A Crash Course in Food Allergies

In the fall of 2009, we discovered that our Little Man (then only 2 years old) had three food allergies we would have to learn about and live with.

It’s been a wild ride since then. What first seemed so overwhelming has become routine…checking labels, asking questions of restaurant staff, scaring babysitters with the Epi-pen demo, etc.

I recently came across this post I wrote for a different blog when I first began to research food allergies. If you are beginning the food allergy journey yourself, I know how overwhelming it can seem as you adjust your view of food and rediscover how to feed your family. I hope this helps in some small way…



We’ve known for a little over a year that Little Man had a peanut allergy. It came as quite a shock, and provided to be a HUGE exercise in education and self-control for me as I come from a long line of peanut-butter-lovers. (My dad has been known to add the staple to such things as hamburgers and hot dogs!)

Just when I thought I finally had the routine down–checking labels, quizzing restaurant personnel, informing caregivers, sticking brightly-colored “Allergy Alert!” stickers all over him before putting him in the church nursery, hiding and sneaking bites of contraband PB here and there…the stakes got drastically higher.

A couple of weeks ago we visited the allergist with a simple question concerning vaccination and ended up finding out that, in addition to peanuts, Little Man is also allergic to egg and soy. Well, this provided a whole new level of education, adjustment, and more than a little stress to my life. I’ve known a few other moms who have struggled with food allergies in their families, but I had NO IDEA the level of stress it can cause. I have an all-new appreciation and empathy for families who deal with any type of food allergy or intolerance.

I’ve only begun my research, so I’m sure there is much I still do not know. But I wanted to take some time to list a few things I’ve discovered in the last few weeks. I hope this will be helpful to any who have, or know someone who has, food allergies.

  1. 1 in 4 children have a food allergy!
  2. Soy, soybean oil, and soy lecithin is in almost EVERY processed or prepackaged food (even organic or all-natural foods since soybeans are a natural food).
  3. Some sources say soybean oil and soy lecithin do not contain the protein that causes an allergic reaction and therefore are safe. However, our allergist maintains that those ingredients can and do cause a reaction. We choose to avoid them to be safe. [Update: our allergist has confirmed that Soybean oil is OK for our little guy.]
  4. It is important to check the ingredients on EVERYTHING! (I found soy listed on my cornstarch, and my friend found it as an ingredient in her flour!)
  5. Some sources maintain that only raw egg contains the protein that causes allergic reaction (because heating the egg changes the protein). While Little Man has never reacted to anything with an egg cooked or baked into it, our allergist recommended avoiding them, as it can cause a reaction.
  6. You can use 1/2 cup of applesauce as an egg substitute in most baking recipes. (This works especially well in muffin recipes!)
  7. You can also substitute 1 Tbs of flax seed and 3 Tbs of water for 1 egg in any baking recipe. (You can also use chia seeds as a substitute. Find out how here.)
  8. Children will likely outgrow many food allergies, including soy and egg by the time they are in preschool. The chances of outgrowing a peanut allergy is much lower.
  9. Those with a peanut allergy should also avoid tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.), even if they do not test as reactive to those allergens, because most plants process them together and there is a high risk of cross-contamination.
  10. Soynut butter is a good substitute for peanut butter for those with peanut allergies. We used it for awhile until Little Man developed the soy allergy. (Yes, apparently they can develop an allergy to a food they’ve not reacted to previously.) Sunflower nut butter is also recommended as a substitute as it is not processed with nuts and therefore no risk of cross contamination.

Looking for some allergy-friendly recipes? You can find my favorites here,  follow my Food Allergy Pinterest page, or join the community on the Food Allergy 411 Facebook page.

If you are new to the food allergy world (and even if you aren’t), the following sites are very helpful:

Allergic Living
Allergy Moms
Living Without
Peanut Allergy.com
Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network

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20 thoughts on “A Crash Course in Food Allergies

  1. Thanks for increasing awareness! My second child was diagnosed with peanut allergy after her brother fed her some PB when only 12 months old. She is now 3 years and is great at “policing” her own food, but we still must be so careful, especially outside our home. Thanks for sharing out there with others how important it is to watch out for these little ones (and adults too) and their allergies.

  2. Food allergy affects an estimated 6 to 8 percent of children under age 5, and about 3 to 4 percent of adults. While there’s no cure, some children outgrow their food allergy as they get older. It’s easy to confuse a food allergy with a much more common reaction known as food intolerance. While bothersome, food intolerance is a less serious condition that does not involve the immune system. ^-..`

    Talk to you later

  3. My 3 year old is really good about policing his own food, too. It almost breaks my heart to hear him ask if something is “gluten-fwee”. My son had a serious reaction to eggs in ice cream (totally my mistake – I’m learning all over again to check those labels EVERY time). I wonder if this counts as being cooked…

    Thanks for the tips!

    1. I completely understand, Sarah! Do you give your son things baked with egg? My son has never reacted, but our allergist told us to avoid them, too. But it would make life SO much easier if we could!

  4. I can totally relate to all of this – my youngest daughter used to have 6 food allergies – dairy, soya, wheat, oats, eggs and legumes. It was really hard to get my head around cooking without ALL those ingredients! Thankfully she has outgrown many of her allergies now, although she still has to avoid dairy and soya. Soya is a pain in the backside, it is hidden in so many foods!

  5. When I think back to the first days after our daughter was diagnosed with a peanut and tree nut allergy, I vividly remember the first grocery shopping trip standing in the aisles for hours confused and scared because I realized I didn’t know how to read food labels. I kept picking up food items that didn’t list tree nuts or peanuts as ingredients, but read “manufactured in a facility that processes tree nuts” or “may contain nuts.” Even products my daughter had safely eaten in past were suddenly off limits.

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