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Believe it or Nut: Peanut Allergies are a Big Deal

In a world where peanuts are widely used in cuisines and snacks, the mention of them can send shivers down the spine of those living with peanut allergies. A peanut allergy requires diligence. Understanding the implications of a peanut allergy, food safety and managing nutrition is crucial for individuals living with this condition and for people preparing and serving food for them. Meticulousness care is required when preparing, serving food to someone with a peanut allergy especially within a care environment such as childcare or aged care.  This article explores the details of peanut allergies, nutrition considerations, surprising sources of peanuts and the role of dietitians in providing support.

 

What is an allergy to peanuts?

A peanut allergy is an immune response triggered by proteins in peanuts. When someone with an allergy comes into contact with peanuts, their immune system perceives the protein as harmful, leading to various symptoms ranging from mild reactions to severe, life-threatening ones. This means that someone with a peanut allergy must exclude from their diet, depending on the severity of the allergy this may include tiny amounts entering food through contamination during the manufacturing process through cross contamination.


Can someone grow out of a peanut allergy?

In various studies, it has been observed that approximately 20% of children may outgrow a peanut allergy as they get older. The likelihood of outgrowing a peanut allergy tends to be high in younger children compared to adolescents or adults. However, attempting to reintroduce peanuts should only be done under medical supervision and guidance if an allergy is present.


Peanut allergy. Surprising Foods that may contain peanuts

Potential Nutrition Risks for People with a Peanut Allergy

Even though it is necessary, eliminating peanuts from the diet can pose challenges in meeting nutritional needs. Nutrients like protein, healthy fats and certain vitamins and minerals found in peanuts must be obtained from other sources to maintain overall health. To compensate it is essential to focus on a well-balanced diet that includes alternative sources of these nutrients.


Alternatives to meet recommended nutrients for people with a peanut allergy

Protein: Peanuts are a good source of protein. To compensate for this loss, individuals with peanut allergies can include alternative protein sources in their diet, such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and soy products.

Healthy Fats: Peanuts contain heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Avocado, olive oil, oily fish and various seeds (e.g., chia seeds, linseeds, flaxseeds) can be included to ensure an adequate intake of healthy fats.

Fibre: Peanuts contain dietary fibre. Replacing peanuts with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes can help maintain a healthy fibre intake, supporting digestive health.


Vitamins and Minerals:

  • Vitamin E: Peanuts are a source of vitamin E. Incorporating foods like sunflower seeds, spinach, and broccoli can help maintain sufficient vitamin E levels.

  • Magnesium: Foods like spinach, wholegrains, bananas, dairy products can provide magnesium, which may be found in peanuts.

  • Iron:  Meat, leafy greens, legumes and fortified grains.

  • Zinc: Sources of zinc in the diet can include meat, shellfish, legumes, wholegrains, eggs and seeds such as pumpkin and sesame seeds.


Surprising Foods that may contain peanuts for people with a peanut allergy

Surprising Foods that may contain peanuts

Peanuts can hide in unexpected places. Some examples include certain cereals, snack bars, sauces, and even some ethnic dishes. Always check food labels for peanuts as it may depend on the brand and the size of the packet to whether peanuts are within. Always be cautious when dining out too.


Unexpected sources of peanuts to be aware of:

Asian Dishes: Some Asian cuisines use peanuts, peanut sauce or peanut oil as a common ingredient. Dishes like satay, pad Thai, stir fry, Indian sweets or certain curries may contain peanuts or peanut-based sauces.


Salad Dressings: Check the labels of salad dressings, as some varieties may use peanut oil or peanut-based ingredients for added flavour and crunch.


Cereal and Muesli Bars: Mixed cereals or Muesli bars can sometimes contain peanuts or peanut butter as part of the ingredients. Most of these cereals are made on the same production line as peanut containing products such as Cornflakes, Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut, Sultana Bran and Rice Bubbles.


