You've met someone, know someone, or you may be someone yourself... who has a particular food allergy. Today, food allergies are becoming more and more common. Why is this? The number of people who have a food allergy is growing at a very concerning rate. In fact, about 2 percent of adults and 6 percent of children have a true food allergy. And far more have food intolerances, unpleasant symptoms triggered by food.

In a true food allergy, your immune system mistakenly identifies a specific food or a component of food as a harmful substance. Your immune system then triggers certain cells to produce immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to fight the culprit food or food component (the allergen). The next time you eat even the smallest amount of that food, the IgE antibodies sense it, and signal your immune system to release histamine and other chemicals into your bloodstream.

These chemicals cause a range of allergic signs and symptoms. Histamine is partly responsible for most allergic responses, including dripping nose, itchy eyes, dry throat, rashes and hives, nausea, diarrhea, labored breathing and even anaphylactic shock.

The great majority of life threatening food allergies are triggered by certain proteins in:
Shellfish, such as shrimp, lobster and crab
Tree nuts, such as walnuts and pecans

Food allergies are also commonly triggered by proteins in these foods:
Cow's milk

Food intolerance and other conditions: Not food allergies
Other reactions to food don't involve your immune system or the release of histamine, as these reactions aren't true food allergies. Instead, they may be a food intolerance. Because a food intolerance may involve some of the same signs and symptoms as a food allergy does - such as nausea, vomiting, cramping and diarrhea - people often confuse the two.

If you have a food intolerance, you may be able to eat small amounts of problem foods without a reaction. By contrast, if you have a true food allergy, even a tiny amount of food may trigger an allergic reaction.

One of the tricky aspects of diagnosing food intolerance is that some people are sensitive not to the food itself but to a substance or ingredient used in the preparation of the food. For example, sulfite preservatives can trigger asthma signs and symptoms in sensitive people.

Below is a listing of the "Great 8".  The 8 Food Allergies, what they're found in, what they can be hiding in, and substitutions you might want to try.  In each allergy category is also a helpful website that can further go into detail about that particular allergy and is a great resource.  If you stumble across or know of any other informative sites that you think shoud be included here... we'd enjoy hearing from you.  Send us an email at  Include: Allergy Site in the SUBJECT line and we'll get it online. 


Dairy products, milk, butter, cheese, half & half, ice cream, yogurt, cream cheese, cottage cheese, buttermilk, sour cream, pudding... some who are allergic to cows milk may also be allergic to goats milk

Salad dressings, mayonnaise, some breads, non-dairy creamers, chocolate, veggie burgers, hot dogs, deli meats, canned tuna, sorbet

Various types of other milks on the market... rice, soy or almond & there are substitutes for everything from non-hydrogenated margarine, to dairy-free chocolate.



Eggs - some people can be extremely sensitive to egg proteins... even cooking them in their presence can cause an allergic reaction.

Ice cream, egg substitutes, pastas, hot dogs, candies, meatballs, breads, baked goods, mayonnaise, meringues, marshmallows, nougat & marzipan.  Anything on an ingredient list that begins with ovo- or ova- ...

Instead of mayo, use mashed avocado or hummus on sandwiches.

Egg replacers can be used in baked goods.

Tofu scrambled eggs w/anything you desire.



Peanuts, Peanut Butter, Mixed Nuts, Bar/Beer Nuts, Peanut Oil.

Note: Experts often caution those with peanut allergies to avoid tree nuts, due to cross-contamination risks. About one-third of those with an allergy to peanuts (which are legumes like beans) have or will develop an allergy to one or more true nuts, which grow on trees

Sauces used in ethnic meals (Asian, African and Mexican), candy, chocolate, sunflower seeds and nut butters (which often are processed on shared equipment -- read labels to find ones that keep peanuts separate), some natural and artificial flavors and many other foods (i.e., read labels of all processed foods).

Peanut allergies are serious business!  Many schools are adopting a "peanut-free environment" program... airlines don't serve peanuts anymore either.  Careful with these.

Dip apples in a little honey instead of peanut butter, or pop some popcorn when you're craving a crunchy, salty snack.


Tree Nuts

Nuts and nut butters from any of the following: walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, and more.

Note: Experts often caution those with tree nut allergies to avoid peanuts too. (See explanation above.)

Cereals, chocolate, candies, marzipan, nougat, mortadella, pesto and some natural and artificial flavors (i.e., read labels of all processed foods).

Mix your own nut-free trail mix with a variety of favorite cereals, raisins and banana chips.  Also try whole-grain croutons in salads to mimic the crunchy texture of nuts.



Fish... Fish... More Fish Tuna, salmon, rockfish, mahi mahi, tilapia, catfish, and more.

Those allergic to fish should also be aware of cross-contamination risks of eating shellfish and other seafood.

Caesar salad dressings (anchovy paste), Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, imitation crab meat is made from fish.

Try olives and sun-dried tomatoes in cream cheese as a substitute for smoked salmon on a bagel.  Also, you can prepare canned chicken as you would canned tuna - chicken salad, etc.



Shrimp, crab, lobster, crawfish, oysters, clams, mussels, etc.

Those allergic to fish should also be aware of cross-contamination risks of eating fish and other seafood.

Fish stocks, flavorings (anything labeled "natural and/or artificial flavorings" may contain fish by-products).

Risotto cakes instead of crab cakes or grilled Portobello mushrooms, make a festive paella using a variety of meats and veggies.



Soymilk, tofu, tempeh, edamame, soybeans, soy protein isolate, soy sauce, soy nuts, TVP or textured vegetable protein (defatted soy flour), tamari, miso.

Tuna, deli meats, hot dogs, vegetable broth, vegetable starch, textured vegetable protein, cereals, infant formulas, sauces, soups, many vegetarian products.

Make a stir-fry with seitan (wheat gluten) or chicken, plus veggies, ginger and garlic (skip the soy sauce!).   Try paneer (pressed Indian cheese) in your curry.

Enjoy fortified rice milk on cereal.



Wheat-based pastas, cereals, breads, bran; wheat germ, wheat berries, semolina (a type of wheat used to make pasta), kamut (used in cereals, crackers and pasta), bulgur, seitan.

Ice creams, bouillon cubes, potato chips, deli meats, French fries, soy sauce, too many processed snacks, breadcrumbs, couscous, spelt, hot dogs, unidentified starch, modified food starch, binders, fillers, excipients, extenders, malt.

Experiment with different pastas, including those made from corn, brown rice and quinoa.  Switch from flour to corn tortillas.  Use rice noodles for Asian-inspired dishes.  Try brown rice or white rice flour, potato flours, garbanzo bean flours, etc.


Sources: The Mayo Clinic, The Food Allergy Network, Eating Well