What Do I Eat?

Homemade low nickel egg scramble!

Now that you know what foods I avoid, recently I was about what I do eat? Avoiding foods with nickel continues to be the best method to treat my nickel food allergy. This tactic is otherwise known as eating a low nickel diet.

Restricting my diet in this way is challenging, just like any other food allergy. Many times when I use recipes to make meals it involves making substitutions or modifications to avoid including foods that contain nickel. Accepting and knowing I would have to constantly make recipe adjustments has made eating food more enjoyable.

I enjoy gardening and control a little bit of what I eat. This year I grew 7 zucchini plants (it's my favorite food), onions, tomatoes, carrots, beets, radishes, herbs, and pumpkins!
I enjoy gardening and controlling a little bit of what I eat. This year I grew 7 zucchini plants (it’s my favorite food), onions, tomatoes, carrots, beets, radishes, herbs and pumpkins!


Every week, I try to meal plan before I go grocery shopping. Like many of you, I enjoy a busy life and don’t always take the time to meal plan. Now that I’ve been on the low nickel diet for 6 years I thoroughly understand what I can and cannot eat. When I shop for food, I try to avoid as many processed foods as I can. If I plan on purchasing something that’s processed, I read the ingredients every single time before I purchase it. Over the years, I’ve learned that food companies and manufactures continuously change the ingredients without providing any notice.

If you were recently diagnosed with a nickel food allergy and you’re feeling overwhelmed. It’s okay. I also felt overwhelmed when I first started the low nickel diet. The more I learned and remembered which foods contain high concentrations of nickel, the easier it became for me to dramatically adapt my food intake. It was an adjustment that took me about 6 months to a year for my spouse and I. We radically changed what we ate, our cookware and how we shopped for groceries. It did get better for me overtime and I hope it does for you too.

To clarify how I balance my nickel food allergy and the low nickel diet, here’s an idea of what I do eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Nickel free lemon cottage cheese pancakes.

Breakfast

Most mornings I enjoy eating Rice Chex or Kix cereal with rice milk, a banana or fresh blueberries and coffee. Until two months ago, I always poured 1% milk on my cereal. My change to rice milk was not related to my nickel allergy, but a choice to reduce my dairy intake. Occasionally I’ll make scrambled eggs with onions, bell peppers and tomatoes or homemade lemon cottage cheese pancakes.

Lunch

Ever since I was a child, I’ve preferred eating a sandwich for lunch. My sandwiches are always on sourdough bread, which I ensure doesn’t include any soy or soybean oil. Then I spread avocado on the bread, add soy-free turkey meat, Swiss cheese, tomato, onion, and basil leaves. I’ve not had any problems eating either dried or raw herbs. Instead of eating lunch meat, I sometimes make egg salad or tuna salad with celery, onions, tomatoes, cilantro and dried cranberries. Usually, I don’t use any condiments or I’ll use plain yogurt, mustard or Litehouse Ranch dressing.

In addition to a sandwich, I include raisins, a raw fruit and a vegetable side. Typically this includes an apple, orange, peach, pear and carrots or zucchini slices. If I need an additional and quick protein source, I include a hard-boiled egg. Occasionally, I’ll eat dinner leftovers for lunch with my fruit and veggie sides.

Dinner

Typically I have to plan my dinners a day or two in advance.  This past week I made spaghetti with egg noodles, a tuna vegetable dish with homemade croutons, steak with a mushroom cream sauce and asparagus, turkey meat tacos with peppers and onions and one night I enjoyed seasoned salmon with steamed carrots and jasmine rice. I also love to eat soup for dinner, whether that’s Zuppa Toscana, Beef Stew or Broccoli Cheese soup!

Many of the dinner specific recipes I enjoy are adapted from Diabetic Living Magazine, found on allrecipes.com or in the fabulous Joy of Cooking Cookbook.
For desserts, check out my post Low Nickel Sweet Treat Options. and check out Low Nickel Snacks for snack ideas.

