Tips To Crack Nut Allergies
When people hear you have a nut allergy, there are a few questions that always pop up-
‘’Does that mean I can’t eat my peanut butter sandwich around you?”; “will your throat close up and die if nuts are in the room?”, “is coconut or sesame seeds a nut?”
It is understandable for friends and families to feel overwhelmed when you tell them you are allergic to nuts. You can hear the fear in their voices, especially when they invite you over for dinner. Sometimes they sigh and think you are being over dramatic, or they make every effort to avoid nuts but forget the desert has almond meal in it. And then there is eating out at restaurants? Where you feel like everyone is looking at you as you hound the waiter for ingredient lists and cooking methods.
So how do you cope with a nut allergy, without feeling embarrassed or being the ‘difficult’ one in the group? How do make family and friends feel relaxed when you come over?
If you have experienced this, you are not alone, as I am allergic to nuts and have been all my life. As a dietitian with a nut allergy, I guide my patients through the challenges by giving them confidence, and strategies to reduce their risk while still enjoying a well balanced diet.
Here are some of my tips that I share my patients.
First of all, not EVERY nut allergy is a severe or life-threatening allergy. Some people have mild allergies where they break out in hives, others have moderate allergies, which include severe flu like symptoms, and some people have severe allergies, which result in anaphylaxis. Mild and moderate allergies are usually well managed with antihistamines while severe allergies require an EpiPen injection of adrenaline and can lead to hospitalisation.
I myself have a moderate allergy to treenuts, which means I have an EpiPen. Thankfully I have never had to use it, but I know how to manage my symptoms if and when I do have a reaction. However would your friends or work colleagues know what to do?
Explain to those around you how allergic you are to nuts
Explain the signs and symptoms to look out for
What they should do if you have a reaction
So you have been invited over to a friend’s for a dinner party, and you need to explain that you have a nut allergy. And while you appreciate the effort it takes to prepare a dinner party, how do you not be a burden on the host.
I always teach my patients, how to read food labels. But your host has probably never had to do this and may not be sure of the hidden ingredients.
On package foods look for the word ‘Contains’ under the ingredients list. If it says ‘may contain nuts’, this may be fine for mild and moderate allergies but it may not be suitable for a severe allergy. Let your host know your reaction type.
Allergens should be highlighted in bold so they are easier to see in the ingredient list. Tell your host what allergens to look for.
Ask your host to keep all of the food packages, so you can double-check the ingredients, as it is easy to make a mistake.
Offer the host a recipe that is nut-free or take a nut-free dish that compliments the menu. At least you will know there is one dish you can enjoy.
If you are eating out at a chain restaurant it is usually easy to identify when something has nuts in it, either by reading the description of the menu items or by viewing allergen symbols if they have them listed.
But what if you are eating somewhere that does not list this information or the staff may have limited knowledge of food preparation.
Make enquiries before hand. Speak to the chef or manager before you arrive, if possible.
Ask ask ask! Never be afraid to ask the wait staff to check with the kitchen if there are any nuts in your dish, including the sauces or condiments. If they are not sure, get them to ask someone else.
Choose dishes with fewer ingredients, as there is less room for error.
Try to avoid Asian / Indian style dishes and restaurants as meals maybe thickened with peanut flour or ground almond and double check pastries and desserts as they may also contain groundnuts.
When you receive your meal, ALWAYS check for nuts, including the salad garnishes even if you have double-checked with staff before ordering.
With careful planning, you can enjoy eating out with friends and families. Remember to tell everyone around you about your allergy. Be extra cautious before you eat. And have an action plan for if you do have a reaction.
If you need support managing your allergies, whether it’s meeting your nutritional needs, need new recipe ideas or you or a family member has recently been diagnosed, I have first hand knowledge to help you to eat right, your way, every day.*
By Laura York
*Disclaimer: All advice given is of a general nature. If you would like specific information please speak to your dietitian or health professional about your own personal circumstances.
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