Ways to Support Healthy Eating Habits in Children With Allergies

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According to the CDC, food allergies impact about 8% of children in the U.S. That’s one in 13 kids, which means about two children per classroom in the U.S. has some type of food allergy. Unfortunately, there is no cure for food allergies, which leaves many parents worried about their children’s safety when they’re at school, with friends, etc. 

Like any other allergy, food allergies can be quite dangerous if they aren’t handled properly. They can cause symptoms like: 

  • Hives/itching
  • Tingling in the mouth or throat
  • Swelling in the face and other parts of the body
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting

Obviously, no parent wants their child to experience such dangers. Once you know some of the foods your children are allergic to, you can start to put a plan in place that will adjust their diet and keep them safe. Thankfully, you can support healthy eating habits that not only will keep your child’s allergies at bay, but can encourage them to make smart food choices throughout their lives. 

So, what can you do to make sure they’re safe with what they eat without having to make drastic changes to their diet? 

Set a Positive Example

Children are always watching. One of the best things you can do to support healthy eating habits in children with allergies is to set an example within your family. If one child has allergies or something like a gluten intolerance, it can help them if the whole family gets on board with their food choices. 

You can make it easier on yourself (and the rest of your family) by creating a diet plan that everyone can follow. It should include foods that: 

  • Provide your child with enough vitamins and minerals
  • Don’t have high levels of trans fats
  • Don’t contain a lot of preservatives or sugar
  • Are high in lean protein

By adjusting the way your whole family eats, it’s more likely for your child with allergies to be okay with those changes, too. Having to adjust your meals can spark creativity, and you might actually enjoy the “challenge” of coming up with new, safe, and healthy dishes for everyone. 

Find Nutritious Substitutes

Kids are often notorious for being “picky eaters”. Unfortunately, that can make it hard to introduce new foods and healthy substitutes for the foods they’re allergic to. For example, peanut allergies are the second most prominent food allergy among children. If your child can’t have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches like all of their friends, you might want to introduce other nut butters, like almond or cashew. 

But, if they tend to be hesitant to try new things, keep some of the following tips in mind for your picky eater

  • Offer them small portions of the new food
  • Combine the new item with something they love
  • Describe the food with creativity and enthusiasm
  • Rotate meals
  • Don’t force them to eat it once they’ve tried it

By introducing healthy substitutes to your child, you can ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need without worrying about an allergic reaction. It can take some patience and creativity, but thinking outside the box can turn every meal time into an adventure for your child. 

Understand the Source of the Allergy

There is no one “trigger” that causes a food allergy to develop. But, it occurs when the body’s immune system reacts to a substance in the food that it views as a threat. So, the body triggers a reactive response, which can cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms. That’s why, in many cases, parents don’t know their children have food allergies until they eat something one day that causes a reaction. 

But, there are some links between allergies and dietary habits that are important to be aware of. Results from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey indicate that there may be a link between obesity and allergies. The survey found that children struggling with obesity were 25% more likely to develop a food allergy than those at a healthy weight.

Unfortunately, childhood obesity has become a major problem in recent years. As of 2016, over 15% of America’s youths were considered obese. Thankfully, much like adapting your childrens’ diet specifically to deal with allergies, you can also help them to make healthy choices that manage their weight. 

Whether you’re trying to get to the bottom of your child’s food allergies or demonstrate healthier choices for them, it can get overwhelming at times. In times when you feel like you’re struggling, remember the 3 big rocks of health

  • Consistency
  • Effort
  • Adaptability

Being consistent is incredibly important when it comes to children, as it allows them to form a routine. If you’re willing to put in the effort and adapt your own diet to show your children how easy it can be, they’re more likely to follow. That can lead to a lifetime of healthy eating habits. 

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