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[Sponsored] A Delicate Balance: Tips for Managing Nutrition, Stress, and Food Aversion When Your Child Has Food Allergies

 

We thank Else Nutrition for their sponsorship of this blog post to help us share information about nutrition for children with food allergies. This is a sponsored post and is not an endorsement of any company or its products, nor is it a guarantee of the products’ safety. The funding we received for this advertisement helps support our free food allergy and asthma programs.

Note: Else Nutrition products contain almond. To learn more about their products’ ingredients, contact Else Nutrition.


If you feel overwhelmed by your child’s food allergy, you are not alone. In the My Life With Food Allergy Parent Survey Report from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), 75% of parents said food allergies give them fear and anxiety.

And 86% of families are managing multiple food allergies, which can make management even more stressful. If your child has food allergies – especially to multiple foods – you are probably asking, “What is safe for my child to eat?”

That may seem like a simple question, but it’s goes much deeper. Families managing food allergies want food that:

  • Doesn’t contain their child’s allergens
  • Is nutritious
  • Is appealing to their child
  • Is affordable
  • Is easily available
  • Is convenient

So how can parents and caregivers provide nutritious family meals while managing their child food allergies? Malina Malkani, MS, RDN, CDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist, Else Nutrition brand partner, and author, shared some advice with Kids With Food Allergies (KFA).



Malina Malkani - registered dietitian nutritionist

Malina Malkani, MS, RDN, CDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist, Else Nutrition brand partner, and author



KFA: What are some time-saving, stress-reducing meal prep tips for parents of children with food allergies?

Malina: Making sure kids are getting the nutrients they need to thrive can indeed seem overwhelming and at times, expensive, especially for the parents of children with food allergies. Here are some of my favorite time-saving tips:

  • Take a couple of hours each week to sit with your child and plan the week of meals and snacks ahead. Not only does this save us from the 5 p.m. panicked moment of wondering “What is for dinner?!” when everyone is hungry and patience levels are running low, but when kids are a part of the process of meal planning, cooking, and shopping, they feel more of a sense of ownership and control over their food and are more invested in eating what is served.
  • Find a moment to wash, trim, and chop some fresh raw vegetables and possibly make a nutritious dip, like hummus or white bean dip. Store these in the refrigerator for the week ahead so that during those moments when kids are hungry and more likely to try whatever is placed in front of them, you are ready with a healthy, safe option in a form that allows them to personalize the snack (such as choosing how much dip to place on each vegetable stick).



KFA: Feeding a child with food allergies can get expensive. What are some ways parents can save money while feeding their child safe, nutritious foods?

Malina: Stock up when favorite brands go on sale. Research and find allergen-friendly brands that you know and trust for staple foods your child likes and can safely eat. Buy them in bulk when you find a deal.

See your allergist regularly. If your child outgrows a food, the sooner you know, the wider your range of food and brand purchasing choices will be.



KFA: When children have multiple food allergies, it can be harder to make sure they get the right nutrition. Can allergy-friendly supplements help balance the diet of a child with multiple food allergies?

Malina: While a food-first approach is best from both a nutrition and feeding perspective, supplements can help fill in gaps and reduce everyone’s stress levels about nutrient intake. This is especially true during periods of time when kids are going through picky eating phases, are newly diagnosed with food allergies, or are adjusting to a new diet and learning to like a variety of foods (which can take time for some children).

Some formulas and nutritional supplements like Else’s Plant-Based Complete Nutrition Formula for Toddlers and Plant-Powered Complete Nutrition Shakes for Kids (contains almond) can be served as a beverage or added into recipes so kids from toddler age and up can get the nutrients they need in foods and beverages they enjoy.



KFA: If a parent gives a child a nutritional supplement, what is an ideal balance of food and supplements?

Malina: The ideal balance of supplements and foods is unique to each child. And it usually changes over time depending on a number of factors, including the child’s medical conditions, dietary restrictions, and age. Working with your child’s pediatrician and a registered dietitian can help determine the best balance that both supports a child’s feeding progression and optimizes their nutrition.



KFA: What if the child doesn’t want to drink the supplement? What can parents do to encourage their child to drink it?

Malina: When you have a child who is resistant to supplements or balanced food choices that are important for their growth and development, it’s easy in a moment of their refusal to get frustrated. I try to help the parents in my private practice who are struggling with this to zoom back and consider the larger feeding dynamic that may be contributing to the child's resistance.

Kids do best from a feeding perspective when they are given both structured guidance and independence. Rather than trying to force, sneak, bribe, reward, or pressure certain foods or supplements into a child during these charged moments, parents often have much more long-term success (and more enjoyable mealtimes) when they focus on the “how” of feeding, rather than the “what.”

