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Baking and Cooking With Food Allergies

How to cope with wheat allergies, milk allergies, and egg allergies in the kitchen.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

When you or a family member has a food allergy, you resign yourself to the realization that there is no cure. Though the solution seems simple -- eliminate the food that you are allergic to -- that's anything but simple in our fast-paced lives of eating packaged and restaurant foods. (When eating out, remember to ask specific questions about the ingredients and how each dish is prepared.)

For the 5% to 8% of children and 1% to 2% of adults who have a food allergy, reading labels has gotten easier, courtesy of The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004. Since 2006, companies have been required to clearly state on food labels whether the products contain the top eight food allergens: milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, and tree nuts.

In addition to being careful about what products you buy, cooking and baking more at home will help ensure that someone doesn't accidentally eat something that contains an allergen.

With cooking and baking at home as your goal, here are some practical tips on how to make the necessary substitutions in your family's favorite recipes for the three most difficult food allergies to cook with; wheat, milk and eggs. (And check out the allergen-free recipes at the end of this article!)

Wheat Allergy Tips

Wheat, the most common grain in America, contains several types of protein that can activate an immune response in people who have an allergy to it. It differs from having a gluten sensitivity, which includes wheat and other cereal grains with gluten protein (barley, rye, and small quantities in oats).

Even though a wheat allergy is different from having gluten sensitivity, Chelsea Lincoln, recipe specialist from Bob's Red Mill, suggests gravitating toward gluten-free products and recipes. "All gluten-free products are wheat-free," explains Lincoln.

Foods/products to avoid:

  • Breads, crackers, and other baked goods that contain wheat (rye bread and cornbread typically contain some wheat)
  • Most breakfast cereals
  • All pasta and noodles made from wheat
  • Any fried or baked meat or vegetable coated with flour or breadcrumbs, cracker crumbs, or panko crumbs
  • Any meat dish or mixture or filling containing flour, bread crumbs, cracker crumbs, cereal, or other forms of wheat (includes most sausages, hot dogs and cold cuts).
  • Sauces, soups, and gravies thickened with flour
  • Salad dressing thickened with flour or other forms of wheat
  • Pancakes, waffles, and fritters
  • Beer
  • Imitation meat and seafood (imitation crabmeat) products that contain wheat flour
  • Hot dogs (some brands contain wheat as an ingredient)
  • Some ice creams (wheat is an ingredient in some brands of ice cream.)

Ingredients on label to watch for:

  • Wheat (bran, germ, gluten, malt, sprouts)
  • Flour (all types such as all-purpose, bread, cake, durum, graham, high gluten, pastry, stone ground, whole wheat, etc.)
  • Wheat germ or wheat starch
  • Wheat grass
  • Whole-wheat berries
  • Bran
  • Bread crumbs
  • Bulgur
  • Club wheat
  • Couscous
  • Cracker meal
  • Durum farina
  • Einkorn, emmer, seitan, or kamut (mostly relatives to wheat)
  • Modified food starch
  • Graham flour
  • Farina
  • Spelt
  • Semolina (refined durum wheat)
  • Pasta
  • Matzoh and matzo meal
  • Triticale (combination of wheat and rye)
  • Vital gluten
  • The following ingredients may contain wheat protein: flavoring, hydrolyzed protein, soy sauce, starch such as modified starch, vegetable starch, wheat starch, and surimi.

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