6 Tips To Manage Your Kid’s Food Allergies During The Holidays

6 Tips To Manage Your Kid’s Food Allergies During The Holidays

When you have a child with food allergies like I do, keeping them safe during holiday parties and family get-togethers can be challenging.

Between new types of foods, homemade dishes with secret ingredients and all those Christmas cookies, you’ll be laser-focused on what your kid can eat and what he must avoid.

Although managing your child’s food allergies can definitely be nerve-wracking, with some planning and a few simple strategies you can enjoy the holidays and keep your kid safe.

Here are 6 tips that will help.

1. Talk to the host

If you’ll be attending an event at someone else’s home, call the host and let them know about your child’s food allergies and what can happen if they accidentally ingest an allergen.

When you have a child with food allergies, the reality is that you are his biggest advocate.

Unless the host of the party has a child with food allergies, it’s unlikely that they’ll read food labels or even know how to read a label.

What’s more, most people don’t understand how serious an accidental exposure can be and may say a meal is safe, when it really isn’t.

While some hosts may go out of their way to check labels and read every ingredient they used, it’s always a good idea to ask what foods will be served so you’ll know what your kid will have to avoid.

2. Bring a safe dish and dessert

One of the best ways to keep your kids safe and make sure they’ll have something to eat is to bring a safe dish and a dessert that they and everyone else can enjoy, including guests who may have other dietary restrictions.

3. Supervise your kids

It goes without saying that if your kid is young, you must ask about the ingredients in every dish and choose foods carefully.

But since family and friends may give your kid something to eat without asking, it’s important to also watch your kids throughout the event too.

4. Talk with your kids

When kids are old enough to understand what it means to have food allergies, it’s important to talk to them about how to stay safe but without scaring them.

Make sure they know not to eat a food without asking you first and not to share foods with other kids who may also have food allergies.

5. Ask guests to bring a non-food item

 When my daughter was 3-years-old, we attended a party at a neighbor’s house and while we were chatting, she tasted a dip that had nuts in it. Luckily, she only had hives and we gave her a dose of Benadryl, but it was a big wake up call to watch her more carefully.

If you’ll be hosting and grandma insists on bringing her famous cookies, there may not be much you can do. But if guests ask what they can bring, have a list of alternatives like a bottle of wine, another beverage, or festive napkins.

6. Plan non-food traditions

 During the holidays, food is a big part of the festivities. But for kids with food allergies, they may feel left out if they can’t enjoy some of the food.

To take some of the focus off food, plan other activities or start new holiday traditions which will create magical memories your kids will remember for years to come.

Food Allergies: Food Substitutions for 8 Common Allergens  Kids with food allergies don't have to miss out on delicious and healthy foods with these simple swaps.

Food Allergies: Food Substitutions for 8 Common Allergens

Kids with food allergies don't have to miss out on delicious and healthy foods with these simple swaps.

If your children are among the nearly 6 million children in the U.S. who have food allergies, you know avoidance is the first step. Yet if the foods your kids are allergic to are also a significant source of nutrition, it’s important to know what food substitutions they can eat to get the vitamins, minerals and key nutrients they need.

Here are 8 of the most common food allergens and food substitutions to consider in your child’s diet.

1. Milk

A cow’s milk allergy is the most common food allergy in babies and young children. About 2.5 percent of children under the age of 3 are allergic to milk, according to FARE.

Cow’s milk is found in many obvious foods like butter, ghee, cheese, yogurt and sour cream as well as chocolate, baked goods and even tuna fish.

Milk is a good source of calcium but there are plenty of healthy food substitutions like plant-based milks such as coconut milk, almond milk and cashew milk. Other calcium-rich foods include leafy green vegetables, sardines and tofu.

2. Peanuts

When I was a child, it seemed that the only thing kids ate for lunch were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. With the rise in peanut allergies however, all that has changed. It’s estimated that up to 5 percent of kids have a peanut allergy, according to a 2014 study in the The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Plus, kids who are allergic to peanuts have between a 25 and 40 percent chance of also being allergic to tree nuts, one study found.

If your child is allergic to peanuts and peanut butter (but not allergic to tree nuts), try soy butter, sunflower seed butter, almond butter, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds.

3. Eggs

Eggs are a tricky food allergy especially since they’re used in many foods like baked goods or freshly prepared, ready-to-go meals you’ll find in the grocery store.

Eggs are an excellent source of protein and choline, but if your kids are allergic to eggs, try kidney beans, beef, salmon, turkey or chicken breast which also have these nutrients. When baking, any fruit puree or ground flaxseed makes for a good egg substitute.

4. Tree Nuts

Almonds, cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts and Brazil nuts are a good source of protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. They also make for a healthy, easy and convenient snack for summer road trips or when you’re running around after-school.

The good news is that your kid may be allergic to certain tree nuts and not the others. If he’s allergic to all of them however, you can get the same nutrition that you get from nuts with seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, and chia seeds.

 

5. Wheat

If your kid is allergic to wheat, has Celiac disease or is gluten-free for another reason, it can be tough to find a food substitution.

