Tag Archives: fish

Living with Dietary Restrictions: Shellfish and Fish

Shellfish and fish allergies are two of the most prevalent of the top food allergies.   These food items account for over half of all food allergies in the United States.  According to AllergicChild.com, “Approximately 12 million Americans suffer from food allergy, with 6.9 million allergic to fish and/or shellfish.”  However unlike many other food allergens, overall shellfish and fish are easier to stay away from  since with the exception of some food, vitamin and cosmetic items, their inclusion in most recipes is fairly obvious.

Photo from 1.bp.blogspot.com

       What’s the difference between shellfish and fish allergies?

Shellfish are overall pretty basic as they are divided into two different groups, mollusks and crustaceans.  Crustaceans include items like crabs, lobster, crayfish, shrimp and prawn, while mollusks include sub-categories such as Bivalves (clams, mussels, oysters and scallops), Gastropods (limpets, periwinkles, snails (escargot) and abalone) and Cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish and octopus).  The Mayo Clinic advises that “Some people are allergic to only one type of shellfish, but can eat others.”  This means it’s important to always ask a physician before eating any shellfish to be positive of which types must be avoided and which might be edible.  The Clinic continues by saying, “You’re at increased risk of developing a shellfish allergy if allergies of any type are common in your family.”

Fish allergies in contrast are much more varied compared to many other types of food allergies.  Since there are so many different types of fish, it’s hard to know exactly what to avoid.   Reactions can be caused by anything from scaly or bony fish to an entire family/species of fish.  Because the proteins in most fish are similar it’s a good idea to avoid all fish products to be safe and avoid an allergic reaction. 

Photo from talkallergy.com

                                     What should be avoided?

Even though it may seem pretty obvious to avoid items like crab, shrimp, lobster, cod, salmon and other types of shellfish and fish it’s also highly important to know about all of the items that contain these allergens.  While you may not realize it there are fish products lurking in many different types of sauces and food toppings.  AllergicChild.com lists many of these items and what they contain: Caesar salad dressing (anchovies), Worcestershire sauce (anchovies), Caponata (anchovies), fish sauce (shellfish/fish) and Patum Peperium or Gentelman’s Relish (anchovies).   The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network also reminds to be on the lookout for ingredients in Barbecue sauce which often contains Worcestershire sauce.   It’s also important to be careful when eating foods like gumbo, paella and many different types of Asian cuisine which can often contain shellfish and/or fish.  

Some everyday products even use Menhaden (a type of fish) such as vitamins, soap, cosmetics and insect spray.  AllergicChild.com also warns of the use of a new type of bandage being used in Iraq.  This item, used since 2003, called a HemCon® Bandage, is actually made from the shells of shrimp. However, so far during the product’s allergy testing no individuals had an allergic reaction, including the 8 patients with known shellfish allergies.  But as with any other shellfish/fish product, it’s important to be cautious when using such an item.

Photo from VegeUsa

                    Shellfish/Fish Alternatives and Eating on the Go

Unlike many other food allergies, there aren’t a huge amount of alternatives to shellfish/fish available.   Because of this it’s easier to look for Vegan options.  This is because Vegan foods will not contain actual animal products and/or by-products which make them a safe alternative and unlikely to suffer from cross-contamination.  VegeUSA suggests that the lack of seafood alternatives is due to the fact that it’s harder to replicate than most other types of meat.  However, they worked at the process and came up with Shrimp, Fish Fillets and Tuna Roll alternatives which are all vegan (aka shellfish/fish free).

With the exception of Seafood based restaurants, eating shellfish/fish free is overall a bit more manageable than other food allergies.  However, it’s always good to remember a few tips.  Avoid ordering French fries or other fried food from a place that also serves fried seafood due to cross-contamination of the frying oil.  Eating out at a Japanese restaurant may also be a no-no since it’s very common for multiple items to be cooked on the same surface (ex: going from cooking one customer’s fish to preparing your steak).  Eating With Food Allergies gives another great tip for eating out with any type of food allergy.  The site instructs that it’s helpful to either eat earlier or later than the normal crowds (i.e. before 6 PM or after 9 PM).   This strategy is essential in order to get more attentive service which can be vital in a server realizing that you suffer from an allergy and that your food needs are a necessity and not simply a preference.