Initially when I was first diagnosed, my partner also avoided foods with nickel with me. She’s a great support. However, over time we learned that her body needs to eat whole grains, nuts, leafy greens and many other foods that are very nutritious, but happen to be high in nickel.

Now we buy two different types of bread, two different types of pasta and various other foods I avoid and she enjoys. For instance when I make spaghetti, I make both egg noodles and whole grain noodles in two separate dishes. When we make chili, I scoop out a couple portions for me before the beans are added.

Chicken adobo with steamed rice, cucumbers & red peppers.


Learning how to adapt recipes and shop for groceries has been an ongoing process for both me and my partner. Reducing my eczema by eating the low nickel diet and nearly eliminating the itching has been one of the best rewards.

I plan to blog more nickel free recipes with pictures. Watch for them or sign up for my email newsletter “Itching for Updates?

I hope this is helpful and would love any suggestions you have regarding your experience when adjusting to the low nickel diet in the comment section below!

“Itching” for Updates? Subscribe to My Monthly Newsletter with Nickel Food Allergy or Eczema Tips.

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24 comments
  1. I’m recently diagnosed and am struggling with what list of foods to avoid. different sights have different lists. I have quite a few other allergies so doing the elimination technique hasn’t been very helpful. I noticed you have some seafood that I was warned not to eat in your recipes. do you have a website or food list you could share? sifting through all the online articles is quite overwhelming.

    1. Hi Su Ann,
      I am sorry to hear how difficult it’s been for you to adjust to your recent diagnosis with a nickel food allergy. I relate, it was very challenging for me as well.
      I was diagnosed by a dermatologist who gave me a photocopied 3 page chapter from a book about nickel in food. It states that it’s best to try to initially avoid as many foods that are high in nickel until your eczema relents, and then to gradually re-introduce foods. Nearly all foods contain some nickel – either from the soil or water or distribution method to reach our grocery stores. However, some foods have higher concentrations of nickel than others. These are the foods that I generally try to avoid all the time or eat very sparingly. I listed these foods on my website at https://nickelfoodallergy.com/foods-with-nickel/
      You might also find this post useful – it discusses how eating foods high in vitamin C & iron when eating foods with nickel can help reduce the absorption of nickel in your body.
      I also send out a monthly newsletter – you might want to join. I include recent blog posts I’ve written. If you’d like to join it, sign up for it here! I hope that helps and I’d enjoy staying in touch and hearing how you’re doing.

  2. Hi, I found your page very interesting. I was diagnosed in June after months of health problems. My nickel free diet is made more difficult by the fact I am allergic to wheat, eggs and milk. I am after months of this diet becoming a bit more inventive with my food but it is not easy. Here in Italy we have the possibility to take a vaccine but unfortunately for me it made my symptoms worse not better! So looks like I have to carry on eating carefully for awhile yet.

    1. Hi Karen,
      Thanks for your comment. I have heard about the Italian nickel allergy vaccine process and wondered if it provides as much success as it appears. Though I am still sorry to hear it didn’t work for you, but actually made your symptoms worse!
      I agree with you, the low-nickel diet would be even more challenging if I couldn’t eat eggs, wheat or milk. I rely on so much dairy for quick protein. Sometimes I experience stomach pain because I eat too much dairy!
      I understand having to really be creative about the low-nickel diet and challenge it in away to stay sane. Good luck and I hope your symptoms improve with time.
      Stay in touch. Warm regards,
      Christy

  3. Hi! I’m excited to have found your blog as I am just starting to research a possible nickel diet allergy as the cause of my dyshidrotic eczema/pomphylox. Thanks for all the info, I definitely feel like your site will make this easier and less overwhelming.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I am glad you have found my blog and the information has been helpful in your journey! If you try the low-nickel diet, I hope it helps reduce your symptoms.
      Warm regards,
      Christy

