Finding Safe and Healthy Ways To Feed Your Child with Food Allergies

Finding Safe and Healthy Ways To Feed Your Child with Food Allergies

Once a food allergy is diagnosed, parents often feel panicked and struggle with finding safe foods to feed their child. Safety becomes the number one concern, and rightfully so. To stay safe, parents tend to be extremely cautious, which can lead to an overly restrictive diet. Avoiding the allergenic food is necessary, but not replacing the nutrients found in those foods with appropriate alternatives can be harmful.

The goal is to only remove the foods that cause an adverse reaction. Unnecessarily removing food from a developing child’s diet can result in poor growth, lack of mental clarity and focus, and compromise the immune system.

More than 25 percent of kids with one or more food allergies consume less than 67 percent of the daily recommended intake for calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E. Having a very low calcium level can lead to secondary problems, including rickets and even seizures.

And it’s not just vitamins and minerals that are lacking. Many overly restrictive diets fall short on much-needed calories to fuel and maintain continued growth. Studies have found that children who have two or more food allergies are not getting as tall as they should be.

So how can you help improve the health of your food-allergic child and still keep him or her safe?

When it comes to providing quick snacks, there are many packaged snacks that are “allergen safe” but not very healthy. Homemade is usually healthier because you’re controlling the ingredients. Have fruits and vegetables cut up in bite size pieces and ready to go in the refrigerator. You can also prepare a batch of muffins or cookies and freeze them so you’ll have them when needed.

Over time, your child might become accustomed to sugary snacks and start to refuse other foods. Healthy eating is a learned behavior. You can help change the behavior by offering healthier foods more often and consistently, especially fruits and vegetables. Also, exposure is important. The more the food is offered, and in different ways, the more likely your child will start to eat it.

Encourage your child to help make the food. Once your child feels part of the process, he or she will want to reap the reward of eating it. Offer a variety of foods. You may be surprised to find your child actually likes green vegetables such as Brussels sprouts or broccoli (okay, maybe not Brussels sprouts, but certainly green beans!).

And finally, don’t be afraid to use dressings and dips (sparingly, of course). Children love to dip food into sauces. This is how my son ate his vegetables when he was younger. He used to dip everything in ketchup, but it got him to eat his veggies!

About the Author
Lisa Musician is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian in northeastern Pennsylvania with more than 15 years experience working with a board-certified allergist. She also holds several certifications as a Food Allergy Specialist. Not only does Lisa have experience managing her own food allergies, she's also the mother of two adult children with multiple food allergies. Lisa is the Founder and President of
Food Allergy Dietitian, Inc., where she brings together her professional and personal experience to help those with food allergies develop a safe, healthy, and balanced diet.