Grocery Shopping with Food Allergies

Grocery Shopping with Food Allergies

by Natascia Simone, FAACT Young Adult/College Advisory Council

Hello, everyone! I am back at school for my last semester of college! Time truly flies by, especially when I am always planning. Planning what I am going to eat has become a part of my life, and it is a large part of the lives of those who have a food allergy. It is not as simple as stopping by the campus center to pick up a sandwich because who knows where that thing was made?!

Being a college senior, I have the privilege of my own kitchen. This is a fantastic asset because I am able to prepare and cook all my own meals. I consider grocery shopping a wonderful alternative to dining out for people living with food allergies. (I just encountered a menu change at Chili’s, so always be on the look out!)

Although grocery shopping is a fantastic option for enjoying a wonderful – and safe – meal, there are still some things you must watch out for! Just as restaurants change their brands and many brands change their ingredients, grocery stores make unannounced changes too. Many individuals, including myself a few times, have felt very confident in purchasing a product that they have consumed multiple times. The issue here is that if a brand does change its ingredients and now has a “May contain _____” warning, you may have an allergic reaction. This is a very simple mistake that can be made because under the usual “Contains: _____” in the ingredient list, a new message may appear that can be easily missed.

It is also very important to avoid grocery bakeries, as they may not always include a “May contain” on their ingredient labels but the odds of cross-contamination are very high. The same goes for a salad bar or antipasti bar at the grocery store, where a spoon can easily be contaminated when used for a multiple ingredients. This can happen in the kitchen, or a customer can make this mistake without even thinking of the consequences it may cause to someone else.

Grocery shopping can be a lot of fun for us food-allergic people because we can buy special ingredients that are safe for us to use to make our own creations! It is the best feeling to buy whole ingredients to make a home-made cake instead of a boxed cake mix that may contain allergens (and home-made tastes better too!). At the same time, it is important that processed foods be checked every time a product is purchased.

Quick Tips:

  • Always check the labels of products you purchase (even if you have purchased and safely consumed them 100 times!)

  • Avoid buying any products from the grocery bakery (cross-contamination highly likely)

  • Avoid eating from the grocery store’s salad or antipasti bar due to potential cross-contamination

  • Enjoy cooking with whole foods to create an edible masterpiece!

Happy Grocery Shopping!