Hen egg allergy is one of the most common food allergies. It is the second most common food allergy in children, although about 50% of these children will outgrow the allergy by the time they are an adult. Fortunately, resources for people with food allergies are becoming more abundant, but it can still be overwhelming trying to figure out what to eat if you or your child are newly diagnosed. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
First of all, if the allergy is life-threatening (anaphylactic), then eggs should be kept out of your house. Teachers, other parents, coworkers, etc. should be notified and aware, and the allergic person should carry an EpiPen and know how to use it. (EpiPen is a prescription medication.) If the EpiPen is used, the person should then go to the emergency room or urgent care to be monitored.
If the allergy is not life-threatening, check with your doctor about a trial of duck eggs. Some people with hen egg allergy are not allergic to duck eggs.
If the allergy is not life-threatening, and you have hen eggs in the house, wash your utensils and pots and pans thoroughly after cooking eggs, to prevent cross-contamination.
Make reading ingredients a habit. Egg is one of the “food allergy big eight” and is required to be labeled if it is an ingredient in any food product. Of course, bad things happen, but if any egg-derived ingredient is in there, it legally should be labeled.
Going to restaurants can be a challenge. Make asking about ingredients a habit. TELL the server that you (or your child) are allergic to eggs and that it is important that you are not exposed. With a life-threatening allergy, it’s better not to go to restaurants that serve any egg at all, because of the risk of cross-contamination. If the allergy is not life-threatening, ask about ingredients before you order. Also, remember that many baked goods (cookies, cakes, etc.) contain egg, as do some kinds of pasta, ice cream, and some sauces and beverages (for example, egg nog and Orange Julius).
Get in the habit of bringing safe foods to pot-lucks, sleepovers, and other special functions. This is especially helpful for children. If an allergic child is going to a birthday party, make some egg-free cupcakes ahead of time for the child to bring with them, and consider sending along some egg-free ice cream as well.
Breakfast can be another challenge, but there are many ways to get protein at breakfast without eggs – yogurt, smoothies made with yogurt or protein powder, sausage, nuts, nut butters (like almond or peanut), or just “eating dinner for breakfast.” Leftover dinner meals can work well as a reheated breakfast.
Here are some egg substitutes. Each one is a substitute for one egg. Some will work better in certain recipes than others, and none will work well if the recipe calls for more than 3 eggs:
- 1 teaspoon yeast dissolved in ¼ cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon baking powder + 1 tablespoon liquid + 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1½ tablespoons water + 1½ tablespoons oil + 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 packet gelatin + 2 tablespoons warm water (don’t mix until ready to use)
- 1 tablespoon pureed fruit such as apricots or bananas
- 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds (flax meal) + 3 tablespoons water
For cakes and cupcakes, the flax seeds work pretty well, though if it’s a vanilla cake, it might affect the taste a bit. It doesn’t change the flavor of chocolate cake at all. Chocolate hides a lot of sins.
A helpful cookbook is The Allergy Self-Help Cookbook – My family loves the “Grain-Free Pancakes,” which are also egg-free.
A final quick tip: if a food says “vegan”, then it will be egg-free.
Starting an egg-free diet can be difficult at first, but it’s worth it when you or your child feel so much better!