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Feeding Toddlers with Food Allergies, Celiac Disease, and Restricted Diets

What to Feed Toddlers With Food Allergies: Common Struggles and Solutions

    Today we’re going to talk about feeding toddlers with food allergies. The age range for today’s information is going to be 18 months-ish to 5-ish. Think preschool/daycare ages. I shared some of this information on Instagram stories, but have add more details and links for you to enjoy.

    As you can imagine, a lot of people come to me for help on the topic of feeding a toddler with food allergies. The group of people who struggle the most: parents who don’t have a food allergy, and therefore, no point of reference. I’ll be sharing some basic concepts and information you can run with.

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    My toddler is allergic to eggs and there’s nothing to feed them.

    Let’s reframe this first… Rather than thinking their allergy leaves you no options, try:

    My toddler is allergic to eggs and I’ll need to bake at home. That’s not convenient and I have a lot going on and perhaps I’m stressing over this.

    Solution: Have a friend or family member come over one evening or weekend to help you batch cook and fill your freezer with baked goods for this toddler. This allows you to have “fast food” on hand that only requires you to remember to thaw it out. Set a thaw reminder on your phone if you have to.

    Thinking Deeper: When it’s 20 minutes to dinner time and you’re overwhelmed by all the things, it’s going to feel like there’s nothing to feed anyone with a food allergy, food intolerance, special or restricted diet. You can’t run to the store to grab something or order takeout.

    The Root Cause of This: We have no plan and no access to convenience foods. We solve this by having food available at all times in the freezer. Even if you forget to thaw something, you can still heat it up in the oven. There’s a delay, but there’s also something coming soon.

    RAISE has a lot of baked good recipes that are toddler friendly and are ALL EGG FREE (and gluten free, and dairy free, and nut free, and more). They also freeze well for 4 months+.

    My toddler is allergic to so much and I’m afraid to feed them.

    The fear is real. RAISE has tools to help manage this including a video podcast on food fear.

    The biggest tip I can give you: be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. Only introduce one new food at a time and make sure it’s a true pass before moving on. It’s a LONG process, but it also brings peace of mind.

    Once you have at least 10 safe raw materials, you can start to make fun combinations. This Allergy Seminar on Introducing New Foods to Free-From Toddlers takes a very deep dive on how to select which foods to try, how to introduce said foods, and more.

    I just don’t know what to feed my toddler.

    Answer: What you’re eating (that’s safe for them).

    Feeding a toddler is like feeding an older kid. The only big difference is offering things deconstructed, and maybe make the flavours a little more mellow.

    Simple example: Noodles tossed in a safe fat + side fruit + side veg. DONE. You fed your toddler, it’s balanced, and all is right in the world.

    Here is an AMAZING GF + Top 9 Free Toddler Cookbook that SHOWS you lots of food options for toddlers.

    My toddler is allergic to all the things I’m use to cooking and I don’t know where to start.

    Answer: Find a blogger/book/resource that gets real close to meeting the needs of your toddler. Follow the recipes and get the hang of things. Also, just buy the resource(s) such as cookbooks. Now’s not the time to be frugal if you’re really stressing out about it.

    RAISE has an Advanced Recipe Search with more than 85 filters for common and less common allergens, food families/groups, special diets (FPIES, Low Histamine, Paleo, GAPs, etc etc etc), EOE, and even specific meal types like pancakes, or chicken.

    Do yourself a favor and take it for a test spin, ASAP. Like, click that link and look. I’ll wait…

    My toddler is a picky/selective eater and doesn’t like their safe food.

    You’re in a real pickle. I’m not going to sugar coat it.

    Follow accounts on Instagram right NOW that deal with picky eating and do all the things. Don’t delay. Whilst I dabble in picky eating on RAISE, it’s not the focal point, and you need to make sure your kiddo is eating well.

    Two of my favourite accounts on Instagram are Kids.Eat.In.Color and FeedingLittles.

    Also, don’t be afraid of foods that don’t seem perfect. If your kid will eat a chicken nugget and someone gives you side-eye, keep living your life. At the end of the day, that person isn’t taking care of your kid. You are. They can move along.

    I resent my toddler and their diagnosis.

    I’ve seen this before… it never ends well…

    So, a few things.
    1. Self care. This is no joke in this situation. If you’re pouring from an empty cup, you’re going to hate everything. The added stress of a food allergy and/or restricted diet is going to get to you, and fast.

    2. Therapy. If it’s getting to a really bad point, you need coping tools ASAP. Seeking help does not make you a bad/weak person or parent. In fact, it shows your commitment to taking care of yourself and your family.

    3. Divert resources. Find a way to hire some help. Either help making the food, or help in another area that eases the stress so you can refocus on the food.

