My name is Caitlyn, and I have a severe allergy to peanuts, as well as a wheat and egg allergy.
One thing that I always notice, which I’m sure that others with allergies also experience, is the age old question that I am constantly asked: “What do you eat!?” Recently, I started a new job, where one of my coworkers was absolutely astounded to learn about my allergies. She went on and on about how hard it must be for me to find foods to eat and how it was probably impossible for me to eat anything at all. Meanwhile, I was chowing down on a large lunch that I had packed –a bit of a contradiction there!
I will admit that it does take more work to find foods that are allergy safe and stay safe when eating – but there are options out there! I would like to take a moment to appreciate how much allergy friendly foods have improved and how many more options have become more available over the years. I’ve had known allergies since I was about one year old. When I was young, I remember my parents having to order allergy friendly foods to be delivered to our home each month, including crackers, bread and cookies. Even though this food had to be specially ordered, they were NOT that good in taste, especially compared to what is available today.
As people become more aware of allergies and food intolerances, the foods available to accommodate those dietary needs are also increasing. Not only are health food stores common carriers of gluten-free and allergy friendly products, but many grocery stores also have products free of gluten and the most common allergens. Even the local grocery store in my very small town has introduced a ‘gluten free’ section, offering many gluten free products, as well as allergy friendly foods that are dairy and egg free.
Depending on where you live, it is also becoming more common to find bakeries that accommodate allergies, either as a common practice or by request. It is also great to see how many companies are taking extra steps to ensure that their food products (such as granola bars and chocolate bars) are labeled as peanut free. That is not only assuring for people with food allergies – it also makes it easier for others trying to find safe snacks that won’t put others at risk.
Restaurants can also be very accommodating, providing you inform them about your allergies. With some investigation, you may find some Italian restaurants that provide gluten free pasta or pizza options, which is great for people with gluten intolerance or wheat allergy. I have even eaten at restaurants that strive to be peanut free. Of course, eating out still provides many challenges and requires people with food allergies to be aware and communicate about their allergies – however, the number and quality of restaurants accommodating food allergies are definitely growing!
It is hard for food manufacturers to accommodate the wide variety of allergies out there – but the products that are available are continuing to improve. Hopefully, as allergy awareness continues to grow, eating will only become easier and tastier for those with allergies!