food allergies

Meal planning with food allergies

People with food allergies may be susceptible to poor nutrition if they follow only the “one size fits all” allergen-free recipes that avoid all known allergens. Fortunately there are ways to plan meals that include as many nutrients as possible and are interesting and tasty to eat.

Allergy-Free Cookbooks

Food allergy sufferers often turn to allergy cookbooks in the search for safe recipes. These cookbooks tend to contain recipes that are simultaneously gluten free, dairy free, egg free, and nut free.

A notable exception is Alice Sherwood’s Allergy-Free Cookbook (Dorling Kindersley Ltd, 2007). Each recipe in the book has individually a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and nut-free version, so there is no need to miss out on ingredients that you may not be allergic to.

Avoid Only the Big Four Allergens

Alice Sherwood advises focusing primarily on the “Big Four” food problems: dairy, egg, gluten, and nuts. Most food allergy sufferers are allergic to only one or two foods, making it unnecessary to avoid all other allergens. To find out how to test for these allergies, see Food Allergy Testing.

For example, if a recipe is dairy-free, but you are not allergic to dairy, you can use milk or margarine. In recipes that contain egg replacements, you can of course skip the replacements, such as flax seed meal, and use real eggs.

Plan Meals Ahead of Time

The Eating with Food Allergies website recommends planning meals ahead of time. This is because eating allergy-free often requires more cooking from scratch. Creating meal plans helps to avoid the stressful situation of not knowing what is for dinner that night, and not having the essential ingredients to hand.

Each planned meal should contain a main dish that includes a source of protein, like lentils, fish or meat. Also include a grain, e.g. rice or couscous, a vegetable or fruit, and a source of calcium, e.g. milk or soya milk.

Shop Around for Ingredients

Shopping around is often necessary to ensure all the right ingredients are available. This includes health food stores, organic grocery stores, delicatessens, specialist food stores and of course supermarket chains. “Allergy-free” and “free from” ranges are often available, but also expensive. It is often easier and cheaper to buy basic ingredients in bulk, such as lentils and rice, and build around those staples.

Look For Hidden Ingredients

Wheat is found in foods as varied as meat, soups, gravies and chips, while eggs can be found in baked goods, beverages and pasta. Food allergies mean reading the “fine print” on labels and being on the lookout for hidden allergens. Also be aware of cross-contamination, which can occur when food is produced on an assembly line that contains other allergen-containing foods.

Double Up On Ingredients And Meals

Plan meals that use the same ingredients, for example, lentils could be used in both a quiche and a stew. Make double batches of a meal for those evenings when time is in short supply, freezing the second meal.