Low-Nickel Diet

Is a low-nickel diet even a thing? Yes, yes it is! Did you know it’s estimated that 18% of people in North America are allergic to nickel?1 That’s not a small percentage and while it isn’t a life-threatening allergy, it can still cause a reduced quality of life for those who suffer from it.

Nickel is naturally found in certain foods and is completely safe to eat for those who do not have a nickel allergy but can be detrimental for those who do. Keep scrolling to learn more about this allergy, what a low-nickel diet is and what foods are safe to consume.

Table of Contents

Low-Nickel Diet with a Gluten-Free Meal Plan​ - Tayler Silfverduk, celiac dietitian

What is a Nickel Allergy

A low-nickel diet is recommended for some people with a nickel allergy. A nickel allergy is just like other allergies, it is caused by our body’s IgE mediated immune response to a certain substance (in this case nickel) that it deemed harmful.

Usually, this allergy presents itself as a rash, typically on the hands or abdomen, that can begin within hours after exposure and last for up to 4 weeks.

It’s important to note here, that food allergies, food intolerances, and celiac disease are all different. Food allergies are mediated by IgE antibodies misinterpreting things as dangerous, triggering an allergic reaction. Food intolerances can be mediated by a variety of things impacting the proper digestion of specific foods. Celiac disease is triggered primarily by IgA antibody overreaction. I say this because people often confuse these things for each other, and the disease process matters for treatment. (I make note of Celiac because I am a celiac dietitian).

While we do not know what causes an allergy to nickel, we do know it can show up in a few different ways. It can show up as allergic contact dermatitis, systemic contact dermatitis, and systemic nickel allergy syndrome.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis Nickel Allergy

Allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) develops when our skin is exposed to an allergen and causes a nasty rash that’s red and itchy. In this form of a nickel allergy, a low nickel diet likely isn’t needed. You just need to avoid skin exposure by trying to limit or replace the following items:

  • Jewelry – Make sure any jewelry or watches you wear are nickel-free, hypoallergenic, or made from surgical-grade stainless steel, yellow gold, pure sterling silver, or platinum. Make sure watch bands are made from materials like leather, cloth, or plastic.1 
  • Clothing – Common sources include bra hooks, belts, buttons, and zippers. If possible, replace the metal with plastic. 
  • Electronics – Yes, even our most loved objects can be a source of nickel. These include cell phones, laptops, and tablets. To prevent exposure, be sure to cover all devices.
  • Household objects – These can include your house keys, razors, and eyeglass frames. You might want to consider switching out your stainless steel cookware as well. According to a study done by researchers at Oregon State University, stainless steel cookware caused nickel and chromium leaching into foods while cooking.2

Systemic Contact Dermatitis and Systemic Nickel Allergy Syndrome May Need a Low-Nickel Diet

Unlike the allergic contact dermatitis presentation of a nickel allergy, the systemic presentations likely require a low-nickel diet. Your doctor will tell you exactly what is required.

This is because a nickel allergy can present itself through the systemic route called systemic contact dermatitis (SCD). This happens when consuming foods high in nickel trigger hand dermatitis. This dermatitis can also be localized or widespread. 

Additionally, the other systemic presentation, systemic nickel allergy syndrome (SNAS), can also be caused by nickel in the diet. It is different from the last two as it can cause more wide-reaching effects on the body such as gastrointestinal and respiratory issues. It is common to feel lightheaded, have a headache, or even a fever.3

Unfortunately, people who are allergic to nickel can also develop a cobalt allergy as well. This can cause dermatitis, either acute or systemic contact and the symptoms are similar to a nickel allergy.4 The good news is that foods low in cobalt also tend to be low in nickel so you don’t need to restrict your diet further.

How to Know if You Have a Nickel Allergy

Before going on a low-nickel diet, it’s important to make sure you have reason to. This means if you feel you have a nickel allergy it is best to visit a doctor who can do a patch test on your skin to determine if nickel is the cause.

If you have already been diagnosed but your rash is getting painful or producing pus, it is best to see your doctor right away to make sure there is no infection. Sadly, there is no treatment that can completely rid you of your allergy. Instead, the best advice is to avoid all sources of nickel and use topical creams to relieve discomfort from rashes. Of course, always discuss your options with your provider.

