Recipes & Diet

Replacing Lost Nutrients Due to Food Allergies

Food allergies are a big factor that influences daily choices. Recent studies have demonstrated that children who have food allergies were found to be smaller than other children. Studies also show that children who are allergic to more than two foods were smaller than children who were only allergic to one or two foods.

Nutrients are necessary for proper growth and development. Removing two or more important foods can result in poor nutrition. So, it is important to meet your child's nutritional needs with a balanced diet.

If your child has food allergies, be ready to discuss your child's food intake at each visit with the allergist. In preparation for the visit, keep a food diary for a few days. A food diary is a simple journal where you write down everything your child eats on a notepad or on a form.

A food diary will be helpful to your child's allergist. Your allergist can review it to determine if important nutrients are missing from your child's diet. A food diary also can be used to see if you need a referral for a nutritional consultation from a registered dietitian.

Food allergy specialists provide guidance on foods to avoid. They can also tell you what foods to add or include when managing an allergen-restricted diet. You should only make dietary changes under medical guidance.

Label reading is very important when managing food allergies. You will need to carefully read labels to make sure there are no allergens in the foods your child will eat for each meal and snacks. You should check labels for allergens, even if your child has eaten the food safely in the past. Food manufacturers frequently change ingredients. The best way to avoid allergens is to read the label every time your child is going to eat a food.

Also, read the nutrition labels to make sure you include important nutrients in your child's diet when you are avoiding allergens.

The overall pattern of foods eaten becomes an important focus for a daily, healthy diet. It is not important to make sure that each meal is balanced. Instead add a variety of foods during the day to balance out a child's diet. How can you ensure that your child with food allergies has a healthy diet? Here are some suggestions:

  • First of all, focus on all the foods your child can eat by making food lists. Usually, it's amazing to see how many foods your child can eat when you use this approach.
  • Separate the foods listed into meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks), then into food groups.
  • At each meal, choose a food from each group to obtain a good balance of nutrients.
  • Highlight favorite foods with a colored highlighter marker on your list.
  • Add some unusual foods or foods from other countries to the list for more variety.
  • Your whole family can participate in the “favorite food” activity by printing initials next to favorite foods instead of highlighting them.
  • Check the pantry and refrigerator to see how many of the “can eat” and “favorite foods” are in your house.
  • Make a shopping list for foods so all of the foods for each meal are available to achieve a good balance in the diet.

What's the next step?

Decide which of the important nutrients may be missing in your child's diet due to an allergy and find an alternate source. The following information may help.

ALLERGEN

LOST NUTRIENTS

SUGGESTED ALTERNATE (If not allergic)

Milk

Protein, Calcium, Riboflavin, Phosphorus,Vitamins A, D, B12

Increase other protein foods: meat, fish, poultry, legumes, eggs (if safe for your child), fortified milk substitutes; leafy greens, calcium-fortified foods

Eggs

Protein, Iron, Biotin, Folacin, Riboflavin, Vitamins A, D, E, B12

Other protein foods: meats, fish, poultry, legumes, dairy (if safe for your child); fruit, vegetables, leafy greens, enriched grains

Soy

Protein, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Iron, Calcium, Zinc, Vitamin B6

Protein foods: meats, fish, poultry, legumes, eggs, dairy (if safe for your child); fruit, vegetables, leafy greens, enriched grains

Wheat

B Vitamins, Iron

Protein foods: meats, fish, poultry, legumes, eggs, dairy (if safe for your child); fruit, vegetables, leafy greens, fortified alternate grain products (rice, corn, oats, barley, buckwheat)

Peanuts and Tree Nuts

Protein, Vitamins, Minerals

Protein foods: meats, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy (if safe for your child); fruit, vegetables, enriched grains

Fish and Shellfish

Protein, Niacin, Vitamins B6, B12, A, E

Protein foods: meats, poultry, eggs, dairy (if safe for your child); fruit, vegetables, enriched grains

So, you can see from the chart if you avoid only one food due to an allergy, other foods can provide the same nutrients.

Milk’s biggest nutrient is calcium. You will need to find a milk substitute fortified with calcium. Otherwise, calcium may be the most difficult nutrient to replace for young, growing bodies. In that case, it may be necessary for you to discuss calcium supplements with the allergist or dietitian.

A growing number of food companies now make foods free of many common allergens. It is much easier now to choose foods to ensure adequate nutrition than even five years ago. When you choose foods, you will need to take time to read the labels and nutrition panels as well to learn as much as possible about the foods that are okay to include in your child’s diet.

It is important to get familiar with the nutritional implications of removing foods from the diet. These tips will help you and your family eat right, your way, every day, even when your child has food allergies.

Deb Indorato, RDDeb Indorato, RD, has served as nutrition advisor on the medical advisory team of Kids With Food Allergies since we began in 2005. She has a special interest in food allergies and consults with medical practices and businesses to educate staff on food allergies. She provides food allergy education for individuals and groups. She is also an allied health member of American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, and has served on its Adverse Reactions to Foods Committee.

 


Medical review March 2013.