But gluten-free flours like coconut flour and oat flour are easy swaps for baking and gluten-free grains like rice, millet and teff, or seeds like quinoa provide plenty of fiber and B vitamins kids need.

6. Fish and Shellfish

About 40 percent of people with a fish allergy and 60 percent of those with a shellfish allergy experience their first reaction as an adult, according to FARE.

If your kid is allergic to either one however, he’ll have to find other sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Eggs, beef, poultry, lentils and beans are all great foods to fill the void.

7. Soybeans

About .4 percent of kids have a soy allergy so avoiding foods like tofu, tempeh and many processed, packaged foods that contain soy will help keep your child safe.

To replace the nutrition from soy, add in beans, lentils and quinoa—all of which are high in protein and fiber.

8. Sesame

Sesame isn’t usually considered a top allergen but experts say although it’s unclear how many kids are allergic to sesame, it’s on the rise in the U.S.

The scary truth about sesame is that federal law doesn’t require food manufacturers to list sesame as an allergen on their packaging. It may not always be possible to avoid packaged foods but it’s the best way to prevent an allergic reaction.

Sesame is a good source of protein, fiber, calcium and magnesium but you can get these nutrients through other foods such as pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds and green leafy vegetables.

10 Ways To Cope With Your Child’s Food Allergies

10 Ways To Cope With Your Child’s Food Allergies

As a mom with a child who has food allergies, I know how nerve-wracking it can be to eat out, go to birthday parties and spend holidays together.

When my daughter was a year old, I introduced a new food and within 10 minutes, her body was covered in hives.

It was a warm, spring day and since she always had sensitive skin and eczema, my husband thought perhaps it was a heat rash. As a mom, I knew that wasn’t the case but it seemed strange to me too. She wasn’t crying or acting differently—she was happy, crawling and playing.

Everything seemed find except for those hives.

We called the pediatrician and they asked me if she was breathing OK—she was—and suggested we see a pediatric allergist to test her for food allergies. Later that week, testing confirmed she was allergic to several types of foods. We left with a prescription for an EpiPen and an emergency plan and our lives as parents were never quite the same.

One in 13 kids in the U.S. has a food allergy to foods like peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, milk, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.

If you’re one of them, chances are you’re hyper-vigilant about what your child eats, doesn’t eat or may have accidentally come into contact with. Food allergies are serious, but feeling stressed out all the time or living in fear is no way to live.

Here are 10 tips that have helped me deal with my child’s food allergies and they may help you too.

1. Eat Whole Foods

Cutting down or avoiding packaged, processed foods is a healthy way to eat for everyone, but it can life saving for kids with food allergies.

Although many brands now include in bold print, “may contain tree nuts, “ or “made on shared equipment with peanuts,” you still need to carefully read through the laundry list of processed and artificial ingredients to make sure the food is safe.

Instead of taking a chance and driving yourself crazy, nix the packaged fare and stick to whole foods—always a healthy and safe choice.

2. Make Sure Everyone Is On Board

Most daycare centers and schools have a nut-free policy but that doesn’t help you if your kid is allergic to something other than nuts.

What I have discovered through the years is if the teacher or person caring for your child doesn’t have a child with food allergies herself, they won’t be nearly as cognizant or careful as you are. The same goes for other parents and your child’s grandparents who may forget or not realize they need to read labels before giving your kid a special treat.

Before your child starts daycare or school, make sure you provide them with your child’s emergency medical plan and all medications and verbally review it with them.

Babysitters, grandparents and caregivers should also have a list of the allergenic foods as well as a list of foods that contain those allergens.

3. Keep Alternatives On Hand

Birthday parties can be tough for kids with food allergies because if the parent doesn’t have kids with food allergies (see #2), they won’t think to read the label on the cake to check for allergens or ask the bakery beforehand. The same goes for parties at school, especially when there’s lots of candy and other treats.

Rather than risk it, bring a safe, special treat your child can enjoy and keep a safe choice at school. My daughter’s teacher keeps dried fruit bars and peppermint patties on hand for special occasions.

4. Don’t Rely On Restaurants

Depending on your child’s food allergies, you can usually make an informed choice at restaurants. However, allergens like gluten, egg and dairy can be tricky.

You can ask your sever how a dish is made and request cooking surfaces and tools be thoroughly washed. They may make accommodations and you may even have a good relationship with your favorite restaurant and trust them but you can’t hold them responsible for your child’s food allergies.

In fact, a September 2016 study in the Journal of Food Protection found that although managers, food workers and servers were knowledgeable and accommodated customers’ food allergies, more than 10 percent said that someone with a food allergy can safely consume a small amount of the allergen.

Many fast food and family restaurants make their menus and nutritional informational available on their websites so check before you go. Also, download the AllergyEats app to find restaurants ratings.

5. Coach Your Child

When you think your child is old enough and capable of advocating for himself—usually around age 4 or 5—help him do so.

For example, you can role-play before a party so your child can learn how to ask about the food being served or you can go with your child to ask the party host.

