Navigating the Daunting World of Food Allergies
It seems like children are being diagnosed with food allergies left and right nowadays. From gluten to nuts to seafood, any news that your child has a food allergy is sure to be cause for concern, especially if the foods they’re allergic to are foods you eat and love. And how about the news of multiple food allergies or allergies to an entire food group? How can you make sure your child is still getting the nutrients they need?
Here are some examples of nutrient deficiencies that are possible with common food allergies:
· Milk allergy: Protein, calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, pantothenic acid
· Wheat allergy: Thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, iron, calcium, zinc, folate
· Soy allergy: Protein, thiamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, folate, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc
· Egg allergy: Protein, vitamin B12, iron, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, biotin, selenium, lutein, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E
· Fish/shellfish allergy: Protein, niacin, pyridoxine, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin E
Most often the diagnosis of a food allergy will impact both you and your child’s lifestyle, even if your child is allergic to a food they don’t typically eat. Whether you are choosing what to order from a restaurant menu, scanning the ingredient labels at the grocery store, or sending your child on a play date at a friend’s house (where lunch will be served), you undoubtedly have to be extra vigilant. Trace amounts of the foods they’re allergic to can be found in some surprising places.
My role as a pediatric dietitian is to help ensure children are meeting all their nutritional needs, no matter the limitation. I work with families to analyze a child’s current dietary intake and make suggestions for alternative foods, creative recipes, and more. I also recommend supplements if needed. After an initial food allergy diagnosis it might seem like there are more “off limits” foods than there are foods available. But after we set up a nutrition consultation I can help change this perspective.
Here are some key tips for handling your child’s food allergies to get you started:
1. Find alternatives! Make sure your child is able to enjoy similar foods as the rest of the family so they don’t feel left out.
2. Embrace the food allergy! Educate your child about their food allergy so they can advocate for themselves. There are many great books out there to help with this discussion.
3. Encourage variety! Even if your child has a limited diet, do your best to encourage a variety of the fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins they can have.