After the first installment of Tips for Raising Kids with Allergies, Asthma, and Eczema, I received several emails and comments from people wondering if they or their children were showing symptoms of food allergies. I am not a doctor, and I suggest that you chat with your own doctor or your child’s pediatrician, but we saw great improvement in Remmy’s and Sophie’s overall well being once we changed their diet.
When I look back at some baby photos of Sophie, I get emotional. We didn’t know how extensive her food allergies were, and looking back, you could see it on her. Poor sleeping habits, redness around the eyes, skin rashes, frequent vomiting after nursing. We were told that she had reflux, then maybe that she was just allergic to dairy. She was losing weight, so they suggested supplementing with soy formula, only to find out that she was allergic to soy. It was an incredibly stressful and sad time for me, and we feel like we didn’t really turn a corner until right before her second birthday. More extensive allergy testing showed us that she was allergic to a few more foods, and once we eradicated those from her diet, we saw a vast improvement.
Again, I am not a doctor, but if your baby is vomiting frequently or not sleeping well, I suggest taking a deeper look to see if food allergies are the culprit. If your child has eczema, skin rashes, or is prone to wheezing, then I would look into his or her diet as well. If you google “elimination diet,” you’ll find that you can go on a plan where you remove all possible allergens from your diet for a couple of weeks and then slowly work them back in one at a time to see what’s bothering you. Allergy tests aren’t 100% accurate. You could be sensitive to eggs and it doesn’t register on the test results. Alternately, your body could react just fine to eggs even though your test results would suggest that you’re allergic to them.
I’m going to remind you that I am not a doctor to the point where it’s annoying, because I would hate for someone to take what I say as gospel truth. All of my evidence is anecdotal, based on my two children alone. If you want to try this out, read on, reader. :)
You can try eliminating the eight major food allergens from your diet. These account for an estimated 90 percent of allergic reactions:
milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat
You can try this for a month, see how you (or your kids) feel, and note any changes in symptoms. Has eczema/other rashes cleared up? Are your kids sleeping a little more soundly at night? Less itching? Clearer complexion? Less wheezing? Fewer cold symptoms? Improved overall well-being? AWWW YEAAAH. Throw some confetti in the air, because you’re one step closer to nailing your culprit.
At this point you could do one of two things: You could 1) try introducing each of these foods back into your (or your child’s) diet, one at a time or 2) get allergy testing done. I am a big advocate for allergy testing (despite it not being completely accurate), because through that, we were able to find out exactly what our kids are allergic to. Our line-up includes: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, and sesame. We do yearly testing, and it’s wonderful when we find out what we can re-introduce back into their diets. Just recently, Remmy got the okay to add milk, eggs, and wheat back into her diet. Sophie got the okay to add mustard into hers. We’re hoping as the years go on, we can add more foods to their diet.
All this to say, I would suggest doing both. Reintroduce foods because allergy testing isn’t completely accurate, but allergy test, because it’s a great way to get control of the situation. Make sense? Cool. :)
Now the rough part, I’m supposed to remove all of these foods from their diets? What are they supposed to eat?
I know. Really. Let me pound my fist against my chest in solidarity. Going out to eat is a pain. I swear every server hates me when I hand them a list of food allergies and say, “Can you make sure they put no butter whatsoever on their fish, pleeeeaase?”
Repeat after me: meat, rice, vegetables. Meat, rice, vegetables. When all else fails, I can roast some chicken, cook up some rice, and steam some broccoli or carrots for my kids for dinner. I’ve had to get creative in the kitchen (Jack is admittedly better than me at this), to come up with meals the whole family can enjoy, but the meat + rice + vegetables is a nice fallback. I have some go-to recipes that we use, but I don’t want to bore you guys with all of them since this obviously isn’t a food blog. If you’re interest, let me know, and I’ll put together a post.
Here is an extensive list of packaged foods that we eat. I’m so glad that even though my kids have food allergies, they have them in a day and age where there are a lot of resources available. While we can’t order a pizza or pick up sandwiches at a local deli, it’s nice to know that we can have breakfast food, snacks, and dessert available. We’re lucky enough to live fairly close to a Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods. If neither of these are an option for you, a lot of them are also available online. I’ve noted as such below.
Note: Allergen friendly food is craaaaazy expensive. Our grocery bill has gone up a lot. I cook from scratch as much as possible to keep prices low, but when you’re first starting out, it’s nice to know what you like before spending hours in the kitchen slaving away on a recipe your whole fam might crinkle their noses at. I make my own granola bars, but sometimes I’ll still order some online. I order from Amazon often, and I wrote a blog post here on tips for saving money at Whole Foods.
*Please make sure that you read labels before eating them or serving them to your kids. As far as foods that have been manufactured in a facility that also contains peanuts, we’re comfortable serving those to our kids, because we believe (after calling many companies) that the risk of contamination is slim. Also, Remmy’s nut allergies are not airborne.
These are only foods that we’ve tried and enjoyed. There are a lot of ‘allergen-free’ foods out there that are, in my humble opinion, really gross. (Ex: No one in my family would touch Van’s Gluten Free/Egg Free/Dairy Free waffles.) Plus, if you or your kids are used to real chocolate chip cookies with real butter and eggs, some of the substitutes taste a little like dirt. And just to clarify, we eat plenty of fresh fruit + vegetables with chicken or fish, mostly. This is just a list of convenience/packaged foods that we use. :)
I split them up into breakfast/snacks/dessert, but we’re known to eat yogurt at dinnertime, so your mileage may vary here.
Here’s what we like:
- So Delicious coconut yogurt
- So Delicious coconut milk
- Enjoy Life Cinnamon Raisin Crunch granola
- Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free pancake mix
- Trader Joe’s coconut yogurt
- Trader Joe’s O’s
- Nature’s Path O’s
- Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oatmeal
- Trader Joe’s Sunflower Seed butter (Use to replace peanut butter; my girls love a sun-butter + jam sandwich!)
- Food for Life brown rice bread
- Trader Joe’s tahini-free hummus
- Simply 7 Lentil Chips (Dip these in hummus! So good.)
- Whole Foods brown rice cakes (spread sunbutter on them and drizzle with honey)
- Trader Joe’s brown rice pasta
- Udi’s Gluten Free bread (this contains egg!)
- Sam Mills spaghetti (made w/corn flour)
- Enjoy Life Chewy Cocoa Loco bars
- Snackimals Oatmeal Cookies (On Amazon it lists soy lecithin as an ingredient, but that is outdated. None of our packages have soy lecithin on them. I emailed the company to confirm, and the rep stated that they have not used soy lecithin in this product for quite some time now.)
- Happy Baby Spinach + Mango + Pear pouches
- Trader Joe’s Snickerdoodles
- Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks
- Enjoy Life Snickerdoodles
- Bob’s Red Mill Chocolate Cake mix (make with rice milk + flax seed egg subsitute)
- Izzi B’s cookies + cupcakes (allergen free bakery; they ship! Their sugar cookies + gingerbread house kits are amazing for holidays)
- Enjoy Life mini chips or mega chunks (vegan, soy-free chocolate, great for baking)
- sorbet, most varieties (Sorbet, not sherbet. Sherbet usually has dairy. Double check ingredients before buying.)
- So Delicious Dairy Free Coconut Milk ice cream
If this post was way too long, and you just scrolled to the end, here’s the TL;DR summary: Could your diet or your child’s diet be the culprit behind some symptoms like sniffly-ness, eczema, and poor sleep? Maybe. Find out by changing your diet, and here’s some food we like to eat. Boom. :)
Check out all of the posts related to allergies, asthma, and eczema here.