Living with food allergies and food sensitivities can make meal planning incredibly challenging. Often times, children or adults have multiple foods they must avoid which demands a lot of creativity on the primary chef of the house. Trying to plan a meal that is safe, delicious, and affordable comes with frustrations – I can attest to how difficult it can be! I have a little boy who struggles with both food allergies and sensitivities. One of the issues we face every day is not simply avoiding the food that he’s allergic to, but rather avoiding the cross-contamination in the factory where it was produced. Fortunately, after years of searching, I’ve realized that there are solutions and alternatives.
Milk, yogurt, cheese allergies
- Milk , yogurt, cheese Try using soy milk or almond milk (if there isn’t a tree nut allergy as well) on cereals, oatmeal, or as a drink. If yogurt sounds good, there are soy, rice, almond, and coconut yogurts on the market in a variety of flavors. These yogurts are not made with cow’s milk, but still have a creamy texture we’ve come to expect from our yogurts! Cheese is also made dairy-free. Try several vegan cheeses in the stores today that mimic their cheese counter-parts – from “mozzarella” to “cheddar.” Try a slice on your next Panini sandwich, sprinkle some on a salad, or try as a snack with gluten-free crackers.
- Wheat/Gluten – There are many gluten free items on the grocery shelves with more being continually developed – from flour to pasta to snack items. The gluten free pretzels are wonderful and kids won’t be able to tell the difference. Another alternative to gluten-free pasta is to try quinoa. This grain can be served as a side dish at dinner, part of breakfast, or even be made into puddings or breads. Thinking about a family spaghetti dinner? Spaghetti squash is a great alternative! Check the gluten-free section of your local store – any pasta that has been made with amaranth, rice, or buckwheat does not contain gluten and can be used in your recipes at home.
- Egg – Looking for a treat that doesn’t contain any eggs? Try a frozen bar like Philly Swirls or Luigi’s Italian Ice. If you need to make a cake, use vegetable oil, baking powder, and water as an egg substitute. In the mood for brownies? Try using 1/3 cup of applesauce for each egg needed. For any recipe calling for noodles, try brown rice instead. Or, if you’d like to make a lasagna, try using zucchini slices instead of the noodles.
Peanut and nut allergies
- Peanut and nut – This has been the bane of my safe-snack-searching existence. It seems like every granola bar and muffin has been made on the same equipment as tree nuts. Since we can’t take a chance on cross-contamination, we stock our kitchen with popcorn, fruit, and yogurt. I also make sure we always have frozen pretzels that can be baked in five minutes for a delicious, hot pretzel snack. Lately, I’ve been doing more baking from scratch to have a treat in the house so my son doesn’t feel like he’s missing out of some fun foods – like blueberry muffins and corn bread.
If you are avoiding certain foods because of an allergy, always check the label. You can also call the manufacturer to know the cross-contamination of your product. While food allergies and sensitivities can be overwhelming, there are alternatives and substitutes that are still healthy and delicious.
We would love to hear your creative solutions to dealing with food allergies and sensitivities!
If you or a loved one is struggling with food sensitivities and would like to speak with a Registered Dietitian, click here or call (301) 474-2499 to make an appointment!
Blog updated December 2019
Rebecca Bitzer loves to empower Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) and their clients. Co-author of Welcome to the Rebelution: Seven steps to the nutrition counseling practice of your dreams and Taste the Sweet Rebellion: Rebel against dieting.
I like all of your suggestions! I think you can use chia seeds as an egg substitute in cooking too? I’ve never tried it, but if you soak them in water they kind of clag up. They also a good omega 3 source, so if I were replacing eggs, I’d probably use this:
Re nut allergies, making your own granola is an easy option. It’s pretty painless and something kids can help make. If you buy all the ingredients separately, you can usually ensure no contamination.
Great news about using chia seeds…I hadn’t heard about that before! Thanks! Homemade granola is the perfect way to make sure everything is safe and kid-friendly! Do you have a favorite recipe?