Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Nut or Not? Food Allergy Facts and Myths January 2, 2018

When you get a food allergy diagnosis, there is so much to learn… including what foods ARE and ARE NOT safe to eat. Let’s clear up some of the confusion surrounding different allergens and which food groups they belong in.  As always, speak with your allergist before adding any new food into your diet.


coconut-2592257_1920 StockSnap

COCONUT:  Coconuts are actually a member of the palm fruit family.  And, although they have “nut” in the name, they are not officially a nut.  That said, the FDA classifies them as a nut so you will see “TREE NUTS” listed on many U.S. product labels when coconut is an ingredient.

Verdict: While some people are allergic to coconut, most patients with a tree nut allergy can safely eat it.  Speak with your doctor before trying.


spices-2902439_1920 Mareefe

NUTMEG:  Nutmeg is a spice that comes from seeds, not nuts.  Again, although “nut” is in the name, it’s technically NOT a tree nut.

Verdict:  According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), it can safely be consumed by those with tree nut allergies.


ravioli-1949698_1920 Einladung_zum_Essen

PINE NUTS:  You may have heard the rumor that pine nuts are actually seeds.  And, that’s true.  BUT, there is some evidence of cross-reaction between pine nuts and peanut and almond allergies.  Doctors and researchers cannot isolate whether reactions to pine nuts are due to cross-reaction or to a separate pine nut allergy.  The FDA labels it as a tree nut.

Verdict:  Those allergic to tree nuts should AVOID eating pine nuts.


water chestnut3378853772_c14a8b65c8_o graibeard

WATER CHESTNUTS:  Another case of mislabeling.  Water Chestnuts are an aquatic vegetable.  They are named for their shape that resembles a chestnut.  Like any food, occasionally people find themselves allergic to water chestnuts.  But they are not tree nuts.

Verdict:  Those with tree nut allergies do NOT need to avoid water chestnuts.


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SHEA NUT:  Shea nut butter and shea nut oil can be found in many skin and beauty products.  Both shea nut butter and shea nut oil are derived from the seed of the shea tree’s fruit.  The shea nut is a distant relative of the Brazil nut and, as such, FDA considers shea nut a tree nut and will label it as such on ingredient lists.  Per Dr. Sicherer (via Allergic Living, read more here), studies have shown that only trace amounts of protein reside in shea nut butter or oil and no reports of topical immediate reaction or ingestion have been reported.

Verdict: Although allergy to shea nut appears to be unlikely because shea nut butter and oil lacks protein, please discuss with your allergist to get individualized guidance.


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ARGAN OIL:  Argan oil comes from the nut of a tree commonly found in the Moroccan desert.  Because the oil is cold-pressed, it is likely to contain protein. Argan oil is becoming an increasingly common ingredient in hair products such as styling oil, shampoo, conditioner as well as other beauty products.  You should check out how they’re made; it’s surprising!

Verdict:  If you’re allergic to tree nuts, it’s probably best to avoid Argan oil until you discuss with your allergist.


butternut-74196_640 lebelsmittlefotos

BUTTERNUT SQUASH:  Again, it’s a misnomer:  there is “nut” in the name, but not in the product.  As you guessed, butternut squash is a vegetable.

Verdict:  Butternut squash is not only safe for those with tree nuts to consume, it’s also delicious!


THE BOTTOM LINE:  Most of the above products are safe for those with food allergies (woohoo!), but you should always discuss your particular allergies with your doctor before adding any food you are unsure of to your diet.


For your reference, here is the US Food and Drug Administration’s list of Tree Nuts:

  • Almond
  • Beech Nut
  • Brazil Nut
  • Butternut
  • Cashew
  • Chestnut
  • Chinquapin
  • Coconut
  • Filbert/Hazelnut
  • Ginko Nut
  • Hickory Nut
  • Lichee Nut
  • Macadamia Nut/Bush Nut
  • Pecan
  • Pine Nut/Pinon Nut
  • Pili Nut
  • Pistachio
  • Sheanut
  • Walnut/Heartnut/Butternut

Tree Nut or Not_


Get Started on Passover with an Egg and Nut Allergy April 9, 2014

Spring holidays are upon us!  And while they are festive, they can be very difficult for those with food allergies.  Particularly if you have an egg or nut allergy.


Have no fear:  Allergy Shmallergy is here to help!