Baked Goods: Certain pastries, cookies, and cakes might use peanut flour, peanut butter, or peanut oil. Always inquire about ingredients and cross-contamination at the bakery.


Soup: Some commercially prepared soups, especially those with a nutty flavour profile, may include peanuts or peanut products.


Vegetarian/Vegan Substitutes: Veggie burgers, meat substitutes, vegan cheese and certain vegetarian products may contain peanuts or peanut-based ingredients for added protein.


Ice Cream and Frozen Treats: Check the labels on ice cream and frozen desserts, as some may contain peanut pieces, peanut butter swirls, or peanut-based toppings. Smoothies may also contain peanut butter or peanut-based protein powders.


Chocolate and Biscuits: Chocolate bars and blocks, cooking chocolate, Biscuits, crackers, and Crispbreads contain or may contain peanuts. It depends on the brand and packet size, therefore, always check the food label.


Tree Nuts: Other nuts are often packaged on the same manufacturing lines as peanuts. So even if you’re not allergic to other nuts such as hazelnuts, macadamias, pistachios, pine nuts, cashews, or almonds etc..  it may be difficult to find these nuts without containing peanuts to incorporate into your diet and dishes.


Sauces: Tomato Sauce, Barbecue Sauce, Pasta sauce, Pesto Sauce, Soy Sauce and other sauces contain or may contain peanuts. It depends on the brand, therefore, always check the food label before purchasing.


How many of these did you know about?

This is a massive list and there could easily be more that contain peanuts. Which is daunting for parents, families and chefs within Childcare and Aged care when preparing nutritious foods for people with a peanut allergy. The safest option is to always read the food label before checking. Develop the habit of reading food labels diligently to identify potential peanut-containing products. Even if you have purchases / consumed a product before, always read the food label. Allergens are constantly updated. Nuts and peanuts are classed as one of the top allergens, so by law they need to be included in the allergy labelling section. Before you know it, you will be an expert in food labels.


Read more about food labels here.





4 Tips for Managing a peanut allergy

1.Meal Planning

Work with a Dietitian to create well-balanced and nutritious meal plans that cater to your specific needs. It’s easy to get stuck for meal ideas and have repetitive ‘bland’ foods when dealing with a food allergy, but this is the not the case! A Dietitian can give you plenty of new ideas and ways to flavour your meals with sauces and herbs that are peanut free. Our Dietitians assist families, Childcare providers and Aged Care Homes with menu planning and recipes.


2. Focus on the Positive

Creating a positive attitude to meal-times and food will help encourage a healthy relationship towards food. Create well-balanced and delicious recipes, without peanuts in a stress-free environment at home and within care.


3. Inform and Educate

Especially in the early stages with children, it is important to inform family, friends, childcare and schools of their allergies and have an allergy plan in place. Making your child aware of their allergy will also help them to ask questions and be aware of things that might contain peanuts. This is the same for Childcare centres and Aged Care Homes when preparing and serving foods to children with allergies. Ensure all Staff are aware of which child / adult has a peanut allergy and have a basic food safety training. Educate all staff to manage cross-contamination.


4. Be Prepared

When going out, call the restaurant in advance and ask questions to feel reassurance that they can cater to allergies. Before a party or play date talk to the host about the allergies, find out what food they are having and potentially offer to bring some ‘safe’ food options.

 

We’re here to help

Living with a peanut allergy requires diligence, but with proper guidance, it's possible to maintain a healthy and fulfilling life. Dietitians play a crucial role in managing a peanut allergy by providing personalised nutrition advice and plans, help identify safe alternatives, and addressing potential nutrient gaps. Dietitians can guide individuals in making informed food choices, creating balanced meal plans, and ensuring optimal nutrition without compromising safety.


For personalised support, consider reaching out to an OSCAR Care Group Accredited Practising Dietitian. Our expertise can empower you to navigate nutritional challenges, make informed choices, and thrive while managing a peanut allergy.



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