Welcome to the Top 9 Allergy Free Toddler Guide
You’re likely here because you have a toddler who has been diagnosed with one or more food allergies. If you’re new, you’re going to hear the term “Top 8/9” or “Top 8/9 Free” here in the United States. In other countries, they have top 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 14 depending on the country.
The US Top 9 Allergens are:
- Wheat (not specifically gluten)
- Tree Nut (including coconut)
- Sesame (As of January 1, 2023)
What Does Top 9 Free Mean?
Top 9 free, means that a product or meal is free from the top 9 allergens listed above. This term does not reflect the nature of the manufacturing equipment or facility, just the final product. This Dairy Free Swaps article dives deeper into this topic if you’re interested.
When Is It a Good Idea to Go Top 9 Allergy Free?
If you or your child are allergic to one or more of the US top 9 allergens and are struggling to find safe food, it may be a good option. The US top 9 allergens are omitted from foods that say top 9 allergy free.
However, if it is a severe allergy, you will still need to call companies to ensure the allergen has not been processed on the same equipment, etc. I’ve found that about 30% of people with food allergies (self-report) that they can’t eat food made on shared equipment with what they’re allergic to.
What Foods Are Top 8 and Top 9 Free?
All fruits and meat are top 8/9 free. Since beans are considered a vegetable and soy is a bean, we can’t say ALL vegetables are top 8/9 free, but almost all vegetables are top 8/9 allergy free.
Flours not derived from wheat are also top 9 free (more on that in this gluten free flour article).
Outside of these blanket statement, it’s harder to say something like, all beverages are top 9 free, since some will contain allergens. Once we’ve moved past fruits, vegetables, meats, and wheat free grains/flours, it’s going to be product based.
RAISE has a Safe Product List that focuses on the top 8 allergens where you can see specific convenience products. The great news is that you can easily make top 8/9 free food at home. I know it’s daunting at first, but I promise, you’ll get the hang of things.
Can You Guarantee a Dish is Completely Free From Allergens?
Yes and no. I know, it’s not the answer you were hoping for. However, there’s a complex layer of variables involved.
Yes, you can guarantee a dish is completely free from allergens if you did all the raw material sourcing yourself, and made the food at home on your clean equipment. In this case there’s a good chance you’re purchasing massive amounts of raw materials directly from farms. Believe it or not, this is essentially how I do things here in our home.
No, you cannot guarantee a dish is completely free from allergens if someone else made the food and did not do their due diligence to your standards.
Yes, you can guarantee a dish is completely free from allergens if the food was made in a dedicated facility free from said allergens AND all other variables were accounted for. We’re talking about all the things not on the label. This Wednesday Workshop replay can further explain.
No, you cannot guarantee a dish is completely free from allergens if the food was made in a shared facility with or on shared equipment with said allergens.
Hopefully that helps you understand the issue a bit better. At the bottom of this article there are more resources that you can explore that talk more on these topics.
What About a Major Allergen & a Less-Common Allergen Diagnosis?
In this case, you will need to be vigilant in your label reading. Depending on the allergy diagnosis, I sometimes encourage people to stick to the basics and make food at home. Whilst it can be overwhelming in the beginning, it’s sometimes the only way to ensure safety.
If you have an allergy to onion for example, this is not a major allergen. Companies will not track every detail on every ingredient on how it pertains to onion. However, onion can be in a lot of packaged foods, and if you see the word “spices” or “natural flavours” you should be concerned.
A bit more on the above… If you call a company and ask if each ingredient has come into contact with dairy, they should have easy access to records to give you a quick answer. Dairy is one of the top 9, and therefore is closely monitored. If you ask about onion, they most likely won’t know, and would have to call every supplier, sub-supplier, and so on.
If you’re struggling with what to feed your toddler, this article may help: What to Feed Toddlers With Food Allergies: Common Struggles and Solutions
Food Allergy, Food Intolerance, Celiac Disease
An easy way to think about these three terms: An allergy can be life threatening, and an intolerance can make you mildly to extremely uncomfortable. Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder and the body will attack itself when gluten is ingested. You can read about the Hidden Sources of Gluten here.
How To Use the Top 9 Allergy Free Toddler Guide
The first several pages of this PDF guide contains tips and information you’ll find helpful. Following that you’ll find links to articles that can help you, especially if you’re newly diagnosed.
Finally, you’ll find 5 amazing recipes in the Top 9 Allergy Free Toddler Guide. Several of the recipes freeze well, and that’s important.
If you’re managing a child with food allergies, it can be very overwhelming to create food for them ALL. Day. Long. We like to encourage people to double batch where they can and freeze the extras. Frozen food can be pulled from whenever you need it, and almost like magic, your life is easier.
When creating the recipes in the Top 9 Allergy Free Toddler Guide, make sure you’re sourcing your raw materials from safe sources. If you and/or your child can tolerate trace amounts of allergens (from shared equipment/facility) you should be fine to purchase foods from allergy-aware companies.
For people who cannot tolerate trace amounts, it’s critical to source safe raw materials. RAISE provides safe product guides/lists for all members. This article about label reading is very helpful if you’re new to food allergies.
If You’d Like to Dive Deeper on Feeding a Toddler with Food Allergies
Enroll in the FREE Food Allergy Help 101: Toddlers mini (email) eCourse that you can sign up for. Over the course of 6 days you’ll receive emails loaded with information on topics related to toddlers with food allergies.
If you’d like, we can email you more toddler meal inspiration. Click here for our Ten Top 9 Free Toddler Meals Visual Inspiration.