My Most Important Tip for Managing Food Allergies at Work
Last updated: October 2022
It's always hard when your office or work environment has food around all the time, but you suffer from food allergies. Mine are not as severe in that I risk having a severe reaction like anaphylaxis, but they are extreme in terms of the suffering I will endure digestion-wise. My symptoms can get so bad that I will need days to recover. So for those with food allergies, what are some ways to avoid certain foods in our workplace?
Missing out on complementary food offerings
For example, I used to work at an office that always had food, which is excellent if you don't deal with significant food allergies. I mean, what a fantastic perk! But for me, it was difficult to navigate because typically, the meals offered were foods I couldn't have and were huge temptations for me, like muffins. I love enjoying a muffin in the morning! But since 2011, I have developed a wheat allergy, and I must be careful with any bread products unless I know the ingredients.
Resisting the temptation of gourmet muffins
Well, at my job, delicious gourmet muffins were offered to us most mornings! Not just any muffins - gourmet muffins in all types of flavors. Blueberry muffins, cinnamon muffins, chocolate muffins. They would be enormous and gorgeous looking and placed beautifully on a tray. But little old me cannot eat wheat!
So I would stare at the tray of amazing muffin goodness and not be able to have it. It was torture! Did I ever sneak a bite or 2, you ask? Yes, yes, I did. And did I end up getting sick and having a reaction? Yes, I did. Talk about being tormented.
Declining free lunches
How about when work decides to buy lunch for the day? Now, this can put you in a tizzy when you have food allergies. The company sometimes offered lunch at that same office, and it was always hard to say no. Someone would show up with a complimentary tray of sandwiches or salads, and I couldn't have any of them more often than not.
Feeling like the odd one out
Not only was it awkward not to take part in eating food offered to the team, but I also felt shame for not being able to participate. To me, it felt like I was the kid in gym class who didn't get picked to be on the team. It can certainly be uncomfortable, but it is what it is. We can't eat certain foods for our health and well-being.
Pack your meals and disclose your allergies
Here is the main tip for dealing with food in the workplace: always pack your own meals and snacks. As best as you can, pack your meals and snack every day before you get to work. And always let your company or team know you have food allergies. The moment your coworkers know this, they will reserve judgments. I'm sure your coworkers want to ensure that you're safe from reactions or sickness.
When I finally explained to my job that I had food allergies and couldn't participate in most food activities, they were beyond understanding! My coworkers never judged me for bringing my packed lunch to the potluck or team lunch, and I had tremendous support from the office.
Can you relate? What did you find most helpful when dealing with food allergies at the workplace?
How often do you connect with others who have food allergies?