The rising popularity of plant-based food options provides both interesting opportunities as well as challenges for those living with peanut and tree nut allergies.
As someone who tries to eat meat-free several times a week, the growing interest in vegetarian recipes and substitutes is fantastic. Finding vegetarian recipes for all types of meals and desserts online is easier than ever and there are many Instagram or social media pages to follow that focus on this topic. I’ve also found that eating a diet containing less packaged food and focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables is both easier for me to avoid allergens and easier for my friends and family to prepare something that is safe for me as there are minimal ingredients involved. Lastly, with more people paying closer attention to the food they are eating, the awareness around ingredient lists and labelling is much higher, as is the general understanding of food restrictions.
The challenge around this new focus is that several categories of food, once thought to be typically safe for peanut and tree nut allergic people, are no longer guaranteed safe. Some of the items that I have encountered are milks or cheeses containing tree nuts (almonds and cashews being the most common). For those allergic to legumes, meat substitutes could also present an issue, since many meat substitutes are legume-based. When dining out, I will typically avoid restaurants that are focused solely on vegan diets as I feel the risk of cross-contamination with nut-based cheeses, flours, and oils is too high for me. However, I have noticed that more and more restaurants are including gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian labels on their menus and often have an overall allergy disclaimer on the menu, so that is a positive move in the right direction for people with allergies! Servers and kitchen staff are becoming more aware than ever of different diet restrictions and understand the severity of food allergies. That being said, my recommendation is always to call restaurants ahead of time and ask if they can accommodate your food allergy. Then, when you get there, it is a good idea to speak with the waiter and/or chef about your allergy. It’s always a good idea to over-prepare when it comes to food allergy safety.
The advantage of more people focusing on the ingredients of the foods they are eating is the wider understanding of the processes we (as people living with food allergies) have been living with for years! In addition, more and more recipes include alternate or substitute ingredients – while sometimes that may be substituting chick peas for meat, it can also mean adding sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter into a batch of cookies. All of this makes it that much easier to both make and try new foods in a safer way than ever before.
– Alison M.Tags: Allergen substitutes, Plant-based