If you or your child have a food allergy, you’re far from alone. Current estimates are that about 2 percent of adults and 6 percent of children are affected by allergies, which arise when the immune system reacts after a certain food is eaten. Common symptoms of food allergies include skin rashes or digestive problems, but may include anaphylaxis, in which the breathing passages swell. This can be fatal if it is not treated.
The most common food allergies are eggs, fish, wheat, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, and tree nuts. Around 90 percent of all allergic reactions to food are caused by one of that group.
It can be hard to tell which foods might trigger an allergic reaction. Below is a partial list of common foods often made with allergy-triggering ingredients, as well as some tips for dining out with food allergies.
Eggs: Egg Beaters and similar egg substitutes; mayonnaise; aioli; baked goods; custard; soup; ice cream; fresh pasta; salad dressing; meatballs; casseroles.
Fish: Worcester sauce; caviar; Caesar salads; artificial seafood, such as imitation crab. Anything in a restaurant specializing in seafood is suspect for someone with a severe fish allergy, as the risk of cross-contamination is high.
Wheat: Breads; baked goods; pasta; couscous; cereals; crackers; vegetarian “meats” made with gluten or hydrologized vegetable protein.
Milk: Anything made with chocolate; creamed foods; nougat; margarine; white sauces; puddings; yogurt; butter; cheese and cottage cheese; baked goods.
Peanuts: Mixed nuts; nougat; many Asian and African dishes; cookies; candy; egg rolls; foods fried in peanut oil.
Shellfish: Clams; mussels; crab; shrimp; conch; oysters; lobster. In addition to being careful at seafood restaurants, anyone with a shellfish allergy in a restaurant should ask about cooking oil. Shellfish is often served fried, and it’s not uncommon for the same batch of oil to be used for French fries and for clams. Imitation shellfish may contain a small amount of shellfish for flavoring.
Soy: Tofu; soy sauce; miso; artificial animal and plant protein. Soy is a common additive to baked goods and cereals, and may also be used as an extender in commercially processed meat, such as hot dogs and sausage.
Tree Nuts: Nut butters; trail mix; nut extracts, such as almond extracts; marzipan or almond paste; pine nuts. Nut oils are sometimes used in sauces or dressings.
Despite what may seem like daunting lists, it is possible to eat out with an allergy. Here are some tips for dining out with food allergies.
Research restaurant menus online. While wait staff can be helpful, many may be overextended or poorly trained on the needs of allergic guests. Many chain restaurants have websites including full lists of all ingredients used in their food.
Come prepared with detailed lists of allergies. Managing a food allergy or multiple allergies can involve memorizing a lot of specific triggers. Take some pressure off yourself by bringing a printed guide of foods and additives to avoid to the restaurant with you.
Know the treatment instructions. Again, it can’t hurt to have this in writing. You don’t want to lose valuable time during an allergic reaction looking up what needs to be done.
Wear a medical ID bracelet. These bracelets include your name, list of known allergies, medications and emergency contact phone numbers. Lauren's Hope offers a range of styles which can be lifesaving if someone has a severe allergic reaction during a restaurant meal.
Eating out with someone with a food allergy may never be stress-free. But, if you follow these tips for dining out with food allergies, sitting down around a restaurant table can be a much more relaxing experience!