Strict avoidance of the offending food is the only way to avoid an allergic reaction from food allergies. While many children will outgrow some of their food allergies, many will not, especially if they have a moderate to severe peanut allergy, or have experienced anaphylaxis.
Important nutrients can be lost and neglected when you have food allergies and have to eliminate one or more foods from you or your child’s diet. A parent with a child who has a long-term restricted diet must be managing a child’s nutrition and growth, and find safe sources of nutrients to ensure a nutritionally-balanced diet for adequate growth and development.
Managing a Child’s Nutrition and Growth
Can a dietitian help?
Maybe, or maybe not.
If you or your child is diagnosed with food allergies, a dietitian may be able to help in planning your allergen-free diet to assure you get the nutrients you need. Since food allergy is not a topic regularly covered in the educational and practice training of most dietitians, ask your allergist to recommend a dietitian he or she may have worked with in the past and has a good relationship with.
If your allergist doesn’t have a preferred dietitian to recommend to you, ask for the contact information of a local food allergy support group. A support group is a wonderful source of referrals, information, first-hand knowledge, and experiences. Plus, you will have the opportunity to meet local members who are going through the same struggles you are, and who can offer emotional support as well.
Learning to self-manage your child’s diet.
If you’re struggling to find a dietitian in your area familiar with the needs of a food allergy patient, you can learn to self-manage you or your child’s diet by educating yourself through food allergy/dietary books, or with information from reputable websites on the internet.
The USDA website has a Food and Nutrition Information Center which includes a guide to the Dietary Reference Intakes: Recommended Intakes for Individuals, organized by age and gender. This guide is a comprehensive set of dietary reference intake tables for vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients; including calcium and Vitamin D.
Food allergy advocacy and support groups like Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network and Kids with Food Allergies Foundation are another valuable sources of information. These sites contain nutritional articles written specifically for food allergy patients, food allergy management information, label reading guidelines, food allergy substitution information, recipes, and more.
If you choose to self-manage you or your child’s diet, be sure to keep a log of your dietary intake to share with your allergist and your primary care physician.
Yes, managing a child’s nutrition and growth is challenging, but with education, research, and support, a diet high in nutritional value can be achieved.