  4. I was diagnosed by my dermatologist in 2012. He said I have an extreme form of nickel allergy and an overreaction and gave me steroids, then sent me home. I came back to a follow up and still rashy, when i asked if it might be from food he laughed and said “no nickel allergy can only be from outside influences such as jewelry”(mind u i don’t wear jewelry at all).
    I went to an allergist, he looked at my rash and immediately gave me a long ass list of food to avoid. It was terrible, everything I liked is on that list. I try to follow it, but some days it’s really hard. Especially when you know you don’t eat anything on the list and the rash is still present and itching and burning.
    i am super self conscious. and I hate the stares people give if I wear short sleeves or when the hairdresser tells you that she cannot cut your hair with a rash on your neck. I have a ointment “desonite” which so far has been the only thing that has helped a little. Any suggestions on what to help to smooth the skin?
    Also can you get the nickel rash from sweating? Cause mine tends to get worse when I do. It’s nice too see I’m not the only one allergic to life!

    1. Hi Natascha,
      I’m glad you found my website and I hope my experiences can be helpful. I too don’t wear much jewelry, but that’s terrible the doctor laughed at you when you tried to self-diagnose your rash/eczema.
      It was overwhelming to me when I was also given a long list of foods to avoid. I’ve found it helpful to focus more on what I can eat rather than on what I cannot eat. However there are days where it’s still daunting even after being on the low nickel diet now for nearly 8 years.
      Yes, when I sweat my skin gets worse too! I’ve found staying hydrated helps!
      I have also felt self conscious and embarrassed when my eczema flares up uncontrollably. I too do use the cream desonide and have found relief from it when my skin is extremely itchy. I also have found relief using Skintifique.
      I enjoy staying in touch and would love to hear whether or not things improve. I hope they do for you!
      Warm regards,
      Christy

  5. I have battled with trying to figure out my itchy scalp causes and then after my lips flared up with a terrible burning I ended up at the Dermatologist who tested me and shared that the one thing I seemed to be most allergic to is nickel. I adjusted my diet for a short time and used the topical treatment and then went right back to eating all my favorite foods that are ALL high in nickel. I since have cut out all dairy and meat (lost the taste for it and for moral/health/environmental reasons) but kept eating fish, especially shrimp. Well guess what symptoms started to return? Oh no! My nickel allergy is acting up… UGH this is horrible! Not eating meat/dairy has made me feel so good and I’ve switched to brown rice and eat more lentils, etc. only to find out it’s making me feel worse. I’m SO bummed about this but I do not wish to go back to eating meat or dairy. Thankfully I love eggs. I need to find a way to cook more fish… oh and my super awesome husband and daughter do not like fish. Yikes… this is gonna be hard. I can’t fathom cooking two different meals but it may just come to that. :/ Looking forward to continuing to learn and share ideas!

    1. Hi KVD,
      Thanks for your appreciation of my website and your comments!
      I totally understand, I love so many foods higher in nickel – especially salads and peanut butter! I will eat a salad once a month and peanut butter once a year! I wouldn’t be able to restrict my diet more than it already is, but hope you find ways to manage both your nickel allergy and desire to reduce your meat and dairy intake.
      I enjoy staying in touch and would love to hear how it goes.
      Warm Regards,
      Christy

  6. Hi Chrisy,
    I was recently diagnosed with an allergy to Nickel and Cobalt through Patch-testing. Since being diagnosed I have paid close attention to what I touch & wear and I have removed most metals that I come in contact with. However, my contact dermatitis still flares randomly, which presents as a red, burning, peeling, ring around my lips, which leads me to believe that it is strictly from the food I am eating–does this make sense to you? I don’t notice significant symptoms when wearing jewelry, or when my skin comes into contact with these elements (at least not in the spot where the jewelry was resting as it usually presents on my lips).
    From your experience and from the stories you’ve heard from others–do allergic reactions to nickel through food intake and through skin contact go hand-in hand? or could someone be allergic to nickel and cobalt strictly through food intake and not from skin contact? Could it be that I am reacting to direct skin contact but experiencing symptoms in a different area?
    Clearly, I just know were to start in managing these allergies and have so many questions and don’t know who to direct them too. Your blog and information has been so helpful but I’m still in the learning stages of how this allergy impacts me and the best ways to improve my symptoms. Any suggestions (drs, products, ect) would be greatly appreciated!
    Fondly,
    Valerie

