Food Allergies Are a Growing Problem

Tuesday, July 10, 2007; 10:58 AM

If it seems like food allergies are on the rise, it's not your imagination: The incidence of food allergies has doubled in the past 15 years worldwide as you'll learn in today's Lean Plate Club column. Today, some 12 million Americans suffer from allergies to such widely used foods as milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts and more. Learn more about what the National Institutes of Health has dubbed an "emerging public health problem," in today's column, where you'll also find information on common symptoms, including hives and eczema, and as always, plenty of additional resources.

While food allergies are on the rise, studies also show that about 30 percent of people who think they have food allergies are mistaken. At Burns Avenue Elementary School in Hicksville, N.Y., one parent informed school nurse Debbie Weintraub that her kindergartner had a peanut allergy. When Weintraub asked for more details to help school personnel prevent this kindergartner's exposure to peanuts, the mother said that the child had never been diagnosed. "She just doesn't like peanuts," she told Weintraub.

For students with diagnosed food allergies, Weintraub counsels parents not only to provide emergency packs but also to have their children wear medical alert bracelets, necklaces, tags, keys or watches to help guide emergency personnel if a reaction occurs.

Do you have a food allergy? How do you handle it? We'd love to hear all about it in today's Lean Plate Club Web chat from 1 to 2 p.m. Or leave your comments, tips and questions now and then check the Web transcript later. E-mail me anytime at

E. Coli and Beef

The recent warning about potential contamination of some ground beef in Canada with the E coli bacteria is a reminder to cook meat thoroughly. In the meantime, see the latest US Department of Agriculture results on E coli testing in ground beef and note that the risks are still quite small. Got a question about meat and poultry? The USDA has answers.

Are Organic Tomatoes Healthier?

That's the conclusion of a decade-long study scheduled to be published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, as the New Scientist reports. Past studies have not found measurable nutritional advantages to eating organic wheat or other foods versus conventionally grown produce. But there may be some environmental reasons to choose organic versus conventional. What's your reaction to this new study? Will it change what you buy or eat? Tell us your thoughts in today's Lean Plate Club Web chat from 1 to 2 p.m. ET. Or leave your comments now.

What's for Dinner Tonight?

Cold soup is a delicious way to start dinner on a steamy July night. Self magazine offers Chilled Watermelon Soup With Mint. You can make it with either a little white wine or with sparkling water to give it a kick. No calorie counts provided by Self, so I did a few quick calculations. If you serve six from this recipe, figure on roughly 200 calories per serving; serve four and each cup of soup will be about 300 calories. By the way, this soup is quite high in lycopene, which is a substance in the Vitamin A and carotenoid family that is being studied for fighting cancer.

Gazpacho also contains high amounts of lycopene--not to mention great flavor. You can find this recipe--and others for gazpacho--at our searchable Recipe Finder on

Another option: Spiced Blueberry Soup, this one from Eating Well magazine. It only takes 20 minutes to prepare, but then needs to chill for five hours--so you'll need to plan ahead. But what better way to take advantage of the luscious blueberries that are hitting produce sections? (You can also use frozen blueberries, when fresh aren't available.) A cup of this soup clocks in at just 110 calories.

For either a starter or the main course, try Arugula, Watermelon, Feta and Shrimp Salad. It's a fast meal that has great flavor and provides less than 285 calories per serving.

Asian Inspired Brown Rice Salad With Snow Peas delivers fiber along with flavor. It could be either a side salad or a main dish and measures in at 175 calories per serving and is also low in sodium and in fat.

Balsamic Chicken and Vegetables relies on a bottled salad dressing as well as balsamic vinegar to speed prep time. This recipe comes from Bowdoin College whose campus food was ranked number 1 by the Princeton Review in 2006.

For beef lovers, Real Simple magazine offers Beef, Watercress and Peach Salad With Lime Vinaigrette. It has a bit more fat--about 20 grams total--but is low in unhealthy saturated fat.

So what are you cooking this week? Or are you grilling out? (Last week's column on barbecue and Web chat showed how much Lean Plate Club members enjoy this popular food.) Tell us your recipes for dinner success now and then check the transcript later. Or join the live Web chat from 1 to 2 p.m. ET. You can also e-mail me anytime at

Joy of Motion

What's a health risk assessment? And do you need to get one before begin a new exercise program? The American Council on Exercise and Fitness offers some advice about this frequently asked question as well as other helpful information including:

If you walk two miles daily, how long will it take you to drop a pound?

How do you measure your resting heart rate?

What is the best way to become acclimated to exercising in the heat?

Why is spot reduction of certain body areas--stomach, for example--considered a myth?

Got wheels? No, not a car, but a bike. Summer is a great time to cycle. But if you're like me, the cost of a bike is a little breath-taking. In today's Misfits column, Howard Schneider takes you through the basics of choosing a bike without zeroing your bank account.

What new activity are your test driving this summer? Tell us in today's Lean Plate Club Web chat. Or leave your comments now. Or, as always, you can e-mail me at I read every e-mail and respond personally to as many as time permits.

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