It can be difficult (not to mention scary) when you discover that your child has a food allergy, but it’s actually quite common. The Center for Disease Control estimates that about 4-6% of U.S. children under the age of 18 have food related allergies. A very small number of foods even account for the vast majority of allergic reactions (an estimated 90%); these include: Cow’s milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, soybeans, nuts, and wheat.
It’s needless to say that consistently reading food labels becomes essential once your child has a known food allergy. And although it isn’t always easy, it’s possible to protect your kids, but what about other children? In situations where you find yourself entertaining youngsters for a birthday party or bringing snacks to a soccer game, you may have to take careful consideration of the foods you provide. Below are a few tips and substitution ideas about cooking for kids with allergies.
RSVP for allergies.
Always get a head count of attendees with allergies. Whether it’s a family get together or you’re the team mom, it’s essential that you know what people are allergic to. This way, you can provide several alternatives for those with allergies, prevent cross contamination, or avoid certain foods altogether.
Preparing recipes from scratch gives you full reign of the ingredients used. There are tons of kid-friendly recipes that don’t use common food allergens, or can be made with substitutes. For example, a lot of snack bars contain nuts. Try homemade popcorn bars instead, with granola, dried fruit, and honey. By using fresh (or more specifically uncontaminated) ingredients, you can have more control over what your children are eating.
Don’t forget the nutrients.
Preventing allergic reactions is one thing, but ensuring that your kids are eating well-balanced diets is another entirely. It may take a little research, but it is essential to find nutrient-rich substitutes. Vitamins and supplements for children are good, but they won’t make up for the loss of entire food groups. Below is a starter kit of substitution tips. Look for recipes and treats that feature these alternatives.
Citrus Allergies: this allergy can be especially unfortunate as children are often more willing to eat fruits than veggies. With high amounts of vitamin c, citrus fruits are a tangy alternative to sugary snacks. However, there are not only numerous citrus free fruits, but a variety of vegetables that contain comparable amounts of vitamin-c and calcium. Non-citrus fruits include: Guavas, Papayas, Mango, Kiwis, Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Honeydew, Apples and Tomatoes.
Milk Allergies: this allergy may be a little more difficult to cope with. You have to be especially cognizant of ingredients because many soy products still contain diary. But that being said, almond milk, rice milk, oat milk and many soy milks make comparable substitutions of cow’s milk.
Egg Allergies: egg allergies are more common in children than adults and, unfortunately, there are fewer substitution options for eggs. Beware of “egg substitute” products, because they still contain egg. Instead look for egg replacements, and find creative ways to alter recipes.
Chocolate Allergy: Intolerance to chocolate is linked to the cacao bean. Although less common, this allergy is just as serious as more prominent ones. Carob is a very popular substitute for chocolate. It’s also caffeine-free making it an even better alternative for the little ones.
Peanut and Tree Nut Allergies: Trace amounts of peanuts and other tree nuts are found in a lot prepared food products. For this type of allergy, reading labels is particularly crucial. Aside from nuts, you may want to avoid vegetable oil and some natural flavorings. When cooking or baking, sunflower butter is a great substitute for peanut butter. Hummus is also a protein packed substitute that’s great for snacking.
Wheat Allergy: gluten intolerance has become quite prevalent in recent years, but luckily there is a wide variety of substitutes, gluten-free recipes and products. If you do a lot you of baking for your family, try rice or almond flour; just keep in mind that gluten-free flours are drier and may not rise as much.
Author Bio: Brittany writes about frugal living and family nutrition on behalf of Orville Redenbacher’s. For more on healthy snack recipes and seasonal treats, visit www.orville.com