With a food allergy, it’s always important for you to know what you’re eating. Reading labels is your best way to stay safe. Here are some tips and tricks to make it work for you.
Any packaged food has to show on the label if it contains milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, or soybeans. Look on the food label -- "Contains: Nuts" or "Contains: Peanuts" -- on the ingredients list.
Ah, fall. The perfect time to get outside for long walks in the neighborhood, hikes in the hills, and autumn gardening.
But that "ah" can quickly become "ah-choo" if you're one of the 36 million Americans with seasonal allergy problems. The runny nose, itchy eyes, and congestion -- all typical fall allergy symptoms -- can slow you down and make you miserable.
While there have been no dramatic advances recently in allergy treatment, experts say if you are allergy-prone, you can take a number of...
Peanut products, such as peanut flour, peanut starch, and peanut oil (including foods fried in it)
Where Peanuts Hide
Many processed foods like ice cream, snack foods, biscuits, baked goods, and candy
Ethnic food including African, Chinese, Indonesian, Mexican, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisine, to name a few
Many flavorings, thickeners, and sauces. Even artificial nuts -- used on sundaes
Roasted and fried foods -- like roasted chicken -- may have peanut oil in them
Where Tree Nuts Hide
Like peanuts, tree nuts can be hidden in many foods. They may even be in non-food products like lotions (shea butter, for example) and shampoos.
Be especially careful with:
Sauces (like Worcestershire sauce, barbecue sauce, or pesto)
Natural flavorings and extracts
Salad dressing, and gravies
See the list above under peanut allergies for other places tree nuts may be found.
How to Choose Safe Foods
Stick with packaged and labeled foods. Food from salad bars, deli counters, and bakeries is more likely to accidentally have your allergy triggers in it.
Read food labels every time you buy a product -- even if it's something you buy every week. Food manufacturers change ingredients all the time. A food that has been safe for you and your family may not always be.
If you see an ingredient you're not sure about, be careful. Look it up first. Consider contacting the manufacturer if you need more info.
Buying a different size or low-fat version? Read food labels. Low-fat or reduced-calorie versions of familiar foods may have very different ingredients. Sizing (like snack-sized packs) or packaging (a can vs. a carton) can affect ingredients. Some products may have different ingredients in different parts of the country.
Check labels on medications and toiletries. Food allergens can show up in drugs, cosmetics, shampoos, soaps, and lotions.
Do ask and tell. At restaurants, let the staff, servers, managers, cooks, or chef know about your food allergy and special accommodations that you might need. Don’t be afraid to ask how a dish is prepared. Sometimes it can be hard to tell everything that is in a dish based on how it is listed on the menu.