    1. Hi Valerie,
      Thanks for reaching out and for your comment. When I eat foods high in nickel, my eczema flares up on eyelids and skin around my lips, especially under my nose.
      Not everyone has both nickel contact dermatitis and systemic nickel allergy syndrome (or a nickel food allergy). However, nickel allergies seem to relate to sensitivity and many of us have become hyper sensitive to nickel. Even though I don’t experience eczema when I touch nickel directly, I’m sure it impacts my body’s sensitivity when I eat foods higher in nickel.
      This allergy is an ongoing challenge of trial and error for many of us, until we identify the main culprits. I’m by no means an expert, bu am glad you’ve found my writing about my experience useful. This page has links to many helpful posts when you’re first diagnosed. Feel free to stay in touch too.
      Warm regards,
      Christy

  7. i have nickel allergy and it affects under my lipline over my chin and the sides of my nose.This comes from eating those foods high in nickel-spaghetti- the tomato sauce in there,squid, chocolate.I also have vinegar and citrus allergy.its hard to find foods youll love with no vinegar and no nickel in them. Mine hardly responds to topical steroids.

    1. Hi Jean,
      Thanks for your comment. When I eat foods higher in nickel, I also experience eczema above my lips, around my eyes, neck and behind my ears. I love to eat citrus and vinegar, being allergic to those foods must be hard! I have had success using the topical corticosteroid prescribed cream Desonide on my eczema when it’s really bad. However, the best treatment for me has been to try to avoid eating foods high in nickel.
      Warm regards,
      Christy

  8. My husband was just diagnosed after suffering from the itching rash for years. The doctor and dermatologist couldn’t figure out so it’s been a long, frustrating road just to get here but I’m so overwhelmed. All of the websites seem to indicate he shouldn’t eat most of the things we eat on a paleo diet and I can’t seem to find a list of things he can eat anywhere. It’s all the “no” list. All the websites also seem to include “no’s” that you still seem to include in your diet. Do you have any recommendations for a place to find a list of approved foods so I can at least try and build a menu?

    1. Hi JD,
      Thanks for your comment. I totally understand what it can feel like when you’re just diagnosed and overwhelmed with trying to understand the low nickel diet. There’s lot of websites with different lists identifying foods higher and lower in nickel. Part of this is because the soil and location a food is grown can impact the amount of nickel in that food. I write about it some in one of my latest posts Low Nickel Gardening. My list is pretty dense. There’s also a lot of different lists on my resources page.
      Using a food journal can be really helpful, especially once he’s been on the low nickel diet awhile and you’re able to more easily identify which foods can be causing his flare ups.
      Warm regards,
      Christy

  9. Hi Christy, thanks for the information. I have Hereditary Hemochromatosis and recently tested high for Nickel in a urine test. I still need to get an allergy test. I get Dyshidrotic eczema on my hands and feet, Flax oatmeal seems to be one trigger. Also Cashews seem to bother my digestive system. And I get an itching on the roof of my mouth sometimes. I was wondering what, in your experience, are the worst nickel foods ? Also I wanted to let people know that there may be a relationship between higher levels of Nickel in the body and Hemochromatosis.

