Nobody wants to be “that one person” who accidentally causes their friend to have an allergic reaction. As someone with a severe peanut allergy, I’ve created a list of five things you should keep in mind about your friends with a food allergies.

1. Potlucks are an allergic person’s worst nightmare


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If you’re dying to have a potluck, make sure to ask your guests ahead of time if they have any allergies. To prevent allergic reactions from happening, you and your friends should keep the packages of the ingredients you’ve used for your dishes, or, take pictures of the labels so that your allergic friend can read them themselves.

Also, avoid cross-contamination by spreading the word about your friends’ allergy and designating certain utensils for each dish. These simple precautions will provide peace of mind for both you and your guests.

2. Save the Thai and Chinese hole-in-the walls for another friend


Photo by Gabi Rosenthal

This one’s specifically concerning for those with peanut allergies. Although hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurants sound like a cool thing to check out, save it for later and go with someone who doesn’t have this type of food allergy. Some higher quality Thai and Asian places have standards in place to protect their foods from cross-contamination, but these small little eateries usually don’t have the resources to guarantee that their food will be peanut free.

Peanuts are a very common ingredient in Asian foods (especially Thai and Chinese), so keep this in mind before you take your friend with a peanut allergy out to eat. An alternative option to going out for Thai is trying a recipe at home.

3. If you’re thinking of starting up a restaurant, keep an allergy-free kitchen and I will love you forever


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This is probably the biggest problem I’ve encountered with my peanut allergy. For example, I was incredibly excited to try Café Gratitude, a place all my friends were dying to take me to for when I went home to Southern California for spring break.

However, as I was scoping out their menu online beforehand, I saw this message: “Gratitude offers 100 percent organic, plant-based cuisine and yet we cannot guarantee that guests with food or beverage allergies may not be exposed through cross contamination. If you have a food or beverage allergy (particularly to nuts or seeds) we therefore recommend that you not dine with us. As such, please understand that Gratitude cannot be responsible for any injury, loss or damage claimed by any guest with a food or beverage allergy who consumes our food or beverages, regardless of the circumstances.”

Are you kidding me people!? I just can’t see how it’s easier to serve 100 percent organic and plant-based cuisine than it is to simply designate a small space in your kitchen for non-allergen foods. I’m extremely disappointed whenever I come across messages like these, and I sympathize with the other three million people in the US who also have a peanut or tree nut allergy.

I strongly encourage anyone out there who’s thinking of starting a food business to keep a spot in your kitchen completely allergen-free. I promise to check it out and post all about it on my food Instagram.   

4. There really are delicious peanut butter substitutes out there

Photo by Kathryn Stouffer

Well, I guess I’m not qualified to say that there are substitutes for all of the eight major allergen foods out there. And I can’t guarantee the peanut butter substitutes on the market actually taste like peanut butter, but I do have a few delicious butters I stash in my dorm room.

Three of my top favorites are Wowbutter, a toasted soybean based spread; Sunbutter, a sunflower seed butter; and Trader Joe’s Almond Butter.  I even found a substitute for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups that are called Free2b Sun Cups. They are free from seven of the eight major allergens and come in several flavors. They’re always good to munch on when I’m craving something a bit salty and sweet.

5. Having an allergy isn’t the end of the world


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Regardless of the type of food allergy someone has, there’s not much they can do about it. I’ve had a peanut allergy my entire life, so it’s really not that hard for me to manage. Yes, there are certain precautions I take, and I do have to worry about eating more than I would like to. But it’s not the end of the world.

Saying things like, “Don’t you wish you could have a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup?” or, “Wow, that must be so difficult,” really aren’t necessary. I’ve come to realize that there are much bigger and worse things out there than a food allergy.