While preparing to go out to eat, it’s always comforting to be able to research the available options on sites like Project Allergy in order to find out what the policies are at your favorite restaurants and hotels.  However, if you’re out and about there are some great casual restaurants to visit.  Macaroni Grill, On the Border, Famous Dave’s, Chili’s and Ruby Tuesday’s all offer online lists that cover each of their foods and what major allergens they may contain.  If you’re looking more for fast-food and/or delivery, Domino’s Pizza, Wendy’s and Boston Market all have similar informational sheets.  With many of these restaurants there are often mostly non-shellfish/fish options and at several places the only seafood item is Caesar Salad Dressing which is often sealed in packets that do not come in contact with other food items.

Photo from VegeUSA

                  Delicious Shellfish/Fish Free recipes to try at home

Vegan Shrimp Scampi from VegeUSA

Anchovy-Free Caesar Salad Dressing from Jewishfood-list

How do you or your family members deal with being Shellfish/Fish Free?  Please share your story. 

Image from MorgueFile

Living with Dietary Restrictions: Vegetarian and Vegan

Remember back when you were younger and you parents demanded you eat your veggies?   This more than likely happened to all of us, but for some it was a message that really stuck.   Much of that growing population falls into the vegetarian (and on the stricter end, vegan) category.   A study done by Vegetarian Times found that the U.S. alone has, “7.3 million people follow a vegetarian-based diet” and “1 million, of those are vegans.”

Image from MorgueFileUnlike our previous Dietary Restriction blogs on being dairy and gluten free, going vegetarian or vegan is most often a choice rather than a dietary necessity and often the reasons behind it are different depending on the person.  Many make the decision based on the need or want to personally be healthier while at the same time it can be done for the health of the Environment.   There is also a high concern for animal welfare that brings many to the conclusion of eating sans meat and /or dairy.   For a vast majority one glimpse into the horrifying realities of factory farms and their treatment of animals used for food is more than enough to both turn their stomach and switch their outlook on consuming animal products of any type.   Taking these motivations and concerns into consideration, it is becoming increasingly common to see more options, creativity and innovation in the vegetarian and often vegan items available.  Often one taste of these delicious dishes (more often than not accompanied by increased education on the subject) is just enough to open new eyes to the vegetarian and vegan world.

What’s the difference between vegan and vegetarian?

While vegetarian and veganism may sound one in the same to many there is a strict difference between the two.  Often vegetarianism is seen as more of a food choice while veganism is seen as a lifestyle due to the whole-life philosophy behind the decision.

Vegetarian:  Vegetarians are the more lax of the two in terms of animal products that they are willing to consume.  According to VegetarianVegan.com, “Vegetarian is a blanket term used to describe a person who does not consume meat, poultry, fish, or seafood.”  This means that there are several sub-categories of vegetarianism, but the basic understanding is that a vegetarian does not consume any type of animal meat, yet does occasionally use milk, eggs and other animal products or by-products.   Sub-categories of vegetarianism include more strict eaters such as ovo-lacto-vegetarians (do not consume eggs/milk), ovo-vegetarian (do consume eggs, not milk), lacto-vegetarian (do consume milk, not eggs) and the strictest for which is vegan.

Vegan: While vegan is a form of vegetarianism, as stated previously, it is the strictest version.   Those considered vegan do not eat any animal products or by-products including everything from meat to dairy to even honey.   Many vegans are also against using animal products like wool and silk in daily life as well.                      

What products should be avoided?

Image from MorgueFileFor both choices it is important that all meat products including poultry and fish are avoided.  However, vegans take the restrictions just a bit further to avoid animal byproducts as well.  The most obvious of these byproducts are items like eggs and dairy (milk, cheese, ice cream, etc.).  However, there are also many common products that come from animals that we may not even normally be aware of.  Kidshealth.org gives the following examples: gelatin (made using meat byproducts), lanolin (made from wool), rennet (an enzyme found in the stomach of calves, young goats, and lambs that’s used in cheese-making), honey and beeswax (made by bees), silk (made by silkworms), shellac (the resinous secretion of the tiny lac insect) and cochineal (a red dye derived from the cochineal insect).

What are some alternatives?

Because animal products aren’t on the top allergen list, it can sometimes be difficult to know what does and doesn’t work.  One benefit to eating vegan is that oftentimes items that are dairy-free may also be vegan due to the lack of milk product used.  This also means that there are a ton of different lines of milk and cheese alternatives made from soy, rice, almonds and even hemp (Indy Vegans has a great list comparing each type to help in making your decision). However, there are many  other great food options as well.

