What are food allergies?
Food allergies are an immune response in the body when it mistakes that food – usually the food protein – as harmful and starts to act against it. This can happen when you ingest the food but also in some cases, by simply coming into contact with it. These immune reactions can cause mild symptoms such as a tickly cough or a mild rash, all the way through to more serious ones such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, dizziness, wheeziness, and in the most severe of cases it can be life-threatening, which is all anaphylaxis.
What are the most common food allergies?
The most common allergies in Australia are peanuts and tree nuts, such as cashews and almonds, cow’s milk and egg. Lupin is also now considered a major allergen, which is a legume related to peanuts and soybeans and can be found in a whole range of foods, such as baked goods, pasta, sauces and packaged burgers and sausages. Other common allergies are fish, shellfish, wheat, sesame and soy and all of these must be declared on packaging if present in processed or packaged foods.
In Australia, 1 in 20 children and 1 in 50 adults have a proven food allergy, which means that we’re all likely to know someone with a food allergy so it’s so important to be aware of them and what they mean. Fortunately, children often outgrow allergies to cow’s milk, egg, soy and wheat, where as peanut, tree nut and shellfish allergies are often lifelong
What is anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxsis is a severe allergic response with life-threatening symptoms such as constriction and tightening of the airways, swelling in the throat or the sensation of a lump in your throat making it hard to breathe, rapid pulse, severe drop in blood pressure and dizziness, light-headedness and/or loss of consciousness. It is in these cases when it would be necessarily to use an Epi-pen. A large part of what Allergy Awareness Week is all about it also in teaching everyone how to administer one.
What are your top tips for eating out with kids with allergies?
This really depends of the severity of the allergy, the age of your child and a lot of different factors, so I’d always check in with your doctor in this regard. But as a general rule of thumb, I would be making as much as possible at home. This is where Thermomix can be such an incredible tool as we can cut down our prep and cooking time massively, as well as the cost often associated with eating allergy-aware foods. You can do things like buy ingredients in bulk and make your own milks, flours, and alternatives to pantry staples to suit your allergy needs.
Cooking from scratch is also an ideal way to have a say over exactly what you and your family are eating. Our online recipe platform Cookidoo as well as our Recipe Community are also incredible resources for searching out all kinds of recipes to suit your needs.
As much as possible, especially with kids, we’re looking to make sure they don’t feel like they’re missing out so it’s great to be able to have yummy treat foods and meals your kids can look forward to. If you’re eating the same way as them, so packing a yummy pack lunch for you as well as them, they won’t feel they’re missing out, especially if they’re younger.
As they grow older, the feeling of missing out from eating at cafes and restaurants may kick in or you may just want to eat out sometimes, so I’d have a list of the places you go often, where you know they are allergy aware. You can even call ahead and ask to speak to the manager or the chef and make your shortlist of places that suit your specific criteria. It really depends on your allergy and the severity as to how best to approach this.
What should you look for when shopping?
Again, this really depends on the specific allergy. Your allergy specialist, dietitian or doctor should be able to assist with what to look out specific to your needs. But the safest way to go is to eat a wholefood diet and to make from scratch as often as possible. So, to eat as much as possible that doesn’t come with a label you need to decipher.
Of course, there is the time factor in this and that’s where Thermomix again comes in as a massive hand in the kitchen. It really does make it possible to whip up something delicious and to your allergy requirements in less than half the time and often, spending half the money or even less on buying a packaged variety.
As for packaged varieties of things – I’d always be choosing those with ingredients I recognise as real foods as opposed to numbers, supporting local, natural brands and asking questions where you can. Often, local producers are at farmers markets in your area and you can actually have a conversation as to what’s in their curry paste for example. Food Standards Australia is a great resource.
There are strict rules on labelling in terms of allergy awareness, where the nine most common allergens we talked about above must be declared on packaging, so just be sure to read the labels carefully if you are buying packaged goods.
How can you substitute eggs or milk?
How to easily substitute out allergens is the key to helping with a shift to allergy aware eating and removing as much overwhelm as possible. Especially in the case of parents with a child or children with a proven allergy, it can feel all-encompassing at times and like all you are doing is shopping and cooking, as you find you have to make so much more from scratch or the short-cuts aren’t an option any more. How to best substitute really depends on the recipes but in cases like cow’s milk, these can often be substituted like for like with a plant milk.
For eggs, we can substitute these in many baking recipes with what’s called a chia egg, which is 1 tbsp chia seeds left to sit for 5-10 minutes in 2 ½ tbsp water. Apple sauce which is a puree of cooked apples can also be used as a substitute and we have an easy recipe for making that.
We also have recipes for egg-free custard for example or dairy-free custard. In many recipes that would require milk and cream, cashew milk and cashew cream are a great option if you don’t have tree nut allergies and are simple to make in the Thermomix. Options like rice milk or coconut milk will also often do the trick. All of these recipes and many more are on our recipe platform Cookidoo where people can search dairy free or nut free recipes for example.
How can people adjust to allergy-aware eating?
The overwhelm can be massive here so for me, it’s all about making the shift as easy as possible. Let’s say we’re dealing with a milk allergy. Rather than totally changing everything about how you eat, let’s look first at how we can easily swap out the dairy elements of family favourites without losing the whole dish entirely.
So maybe you’ve always loved lasagne or pizza. Let’s simply look at making a dairy free bechamel using rice milk which is totally delicious and takes only 5 minutes of your time. Or family pizza night – it’s the same deal. Change nothing about the pizza other than the cheese.
What about custards and ice cream? There are really simple ways of making dairy free options for both of these: for the ice cream, either it’s more of a thick sorbet for a fruity option or if you want a chocolate, vanilla, caramel etc. then you can totally make those using a coconut or cashew cream instead. Custard works the same way, by simply substituting cream with coconut cream.
What are the best gluten-free options?
This really depends on what you’re baking and unfortunately, there’s no one-size fits all. In some cases, you can avoid “flour” altogether and use nut meals instead, such as almond meal or hazelnut meal. This works beautifully in cakes like a Torta Caprese which is a traditional Italian chocolate-almond cake, an orange and almond cake, or in biscuits where you’d like the marzipan-like bite to them.
In other cases, you’ll be looking at using an assortment of gluten-free flours – some of the most common ones are buckwheat, amaranth, teff, coconut flour, chickpea (besan) flour and brown rice flour.
Often times you’ll see use of some potato starch, xanthan gum, psyllium husk and guar gum and other binding agents which helps with texture and structure too.
I eat a gluten-free diet and I always have on hand our gluten-free plain flour recipe which is a combination of milled quinoa, chia seeds, arrowroot and gluten-free cornflour and also our sesame and chia seed loaf which uses a whole heap of different gluten-free flours to create that satisfying bite you want from bread.
What are the common obstacles people face when following an allergy aware diet?
More than the actual allergen itself, I believe it’s the time and money spent in eating “alternative” options, as well as feeling restricted in their choices and overwhelmed by it all. This is so totally understandable, especially in the case of parents of children diagnosed with food allergies and how incredibly scary that must be. This is where support and being a part of a community is so important.
Within our Thermomix community, we really concentrate on creating this support via our Cookidoo recipe platform, Recipe Community, Facebook page and also our Keep Calm and Keep Thermomixing group. Our customers also received dedicated help via the consultant-customer relationship.
Our consultants are there to help support their customers in every way possible, so in the case of allergy aware cooking, it would be their role to show customers where to source recipes which would work for them, help them navigate the different ingredients and create menu plans and shopping lists in the Cookidoo platform so it can all feel as easy as possible.
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