Eating in the Real World: Dealing with Food Allergies


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Everywhere you go in the health and fitness world you hear the same basic things: eat whole foods, eat real foods, eat lots of plants. For some it seems like being a vegetarian – or better yet vegan – is the answer to all the world’s problems and a ‘better’ way of life. The implication is that if you are not eating according to those types of diet you are somehow inferior or less healthy.

We have always loved eating healthy in our house, and keep loads of fruits and vegetables around to eat balanced meals. I have done a lot in the least couple of years looking at vegetarian meals and options. But there are a couple of things we deal with all the time that have a huge impact on our ability to eat certain things – allergies and sensitivities.

This past week over at Mile-Posts, Dorothy talked a lot about her food allergies and the strict elimination diet (including no coffee *shudder*) she is on to try to figure things out. It is amazing to read all of the sensitivities she has … because it sounds like a normal conversation at our house.

According to this article:

the most common food allergens are milk, seafood, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and wheat, accounting for 90 percent of all food allergies in the United States.

From the time they were first eating solid foods, each of the boys had things they preferred – one liked vegetables more and the other preferred fruits. Chris ended up getting four allergy shots for a full year, and while he is better handling things than before, there are definite limits – he was allergic to … well, everything. Danny has more typical seasonal allergies.

And a funny story was how on one of our first excursions Lisa and I were going on a hike and I brought in a fruit salad … which was about 50% apples. I had never heard of apple allergies before. But Lisa has them – and as i have found out in recent years it is much more common than you would expect.

I like just about every fruit and vegetable, so throughout the years I have tried just about everything – and what we have found is that while allergies cause an immediate and predictable response, sensitivities are more difficult to diagnose and deal with.

Here are some indicators that you might have sensitivity or low-level allergy:
– itchy throat
– sweating (for non-spicy food)
– gas or bloating
– hives or welts on your skin
– ‘visiting the bathroom’ within an hour of eating.
– blood in your stool
– reaction like normal seasonal allergies – such as coughing, sneezing, runny nose

Like I said, many of those things seem like symptoms for many other allergies or other situations. So what you need to do is to pay attention to what happens when you eat these things on more than one occasion – and eventually you will isolate your sensitivity. This is something we’ve done a lot through the years.

Here are some of the things we can’t have for a full-family meal:
– apples
– pears, peaches, and pretty much every other tree fruit
– pineapple
– peanuts, peanut oil, peanut butter
– almonds, pecans, and every other tree nut
– flours based on nuts
– almond milk, etc
– clams (this is the one that is mine!)
– soy
– coconuts
– too much spinach causes issues
– too much squash, etc
– beans and other legumes too often

But it gets worse – as a challenge, head into the juice aisle of your grocery store and look at something that costs less than $5 per quart, and find something without apple juice as an ingredient. Same for many frozen juices, too many frozen meals (such as Lean Cuisine, etc) and so on. Milk and nut allergies means that labels reflect their inclusion, but for apples there isn’t even the need to include it all the time on the label.

This definitely presents a problem, since it makes a vegan diet pretty much impossible and severely restricts our vegetarian meals.

But it is a reminder that being healthy isn’t about ticking off a checklist, living a certain lifestyle that some set above all others – it is about creating the healthiest possible diet that works for you.

4 thoughts on “Eating in the Real World: Dealing with Food Allergies

  1. Wait … what do you mean “there isn’t even the need to include it all the time on the label”? Don’t CPG companies have to include every ingredient on the label? Or do you mean that it could be labeled as “mixed fruit juice” or something like that? As I’ve said many times, I can’t imagine dealing with all of the allergies Lisa has, but she’s lucky to have you there to help her through it!

    • What I am saying is two things: (1) apples are used as a filler like HFCS and other corn stuff, and therefore UNLIKE Dairy, Nuts, Wheat, etc they are not called out for sensitivity issues. Also (2) they are as you note often labeled ‘assorted fruit juices from concentrate’ or whatever. Some labels get very non-specific with very small type and so on. Their goal is to push the ‘all natural’ and ‘100% juice’ angle, not that there is 2% Blueberry juice with tons of cheap apple juice as filler compensated by adding blueberry flavoring.

      It really is a challenge – especially since I can eat pretty much anything, can deal with bizarre textures and flavor profiles/combinations and can also eat the same thing all the time. I’m like a human garbage disposal, but one that can cook fairly well 🙂

  2. Pingback: Foodie Friday – Paleo and Gluten Free and Allergies OH MY! | Running Around the Bend

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