What They Can Eat

Following this can help you prepare a meal for someone with food allergies or other special eating needs.

Following the guide below can help you prepare a meal for someone with food allergies or other special eating needs. Hidden sources are not as elusive as they were before it became mandatory to list, in plain language, ingredients derived from the "Big Eight" allergens. But you still need to read labels. We've simplified that job by identifying some foods in which these risky ingredients are common. We also offer ways to modify favorite dishes so all can enjoy them.

Note: This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Since allergies and intolerances are quite variable, it's best to ask your guests about their specific restrictions before you start planning a dinner menu.

THE BIG EIGHT


1. Milk

ALSO RELEVANT TO: people with lactose intolerance (though many can tolerate yogurt and aged cheeses), vegans

Foods to Avoid

Cow's milk and all food productsincluding butter, buttermilk, cheese, cream cheese, cream, half and half, ice cream, cottage cheese, yogurt, pudding, sour creammade from it. Plus, many (but not all) people who are allergic to cow's milk are sensitive to proteins in goat's milk and sheep's milk too.

Common Hidden Sources

Deli meats and hot dogs, veggie burgers, sorbet, canned tuna, chocolate, nondairy creamers, commercial breads and rolls, salad dressings and mayonnaise.

Delicious Swaps
  • Substitute an equal amount of rice milk, soymilk or almond milk in recipes.
  • Blend soy yogurt into smoothies.
  • Make a cheeseless pesto.
  • Bake cookies with nonhydrogenated margarine, soy/rice milk, dairy-free chocolate chips.

2. Egg

ALSO RELEVANT TO: vegans

Foods to Avoid

Eggs.

Note: Some people are so sensitive to egg proteins that cooking fumes can stoke an allergic reaction.

Common Hidden Sources

Ice creams, egg substitutes, pastas, candies, hot dogs, meatballs, breads, rolls and other baked goods, mayonnaise, meringues, marshmallows, nougat and marzipan.

Delicious Swaps
  • Sub mashed avocado, hummus or tapenade for mayo on sandwiches.
  • Scramble tofu with salsa, black beans and a little cheese.
  • Make your own frozen yogurt instead of eating commercial ice cream.

3. Peanut

Foods to Avoid

Peanut butter, mixed nuts, beer nuts, peanut oil.

Note: Experts often caution those with peanut allergies to avoid tree nuts, due to cross-contamination risks. Plus, 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.

Common Hidden Sources

Sauces used in ethnic -- Asian, African and Mexican--meals (e.g., mole), candy, chocolate, sunflower seeds and nut butters which are often processed on shared equipment, so 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).

Delicious Swaps
  • Dip apples in a little honey instead of peanut butter.
  • Pop some popcorn when craving a crunchy, salty snack.
  • Think outside the peanut butter sandwich box: try turkey-cranberry, Cheddar-chutney, goat cheese-roasted red pepper or a strawberry-cream cheese sandwich.

4. Tree Nuts

Foods to Avoid

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.)

Common Hidden Sources

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

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

5. Fish

ALSO RELEVANT TO: vegans

Foods to Avoid

Fish including tuna, salmon, catfish, and more.

Note: Experts often caution those allergic to fish to be aware of cross-contamination risks of eating shellfish and other seafood.

Common Hidden Sources

Caesar salad dressings (many contain anchovy paste), Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, caponata, imitation crab meat (a.k.a., surimi).

Delicious Swaps
  • Blend olives and sun-dried tomatoes into cream cheese as a substitute for smoked salmon on a bagel.
  • Prepare canned chicken as you would canned tuna.

6. Shellfish

ALSO RELEVANT TO: vegans

Foods to Avoid

Shrimp, crab, lobster, crawfish, and more.

Note: Experts often caution those allergic to fish to be aware of cross-contamination risks of eating shellfish and other seafood.

Common Hidden Sources

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

Delicious Swaps
  • Try risotto cakes instead of crab cakes.
  • Stir up a festive paella using a variety of meats and veggies instead of shellfish.

7. Soy

Foods to Avoid

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

Common Hidden Sources

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

Delicious Swaps
  • 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 ricemilk on cereal

8. Wheat

ALSO RELEVANT TO: people with celiac disease

Foods to Avoid

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), bulgar, seitan.

Common Hidden Sources

Ice creams, bouillon cubes, potato chips, deli meats, French fries, soy sauce, many processed snacks (too many to list), breadcrumbs, couscous, spelt, hot dogs.

Delicious Swaps
  • Experiment with different pastas, including those made from corn, borwn rice and quinoa.
  • Switch from flour to corn tortillas.
  • Use rice noodles for Asian-inspired dishes.

Reprinted with permission from EatingWell Magazine.