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Allergen free groceries

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how to grocery shop free from allergens

If you have been diagnosed with food allergies, you will need to learn once again how to go grocery shopping. Much as we would like it to be, all food is not inherently allergen-free. It is easy to fall back into buying old favourites without determining if they are still safe to eat. Where to start with allergen-free grocery shopping, though?

First and foremost, remember that whole foods are generally straightforward with regards to allergens. Unless you are reactive to apples, there is no reason to avoid apples. If you are not reacting to bell peppers, you don’t need to avoid bell peppers. Single-ingredient foods will be your best friend while you sort out your new dietary needs. Shop the perimeter of the store to find the foods you can eat safely. If it's not a single ingredient food, it may not be that simple to find what you need however.

Rule #1: No bulk bins or salad bars

No more food from the bulk bins or the salad bar. It’s too easy for the scoops to end up in the wrong bin, which cross-contaminates all foods in the new bins. It's too easy for tongs to be switched from the lettuce to the croutons. This is especially a concern for grains, dried fruits, and nuts. Buy it factory sealed or not at all.

Rule #2: No deli

Also, for certain types of allergens (gluten and/or dairy, for example), you will not be able to buy products from the deli area. Most stores will not have a dedicated slicer for gluten-free deli meat or cheese, so cross-contamination is rampant. Again, buy factory-sealed packages only.

Rule #3: Read the label

If you are buying pre-packaged foods, you will always read labels carefully before buying. The eight major allergens are required to be marked on the label. If you aren’t certain, you can always call the manufacturer about their processing information. If they hedge, don't buy their products. You will quickly learn if shared lines or shared facility are acceptable for your needs.

Rule #4: Choose your grocery store carefully

Grocery store chains vary from region to region, so please check with your local markets to see what specialty products they offer. You can always submit a request form to the store’s manager if you require a particular item or brand. There is also the option of ordering things online should you require a particular food that cannot be sourced locally.

Rule #5: Find your tolerance level

For those who are "merely" intolerant rather than allergic, find the level of allergen that you can tolerate. Hard aged cheeses might be a good choice if you're lactose intolerant. "Corn-lite" (or corn intolerance) might involve avoiding whole kernel corn and cornmeals while being minimally reactive to corn starch. If you can tolerate even a small amount of your allergen with no discernible reaction, that's a huge thing as far as food options.

Even if you may sometimes feel like your 'safe foods" are limited to five items, you will never be without food options. Choose wisely and eat well!

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