Marta Montenegro: Don’t Let Food Allergies Stop you from Eating Healthy

Milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, liquid soybean oil. These are a few in a laundry list of ingredients in a very popular macaroni and cheese box. It’s no wonder why some people feel sick after eating this sort of fabricated cheese.

More people are suffering from food allergies and food sensitivities. Stephen Apaliski, MD, says there has been an increase in the number of people affected by food allergies in recent years, but the reasons for this increase are speculative at best.

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Whether it’s the artificial sugar that you put in coffee, or the problem is that as a modern society we haven’t been exposed to enough allergens earlier in life, the reality is that a food allergy can create a fatal shock in very severe cases. Meanwhile, a less severe food sensitivity may cause all type of aches and pains and inhibit absorption of important vitamins and minerals.

Food allergy or sensitivity?

Apaliski says a food allergy, in the strictest medical sense, is caused by the presence of allergy antibodies to specific food allergens, primarily proteins that a person has had an allergic reaction to. Peanut allergy is one of the most commonly known ones. Food sensitivity could be considered a much broader term and is caused by non-allergic triggers such as lactose deficiency, which prevents the digestion of milk protein and leads to symptoms such as bloating, stomach upset or diarrhea, he says.

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The eight most frequent food allergens include: milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree or true nuts: pistachio, walnuts, cashew and pecans. Others include seafood such as shrimp, crab and lobster and tuna, salmon, and catfish.

Unfortunately, the most common food allergies are all nutrient-rich items. More researches are backing up the power of milk because of its whey protein and vitamin D content, which helps diminish belly fat and manage weight. Nuts are rich in healthy fats, selenium and vitamin E that prevent hunger and provide cardio protection. Eggs have come back into the scene as another food to keep appetite in control. Fish is a low-fat, high-protein staple along with selenium and omega-3 fatty acids content, which have been linked to prevent many diseases from Alzheimer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease to aid losing weight.

However, you don’t have to give up to the benefits that the most common allergy food provides. These are some of the healthy substitutions that can be made, Apaliski advises:

1. Milk: Alternatives exist in various forms including soy, rice, almond and hemp milk. These typically contain less protein than milk. Look for fortified versions that are enriched with various nutrients including vitamin D and others, even some with Omega  3 fatty acids. Watch sugar content though.

2. Eggs: Also a great source of protein, especially the egg whites, but this is most often the component people are allergic to. Ener G Egg Replacement is a commercial product that can be used in cooking as an egg replacement.

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4. Soy: A great source of low fat non-animal protein, soy protein is used in many prepared foods. If you are not allergic to milk, then dairy products and cheese can be substituted for soy. Being allergic to soy and dairy makes things much more difficult. is a great resource and source for foods when multiple allergies are involved.

5. Peanuts and/or True nuts: Peanuts are legumes and not true nuts. If you are peanut allergic you are able to substitute a true nut. Be careful to avoid cross contamination with peanuts.

6. Shellfish and fish: These are great sources of low-fat protein. There are no clear alternatives to them. Often if you are allergic to one shellfish you are sensitive to others as well. Fish may be easier to substitute because your sensitivity may not cross react with other fish. The biggest issue is to be careful about cross contamination when eating out.

Finally, when having allergies, Apaliski says you must be aware of:

- Knowing for certain what is in the food you are eating, especially when eating outside the home. If you cannot be 100 percent certain it does not contain a food you are allergic to, then do NOT eat it.

- Learn how to read labels on purchased foods. Look for the presence of things you are allergic or sensitive to, such as casein, a milk protein.

- Be aware of contamination of foods, such as items which themselves do not have peanut as an ingredient but may be produced in a plant where peanut is used in producing other products.

- A board certified allergist ( can help to correctly diagnose your food allergies taking a careful history and using testing procedures if needed.

Marta Montenegro is an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning coach and master trainer, who teaches as an adjunct professor at Florida International University. Marta has developed her own system of exercises used by professional athletes. Her personal website,, combines fitness, nutrition and health tips, exercise routines, recipes and the latest news to help you change your life but not your lifestyle. She was the founder of nationally awarded SOBeFiT magazine and the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method.

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