Low-Nickel Diet with a Gluten-Free Meal Plan​ - Tayler Silfverduk, celiac dietitian

What is a Low-Nickel Diet

Now that we’ve broken down what a nickel allergy is and how it can present, let’s talk about one of the potential treatments, a low-nickel diet. I’m sure you have noticed that nickel is not one of the nutrients you find on the nutrition label and that can make limiting nickel time-consuming and frustrating? A low-nickel diet is one that limits your exposure to nickel by consuming foods that are low in (you guessed it) nickel.

To make matters a bit more confusing, the amount of nickel in certain foods can depend on the type of soil, type and use of pesticides, and the storage and preparation methods. For example, most canned foods should not be eaten, even if the contents inside are typically low in nickel.6 A nice alternative to canned foods would be plastic cups of food. Like plastic cups of green beans and mandarin oranges.

Studies have shown that combining a low-nickel diet with increased consumption of vitamin C and iron has been shown to reduce the amount of nickel absorbed.5 However, before taking any supplements, it is very important to consult with your doctor first.

For a guide, we have created a 5-day meal plan to get you started and comfortable with eating a low-nickel diet that is also gluten-free. This plan includes simple recipes and easy-to-find foods so it is easy to replicate. However, please note this meal plan is meant for educational purposes only and is not meant to substitute a tailored diet that meets your specific needs provided by a dietitian.

Why Follow a Low-Nickel Diet

Following a low-nickel diet is crucial to avoiding a severe reaction in some types of nickel allergy and can greatly increase your quality of life. However, limiting nickel in your diet might not be enough to avoid rashes, so it is best to limit external sources of nickel such as cookware and jewelry as well. Luckily, nickel allergies are not life-threatening but can cause a lot of discomforts if exposed which is why it’s important to adhere to a low-nickel diet and lifestyle.

Remember, a low-nickel diet is only necessary for people who have a nickel allergy triggered by dietary intake, so please reach out to your doctor if you suspect you are allergic and need to follow this medical diet.

Low-Nickel Diet Foods to Avoid and Enjoy - Low-Nickel Diet with a Gluten-Free Meal Plan​ - Tayler Silfverduk, celiac dietitian

Foods Allowed on a Low-Nickel Diet

Fear not, there are plenty of foods that are low in nickel and safe to eat on a nickel allergy diet! Most dairy and animal products are naturally low in nickel, as are fruits and vegetables. Coffee and tea are fine to drink but not out of urns or machines. Alcoholic beverages are also low in nickel as are sodas and juices from fruits low in nickel that are not in a can.

Fruits that generally can be enjoyed on a low-nickel diet include: peaches, pears, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, pomegranate, apples, grapes, cherries, mango, kiwi, and watermelon.

Vegetables that can be  generally enjoyed on a low-nickel diet include: bell peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, onion, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, corn, and turnips.

Most dairy can be enjoyed on a low-nickel diet except for chocolate milk.

Gluten-free grains that can be generally enjoyed on a nickel allergy diet include white rice and corn.

Animal products allowed on a low nickel diet include chicken, turkey, beef, and eggs.

Foods Not Allowed on a Low Nickel Diet

The main foods to stay away from are nuts, seeds, and soy products. While many animal products are safe to consume, stay away from shellfish and any canned products. Avoiding canned products in general, even if the food is typically low in nickel, is recommended as nickel can leach from the cans into the food.

Specific fruits to avoid on nickel allergy diet include: raspberries, pineapple, figs, dates, prunes, avocados, and coconut,

Specific vegetables to avoid include spinach, legumes (beans), bean sprouts, asparagus, peas, okra, kale and lettuce.

Be sure to avoid chocolate milk, soy milk, and almond milk.

And gluten-free grain wise, be sure to avoid oats, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, and bean flours (like soy and chickpea flour).

Additionally, be sure to avoid shellfish, salmon, tofu, and nuts and seeds.

Of note, supplements are noted to be avoided in some resources due to the lack of regulation and ability to know nickel content, with the exception of vitamin C. Which sometimes is recommended to be taken at 500-1000mg doses with every meal to prevent nickel absorption. As always, talk to your healthcare team before making any changes to your current lifestyle.

5-Day Gluten-Free Low-Nickel Meal-Plan

With all of the foods to remember to avoid, it can feel overwhelming to follow a low-nickel diet on top of being gluten-free. Below is a 5-Day Gluten-Free Low-Nickel Meal-Plan to inspire you. Please note: do not follow any meal-plan or change your diet without consulting your healthcare team. This nor anything on my website should not replace individual care provided to you by your healthcare team.

