Ways to cook healthy while dealing with food allergies

Cooking healthy for children with food allergies can be tough, but here are a few ways to accommodate everyone in the family.

According to the Center for Disease Control, food allergies are on the rise. An increase of 50 percent has been seen in children from 1997 to 2011; that equates to 1 in every 13 children experiencing a food allergy. Though there are no definitive reasons as to why this increase has occurred, a few theories include the “hygiene hypothesis” which suggests, “living conditions in much of the world might be too clean and that kids aren’t being exposed to germs that train their immune systems to tell the difference between harmless and harmful irritants,” says the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. Other hypotheses include a decrease in exposure to vitamin D from kids being indoors more than past generations as well as lifestyle changes that coincide with obesity. The fact of the matter is that allergies are on the rise, and more parents are faced with the struggle of cooking a healthy, well-rounded diet for their child while also avoiding their allergen.

Make an allergy-friendly meal plan

Ensuring the safety of children with food allergies can be achieved by simple alterations to cooking and eating patterns. Initially, making changes and altering cooking and eating patterns may be challenging; however, there are many ways to cook great tasting healthy foods without putting anyone with allergies at risk. The first step is to plan your meals and create a menu. Creating meal plans is helpful in identifying and foreseeing any food allergens as well as provide an opportunity to think of ways to substitute or even avoid them. Often during meal times we may not have a plan in place and we reach for the most convenient food. Particularly when we are in a rush or hungry. This can prove detrimental considering most convenience foods contain at least one of the “big eight” of food allergens— milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish or shellfish. By having a menu planned for the week, or even the month, you can ensure a safe and healthy meal every day.

Substituting for food allergens

Menu planning can also be used to explore new and different foods. Finding substitute ingredients for favorite recipes can be an exciting experience that leads to new and creative recipes. A simple and positive change in view point can reduce the stress and isolation that a food allergy may bring. To create those new favorite recipes, try experimenting with less familiar grains such as quinoa or oat flour. The textures are similar and the flavor is comparable to the standard dish. Consider additional ways to incorporate fruits and vegetables into dishes to make them filling and packed with essential nutrients. Have fun and involve the entire family. When the entire family eats the same meal, it prevents a child with an allergy from feeling isolated and prevents parents from cooking multiple meals at once. A simple and positive change in view point can reduce the stress and isolation that a food allergy may bring as well encourage families to spend more time together.

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