(WHTM) — May is National Food Allergy Awareness Month. It’s estimated that food allergies affect one in every 25 school-aged kids. That’s about one for every classroom.
And allergies can affect both kids and adults alike.
“An allergy can really develop at any time,” GIANT nutritionist Shanna Shultz said. “Sometimes it might not be a full-blown allergy as much as it is just a sensitivity, so those are things to be mindful of throughout the whole span of life.”
The top food allergens include milk, tree nuts, peanuts, soybeans, wheat, eggs, fish, and shellfish. Those eight food groups account for nearly 90 percent of all documented food allergies in the U.S. There are no cures for food allergies. Treatment is simply based on avoiding the foods in question.
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Next year, the FDA is adding a ninth allergen to the list; sesame. In 2023, sesame will be required to be listed in plain-language labeling across the country. It’s now a common allergen, affecting an estimated 1.5 million kids and adults in the U.S.
GIANT dieticians say they try to offer allergen-free products in just about every department of the store. They say the natural and organic section is a great place to start if you’re seeking those items. For kids, they try to focus on products that will make them feel like they’re eating the same foods as their siblings or classmates, including gluten-free chicken nuggets or nut-free Crustable sandwiches. They carry a line called Enjoy Life that has granola bars, cookies, and chocolate chips that are free of all major allergens. They also have products that can be substituted for eggs in baked goods.
Shultz says a great way to frame it with kids is to focus on the positive.
“Always keep in mind what you can eat,” she said. “Most of the time we can eat all of the great produce that is out there, a lot of the good protein options that are out there. It’s just some of these other things along the way we have to navigate. So think about what you can have first.”
If you have questions about allergy-free products or find you’re having trouble navigating a new allergy diagnosis, you’re encouraged to reach out to GIANT’s staff of dieticians.