Judy More, Paediatric Dietitian and Registered Nutritionist
It can be stressful if your toddler has a food allergy, especially when preparing food or eating out at a restaurant (which can be stressful enough anyway at the best of times!). Knowing what to do with toddler food allergy can help in your everyday life.
If you’re shopping, remember to:
- Read food labels: Especially foods that say ‘new’ or ‘improved’ on the packaging
- Download a food app: Apps such as Food Maestro or Spoon Guru make being allergy aware that much easier, allowing you to scan the food packaging’s barcode to see the ingredients
- Find ‘free-from’ lists: Both supermarkets and manufacturers make ‘free from’ lists that can be useful. Always check for the most recent list
- Double check ingredients: Even when using the ‘free-from’ list or an app, be sure to always check the ingredients on the packaging
What to do with toddler food allergy when cooking?
- Change your recipe repertoire: There are lots of special diet cookbooks with meals and snacks for all sorts of diets, not to mention the many recipes which are out there online which can fit your toddler’s needs
- Avoid cross contamination: Wash hands and utensils thoroughly, especially chopping boards, and use different spoons for serving different foods. If possible, it’s best to keep everyone’s menu free from the food which your toddler is allergic to.
Treating the family at a restaurant? Be sure to:
- Not be afraid to bring your own food: Bringing along some food that you are sure your toddler can eat is a good option when eating out. This way you will know that there will definitely be something they can safely eat!
- Remember your chef’s card: These can be downloaded online and can be presented to the chef or manager, with details of your toddler’s allergy. Be sure to check the information you put on this with a dietitian. Don’t rely on what the person serving you says – most likely they won’t be aware of all the ingredients that go into a dish.
- Ask questions: one of the most important thing to do with food allergy is to ask lots of questions – ring the restaurant in advance and ask if they can cater for your toddler’s food allergy. Remember to ask about the cleaning of utensils and serving of foods, because this is where cross contamination can happen! Ask to check food labels and ingredients whenever possible.
- Avoid foods: If you do not know the ingredients of a dish, it’s best to avoid it entirely! This is especially important if your toddler’s allergy is severe
These practical tips will help you in coping with your toddler’s food allergy, however they are not a substitute for proper medical diagnosis or dietary advice given by a dietitian. It is important to ask to see a dietitian who will be able to advise you on how to make sure that your toddler’s diet is nutritionally balanced. A dietitian can also advise you on suitable food substitutes. Toddlers avoiding certain foods because of food hypersensitivity should be regularly assessed by a doctor and/or dietitian. They may need a special supplement.
We hope you have found these tips for toddler food allergy useful – why not share and make sure all your friends are allergy aware too? For further information, read more at Managing Food Hypersensitivity.