Leigh-Anne Wooten MS, RDN/LDN, FAND
Social Media Teaser: Can someone with allergies ALSO follow a plant-based diet? Are there enough options? Check out our latest blog to find out. Hint, shhh: the answer is YES!
Committing to a diet is can be quite daunting. The rules, eat this, don’t eat that. However, for 32 million Americans living with a food allergy, there isn’t a choice in the matter. It’s an endless game of reading food labels and ensuring foods are safe in order to prevent a potentially life-threatening reaction. That’s why some people with a food allergy shy away from specific diets; who wants to add one more restriction?
Luckily, a plant-based diet is incredibly forgiving, has no hard and fast rules and is absolutely do-able for those with a food allergy once they discover their safe options.
Food Allergy 101
For those new to the food allergy world, in the United States the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires the top 8 allergens to be labeled on all food packaging. This includes eggs, milk, fish, crustaceans/shellfish, soy, wheat, tree nuts, and peanuts (and sesame come 2023). While there are other foods that people can be allergic to, the top 8 covers about 90% of the food allergic population.
Plant-Based Diet 101
A plant-based eating pattern focusing on foods mainly from plants including fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re vegetarian or vegan, but that you simply eat more plants than animal-based products.
If you’re considering adopting a plant-based diet, here’s a brief guide to help you on your journey. And heads up, you’ll notice we mention chia as a ‘safe alternative’ a number of times below. That’s because Seeds of Wellness - SOW® are allergen-friendly, free from the top 8 allergens! Not to mention they are loaded with fiber, healthy fats, protein, and antioxidants.
Allergic to Soy?
While soy springs to mind when people think ‘plant-based protein’, there are so many other options.
Try: nuts, seeds (like chia!), beans, lentils, and whole grains which are all great protein sources. And while soy is commonly found in dairy alternatives, there are tons of soy free options including chia-based milk.
Where it may hide: In certain processed foods including some plant-based meat alternatives that use soy as the protein source.
Allergic to Wheat?
It’s safe to say that if it’s gluten free, it’s wheat free. And because there are so many people that follow a gluten-free diet these days, there are entire grocery aisles full of gluten free options.
Try: any of these flours: almond, chickpea, quinoa, gluten free oats, teff, and cassava. Seeds of Wellness - SOW® has a delicious pasta made from chickpea and chia that is free of the top 8 allergens!
Where it may hide: In meat-alternatives made from seitan, which is made from gluten.
Allergic to Tree Nuts?
Tree nuts are a common base in plant-based dairy products (milks, cheeses, and yogurts), but if you’ve been down the dairy aisle lately, the plant-based options are virtually limitless and many of them offer more nutrition their nut counterpart.
Try: chia milk which is a great tree nut milk alternative (ie - almond, cashew, and hazelnut) boasting more protein and fiber plus the added benefit of healthy omega-3’s! Aside from those seeds like chia, sunflower, flax, and hemp are all great alternatives to whole nuts and can usually be substituted in recipes seamlessly.
Where it may hide: In certain processed vegan foods since tree nuts (especially almonds) are such a popular dairy substitute.
Allergic to Peanuts?
Did you know that people with peanut allergies can also have a “cross-reaction” to peas because they are in the same ‘legume’ family? Make sure to talk to your doctor before trying foods that contain legumes like peas.
Try: other nuts and seeds, like chia which are a great alternative to peanuts in cooking and baking. Sunflower butter or soy butter are two yummy peanut butter options.
Where it may hide: Peanuts are pretty well called out these days. If you concerned about a cross-reaction with other legumes like peas, be sure to look out for foods that NO contain pea protein (ie - some veggie burgers, pea-based milk, meal replacement shakes, and energy bars).
Allergic to Eggs, Milk, Fish, or Shellfish?
Technically these are all ‘out’ since they are animal-based, but unless you are vegan, or these are one of your allergens, you can still include them in your eating pattern to whatever point you feel comfortable. Just remember to choose things that are low in saturated fat and salt.
A Few Final Thoughts
But you’re already a pro at all that by now, right?!