Food allergies and diet
How to cope with dinner time
Many adults and children have food allergies ranging from minor to extreme reactions when certain foods are consumed. An allergic reaction to food happens when the immune system wrongly sees the food as a hostile invader and the body’s defense mechanism takes action. If your child has a allergic reaction or shows any side effects relating to a food intolerance
it is important to get a food allergy test so you can avoid those foods in the future.
If you or your children have an allergy or you are concerned your child has an intolerance, cooking for the kids can get complicated especially if there are more than one allergy. But don’t get stressed! Many meals and snacks can be created that avoid the big offenders, such as wheat, gluten, dairy and nuts. And just because your children have a food allergy doesn't mean your food should be any less tasty, diverse or nutritious for your growing kids.
There are plenty of alternatives to milk, cheese and gluten and are readily available in most supermarkets, so take the stress out of cooking and read our guide on how to cope with kids who can’t eat anything.
Get the kids involved
If your child has a food allergy one of the best ways to cope with dinner time is to get the child involved and educated on nutrition. Explain in positive terms about food allergies and why it is important that they cannot eat certain foods. Children will always want what the other kids are eating and younger kids will find it difficult to understand why they cannot have certain treats. Educating them and making meal times interesting and fun can help them understand and get involved with their own diet.
Have a Family-wide allergy friendly diet
If you are cooking one meal for yourself and different for your partner or kids you run the risk of cross-contamination of foods, and a lot of stress with deciding, and cooking, two or three menus. One of the ways to eliminate arguments or contamination is for everyone to enjoy a complete allergy free diet.
Although some of your family may not like the idea of a new diet, having multiple daily menus will soon overwhelm the chef. Remember a child’s allergy is pretty much everyone in the family’s allergy now.
( Tip: Many amazing meals and snacks can be gluten, dairy and nut free. Visit your local health food store to find ready made tasty treats for kids.)
What are the alternatives?
Every diet requirement is catered for as food allergies are becoming more recognised and big business for the food industry. There are alternatives to flour, milk, meat, eggs and cheese and most are available in big shops or health food stores. If your children’s favorite food is pizza or cheesy pasta, there are many recipes and ways to cook these that are just as tasty as the original.
Gluten free flour such as rice, and corn flour (or for those intolerant to wheat, spelt flour) can be used to make bread, pizza bases and in all types of baking. There are corn and rice flour-pasta available in most shops, and dairy-free cheese alternatives recipes all over the internet. More importantly, making your child’s favorite dinner ( with a few tweaks ) will help you plan an enjoyable dinner time.
Planning in advance is the secret to stress-free cooking with allergies. If your press is empty then a last-minute dinner solution won’t be an option. By having a well planned weekly dinner menu will help you organise and ensure everyone is happy and well fed ( and avoid you losing your mind). All of us need a varied diet that consists of fibre, carbs and protein (remember your five a day) so these must be included in your menu.
Stocking up on grains and dry goods and buying bulk will help keep cost down and ensuring you don't run out of options. Find a local Food COOP in your area, as these will allow you to buy bulk and often have large selection of food alternatives.
Keep it interesting and getting inspiration
Let’s face it, creating exotic and interesting allergy free dinners every meal time can be time consuming for busy chefs. If your families favorite food is pasta or roasts, keep a list of all your favourite recipes and ask the kids what they would like to add each week.
Pinterest acts as a visual pinboard of images/urls from the web. You can create your own board and search through the thousands of boards dedicated for allergy free recipes. Getting the kids involved will help as they can look at all the gorgeous photos and pick their own dinners.
How do you cope with food allergies? if you have any tips or guides please leave us a comment on facebook or on our comments section or forums!
For more information on food allergies please see Ireland’s educational food body safefoods.