This is a guest post by Lauren Morgan to support the National Nutrition Month® along a theme of Nutrition From the Ground Up.
One of my favorite topics is food allergies because it is so personal to me. My parents discovered I was allergic to peanuts when I found the peanut butter in the cupboard, and then they found a little girl who was swollen as could be. Soon after, I found that I was allergic to tree nuts (all of them), green peas, salmon, and soy. Even though my parents had to steer me away from all of these dangers, they were still able to feed me a wholesome, nutritious diet. For those of you who have children, grandchildren, or loved ones with food allergies you know just how hard this can be!
Based on what I have learned from my own life living with food allergies and now that I am in the field of nutrition, I have developed some building blocks for developing healthy, nutritious lifestyles in children with food allergies:
- Eliminate the allergens. This one seems like common sense, but it is very important. Completely eliminate the food allergen(s) from your child’s diet, and if necessary, their home environment.
- Look for balance. Check out the great resources at MyPyramid.gov (check out the section for preschoolers) to see what a balanced diet looks like and compare what your child can eat. Try including foods from as many of the food groups as you can. If your child has multiple allergies this may not be possible, so include as many foods as they can eat from each group.
- Keep it interesting. Children like foods that look interesting to them, so try to have variety to keep your kid interested and feeling like they get to eat many foods. One great way to do this is to add different colors. Try doing red, yellow, and orange peppers sometime- the colors are so bright they just stick out to kids!
- Talk with your kids. It is so important to talk with your children about their food allergies. They should know what foods to avoid, why they should avoid them, and how to share this information with teachers, friends, and out at restaurants as they get older.
- Have fun! Children can feel deprived when their diets are limited and they can’t eat the same foods as their friends. Try cooking together with them to make some fun dishes. For example, if your child cannot have pizza, make your own! Try a fruit pizza and let them pick the fruits that they add. There is so much room to be creative and kids will have fun with it, too!
Here are a few useful websites for more information on food allergy:
What has worked for you? Share your tips in comments below.