Low Nickel Family Cooking Edition

Sara cooking low nickel meals!

When Christy came home with a note card of all kinds of random ingredients listed on it, I had no idea what I was in for. One of those horrible torture devices known as a patch test had revealed that she had a severe nickel allergy. There it was, a single square, swollen bloated blistering and red that was the nickel square.

The real question was, what did this mean? There in tiny little letters on a three-by-five card, was my entire culinary future. I did most of the cooking in the house, I still do. It’s likely that our time management destiny and domestic duties are about to change for reasons outside of the scope of the blog.

I did what any reasonable person would do. I went to the internet. And started Googling:

“low nickel foods”
“nickel free foods”
“foods without nickel”

How the hell does chocolate have so much nickel!? You know what I found? Nothing.

I began to wonder how exactly I was going to reconcile this many ingredients and these many common foods with how I was going to find recipes. How was I going to find the time to completely overhaul all of our regular eating habits? How is this going to affect me? I have insulin resistance, so everything with white flour, white rice, all of the other delectable carbolicious treats that Christy can eat; are “good” for her are terrible for me.

After much Googling and using some of my favorite tools, I found some solutions. Christy lost close to 20 lbs. I gained close to 50 lbs. This could also be blamed on a move to Portland Oregon, a fantastic food city in the United States and not having any friends in Portland which motivated a lot of eating. When we finally did make friends, we went out to eat.

Restaurants are fantastic solution when you have a partner with a food allergy. You can each order exactly what you want. But it has serious challenges of limitations for Christy. Servers just don’t always tell you what’s in an appetizer or entree. Then what you ordered and thought was safe to eat shows up with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, peanut oil, sesame oil, or God damn peanuts on the top of it. PEANUTS! What are they trying to kill people? Peanuts?! Needless to say, pad thai is not our thing.

Gradually I figured out how to incorporate this unique food allergy. And it made sense. And it was much easier to grocery shop. But I still have to read labels carefully. I have to Google ingredients, because manufacturing companies regularly change ingredients to save costs and because certain things are more available than others seasonally and otherwise. Christy used to love multi-grain Cheerios. Well now it includes oats. Multigrain? Not anymore.

Over the coming weeks and months, you’ll see some adaptation of recipes. Where to have significant alternatives in ingredients, or to prep even individual ingredients for a single meal. Some with nickel allergy friendly variations and others for what I’m actually eating. It’s not necessarily a regular thing because most of the time I don’t have the energy to cook two different meals.  But every now and then a girl needs her spinach.

In the meantime feel free to use some great tools that are available. I personally love Sunset magazine. They have great regionally available ingredients for the western US. Many of these are unintentionally nickel allergy friendly. I also love allrecipes.com. Don’t bother with their app, it’s total crap. You’ve got to go to the website allrecipes.com, that way you can select recipes with certain ingredients and omit other ingredients, it’s a powerful search tool.

I’m very proud of Christy. Even though sometimes I miss spending time with her, I’m grateful that she dedicates the time to blog and create a resource for you and others that we didn’t have. Also I love that my food is famous on the internet!

What have your experiences been on the low nickel diet, for both you and how has it impacted your family cooking? We’d love to hear about it in the comment section below!

5 comments
  1. I love hearing your perspective. As the primary cook in our house, and a spouse with a nickel allergy, I had to make myself a spreadsheet and enlist the help of a dietitian to help me muddle through. I followed all the links on this site and sought out others. I’m still totally overwhelmed. I’m still not sure how to check labels for nickel, especially since they don’t have to report amounts under a certain percent. I know that means I need to call all the manufacturers to check but I just haven’t worked myself up to it yet. This week we have had some delicious meals that are mostly a variety of spaghetti squash and chicken but tonight we enjoyed a buffalo, sweet potato taco bowl.

