy, chocolate, sunflower seeds and nut butters (which often are processed on shared equipment, so read labels to find ones that keep peanuts separate), some natural and artificial flavors and many other foods (i.e., read labels of all processed foods).
Delicious Swaps: Dip apples in a little honey instead of peanut butter or have popcorn when craving a crunchy, salty snack.
Peanut-Free Recipes to Try: Instead of peanut butter and jelly try Strawberry & Cream Cheese Sandwich and 20 More Peanut Free Recipes for Kids

For Dairy Allergies and Intolerance
Also Relevant To: people with lactose intolerance (though many can tolerate yogurt and aged cheeses), vegans
Foods to Avoid: Cow’s milk and all food products—including butter, buttermilk, cheese, cream cheese, cream, half and half, ice cream, cottage cheese, yogurt, pudding, sour cream—made from it. Plus, many (but not all) people who are allergic to cow’s milk are sensitive to proteins in goat’s milk and sheep’s milk too.
Common Hidden Sources: Deli meats and hot dogs, veggie burgers, sorbet, canned tuna, chocolate, nondairy creamers, commercial breads and rolls, salad dressings and mayonnaise.
Delicious Swaps: Substitute an equal amount of rice milk, soymilk or almond milk in recipes, blend soy yogurt into smoothies and bake cookies with non-hydrogenated margarine, soy/rice milk, dairy-free chocolate chips.
Recipes to Try: Instead of ice cream try Creamy Chocolate Gelato (Made with Coconut Milk) and More Dairy-Free Frozen Desserts

For Gluten Allergies and Intolerance
Also Relevant To: people with celiac disease
Foods to Avoid: Wheat-based pastas, cereals, breads, bran; wheat germ, wheat berries, semolina (a type of wheat used to make pasta), kamut (used in cereals, crackers and pasta), bulgur, seitan.
Common Hidden Sources: Ice creams, bouillon cubes, potato chips, deli meats, French fries, soy sauce, many processed snacks (too many to list), breadcrumbs, couscous, spelt, hot dogs.
Delicious Swaps: Experiment with different pastas, including those made from corn, brown rice and quinoa, switch from flour to corn tortillas and use rice noodles for Asian-inspired dishes.
Recipes to Try: Get a week’s worth of breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas with our 7-Day Gluten-Free Meal Plan.
Flourless Honey Almond Cake & More Gluten-Free Desserts

For Fish Allergies
Also Relevant To: vegans
Foods to Avoid: Fish including tuna, salmon, catfish, and more. Note: Experts often caution those allergic to fish to be aware of cross-contamination risks of eating shellfish and other seafood.
Common Hidden Sources: Caesar salad dressings (many contain anchovy paste), Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, caponata, imitation crab meat (a.k.a., surimi).
Delicious Swaps: Prepare canned chicken as you would canned tuna.
Recipes to Try: Instead of fish sticks, try these 20-Minute Chicken Nuggets and More Chicken Tender Recipes

For Soy Allergies
Foods to Avoid: Soymilk, tofu, tempeh, edamame, soybeans, soy protein isolate, soy sauce, soy nuts, TVP or textured vegetable protein (defatted soy flour), tamari, miso.
Common Hidden Sources: Tuna, deli meats, hot dogs, vegetable broth, vegetable starch, textured vegetable protein, cereals, infant formulas, sauces, soups, many vegetarian products.
Delicious Swaps: Make a stir-fry with seitan (wheat gluten) or chicken, plus veggies, ginger and garlic (skip the soy sauce!).
Recipes to Try: Many packaged energy bars contain soy. Instead make your own homemade granola bars with these granola and muesli recipes.

For Egg Allergies
Also Relevant To: vegans
Food to Avoid: Eggs. Note: Some people are so sensitive to egg proteins that cooking fumes can stoke an allergic reaction.
Common Hidden Sources: Ice creams, egg substitutes, pastas, candies, hot dogs, meatballs, breads, rolls and other baked goods, mayonnaise, meringues, marshmallows, nougat and marzipan.
Delicious Swaps: Sub mashed avocado, hummus or tapenade for mayo on sandwiches, scramble tofu with salsa, black beans and a little cheese and make your own frozen yogurt instead of eating commercial ice cream.

Tree Nut Allergies
Foods to Avoid: Walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts and more. Note: Experts often caution those with tree nut allergies to avoid peanuts too (see explanation above).
Common Hidden Sources: Cereals, chocolate, candies, marzipan, nougat, mortadella, pesto and some natural and artificial flavors (i.e., read labels of all processed foods).
Delicious Swaps: Mix your own nut-free trail mix with a variety of favorite cereals, raisins and banana chips.

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TAGS: Michelle Edelbaum, Food Blog

Michelle Edelbaum
Michelle is the digital director for EatingWell. She puts her background in journalism to work at to help deliver daily inspiration for eating healthy.

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