You can’t make him entirely responsible of course, but you can help him get in the habit of asking about the ingredients, telling an adult what he’s allergic to and politely declining a food if necessary.

6. Have a Heart-To-Heart

When you have a child with food allergies, it’s important to help him understand the severity of food allergies but at the same time, not making him so scared he’ll be anxious and want to avoid certain situations.

You don’t have to get specific about what could happen if he has an exposure, but you can talk about food in terms of what’s safe and unsafe. Explain that he should only eat food you, a teacher or caregiver gives him.

7. Stay Calm

Food allergies can be scary especially if your child has had an accidental exposure. However, if you’re calm when you’re in places where food is served and you are confident about managing your kid’s food allergies, chances are, he’ll be too.

8. Be Positive

Now that my daughter is older, she often gets upset when she can’t have cake at a birthday party or a special treat for the holidays.

She usually gets over it quickly, especially if there’s an equally delicious alternative but my husband and I always try to paint her allergies in a positive light.

She might think it’s unfair, but we remind her it’s for her safety and everyone has something they have to deal with—that’s life.

9. Get Help

Your child’s pediatric allergist can be an excellent source of information and advice.

If you’re concerned however, about nutritional deficiencies, see a pediatric nutritionist who can evaluate your child’s diet and help you round it out with healthy, safe alternatives.

10. Find Friends

Having support from other parents who have kids with food allergies can give you ideas and help your kid not feel like an outsider. Check out Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) for support groups in your area.

How to Have a Safe Halloween With Food Allergies

How to Have a Safe Halloween With Food Allergies

If your kids have food allergies, you know what it takes to ensure they’re never accidentally exposed to unsafe foods. You have to plan meals, read labels and ask questions, especially when you go out to eat, attend a birthday party or go trick or treating on Halloween.

When my daughter was an infant, she was diagnosed with several food allergies. At that time, it was much easier to control what she ate because I cooked and packed all of her meals, whether she was at daycare or with me at a friend’s house. When she started school however, everything changed.

In preschool, she accidentally ingested a food she was allergic to while the class was working on a craft project. Then this year within a week of starting school, she once again had an accidental exposure in the cafeteria. I was grateful she was fine and only required Benadryl, but it’s stressful nonetheless.

At Halloween, there will be trick or treating, parties and events and plenty of candy and treats. With a bit of planning and some simple strategies, your kids can have a fun and safe Halloween despite their food allergies.

Do your homework

Your child’s teacher is probably already aware of his food allergies but other parents may not be. And if they have a party at school, there may be foods your kid is allergic too. If parents don’t have children with food allergies, they might avoid bringing an obvious allergenic food but they’re not likely to read labels. And besides, we shouldn’t expect them to.

When my daughter had a Halloween party in preschool, the teacher told all of the parents about the food allergies in the class. It was a good thing I was there because one of the snacks contained a food she was allergic to.

If you’re able to attend the party, it’s a good way to prevent an accidental exposure. If you can’t however, ask the teacher to give you a list of the snacks that were brought in or take photos of the ingredients label so you can check the snacks before the party. For homemade foods like cookies and cupcakes, it’s wise to have your kid avoid them altogether.

Divide and conquer

When your kid comes home from school or trick or treating, sort all of the candy to determine what’s safe and what’s not. You might think certain types of candy are OK because they were safe to eat in the past, but ingredients can differ between fun size and regular size, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

If a piece of candy doesn’t have the ingredients on the label, check the nutrition label on the brand’s website to make sure your kid doesn’t ingest something that will cause an allergic reaction.

Look for teal pumpkins

In 2014, the Teal Pumpkin Project® launched to keep kids with food allergies safe on Halloween. Homes that have a teal-colored pumpkin on the doorstep signal to kids that they’ll receive a fun, non-food treat. To find Teal Pumpkin Project homes in your area, check out their participation map.

Be prepared

If your kid is invited to a party, talk to the parents beforehand about the foods they plan to serve and if you’ll need to bring a safe replacement. If you won’t be attending, make sure the parents know what foods your kid is allergic to. Make sure they also have your phone number and his medications and know what to do if he accidently ingests something.

Empower your child

Whenever we go to a friend’s house, someone’s party or eat out at a restaurant, my daughter asks if the food she’s thinking about eating is something she’s allergic to. She’s still quite young but it’s a habit I instilled in her early on.

If you have young kids, consider having them wear a food allergy bracelet. Older kids can practice asking what’s in a food and saying “no thank you, I’m allergic.” Teaching them how to advocate for themselves now is important and something they’ll need to do throughout their lives.

Host your own party

If another mom usually throws a Halloween party, offer to have it at your house so you’ll have full control over the food and the treats.

Tell the neighbors

If you’re friendly with your neighbors, you can tell them before Halloween what your kids are allergic to and offer to provide them with safe candy they can hand out instead.

Don’t let them trick or treat alone

 

If your kids are old enough to trick or treat with friends, tag along anyway. Your kids might be tempted to eat a piece of candy along the route that could cause an allergic reaction and you don’t want to take that chance.