Low-Nickel Meal-Planning

Below is a 5-day guide to inspire your meals on a gluten-free and low-nickel diet. That said, when building your own skills in meal-planning with this diet, consider the following tips:

  • Make some of the staple foods in bulk such as rice and sweet potatoes. Some of the snack ideas below can also be made ahead of time.
  • Plan out your meals at the beginning of the week so you know what to buy at the grocery store. The last thing you want is to realize you don’t have ingredients and end up going to the grocery store multiple times.
  • If you plan on making the snacks in bulk, make sure to divide them out into smaller portion sizes. For example, if making strawberry gummies, divide them out into 1/2 cup portions and place in different ziplock bags or small containers. This will make them easy to grab and go with!
  • Some items you can buy pre-made which will cut back on cooking time. Such foods include cauliflower rice, zucchini noodles and apple chips. 
  • There is nothing wrong with buying frozen fruit or vegetables but stay away from canned foods which tend to have higher amounts of nickel.
One-Pot Chicken and Rice​ (gluten-free and dairy-free) - Tayler Silfverduk, celiac dietitian
One-pan chicken and rice is a quick low-nickel and gluten-free dinner option!

Day 1 of Low-Nickel Diet

  • Breakfast: Low-Nickel Corn Pancakes topped with fresh strawberries and honey. A breakfast classic made with the only gluten-free low-nickel whole grain, corn.
  • Morning Snack: Apple chips or oven dried strawberries. These are basically just dried fruits that are easily portable and delicious. You could also have fresh fruit if you’d like.
  • Lunch: Carnitas with Cabbage Slaw – this recipe is made with egg white wraps, but you could use 100% corn tortillas too.
  • Afternoon Snack: Cheese sticks and a sliced pear
  • Dinner: One-Pot Chicken and Rice – This delicious meal is quick, easy and so satisfying. Keep it low-nickel by seasoning the chicken with low-nickel spices and using water instead of the canned chicken broth.
Gluten-Free Egg Bake - Can be Modified to be Dairy-free and Low-Nickel - Tayler Silfverduk, celiac dietitian
Egg Casserole is another easy gluten-free and low-nickl breakfast idea!

Day 2 of Low-Nickel Diet

  • Breakfast: Egg Casserole – featuring eggs, bell pepper, sausage, and cheese for a filling, easy, and delicious breakfast. If  you don’t mind repeating breakfast, you can double the recipe for meal-prep.
  • Morning Snack: Yogurt bark – pour vanilla yogurt onto a baking sheet and add fruit such as blueberry and strawberries and freeze until solid. You can add honey or low-nickel fruit if you’d like.
  • Lunch: Roasted Red Pepper Soup – Enjoy this red pepper soup for lunch! It’s easy to batch prep to, so you can save some in the freezer for when you need lunch in a pinch in the future! Keep this recipe low-nickel by using homemade vegetable broth instead of canned vegetable broth. Or using water instead.
  • Afternoon Snack: ½ cup cottage cheese with sliced apples and a drizzle of honey
  • Dinner: Honey Balsamic Glazed Pork – This is a drool-worthy pork chop recipe that would serve beautifully with some roasted beets, sweet potatoes and carrots.
Strawberry Balsamic Salad (gluten-free with vegan options) - Tayler Silfverduk, celiac dietitian
Salads topped with chicken are great lunch option on a low-nickel diet.

Day 3 of Low-Nickel Diet

  • Breakfast: Rice PorridgePrepare this delicious rice porridge which is hands-off and  great to make ahead of time. Just be sure to use low-nickel spices to flavor it, low-nickel fats, regular milk, and sweeten it with honey.
  • Morning Snack: Hard boiled eggs with baby carrots dipped homemade low-nickel ranch dressing (make a batch of this so you can dip veggies in it throughout the week!).
  • Lunch: Strawberry Balsamic Salad topped with roasted chicken.
  • Afternoon Snack: Air-popped popcorn drizzled with olive oil and salt (or cinnamon). You can also make popcorn using microwave silicon products like this. (Amazon affiliate link).
  • Dinner: Chicken AdoboThe soy usually found in this recipe has been replaced with beef bouillon cubes.2 Pair with white rice or zucchini noodles and don’t forget vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower.
Top Gluten-Free Picnic Proof Recipes - Tayler Silfverduk - Going on a picnic with your family? Sharing food with your gluten-free and celiac friends? Need some inspiration and ideas on what to pack on your trip? Don't worry, I got you covered with my top gluten-free picnic proof recipes! Including these fruit skewers
Fruit and cheese skewers are a great low-nickel and gluten-free snack!