  2. Hi Sara,
    I would like to ask you how do you have solved the diet family cooking rebus.
    Last year I’ve been diagnosed with nikel allergy AND insuline resistance ( plus lactose allergy)
    I’m italian and our cooking is absolutely full of delicious fruits and vegetables with high nikel levels and as much as obviously tons of white flour (pasta & pizza).
    Restaurants are mostly offlimits, and the low nikel diet is everyday more trying. Forbidden treats seem to ambush you at every corner, especially during summer like watermelon, tomatoes, icecream.
    Our family was used to buy natural and savoury food from the country. The diet is resolving in insipid and repeating recipes my dietitian gave me and it’s everyday more hard to stick to it…
    Thank to both of you for your blog, it’s quite helpful, nickel allergy is not so known a disease here.
    XXX
    Kathy

    1. Kathy, thanks for your comment!
      I have struggled a great deal with my PCOS & Christy’s nickel allergy. The things that are best for me: leafy greens, legumes, whole wheat and so much more, Christy is allergic to or just doesn’t like.
      I take Magnesium supplements (without soy), make custom sides for me and eat low nickel greens: brussel sprouts, asparagus, peppers and fresh herbs. I eat lots of garlic, onions, tomatoes, meat & fish.
      Processed foods are not great options so I make most of our meals from scratch. Prepping on weekends, using a Crockpot, Instapot with Ceramic insert (I wonder about that one), dutch oven, bread maker and a few other items that keep my counters cluttered & storage carts stocked.
      I have to avoid soy, it’s an endocrine disruptor along with many plastics. Dairy is a staple in my diet, despite loathing the dairy industry.
      I will publish a PCOS / Low nickel foods post. I have a hard time with this. Feeling full requires lots of meat based protein plus I CRAVE sweets & breads. I’m very, very active hiking daily & swimming often.
      Thank you so much for your post. Women’s bodies are poorly understood & not addressed with substantive research for the feedback loop of endochrine-insulin-diet-fitness. It’s a complex & sometimes demoralizing condition with hair growth, mid section obesity and agonzing, irregular periods.
      I started filming YouTube videos titled, “Thick Grrl Hiking.” Thick Grrls are beautiful too!
      Thanks,
      Sara

  3. I was just diagnosed with nickel allergy (by dermatologist, with pustules on the nickel patch….also paraben allergy & some steroid called Budesonide). Looking over the list of things to avoid, I’m bumfuzzled because I see on it most of the things that were on my list of stuff I actually could eat.
    Five months ago I got pancreatitis as a result of a diagnostic endoscopy; since then I was in the hospital for 36 days, then home with a feeding tube; first, for a 24-hour feed, then a 12-hour feed, and just 2 weeks ago the tube was removed and I’m eating everything by mouth, and trying to regain the 20 lbs I lost (I’m 5’10” and 113 lbs. now). I’m on a low-fiber diet, and my goal is to consume 1800 to 2000 calories a day. Among the few veggies I could tolerate were asparagus and spinach. Ha!
    I’ve always been quite active, but the constant diarrhea (up to 13 times per day) makes it difficult to be very far from a bathroom. I’m 79 and live in Central Florida. I have never had excema , but in the last few months have had outbreaks of roughness on parts of my skin. I don’t wear makeup, but the paraben in my sunscreen, lip gloss, etc. could have been causing that.
    I’d like to consult a dietitian, but Medicare & my insurance don’t cover it. Of course I have a lovely set of stainless steel pans that I use for almost everything. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Ann,
      Thanks for your comment. My nickel food allergy story page has links to other useful posts on my site, including grocery shopping tips and what I eat. It’s quite overwhelming at first, but became easier over time.
      Your health issues sound challenging, especially when you don’t have accessed to a dietitian. To be honest, I haven’t met a dietitian nor a nutritionist that is knowledgeable about the low nickel diet. When it comes to your cookware, perhaps purchase 1 or 2 non-stainless steel pans and see if you experience any improvement when you use them before updating your entire set.
      Are you on Facebook? I ask because there is a great private FB group you might benefit from where a bunch of folks with systemic nickel allergies ask and answer questions about this unique food challenge. Some of them also discuss other health complications.
      I hope that’s helpful. Warm regards,
      Christy

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