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.


cream-1464295_1920 jniittymaa0

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.


argan-869756_1920 oceanverde

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_


Fun for Everyone: Candy Bar Birthday Party April 12, 2017

I wish I could take credit for this adorable idea.  But I can’t.  My friend is just a genius.


Her own kids aren’t allergic, but my thoughtful and creative friend had kids with food allergies on her mind when she thought about what special treat her daughter could share with ALL of her party guests.  Like my friend, many parents are concerned with how to be inclusive of guests with food allergies.  Sometimes, the best answer is also the simplest.


After singing a rowdy chorus of “Happy Birthday” to our favorite 7 year old, the kids were each given a festive party bag that they could fill with any (or ALL) of their favorite candy.  Best of all, everything was dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free and most was also gluten-free.  There’s nothing that makes a child happier than being included in on the fun!


Plus, no goodie bag needed!  The kids all got to bring their loot home.  HUGE bonus in my opinion!


If you’re going to replicate this fantastic idea, I would recommend a few things:

  1.  Check Allergy Shmallergy’s Safe List of Nut-Free Candy page.  This is not a comprehensive list.  And, it doesn’t account for other allergies.  But you’ll find that many of the candies listed are also dairy-free, egg-free and gluten-free.  Read ingredient lists carefully and if you have any doubts of an item’s safety, snap a photo and email the child’s parent to verify.
  2. Save ingredient lists and bring them to the party.  If anything needs to be double-checked, you’ll have all your information at hand.
  3. Be careful when serving similar looking items (like M&Ms and Skittles).  Not only is chance of cross-contamination a concern with unwrapped candy, but I’ve seen unsafe candy fall into safe candy bowls.  For the purposes of a party, I would stick to the idea that “everything on the table is safe for party guests” principle.


Look at this fun, inviting table set up!
Looking for containers and scoops like the ones above?

Set of 12 Clear Plastic Candy Scoops

Penny Candy Jars (set of 2)

Amcan Scalloped Container, Large

Vista Premium Quality Plastic 10″ Serving Bowl (set of 2)

Smarties.  A classic!

Caught red handed!  My son and his best friend/brother of the birthday girl.

(Thank you in advance! A portion of the proceeds of the affiliate links go toward – an organization aimed at helping low income and at risk families with food allergies.)


Valentine’s Day: Safe List of Nut-Free Candy February 4, 2015

If your sweetheart is allergic to peanuts or tree nuts, be very careful what you’re giving them for Valentine’s Day.  Candy is certainly not an essential part of Valentine’s Day, but if it’s on the menu you’ll want to make sure you’re giving them a safe treat rather than a trip to the ER.

The Bay Area Allergy Advisory Board compiles a list of peanut and tree nut free candy that could save the day!   As always, double check the ingredient lists to verify that there have been no changes in ingredient lists or manufacturing practices.  And, pay particular attention to candy that has been miniaturized or made larger as that often has manufacturing (and therefore, food allergy) implications.  Some of the items are available online but many are commercially available.  Among the many items they list, are:

  • Skittles
  • Dum Dum lollipops
  • Haribo Gummies
  • Peeps (I’ll remind you of this one in another couple of months)
  • Laffy Taffy
  • Wonka’s Nerds
  • Dubble Bubble
  • SweeTarts
  • Twizzlers
  • Tootsie Pops and Tootsie Rolls
  • Rolo
  • Starburst Fruit Chews, Lollipops, and Jelly Beans
  • Junior Mints
  • Lifesavers
  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Hershey’s plain chocolate kisses (not King Size or Holiday/Seasonal Bags)
  • Hershey’s plain chocolate bar personal size only (not King Size or Minis)
  • Smarties
  • Hot Tamales

Peruse the full list here:

The Bay Area Allergy Advisory Board’s 2015 List of Peanut and Tree Nut Free Candy



Halloween and Food Allergies October 28, 2012


Halloween tends to make parents of food allergic children fairly tense.  And, with good reason:  so much peanut-laden and dairy-filled  candy!  So much of it unlabeled in those small snack sizes!


Most of us aren’t used to our children being around such an abundant amount of their allergens and we worry how they will feel.


But there are a few simple ways to keep kids safe during trick-or-treat time!


1.  Have a talk with your kids about the various candies that are not be safe for them.  It’s important to have this discussion before heading out the door on their sugar scavenger hunt so they can make wise decisions when grabbing goodies from plastic pumpkins.


2.  Also, remind your child not to eat ANY candy along the way.  All candy consumption should be done under your supervision and ideally, back at a house.


3.  If you’ll be trick-or-treating with your child, remember to bring their Emergency On-the-Go-Pack (with EpiPens) and a cellphone in addition to a flashlight. I have often brought a grocery bag to stick any peanutty treats in as we go.


4.  Stock up on allergy-friendly candy (or fun Halloween toys, like glow rings and plastic spiders) for your child and let them know you have their favorite treats on hand.  You have several options to work with here:

a.  If you know the neighbors well, it’s a great idea to plant some safe candy around the neighborhood so that your child can get the full experience of trick-or-treating and you get the peace of mind that they’re receiving treats they can enjoy.

b.  If you have a young child, you can follow them door to door and just slip one into your child’s bag in lieu of an allergic treat.

c.  In the case of older kids:  they can exchange their UNsafe loot for safe candy at the end of the night.  Knowing that they have a safe option at home will ensure they have a great time trick-or-treating and prevent them from feeling disappointed if house after house is handing out Peanut M&Ms, for example.


5.  Finally, make the fun and inevitable candy swap work for your child’s allergy!  A supervised candy swap can serve your food allergic child well!  Make a pile of all the candy he/she is allergic to and/or doesn’t prefer and let him trade away for things that are safe.  They can either trade with friends (again, under your supervision) or swap with the safe candy/treats you purchased!  Everyone wins!


Individually wrapped candy (often in snack sizes) don’t always have ingredient information.  Make the internet your friend in making sure candy is safe for your child:


Happy Halloween!


ScanAvert Allergy App August 9, 2011

My sister-in-law read about a clever new app called ScanAvert ($1.99 per month) which aims at helping people read ingredient lists.  We’d begin by entering in my son’s food allergies.  By scanning the barcode of a grocery item, ScanAlert warns you if the item contains a particular allergen.  This app also offers substitutes, allergy recall information, pharmacy, and GF information in addition to listing ingredients.  By its own description, ScanAvert could be useful not only for the FA, but also for the diet and nutrition conscience, and individuals who diabetic, pregnant, or otherwise following a restricted diet.


I may give this a try as a back-up system.  It’s easy to miss one ingredient in a list written in fine print.  However, it feels funny to try a barcode scan to tell me if something is safe for my child.  But, maybe that’s because he’s severely allergic to several allergens and not merely sensitive.  I would definitely rely on this if I were using it for nutrition and other non-life threatening situations.


Has anyone ever used this app?  Would you?