Food allergies affect many toddlers under the age of 3, and most of these children are allergic to a single food. The most common culprits include milk, wheat, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish and soy. You can remove these foods completely and still create a healthy diet for your toddler. Look for alternatives to the food your toddler is allergic to. Offer an acceptable food or combination of foods that provide the same nutritional value as the item you are replacing.
Give your milk-allergic toddler alternatives to the 2 cups of cow’s milk he needs daily. Substitute 2 cups of calcium-enriched rice milk or soy milk and calcium-fortified fruit juices. Supplement your child’s intake with foods that boost calcium and other milk nutrients he needs. Try to sneak in leafy dark green vegetables such as collard greens, broccoli, Chinese cabbage and kale with dinners. Make mild chili with red beans or homemade soup with white beans for dinner to have leftovers for lunches. Offer calcium-fortified crackers or rice-based puddings, frozen desserts, ice pops and sorbets, or hard-boiled eggs for snacks. Avoid store-bought baked goods and commercially produced sweets, which commonly contain milk products. Ask your pediatrician about other dietary supplements your little one may need.
Substitute rice, oat, corn and potato products for a child allergic to wheat. The Nemours “Nutrition Guide for Toddlers” states that a 2-year old needs 3 ounces of grains daily, while a 3-year old needs 4 to 5 ounces. Half of their grain servings should come from whole-grain sources. Give your toddler triangles of wheat-free toast, English muffins, or cereals for breakfast each day. Look for breads made from barley, corn, rye, rice, potato or arrowroot flours. Choose cooked cereals such as oatmeal or cream of rice, or ready-made cold cereals made from oats, rice or corn. Offer a corn tortilla taco for lunch, and cooked rice or pasta with dinner. Make a big pot of chicken and rice for dinner one night and have leftovers for your little one’s lunches. Include some whole-grain rice or rye crackers, or rice cakes with peanut butter or honey for snack breaks. Custard, rice pudding and tapioca are excellent wheat alternative dessert choices. Avoid foods that contain white or all-purpose flour, gluten, cornstarch and semolina.
Eliminate hidden egg products and egg ingredients from your allergic toddler’s diet. Give her homemade breads, biscuits and crackers made with egg-free baking powder. Most cereals are egg-free. Serve fresh, canned, frozen or dried vegetables and fruits instead of vegetable casseroles and breaded or batter-fried vegetables. Offer fresh meats, fish, poultry and cheeses rather than eggs to supply your child’s protein and fat requirements. The Rush University Medical Center “Egg Allergy Diet” indicates that you should avoid commercially prepared meats such as meat loaf, sausages, meatballs and anything pre-breaded. Substitute fruit ices, frozen ice cream bars, hard candy, gelatin or homemade egg-free desserts for pie, cake and pudding desserts which typically contain egg products. Stay away from commercial crackers and zwieback, and baked desserts and sweets such as chocolate candies, marshmallow or jelly beans.
Make all of your child’s food yourself to eliminate peanuts from his diet. Peanuts are common ingredients in many packaged products and prepared foods. Bake homemade desserts instead of giving your allergic toddler commercially prepared cakes, pastries, candies and ice cream. Offer your little one sunflower or pumpkin seeds, or fresh fruits and vegetables instead of peanuts for snacking. Use honey or jelly on toast or bread rather than peanut butter. Prepare homemade soups, vegetarian and ethnic dishes instead of buying ready-made foods that often contain peanuts or nut oils.
Prepare homemade foods for your tree nut allergic toddler. Tree nuts are tasty and enjoyable, but they are not necessary to her health. Allergic reactions to tree nuts are among the most dangerous, and your child will probably not outgrow it. Offer your toddler sunflower or pumpkin seeds as safe, nutty alternatives. Seeds are great for finger snacks. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network indicates that tree nuts may be present in some surprising food products. Be suspicious of commercially prepared barbecue sauces, fish dishes, meat-free hamburger, pancakes, pie crust, poultry breading, salads and and even honey.
Prepare your own fresh meat, poultry and cheese entrees for your fish allergic toddler. Offer cooked dried beans and peas as alternative sources of protein. The most common fish allergies are to halibut, salmon and tuna, but if your child is allergic to one species of fish he may react to all types including shellfish. Serve homemade barbecue sauce and meat flavorings, and use lemon juice and herbal seasonings instead of commercial products that may contain fish ingredients.
Offer your shellfish allergic toddler meat, poultry, cheese, milk and legume alternatives to supply her protein needs. If she isn’t allergic to species other than shellfish, give her fresh fish entrees that she likes. Shellfish allergens are more avoidable than many others since the items and products that contain them are typically easy to identify. If your allergic toddler can eat other types of fish, don’t buy any displayed in the same case as shellfish. Ask questions at the fish counter to make sure the product has not been processed where shellfish is processed.
Serve fresh meat, poultry and fish main dishes to your soy allergic toddler instead of soybeans, meat substitutes or commercially prepared meats. Choose healthy legumes as meat protein alternatives. Black beans, chick peas, garbanzos, kidney beans, lentils and navy beans are typically safe legumes for those with soy allergies. Make your own baked desserts and candies instead of buying commercial sweets that may contain soybean oil or soy products. Offer your child rice milk, cow’s milk or fruit juices rather than soy milk. Use seasonings and lemon juice instead of condiments and butter substitutes that often contain soy products. Read labels carefully to identify soy ingredients such as hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), lecithin, monodiglyceride, monosodium glutamate (MSG), textured vegetable protein (TVP), vegetable gum, vegetable starch, Vitamin E, and some vegetable oils. Many natural and artificial flavorings may be soy-based.
- Keep Kids Healthy: Food Allergies
- Kids Health: All About Allergies -- Common Food Allergies
- Nemours Kids Health; Nutrition Guide for Toddlers -- How Much Food Do They Need?; Mary L. Gavin, MD; October 2008
- Rush University Medical Center: Egg Allergy Diet
- The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network: Tree Nut Allergy
- Mayo Clinic: Shellfish Allergy
- Cleveland Clinic: Diseases and Conditions, Special Diets For Food Allergies -- Soy Allergy Diet
- Nemours Kids Health; Nut and Peanut Allergy -- How Is It Treated?; Steve Dowshen; August 2008
- The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network; Fish Allergy
- If you serve shellfish or other allergens to non-allergic family members, avoid exposing your toddler to the product. Don’t allow her to touch it or to breathe the steam from the food as it cooks, particularly in the case of shellfish. Avoid transferring even trace amounts of allergens to your allergic child’s food with kitchen utensils you use during meal preparation.
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