Let’s first discuss Passover as that is the holiday approaching the soonest.   Passover is a week-long holiday highlighted by a huge feast marked with tradition called a Seder.  Because many families eat according to tradition by avoiding leavened bread, many cooks are improving with matzo this time of year.  This becomes a challenge for us egg-free families, since egg is often used as a binder in food containing matzo.


Below is a link to an Egg-Free Matzo Ball recipe I found a few years ago.  There’s nothing like Matzo Ball Soup (at Passover or anytime throughout the year), so this recipe comes in VERY handy!


Egg-free eaters, aren’t the only ones who struggle at Passover.  Nuts dot several traditional dishes and desserts, including one right on the seder plate:  Charoset.  The link below also includes a delicious nut-free charoset recipe that your guests will be excited to indulge in.

Allergy-Free Charoset and Egg-Free Matzoh Balls


For an egg-free, nut-free dessert, why not try my favorite Sorbet Pie or some other passover friendly filled pie?  I came across this recipe and can’t wait to use it on Monday.  I’m thinking Raspberry Sorbet AND Chocolate Mousse Pies…. Mmmm…


Pesach Pie Crust (via

Shmallergy Sorbet Pie


I’ll continue to post any allergy-friendly Passover recipes I come across.  In the meantime, you get cooking!




Cinco de Mayo – Pan de Polvo May 3, 2012

Here’s a little allergy-free recipe to help you celebrate Cinco de Mayo.   I think this will follow tacos nicely in our house.


Mexican Shortbread

Stars' Favorite Holiday Dishes - Eva Longoria Parker's Pan de Polvo (Mexican Shortbread)


2 Cinnamon Sticks

2 1/4 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

2/3 cups butter-flavored shortening (Crisco’s variety is amazingly dairy-free)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup, plus 2 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp ground cinnamon

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a saucepan, bring cinnamon sticks and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil.  Let cool.  Discard cinnamon sticks.  Refrigerate liquid until chilled.

In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

In large mixing bowl, beat shortening, vanilla, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup cinnamon “tea” until light and fluffy.  Stir in flour mixture.

Roll dough into 1″ balls.  Place 2 inches apart on baking sheet.  Bake 15 minutes or until slightly browned around edges.

In bowl, combine 2 Tbsp sugar and ground cinnamon.  Dip cookies while still warm in cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Makes 3 dozen.

*As printed in InStyle Magazine, May 2009*


The Nut-Free Easter Bunny April 5, 2012

Filed under: Holiday — malawer @ 12:15 pm
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I’m dropping the Easter Bunny a note to suggest he acquire his chocolate bunnies and other goodies from the following allergy-free sources for our family:


Divvies makes nut, peanut, milk, egg, and gluten-free jelly beans, chocolate bunnies and ADORABLE chocolate bags (below):


And, if you’re only avoiding nuts and peanuts, try Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates makes nut and peanut-free Easter Bunnies which I understand taste rich and creamy.


Anyone else have a nut-free bunny recommendation?



Correction: Pizza Nut… I Mean Pizza Hut… February 18, 2012

Update:  While it appears that Pizza Hut has updated their allergen information to remove some of their peanut and tree nut designations on their menu, I was still surprised to see what allergens were present in non-obvious menu items.  For example, their sauce still contains egg, dairy, wheat, soy, shellfish and gluten.  The lasagna contains tree nuts.  I stand by my recommendation below to check their allergen list before visiting or ordering from a Pizza Hut if you have food allergies.

Updated Pizza Hut Allergen List


I had heard through the grapevine that Pizza Hut’s sauce is not safe for people with tree nut allergies.   Sure enough, if you check on their website, not only is Pizza Hut’s sauce made on equipment commonly used to manufacture tree nut products, but also egg, milk, wheat, soy and shellfish products.   If you frequent Pizza Hut, it might be worth it to check out their allergen chart as I found many surprise cross-contamination issues.


Empowering Elementary Schoolers November 20, 2011

I go into my son’s class every year to discuss food allergies.  By educating the kids who do not have food allergies themselves, we enlist their help and heighten their compassion for their friends.


This year, I began by asking the kids to raise their hands if they knew anyone with food allergies.  Nearly every child raised his/her hand.  Not only does my son’s class have at least five allergic kids, but their teacher also has a food allergy.  The kids regaled me with stories of relatives and friends who were allergic to everything from peanuts to pollen, from dogs to dyes, and from cats to clams.