    4. Make it fun. I can’t stress this enough. For me personally, if I have to make the same foods over and over again, I get bored and I HATE going into the kitchen. The real fun for me is the pioneering of new free-from foods. Figure out what makes it fun for you and go with it.

    5. Reward Yourself. If it can’t be fun for some awful reason, put a reward system in place. You need to feel like you’re getting something out of the deal. In addition to making it fun, I also purchase LEGO sets for myself. Sure, I never build them and have a huge backlog… but the thrill is in the purchase, and knowing that the set will retire and one day when I finally have the time I’ll build something.

    Having a child with a dietary restriction or illness etc. is HARD. There’s this silent suffering that happens among parents and caregivers and it’s almost never ending. I’ve been there. I KNOW this battle and it’s a long long long long road.

    Know this: on the days where you’re struggling, feeling like you’re drowning in life, and are on an island all alone… YOU ARE NOT ALONE. The CDC estimates 1 in 13 children have food allergies, though, this doesn’t even include food intolerance, and the undiagnosed. I’ve spoken with a lot of experts who think the number is much different. What it means though is that a lot of other parents are in a similar situation. Look for a support group in your area where you can connect with others. You may even be able to schedule a playdate or two.

    Bottom line, prioritize finding a solution. Also, make sure your health is on point as well. If you have unchecked things going on, it’s going to exacerbate the situation.

    I’m afraid my toddler’s nutritional needs aren’t being met.

    This is a very valid concern, especially with certain free-from combinations.

    You can have your GP run panels to check levels. Make sure you get a copy of the results and do your own research as well. Some doctors will tell you everything is “fine” if you’re literally ONE percentage point from a deficiency… I’m like…. uh… no. We’re going to work on that number a bit which is clearly lacking.

    Make sure you understand the actual daily needs of your child. A lot of people over-estimate protein and omega needs. Remember, they have tiny (cute) little bodies. Ugh… So squish-able, and the cheeks! Kid Two had cheeks for daaayyyssss.

    The point is, the RDA for toddlers is pretty low, and most needs are easy to meet. Smoothies are a great way to pack in the nutrition.

    Will my child’s food allergies go away?

    So, the longer you know me, the more you’re going to hear: no two people are the same. Period, hard stop. Sure, there are some general trends and predictions that we can make, but at the end of the day, no two people are the same. Even within the same family where people are allergic to the same thing, their responses can be different.

    I cannot stress this enough: DO NOT HANG YOUR HOPES ON THIS THOUGHT. The longer you “hold out” for your child to grow out of their allergy like some other kids you’ve heard about, the more harm you’re doing to yourself.

    I’ve found it’s better to accept things as they are, adapt, persevere, look for the positives, and THEN, if it happens to you, awesome. Celebrate. However, don’t sit around waiting for it to happen. There’s just no guarantee.

    Case and point. Recently there was news of a child who died from an allergic response after “passing” OIT. Oral Immunotherapy is considered a form of food allergy treatment. It works for some, but not all. Some kids never make it past dose two. Others pass the food only to react a few years later, and that’s with following maintenance doses to the letter. I could go on, but you get the idea. There’s no way to accurately predict how your child will respond.

    Let me frame it a different way. I want you to really think about these two questions:

    • Will my child die without this ingredient in their diet?
    • Would I feed my child rat poison?

    If you answered no to both questions, you’re on the right track. For some parents, when they realize that allergens are essentially a poison to their child (makes them very sick as a poison would), suddenly, it all clicks and they lose the desire to “get the food back”.

    Now, trend wise, here’s what I can tell you. Asian boys tend to outgrow food allergies the most, based on the anecdotal evidence I’ve seen. It could be the traditional Asian diet that naturally builds gut health, something in their DNA, or a whole host of other reasons. Again, even if you’re raising an Asian boy, that piece of info doesn’t mean he’ll outgrow his food allergy.

    Truthfully, this is something I could talk about for another 10 pages or so, but I don’t want to keep you all day, so let’s move on.

    Is Preschool/Daycare safe for my toddler with a food allergy?

    There’s an Allergy Seminar on RAISE about this. Here’s the hard truth: depending on the allergy and how severe the reactions are, preschool can be one of the most dangerous places for a child with food allergies.

    I’ve had a lot of people report that their child had the MOST reactions at preschool. The seminar goes into depth on the whys, how you could work around it, etc.

    I know for some people preschool/daycare is the only option, so I’m honestly wishing you all the best on your journey.

    RAISE has a section of toddler resources to help you with your daily journey of taking care of a child with food allergies and/or a restricted diet. The Advanced Recipe Search will help you filter through more than 500 recipes with over 85 filters to meet the needs of your household.

    Don’t forget to check out the GF + Top 9 Free Toddler Cookbook. You can also purchase the GF + Top 9 Free Muffin Recipe Cookbook. Want to become a RAISE Member and unlock over 1,000 recipes and resources? Check out the Membership Levels here.

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