I suffered my most recent allergic reaction almost five summers ago when I was an incoming senior in high school. I frequented a local ice cream shop in my hometown, and feeling invincible like any other teen, I walked out with my usual order without informing the employees about my severe allergy.
I ate my brownie flurry on the car ride home with friends, and by the time we pulled into my driveway, I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach that prompted me to take two Benadryls before I even told anyone else what was happening. Quickly after, I noticed lumps developing in the back of my throat every time I swallowed. At that point, I was panicked.
Once I began vomiting, my parents knew it was time to get to the hospital. I remember the seemingly never-ending car ride to the emergency room, and quickly being ushered into a hospital bed upon arrival. The nurses confirmed the lumps I felt in my throat to be consistent with an allergic reaction, and immediately started me on a regimen of steroids.
I was released from the hospital after being observed for a few hours and returned home that same night. Despite it being a routine day for the medical staff, I was quite frankly traumatized by the whole experience. How could something I had consumed dozens of times suddenly send me to the hospital?
After that day, I stopped eating a lot of foods that I once considered safe – especially ice cream. Even if it was soft serve from a fast food restaurant or sold by the pint at the grocery store, the risk wasn’t worth the reward. However, I certainly have a sweet tooth, and hated that my allergies were holding me back from a staple summer time activity with friends . After some time, I have finally gained back the confidence to try some ice creams again. So here are the brands and parlors that have made me feel safe enough to indulge once again…
Store Bought Pints
This predominant brand was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio, so these cartons were sprinkled all over grocery stores in Columbus while I was in undergrad. Although, I didn’t even bother to pick one up until a fellow nut allergy friend told me about their superior cross contamination protocols.
Every container that is nut free has a label under the ingredients that states, “We use good manufacturing practices to segregate allergens and avoid cross-contact with flavors that contain peanuts and tree nuts.” How cool!
Since seeing this for the first time, I have been hooked on their chocolate chip cookie dough and dark chocolate brownie flavors. They are famous for having giant chunks of goodies in their ice creams and I cannot get enough of them!
(It is worth noting that I only buy Graeter’s pints of ice cream, and do not purchase their hand scooped ice cream cones at their store fronts. They have crushed peanuts as a topping in their sundaes and I am unsure if they use separate scoopers in store.)
You can see the nutritional information of each flavor here – https://www.graeters.com/nutritional-information
Where to buy: Whole Foods, Jewel Osco, Giant Eagle, Kroger, Target, Foxtrot and Graeter’s store fronts.
I recently taste tested this dairy, gluten and nut free frozen treat, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. There was an obvious oat-y taste, but the chocolate flavor was rich and the ice cream was creamy. I’ll definitely be picking up another container on my next trip to Target so I can try out another flavor!
You can see the allergy statement under FAQs on their website here – https://us.oatly.com/pages/faqs
Where to find: Whole Foods, Target, Foxtrot, Plum Market and more.
I reached out to this family owned business looking for more details about their allergy statement and cross contamination policy and was so grateful for their detailed, comprehensive and empathetic response.
A team member reassured me that the facility they package in uses one of the highest food safety protocols around. Although all their flavors are made on the same equipment, between every run, the machinery is throughly sanitized and continuously tested for allergens throughout production. As an extra safety precaution, the flavors containing the majority of allergens are always produced last. The email really depicted how proud they were of holding themselves to the highest standards to ensure the manufacturing of a safe, organic product.
The company even went as far as to list all of their flavors that are top 8 allergy free for me- Mint Chip, Vanilla, Dutch Chocolate, Cookies & Creme, Birthday Cake Cookie Dough (contains corn), Cookie Dough Fudge, That Snickerdoodle Dough, Salted Caramel, Chocolate Cherry Fudge, Brownie and Marshmallow Stardust (contains corn).
The founder of Nada Moo wanted to create an allergy friendly ice cream because their sister suffered from allergies herself, so this really felt like a safe brand for me. I am so impressed by their coconut milk-based flavors, and even more impressed by their customer service!
Where to buy: Whole Foods, Jewel Osco, Target, Plum Market, Marianos, Fresh Thyme, Foxtrot or at their online store. Check out their website! – https://nadamoo.com/
Although all of their products are manufactured on the same equipment, I have been eating Breyers ice cream since I was a kid. I reached out to the company, and they assured me that they follow strict cleaning and sanitizing procedures between each product run, and that they have never had a cross contamination issue reported by a customer.
The confident customer service representative reiterated that Breyers’ recipes often change, so it is important to double check the ingredient list each time before making your purchase.
Breyers also makes one of the only low calorie pints that I feel safe eating. These guilt free treats still taste great, but don’t leave you regretting diving in spoon first. Check out your local grocery store freezer section for their gluten, lactose and dairy free ice creams too!
Allergy questions are answered under their FAQs – https://www.breyers.com/us/en/contact/faq.html
Where to buy: Kroger, Target, Walgreens, CVS, and more.