    1. Hi Mike,
      Thanks for your comment. My mother, her brother and father have hereditary hemochromatosis and I feel lucky I don’t, at least not now. I haven’t seen any articles about a correlation between hemochromatosis and nickel allergies, but perhaps.
      Not all with nickel allergies have to reduce their nickel intake by foods. There are foods with higher concentrations of nickel and these foods tend to include nuts, seeds, oats, whole wheat, chocolate, soy and beans. Joanne has done a lot of research about the quantity of nickel in foods on this website – http://www.rebelytics.ca/lownickeldiet.html.
      Warm regards,
      Christy

  10. I am wondering why sourdough is your bread of choice? After completely eliminating all high nickel & most moderate nickel foods as well as taking a break from dairy & grains, I would like to experiment with some low nickel breads or grains and I am thinking you have used all you know and have learned to choose the sourdough. My case was strange because I did not present with eczema like so many others who find out they have a nickel allergy, but with esophagitis & gastritis. I was first treated for reflux, but the meds made no difference & in fact made me worse. Chest & g.i. pain became very troubling . After almost a year of trial & error and allergy testing, I came to realize with the help of my allergist that nickel might be the problem After experiencing tremendous and continuing relief on the low nickel diet, I concluded that this will be my approach to my health issue. I have learned alot here & through other resources and am teaming my approach with gentle & natural chelation as well as addressing stress & other factors. Like you- I lived in a moldy apartment at one point and was a vegetarian with a criminal level chocolate addiction to boot. Pregnancy & nursing I guess can also contribute & I’ve done that twice now. Thank you!

    1. Hi Nicole,
      Thanks for your comment. I do like white bread and sourdough bread. Their my breads of choice because generally whole grains contain higher amounts of nickel than white grains. Your internal symptoms sound very trying and like it made your final diagnosis challenging. I’ve heard from others that pregnancy can radically change their body. I’m glad my website and other resources helped in your journey to the low nickel diet.
      Warm regards,
      Christy

  11. I have nickel allergy and have done well on a low nickel diet. You mentioned you have tuna on occasion, what type of tuna can you have? I know for me anything canned exacerbates my skin flare ups and I have tried Ocean’s tuna that is served out of a plastic container but I still have skin reactions. I do enjoy tuna but haven’t found one that works with my nickel allergy.

    1. Hi Ceejay,
      Thanks for your comment. I do enjoy eating tuna from time to time, fresh, frozen and from a can. I haven’t yet found any processed tuna in packaging that doesn’t have soy that isn’t canned tuna, so occasionally I’ll eat the canned tuna for convenience. I prefer Costco’s Kirkland Signature Solid White Albacore Tuna in Water. Typically I couple the meal with vitamin c to reduce my body’s absorption from the nickel in the can.
      Warm regards,
      Christy

  12. Hello,
    First thanks for your website. I’ve read loads of articles around nickel allergy those last few weeks because I am fairly sure I’ve got it… I just began low nickel diet to test my theory… Anyway I’ve got eczema since I was a child (I am 27) and I know dairies are supposed not to go well with allergies and eczema. What is your experience of this? Did you just feast on dairies before reducing it or did you stick to minimal amounts and or things like goat cheese/milk? Do you know people with nickel allergy who had to stop eating/drinking (cow) dairies? Also,.. I have been struggling to find rice milk without sunflower oil in it. Do you have a go to brand?

    Many Thanks
    Louise

    1. Hi Louise,
      Thanks for your comment and appreciation for my website. There is some research about systemic nickel allergies. Here’s one called “Lactose Intolerance in Systemic Nickel Allergy Syndrome.” You’re correct that there is a lot of research about dairy and eczema. It might be best to consult a doctor for your situation.
      Primarily I choose to avoid dairy because I find it gives me terrible acne cysts. I’ll still use a little half and half in my daily coffee and from time to time will indulge in ice cream or homemade whipping cream made from heavy cream. In my cereal I will use the Enriched non-flavored Rice Dream Rice Milk, which as you note still contains sunflower oil. I’ve found that I’m able to tolerate sunflower oil, whereas I can’t tolerate sunflower seeds themselves. Anyways, this alternative milk has been great for me for years!

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