Another great option are the Follow Your Heart products.  This line offers everything from eggless mayonnaise (called Vegenaise) to vegan cheese, sour cream and cream cheese which is all animal product free.  If you’re in the mood for something a little sweeter online stores like Chicago SoyDairy and Literally Divine have got great options for your sweet tooth.  Chicago SoyDairy specializes in items like marshmallows (even non-animal product Easter Peeps called Tweets) and ice cream.  Literally Divine offers a wide array of truffles and toffee that is all natural, organic and vegan.

Eating Vegan and Vegetarian on the Go

The nice thing about vegetarian and vegan eating is that while they may be few and far between one or two options are usually available at most restaurants, even if it means a veggie only salad with oil and vinegar dressing.  If that’s not necessarily your idea of a worthwhile restaurant tip, then Happy Cow may be just your ticket to finding some tasty, creative dining outside of your own home.  Happy Cow is a search engine that allows you to enter in where you’ll be dining and then provides you with different nearby options and the degree to which the food is vegetarian.  VegGuide.org is another similar site that allows users to give a description and rating of the restaurants vegan and vegetarian friendly options.

Just as in our previous dairy-free post, it’s extremely important to be aware of the possibility of cross-contamination if you are dedicated to eating vegetarian or living a vegan lifestyle.  Whether you’re out to eat at a chain restaurant or at a family pitch-in making sure that you know the ingredients included in a dish can truly help you maintain your dietary choices.  Indy Vegan instructs, “Being vegan means reading labels. I don’t care how much you hate it and how much time it takes, it’s just something you have to do. And if you don’t know, ask!”  And in situations like pitch-ins, it’s a great opportunity to introduce non-vegans/vegetarians to your dietary habits, but remember to do so in small doses as not everyone is apt to dive right in to the tofu salad, but may be more willing to try out a smaller dose of something like non-dairy cheese.

In the meantime, if you’re on the go and curious as to where it’s safe to eat, you can rest assured that there are options available.  One huge and ever changing option is the sandwich shop.  While it is important to make sure that bread is made without using animal products, this is often your best bet.  One national food chain that offers a great vegan/vegetarian array is Which Wich.  They have everything from a traditional veggie blend, to a hummus based sandwich all of which are served on bread that contains no animal ingredients.  If you’re in more of a sharing mood, Barcelona Tapas, a Spanish tapas chain has many great vegan options like grilled and marinated vegetables and even churro’s for dessert.  Even bigger chains like Chili’s have a few vegan options here or there.  While many of the foods are blatantly booked as vegan, items like fajitas and veggie quesadillas can be specially ordered to fit your needs.  In general many Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants also very easily fit into the vegan lifestyle since many dishes are already vegetarian due to religious reasons.  Items to try are samosas, hummus, falafel and Dal.

Delicious Vegan and Vegetarian recipes to try at home

Mac and Cheese Pizza from the Tolerant Vegan

Green Dream Soup from Indy Vegans

How do you or your family members deal with being Vegan and/or Vegetarian?  Please share your story. 

Davidson’s Family Restaurant

For our final Guest Writer blog entry featuring our employee’s memorable and extraordinary dining experiences from around the country, National Account Sales Manager Scott Ebbert shares with us Davidson’s Family Restaurant in Lakewood, NY.

Michelle Meiklejohn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This family owned diner has been open for 60 years and serves a variety of items such as fish, chicken, burgers, steak and homemade pies.

“They treat everyone like family,” Ebbert says.

Guests who visit Davidson’s are welcomed by its nautical feel.  Fish caught from the ocean are hung as well as pictures of lighthouses.

“(It’s a) family diner,” Ebbert describes.  “Orange booths, wood chairs and a nautical theme on the walls.”

Ebbert has been going to Davidson’s since he was a child.  He and his family went there every Friday night and says the food is as good as it has ever been.

“I was there last in May of 2009.”

Out of the variety of menu items Davidson’s serves, there’s one thing Ebbert has to get every time.

“Whenever I go back for a visit, I have to have an order of the fried cod,” Ebbert says. “It’s cooked in a tempura batter.  It is not greasy.  I normally do not care for fish and this is the best stuff on Earth!”

He usually gets a side of coleslaw and fries with his order and says they have applesauce and salads as well.

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We hope you have enjoyed our employee’s stories about memorable and extraordinary dining experiences around the country.  Next week we will begin a series devoted to you, our customer, with all information you need to know regarding Central.

If you have any questions about anything Central related, please email Catalog/Web Content Coordinator, Tracey Rector, trector@central-products.com, and we will cover your question.