I am a huge fan of avocado and guacamole, so I could not turn down this pint. This unique treat is advertised on each package as being dairy, gluten and soy free, but further investigation on their website declared all of their flavors to be produced in a peanut free facility.
The allergy statement on their website clarified that they do have a cherry amaretto flavor that uses tree nuts (almond extract). However, they reassured customers that they follow an extensive cleaning process between product runs to minimize the risk of cross contamination.
Scroll down on their homepage for more information about peanuts/tree nuts – http://cadoicecream.com/
Where to buy: Whole Foods, Foxtrot, Jewel Osco, Target, Marianos, Fresh Thyme, Walmart, and more.
Ice Cream Shops
Frío Gelato is a traditional Argentinian ice cream parlor with locations surrounding Chicago, Illinois. All of their rotating flavors, crunchy toppings, and freshly made waffle cones are 100% nut free. There is even a separate cooler for their dairy-free sorbets that each have their own dedicated scoopers.
Frío Gelato was the first and only ice cream shop I have ever been to where I could order worry free. Chocolate, blackberry, pumpkin, piña colada, mint chocolate chip… I’ll have one of each! Gummy bears, sprinkles, caramel… pile it all on! With rotating seasonal flavors and a storefront that’s open all year long, you know where to find me!
Their website states loud and proud that they are allergy-friendly! – https://www.friogelato.com/
Where to buy: Store fronts in Evanstan, Andersonville, Wrigleyville, and Navy Pier.
Jeni’s was the first and only ice cream shop I have tried since my allergic reaction that was not a dedicated nut-free facility (and this only happened this year — almost five years after my reaction). I had read on other allergy sites that Jeni’s had a good protocol for handling dietary restrictions, so after becoming frustrated about turning down yet another ice cream date with friends, I decided to give it a try.
I planned to go to Jeni’s on a random day at a random time to ensure the shop would be mostly empty. I wanted to be sure that the employees weren’t rushed and would take their time handling my allergies. Upon arrival, I came face to face with all of nut flavors in the display cases and was nervous. Instead of barreling out the door like I wanted to, I informed the employee about my allergy and she knew exactly what to do. She immediately picked out a new scooper and opened a fresh container of chocolate ice cream from the cooler.
All Jeni’s stores have their flavors visibly labeled for allergens, including eggs, dairy, gluten and nuts, which reassured me that it was an establishment that was well versed and conscious of dietary restrictions. They also stated on their website that during production, they begin by making all the flavors with the least amount of allergens first, and then continue on to flavors with more allergens afterwards to minimize the risk for cross contamination.
Even though I was nervous, I was proud of myself for being brave enough to try. Now, the scent of their freshly baking waffle cones never fails to convince me to stop in for a scoop. You won’t be able to resist either!
Check out what you’re missing from this Columbus, Ohio native company – https://jenis.com/customer-service/faqs/#product
Where to buy: Whole Foods, Target, Kroger, Giant Eagle, Meijer, Plum Market, Foxtrot, and Jeni’s locations across the midwest.
A La Mode
Images from alamodeshoppe.com
When I asked my followers their favorite allergy-friendly ice cream, this was their #1 answer! A La Mode is an ice cream shop with a dedicated nut, sesame and egg free facility. Their flagship location is in New York City, and their pints are for sale at select grocery stores along the east coast and midwest. All of their flavors — including chocolate, vanilla, speed bump, wired, cooks, pink sprinkle, and partly cloudy — are available for shipping across the United States.
Where to buy: Their NYC storefront, or online at https://alamodeshoppe.com/
You can’t have ice cream without some delicious toppings – and here are some safe ones!
Nutphree’s Bakery Sprinkles
This 100% peanut and tree nut free bakery is based out of Elk Grove, Illinois, and creates beautiful custom made cakes, cupcakes, and cookies. I was gifted these sprinkles from their online store and have been loving the extra crunch on my homemade ice cream sundaes!
Order some for yourself here – https://www.nutphrees.com/
Where to buy: Whole Foods, Mariano’s, Plum Market, Jewel Osco, and Fresh Thyme stores across the midwest, on their website, or at their store front.
Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup
This syrup is perfect as a topping, or for throwing in a blender with vanilla ice cream for a homemade milkshake. Better yet, this Hershey’s product does not contain any of the top 8 food allergens!
The Smart Label is linked here – https://smartlabel.hersheys.com/00034000001682-0001#allergens
Joy Ice Cream Cones
Throw your favorite scoop on top of one of these store bought ice cream cones. Once Kellogg’s started adding peanut flour to some of their Keebler products, I switched to Joy brand instead for my ice cream cone needs. Their regular cones contain wheat and soy, but they sell gluten free options too.
Think outside the bowl! –https://www.joycone.com/
Where to buy: Kroger, Meijer, and Amazon.
If you have any more safe suggestions that you love, please let me know! I’m always down for dessert.