Day 4 of Low-Nickel Diet

  • Breakfast: Breakfast Stir-FryOmit the canned beans, and replace with mushrooms or just leave it out, and this breakfast is a fun way to serve up eggs in the morning!
  • Morning Snack: Cheese and grape skewers. Take toothpicks and skewer grapes with cubed cheese and then enjoy! Or skip the skewer part altogether and just enjoy grapes and cheese together!
  • Lunch: Pork Tacos – fill gluten-free 100% corn tortillas with this slow cooked pork and low-nickle vegetables of choice.
  • Afternoon Snack: yogurt parfait consisting of your favorite yogurt topped with low-nickel fruit.
  • Dinner: Beef StewA cozy bowl of veggies and beef, this is the perfect dinner to make in your crock-pot in the morning and enjoy when you get home after work.
Sheet Pan Chicken and Vegetables with Butter and Parmesan​ - Gluten-Free and Celiac Safe - Tayler Silfverduk - celiac dietitian
Sheet pan recipes can be quick and easy low-nickel diet dinners!

Day 5 of Low-Nickel Diet

  • Breakfast: Breakfast Hash with Turkey and Pears – Breakfast hash is another delicious low-nickel breakfast you can make! You could also make breakfast tacos with 100% corn tortillas and low-nickel fillings.
  • Morning Snack: Cottage cheese topped with fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey.
  • Lunch: Vegan or Chicken Fajita Bowl – This is a delicious meal option, be aware that onions can have a moderate amount of nickel so pay attention to how you react to them. To reduce cooking time to can use frozen cauliflower rice. Feel free to substitute the mushrooms with chicken.
  • Afternoon Snack: Apple nachos; take sliced apples and drizzle with honey, yogurt, cinnamon, crushed banana chips, and dried cherries.
  • Dinner: Sheet Pan Chicken and VegeablesThis recipe is naturally low-nickel and is perfect for when you just want to throw everything on a pan in the oven and call it dinner!

Low-Nickel Snacks, Desserts and Drinks

Extra fun low-nickel and gluten-free recipes for desserts and drinks:

  • Watermelon Agua Fresca is a great, refreshing drink to have during the summer months.
  • Baked apples – using either the oven or crockpot, add whole, cored apples and top with a small slice of butter and cinnamon. You could do the same thing with pears.
  • Vanilla Ice Cream Sundaes topped with low-nickel fruit or popsicles
  • Plastic cups of vegetables and fruit make great snacks. And they offer convenience where convenience is typically hard to find. Fruit cups with pears (affiliate link), squeezable apple sauce (affiliate link) and yogurts, string cheese and cheese squares, banana chips (affiliate link) and microwavable plastic cups of veggies are all great quick and easy grab and go low-nickel snack options.

A Low Nickel Diet Can Be Hard…

A low nickel diet can be hard on its own and also when you’re following other medical diets like a gluten-free diet for celiac disease. It’s completely understandable if you are overwhelmed with this new information and a new set of foods to avoid.

Luckily, many foods that have gluten are also high in nickel, so the choices in foods that are safe to consume haven’t changed all that much. The differences are in some types of fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens. You can still enjoy a good variety of produce, dairy, and protein. 

Remember, before starting or stopping any medical diet, medications or supplements, contact your doctor first. It is also important to make sure you are allergic to nickel before eliminating it from your life. Once you are diagnosed, you can discuss treatment options and whether or not a nickel-allergy diet will be required and how to approach starting and following the diet specifically for your needs.


  1.     Nickel allergy: How to avoid exposure and reduce symptoms. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/eczema/insider/nickel-allergy. Accessed February 21, 2022. 
  2.     Kamerud KL, Hobbie KA, Anderson KA. Stainless steel leaches nickel and chromium into foods during cooking. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2013;61(39):9495-9501. doi:10.1021/jf402400v 
  3.     Rebelytics low nickel diet. Rebelytics R&D Inc. https://www.rebelytics.ca/lownickeldiet.html. Accessed February 21, 2022. 
  4.     Yoshihisa Y, Shimizu T. Metal allergy and systemic contact dermatitis: An overview. Dermatology Research and Practice. 2012;2012:1-5. doi:10.1155/2012/749561
  5. Nickel allergy. MELISA. https://melisa.org/nickel/. Published January 21, 2022. Accessed February 21, 2022.
  6. Ashimav D Sharma, Low Nickel Diet in Dermatology https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3667300/

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