We spoke briefly about food allergies and what they are.  Considering their age (mostly 6), I briefly touched on a few key points:

  • Everybody’s body is different.  If you have a food allergy, it just means that you can’t have a particular food or dishes with that food in it.  Even a little bit of that food.
  • Allergies can make you feel sick.  If you have an air allergy (like pollen) it can make your nose sneezy and your eyes itchy.  If you have a food allergy, it can make your skin itchy (hives), your lungs cough, and your belly sick.
  • To help them stay safe, many kids with food allergies keep special medicine called EpiPens with them, their parents or the school nurse.

We synopsized the fairy tale The Princess and the Pea and continued by reading The Princess and the Peanut Allergy (see review, Book Review: The Princess and the Peanut Allergy).  The kids loved it so much they asked that I read it twice.


Afterwards, we all considered how Paula, the allergic character, may have felt when she learned of her friend’s plan to have peanut treats throughout the party.  My son bravely spoke up, mentioning how disappointing it is when you can’t eat something that looks delicious while everyone else can.  Many others echoed this sentiment.


We discussed what you can do to show you understand your friends with food allergies.  All the kids, allergic or not, had fantastic suggestions.  They were so thoughtful and considerate!


The class’ interest and questions regarding food allergies really surprised me.  I hadn’t wanted to get too in-depth since they are, in fact, in 1st grade.  But look at the questions they had for me:

  • Why do some people have food allergies?  How do they know they have an allergy?
  • How do you get better if you have an allergic reaction?
  • Can you have more than one food allergy at a time?
  • Can you “lose” a food allergy (outgrow one)?  Can you switch from being allergic to one food to another ?

This was night-and-day different from last year, when one kindergartener announced his understanding of food allergies like a lightbulb went off in his head.  “So,” he began, “if you were allergic to sno-cones and you ate a sno-cone, you could barf up a RAINBOW!”

Not totally incorrect, I guess….


The Host’s Guide: Part III June 15, 2011

An important step in hosting someone with a food allergy is preparing the kitchen.  This task initially seems daunting.  But I promise with a few simple steps, your kitchen can be food allergy friendlier in no time.


Step 1:  Put Away Food Allergens, If Possible

Something I have to commend both my parents and in-laws on was their thoughtfulness when it came to my son’s food allergies.  Both sets of grandparents, instinctively placed all peanuts, tree nut and sesame seed products out of reach from my then toddler.  This didn’t mean that we didn’t keep a close eye on him in the kitchen, of course.  But it did give us all some peace of mind knowing that he couldn’t reach these items on the top shelf of the pantry.


Step 2:  Create a Safe Snack Drawer

Again, I relay this wonderful idea from my parents and in-laws who cleared out a drawer in their kitchens and filled it with safe snacks for my son.  Now in elementary school, he knows that if he’s hungry he can safely choose anything from that drawer.  Should you lack space in your kitchen: don’t despair!   You can create a safe basket or storage bin instead.  When educating the food allergic child, be sure to make this safe space a big deal.  A special snack drawer will help everyone in the house learn which snacks are safe and deter the child from roaming uninvited amongst potentially unsafe food.


Bag of groceries
Step 3:  Plan Your Meals and Okay Them Before Shopping

If your visit includes meals at home (including breakfast!), it might be a good idea to talk to the child’s parents about this before grocery shopping.  There may be some hidden ingredient problems that parents who are well-versed in managing food allergies can warn you about as well as some simple substitutions to keep the meal on track.  For example, a sesame seed-allergic child cannot typically eat regular breadcrumbs.  A dairy-allergic individual cannot eat anything made with butter.  But both have simple substitutions found at local supermarkets.

Innova Classicor Wrought-Iron Oval Pot Rack

Step 4:  Pots and Pans; Cutting Boards and Counters

If you regularly cook with the child’s food allergens and plan to use your cooking tools to prepare a meal, you’ll need to wash them.  I encountered this problem right away upon discovering my son’s food allergies.  He was just diagnosed as severely allergic to peanuts right after I had made delicious peanut butter dessert bars.  Agh!  I called my allergist for some guidance on what to do.  He suggested we rinse off any peanut debris and stick the whole baking pan in the dishwasher.  That’s it!

I would also recommend you run all cutting boards in the dishwasher, if possible (or otherwise thoroughly clean) and wipe down all counters to avoid any cross-contamination issues.



Hope this guide has been helpful so far!