Undergoing an awfully itchy scratch test to determine what was causing my severe eczema, I received a diagnosis of a nickel food allergy. It took a very skilled research driven dermatologist to make the leap from a skin patch test to a food allergy that was causing my atopic dermatitis. While handing me an overwhelmingly long list of foods high in nickel, I started by completely abstaining from every food that has high concentrations of nickel.
Avoiding certain foods makes you adept at finding creative alternatives. When I was first diagnosed with my nickel allergy, I used to carry around a 3X5 inch notecard identifying every food that contained high concentrations of nickel. Some foods are simple to refrain from eating, such as coconut and raspberries. Whereas other foods high in nickel were entire categories of foods, such as all of the leafy greens – chard, spinach, arugula – or beans. Basically, I can never be a vegetarian.
My spouse was the main food preparer for my household and she was totally overwhelmed and baffled. It was her challenge to figure out what the hell to feed me. So Sara painstakingly meal planned. Whenever I went out to eat, my skin would tell me that there was hidden soy or peanut oil in things like condiments or sandwich bread. These revelations and reactions emphasized the importance of eating at home.
Overtime, I kept a food journal to identify degrees of severity for foods and could identify which foods affected me more than others. For me, soy, seeds and nuts are the worst culprits. Most recipes only require omitting ingredients; however some dishes really require a different perspective.
Here are five of my creative food substitutions:
1. My nickel free salads involve various vegetables and I substitute the leafy greens for cilantro, parsley and/or basil. I typically add feta cheese and dress it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
2. I enjoy homemade ice cream sandwiches using soy-free graham crackers and ice cream. These Honey Graham Sticks are the only type of soy-free, oat-free, whole wheat free processed graham crackers I found, despite them also including safflower oil. This recipe looks promising if you want to make your own homemade graham crackers.
3. To make pie crust and other baked goods, I substitute either butter or palm oil in lieu of Crisco.
4. Soft caramels have accompanied my roasted marshmallows for s’mores instead of chocolate.
5. As an alternative to mayonnaise and vegenaise, which are both loaded with soybean oil, I’ve used avocado, plain yogurt or olive oil for sandwich condiments and other recipes.
Understanding and accepting my unique food allergy, enables me to think differently about food and what I eat. Finding creative substitutions for foods high in nickel has changed my thinking about the challenges of my food allergy.