Earlier this month, I was asked to answer a couple of questions about food allergies over at Calorielab.com. One of them was on the steps parents can take to ensure that their child with food allergies gets a balanced diet. It's a good question that I intended to answer while wearing my Registered Dietitian "hat" but I found myself reflecting quite a bit on my own experience as a parent of a child with multiple food allergies.
As a Registered Dietitian, I know that the key to a balanced diet is eating a variety of foods. But as a "food allergy mom", I know that variety can be scary in some cases - especially when it comes to common allergens. Out of fear of more food allergies, many parents choose to avoid other common allergens just to be "safe" (myself included).
In June 2010, the US Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy were approved by The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID - part of the National Institutes of Health). These science-based guidelines were developed in order to get physicians and allied health care professionals on the same page when it comes to food allergy diagnosis, management and treatment. The January 2011 issue of the American Dietetic Association summarized the Guidelines which was the first chance I had to review them.
The message that stuck with me the most from these guidelines was that allergy testing, including skin puncture tests (SPT) and measuring serum IgE (RAST or CAP RAST), should not alone be used to make a food allergy diagnosis. This is a departure from how things have been done in the past.
In a January 26, 2010 Wall Street Journal Article, Dr. Hugh Sampson, professor of pediatrics in the division of allergy and immunology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York said, "When I first started doing this, my biggest job was convincing families to avoid a food. Now, the biggest job is to get families back on a food".
As a food allergy mom, I understand the fear of trying new foods, especially common allergens, however, many of us avoid foods because of positive allergy testing like SPT and RAST. The new guidelines state that this should no longer be the case and that the best way to diagnose food allergy is with oral food challenges. As a mom who has watched her child fail two oral challenges, I understand the fear involved with that. But on the other hand, a child's overall health might suffer with a diet that is more restricted that it needs to be.
Do you want to be sure that your food allergic child has a balanced diet? Follow your allergist's recommendations about which foods to avoid and offer a variety of everything else. And, of course, when in doubt about the adequacy of your child's diet, a Registered Dietitian is a great resource! ;)
The Food Find of the Month
"Allergy Free" Candy
Valentine's Day is just around the corner and, while some refer to it as a "Hallmark holiday", others might see it as a great reason to enjoy a little chocolate! If you're eating with food allergies then you know that, "safe" chocolates and other candies can be difficult to find.
A while back I received some samples from Indie Candy, a company specializing in treats that are free of artificial flavors and colors, preservatives and the top 8 allergens. Products include gummi candies with unique flavors (key lime!), lollipops in fun shapes, gourmet marshmallows and, of course, chocolate. Chocolate comes in several tantalizing forms including chocolate covered "oreos" (I checked the ingredients and they really are top 8 free!), chocolate truffles, chocolate lollipops and chocolate "cups".
My kids loved the key lime and watermelon flavored gummis and the chocolate lollipop was especially a treat for my oldest son - he had never had chocolate on a stick before! If you're looking for a special treat for a loved one with food allergies this Valentine's Day, visit Indie Candy's website.
As a subscriber of the Eating With Food Allergies newsletter, you'll receive 15% off your order until February 14! Just enter the promo code URSweet (it's case sensitive) when checking out. Thanks, for the "sweet" offer, Indie Candy! :)
The Recipes of the Month
Healthy Comfort Foods
It's winter, it's cold and it's the perfect time of year for comfort foods!
Oatmeal Applesauce Cookies
These are an updated "oldie but goodie". Everyone knows that warm cookies right out of the oven are the ultimate in comfort food and these cookies are a relatively healthy treat. Might as well go ahead and make a double batch!
Dairy Free Chocolate Fondue.
When you think of comfort foods, fondue probably doesn't come to mind but it seemed fitting for this newsletter with Valentine's Day coming up. You can make it a healthier dessert by choosing fruits like tart green apples, bananas and strawberries as your dippers.
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