On a basic level, food allergies are just a restriction on your diet — but that small change can have a much bigger impact on the rest of your life. Normal, everyday things like going grocery shopping become more complicated, fun outings with friends can lead to frustration and traveling can feel almost impossible. Plus, you never know when you're going to have a reaction — you can be the most careful person on the planet and still come into contact with an allergen without realizing it.
Whether you're lactose intolerant or you have a severe nut allergy, you probably spend a lot of your time imagining what life would be like if you could eat whatever you wanted with no consequences. Unfortunately, there isn't an app for that, but these smartphone tools and tricks can make managing your food allergies a little bit easier.
Here are 5 things everyone with food allergies should have on their phone...
The AllergyEats app
Whether you've just moved into a new neighborhood, you're constantly traveling or you just really like to try new foodie destinations, it can be difficult to be an adventurous eater when you have dietary restrictions. AllergyEats, a website and app available for iOS and Android devices, can help you find new restaurants to try no matter what allergens you have to avoid. Simply type in your zip code or city and state, select the ingredients you can't eat, set the distance you're willing to travel and search. AllergyEats will show you restaurants nearby that meet your needs and you can read reviews on each restaurant from the app's users — you can also leave your own reviews, too.
A list of neighborhood restaurants
The basic Notes app that comes with your iPhone (or use a similar app for Android devices) is actually a great tool for living with and managing your food allergies. Use it to keep a running list of all the restaurants in your neighborhood — or in neighborhoods you frequently visit — that you can eat at. That way, if you're looking for a date night spot or finding a restaurant to dine at with friends, you can quickly refer to your list and pick the perfect place without having to spend precious time doing research. This works even better if you organize restaurants by type of food or make notes about your favorite dishes.
The Substitutions app (or your own ingredients list)
Cooking with food allergies isn't always easy and often requires substituting a lot of ingredients. You could do a Google search every time you need to know how to replace eggs or milk in a recipe, or, if you've got an iOS device, you can save yourself some time and download Substitutions, available in the app store for $2.99. The app breaks down common ingredients by type and you can search for ingredients you need to replace and see suggested substitutions. If you don't have an iOS device, or you don't want to use the app, you can keep your own list of replacements and substitutions in your notes. You can jot down the substitutions you use as you make new recipes, or take some time to research common ingredient replacements, and make a master list to search through.
The ipiit app
Much like cooking and searching for new restaurants, grocery shopping with food allergies can be somewhat of a challenge. ipiit, AKA The Food Ambassador, is a scanner app that can simplify the food shopping process a little bit. With the app, users can scan the barcodes of foods and beverages they're considering buying or consuming and double check if it conflicts with their allergies. You set your food preferences, then, when you scan different food products, the app will either tell you that the item is okay, or let you know it isn't for you and why. It also suggests alternative items, and lets you compare those alternatives to see differences in nutritional information. That way, you not only avoid foods that could make you sick or cause a reaction, you also know what to get in their place.
An updated Medical ID profile
iPhone users: Have you ever looked at your lock screen and noticed that little "Emergency" button on the bottom left corner? Tapping it allows you to make an emergency call without unlocking your phone, but it also allows people to access a somewhat hidden—but super important, especially if you have life-threatening allergies—feature on your device called Medical ID.
If you tap "Emergency" and then tap "Medical ID" on the bottom left corner of the screen under the keypad, you'll be taken to a screen that, when filled out, will display vital information about you and your health, including your name, age, prescriptions you're taking, medical conditions and allergies, as well as your emergency contacts. This way, if you are ever in an accident and taken to a hospital or a stranger has to help you through a medical emergency, life-saving information about you is readily available. To fill it out, simply go to the Apple Health app on your phone, tap "Medical ID" and follow the prompts. If you have an Android device, you can download a similar Medical ID app for free.
What strategies do you use to stay on top of your food allergies?