Examples might include enlisting kids in the process of finding a way to make supplements more palatable (like brainstorming together about what can be added to a smoothie to make it taste good), enlisting kids in the process of meal planning, shopping, cooking, and food prep, and giving them ownership over a limited set of healthy food choices that parents choose.



KFA: How can parents encourage their child to try new foods if the child is a picky eater, has food aversion, or has food-related anxiety?

Studies show that it can take an average of 10 to 15 exposures to a new food before a child will accept it. Repeated food exposures (and parental patience without pressure!) are key, especially for children with food allergies who may also be selective eaters, and who may have wider nutrient gaps made worse by food refusal and dietary restrictions.

There is value in every exposure to a new food even if the child doesn’t taste it. For many children, even just allowing a tiny, pea-sized amount of a new food to sit untouched on the plate is a win that helps reduce food-related anxiety and brings them one step closer to eating the food on their terms.

For kids with food allergies who are also selective eaters, supplements offer a tasty, comforting way to meet a child’s nutrient needs and reduce everyone’s anxiety levels as kids learn to eat a balanced diet while working through food aversions and avoiding allergens.



KFA: Should parents try to sneak nutrition into their child’s diet?

Malina: I actually don’t recommend sneaking anything into a child’s diet. It’s important to keep the long view in mind when it comes to feeding kids. Ultimately, the goal is to help them learn to make healthy, balanced food choices for themselves. We can contribute to that goal by giving them a sense of ownership and control over the process.

It can be tempting to sneak certain foods or ingredients into their meals for the potential short term nutrient benefit, but nine times out of 10, they’ll figure it out. It then becomes counterproductive, often leading to a sense of mistrust in caregivers and makes them less willing to try new foods. It also communicates to them that whatever food we’ve snuck into their meal is undesirable, making it less likely that they’ll voluntarily eat it going forward (even if they find that they like it!).

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KFA: When should a parent of a child with food allergies consult with a dietician/nutritionist?

Malina: It’s wise for parents of children with food allergies to consult with a dietitian any time there are concerns about the child’s nutrition or growth, questions about how to meet the child’s nutrient needs given allergy-driven limitations in food choices, understanding food labels, and how to avoid certain foods, and if the parent needs guidance on meal planning for the family in the context of food allergies.

It’s also helpful to meet with a dietitian if and when kids are newly diagnosed with food allergies, and also when and if kids outgrow those food allergies, which may lead to confusion about how to move forward.

Upgraded Easy Blender Pancakes

By Malina Malkani

These Upgraded Easy Blender Pancakes made with Else Complete Nutrition Shakes for Kids are quick and easy gluten-free, peanut-free, milk-free, soy-free pancakes that offer complete nutrition in a familiar, delicious food. They include only six ingredients and require little cleanup. The recipe also includes an egg-free option for our little ones with egg allergies.

Serves: 6

Serving Size: Three 3-inch pancakes

Total Prep: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 2 cups whole oats
  • 2 bananas
  • 2 eggs (or for egg-free kiddos, combine 2 Tbsp chia seeds and 5 Tbsp water and let sit for 5 minutes for an egg substitute)
  • 6 scoops Else Plant-Powered Complete Nutrition Shake for Kids in Creamy Vanilla*
  • A little butter, avocado oil, or safe oil for your child (for cooking)

*Contains almonds

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients except butter or oil into the pitcher of a high-speed blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter (or heat the oil of your choice).
  4. Reduce heat to low once butter is melted and spoon batter into the skillet so that it spreads into 3-inch-wide pancakes. Cook for about 2 minutes per side or until lightly browned. Add more butter or oil between batches as needed.
  5. Serve hot.

Mom-hack: Make a double batch and freeze the extra in a freezer-safe container for busy mornings. Keeps in the freezer for up to 3 months.

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You don’t have to manage your child’s food allergies alone. KFA provides educational information, food allergy news, a collection of more than 1,500 Safe Eats® recipes and new allergy-friendly foods alerts. We also have a free online community where you can talk with other parents and caregivers managing food allergies in a safe, encouraging environment.

JOIN NOW

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  • Malina Malkani - registered dietitian nutritionist: Malina Malkani - registered dietitian nutritionist

Kids With Food Allergies (KFA) is a division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). AAFA is the largest and oldest nonprofit patient organization dedicated to asthma and allergies. KFA educates families and communities with practical food allergy management strategies to save lives and improve the quality of life for children and their families. Our online community includes public blogs. To post a comment, you will need to register or sign in. Registered members have access to additional specialized support forums for food allergies. Registration is free!

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A Division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
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