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How to Shop and Cook for a Child with Food Allergies

Suggestions on shopping for and cooking fresh meats, vegatables, fruits, and other basics to avoid food allergens.

By A. Anderson, author of Flourishing with Food Allergies

Avoiding allergens can be difficult. As mentioned, often it requires re-thinking how you grocery shop and cook. The easiest say to avoid allergens is to stick to the basics: fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, plain meat, unprocessed rice and potatoes.

Appetizers can include fresh fruit, vegetables, olives and unflavored corn or potato chips. Check the ingredients carefully and only buy ones with known ingredients that don't include unknowns such as natural flavors or artificial colors. Look closely for warnings and allergen notices.

Breakfast foods can include fresh fruits, whole grain breads and breakfast meats, such as bacon or ham. When preparing fresh fruit and vegetables wash them well by spraying and rubbing lemon juice to cut the pesticides or bacteria on the skins and be sure to rinse it well. Many cereals contain dairy and trace amounts of peanuts or tree nuts. Even trace amounts should be avoided. Cereals are also usually high in sugar. When I give my children a breakfast of bacon, whole grain bagels and some apple, they seem happier for a longer time as compared to a breakfast of cereal.

Lunch foods can include sandwiches with fresh fruits or vegetables and a snack food. I give my children potato chips or pretzels too. Even though these can be high in fat, the ingredients only include potatoes, oil and salt, so there are not a lot of preservatives.

For dinner, I prepare a meal of meat, vegetable and starch using natural, unprepared foods. For instance, I might make chicken sautéed in soy sauce with broccoli and brown rice or meatloaf (without egg) with mashed or roasted potatoes and corn.

Desserts can be the most difficult. Consider a fresh fruit salad for dessert or a plain homemade cake such as the one referenced in my book (Flourishing with Food Allergies). I have found that I need to bake desserts from scratch to be sure they are allergen-free. There are a lot of recipes n the Internet. Normally you can use an egg substitute or leave the egg out completely if only one egg is called for.

If you need to cook for someone with a food allergy, don't be shy about asking for a list of what they can or can't eat. Then consider the following when you grocery shop with your allergen list in hand:

Don't buy prepackaged meats, starches or vegetables, like scalloped potatoes, rice pilaf, chicken cordon blue, or seasoned frozen vegetables, like green beans with sliced almonds.

Don't buy cookies, crackers, cakes and breads that contain lengthy ingredient lists because you might encounter allergens under hidden names, such as lactic aid (dairy) or arachis oil (peanut oil).

Don't buy your meat in the deli if your children have dairy allergies. There is simply too much chance for cross contamination with cheese and other dairy products. Instead, purchase small hams and meat slabs that can be made into sandwiches by slicing at home.

Do spend a lot of time in the fruit and vegetable aisle. Steaming fresh vegetables usually works well for people with allergies.

Do purchase meats that are not prepared or seasoned. When cooking the meat try using only simple ingredients like oil, salt and pepper and try grilling or baking.

Do try plain rice and potatoes. Buy a bag of plain brown rice and a bag of uncooked potatoes in the vegetable aisle. Don't add any seasoning to eh rice except for salt. Potatoes can be baked or roasted with oil and salt.

Copyright Protected. Excerpted with permission from Flourishing with Food Allergies: Social, Emotional and Practical Guidance for Families with Young Children


 A.Anderson is the author of Flourishing with Food Allergies: Social, Emotional and Practical Guidance for Families with Young Children. Her book is an extensive overview of allergies in children for a wide variety of foods. In addition to her extensive research and practical experience, Flourishing with Food Allergies includes a number of very helpful interviews with doctors and parents on identifying food allergies, finding alternative foods and other coping techniques. Read my review of Flourishing with Food Allergies to learn more.

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