Snacks and food allergies

Consider these easy tips for snacks for youth that have food allergies.

“All in favor of adjourning the 4-H meeting signify by saying aye, all opposed same sign.” “Meeting adjourned.” For many 4-H clubs, this phrase signifies the end of the business portion of the meeting, often followed by the very exciting snack! Food is something that youth look forward to at meetings, but if you are one of six million children in the United States suffering from food allergies, this portion of the meeting is about choices and at times, difficult choices.

According to the journal of Pediatrics, led by researchers at Northwestern University, eight percent of nearly six million children in the United States suffer from food allergies, this is nearly twice as many kids as previously thought. The top three food allergens are: Peanuts (25 percent), milk (21 percent) and shellfish (17 percent). According to Kids Health, eggs, soy and wheat follow the top three allergens.

Kids Health says, “Food allergies happen when someone’s immune system mistakenly believes that something the person ate is harmful to the body. In an attempt to “protect” the body, the immune system produces IgE antibodies to that food. IgE antibodies then trigger mast cells (which are allergy cells in the body) to release chemicals into the bloodstream.”

Michigan State University Extension says the following are easy snacks that clubs and professionals might consider when dealing with participants with food allergies.

  • Trail mix – Choosing your own choice of “safe” cereals, dried fruits, pumpkin seeds, etc. *
  • Fresh fruit
  • Canned/packaged fruit cups
  • Applesauce cups
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Corn chips with salsa
  • Popcorn
  • Raisins and other dried fruit

*When combining many different ingredients together, such as a trail mix, keep all the packaging, so that concerned youth and their parents can review the ingredients they might be sensitive to.

There is no cure for food allergies. Strict avoidance of food allergens and early recognition and management of allergic reactions to food are important measures to prevent serious health consequences. Think about food allergies at your next youth meeting or event, and try to consider alternative snack options that force youth to make less difficult choices about their health.

By considering food allergies when planning snacks we give youth flexibility to enjoy snack time with their peers without the fear of allergies or feeling as if they don’t fit in. Ultimately participants will have to make decisions regarding the snacks they do or do not partake in, but as we provide snacks for youth at meetings, offering an alternative that is healthy and free of the top three allergens is helpful for youth.

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