Kid with Food Allergies

Tips For Having a Child with Food Allergies

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Having a child with food allergies can be scary and a huge change in lifestyle. Simple things like going out to eat, having sleepovers, attending family gatherings, are all made complicated by food allergies and sensitivities.


Our Experience with Food Allergies

My oldest son was diagnosed with food allergies and sensitivities when he was 20 months old. We had known something was wrong internally due to his chronic eczema I wrote about previously, which is why we got him tested for allergies. Once we removed the foods he was allergic and sensitive to, his eczema cleared up.

He is slightly allergic to egg whites and sensitive to gluten and dairy products. That’s a lot for a little guy to give up his whole life. Luckily though none of his allergies are life-threatening, so far they just give him eczema.

During my pregnancy with him I was on an elimination diet due to my recent diagnosis of an autoimmune disease. I found that gluten, dairy, soy, avocado, and spinach didn’t agree with me, among other things. When I first was pregnant with him, I ate strict Autoimmune Protocol which basically had me just eating high-quality meats and vegetables, minus nightshades, and some fruit. All that to say, we were used to a restricted diet, though sad our son had to have one.


Eliminating the Enemy (The Foods that were Hurting Him)

Switching our son from the Standard American Diet to a diet without gluten, dairy, and egg, wasn’t fun. He had gotten used to his Teddy Grahams, Ritz Crackers, Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese, to name a few. It’s hard to explain to a kid who isn’t even 2 yet that he can’t eat these things anymore. Luckily, in a sense, it was very apparent on his skin that what he ate made him itchy.

We described it to him that the allergy tests we had done said these foods hurt his body inside and made his body itchy on the outside. We were going to have him stop eating these foods and see if that helps the itchiness go away. It was a little easier for us, I’m guessing since I already eliminated most of those foods from my diet. Our dinners were already gluten and dairy-free and for the most part, eliminating egg wasn’t too difficult since we’d done it before. We did need to adapt breakfast and lunch for him though.

Though he was 19 months old I was still breastfeeding him once a day before naptime so I also had to eliminate egg once again, luckily I already didn’t eat gluten and dairy. I think that me also eliminating eggs helped him a bit since he wasn’t the only one needing to change his diet.

Another way we explained it is instead of eating anything he wants like Daddy does, he would eat more like Mommy does. It’s true and made him feel a little better like he was just switching teams, not that this would be a hindrance the rest of his life.

I was already quite well versed at the proper protocols for ensuring he didn’t accidentally ingest anything he was allergic to, especially gluten. Gluten is a tricky one with cross-contamination. I don’t even allow wheat flour in the house because it is too easy for it to spread onto a shared surface. We had separate toasters already, one for gluten and one for gluten-free items. Since two of us couldn’t have gluten and dairy and only my husband could eat whatever he wanted, it was actually kind of funny to have the “normal eating person” be the odd man out. I suddenly didn’t feel so outnumbered in one way at least.

We found crackers and waffles he was able to eat, incorporated more veggies and fruits into his diet, and of course, increased the grocery budget because specialty foods are expensive.

allergen-friendly yogurt, waffles, and two types of crackers

Food Allergies Were ‘Easier’ Before Siblings

When he was diagnosed with food allergy and sensitivities, he was an only child. That made it easier to change his diet than having siblings that can eat whatever they want. However, within a month of him being diagnosed, I found out I was pregnant with identical twins. Soon he’d be outnumbered by siblings and once they could eat solids he and I would be in the minority again.

Once his siblings were old enough to eat solids, we did introduce the foods that our oldest can’t eat, figuring that long term it’s better if they can eat “normal” if possible. It’s a huge bummer to not be able to go out to eat without being afraid of cross-contamination or eat like their friends.

With how much he used to LOVE Teddy Grahams, I was nervous to introduce them to his little brothers, afraid he’d freak that he couldn’t have them. Luckily it had been over a year since he couldn’t eat them so when I gave them to his little brothers it didn’t bother him as much as I thought it would.

I did, however, have to find more substitutions for foods that we let his brothers have. This includes making him crackers with peanut butter in them since he can’t have Ritz Bits, and finding granola bars he can eat.

As the twins get older, it is more difficult for my oldest to understand that they can eat things that he can’t. I do my best to find substitutions but it’s not always possible. When we make baked goods, we generally use an egg replacer so he can eat what we make. Every once in a while though I want to make something with eggs, much to my eldest’s dismay. To my credit, it’s usually breakfast food and he isn’t awake when I eat breakfast.

At one point, my eldest got upset because his brothers got those cute little frozen pancakes and he didn’t. I couldn’t find a substitution so I made a whole box of pancakes, mini-sized, and froze them. He LOVED this and I’ve done it ever since, always making sure to make a new batch before the eats the last of the prior batch.

pancakes I made for him so he had some frozen ones just like his brothers

Navigating Food Outside the Home

Though our son’s food allergies and sensitivities aren’t life-threatening, we are very careful to ensure he doesn’t encounter cross-contamination. The doctor had initially told us we could choose to reintroduce the foods and see how it goes. We did this only with baked egg in bread and he got itchy again so hasn’t wanted to try it since. That’s probably for the best. With the history of autoimmune disease in the family, running at least three generations deep, he doesn’t need something further upsetting his gut.

When he went to preschool we always sent a snack with him instead of the snack they were having in class, even if it may have been safe for him. Gluten, dairy, and egg are hidden in a lot of things one wouldn’t expect. Some brands of Veggie Straws are gluten-free while others aren’t. Some brands of chips are gluten-free while others aren’t. Unless someone reads the label of everything he’s given, we can’t be sure it’s safe. That is something that I as the parent feel falls on me, not on his teacher, she’s got enough to deal with. I did ask his teacher for the snack schedule so I could try and send him with a similar snack to what they were having.

When he would go to a playdate, before COVID-19 hit, we’d always bring a snack for him as well. When we’d gather with family for celebrations, pre-COVID, we always brought our own food as well. I’d been doing that for several years before he came along so now I just do that for one more person, no biggie. Sometimes we get lucky and there will be fresh fruit, veggies, or another dish that we’re able to eat at the gathering. When we can, we also bring a dish to share that is something that we all can eat. Other times, like mashed potatoes with sour cream that our extended family loves, we bring the good stuff that he and I aren’t able to eat but I’ll make some basic mashed potatoes that we can have. Side note, I did find a dairy-free sour cream lately that is safe for us to eat. Woot!

Once he’s in public school, if I don’t homeschool him, we plan on sending him with snacks and lunch as well. At least it’s rather typical for kids to bring their own lunch from home so hopefully, he won’t feel too left out.


The Things I Perceive He’ll Miss Out On

I feel bad that he has these food allergies and sensitivities because that makes him different. I think about all of the birthday parties, classroom celebrations, and sleepovers that he’ll feel different since he can’t eat what everyone else is eating. We’ve considered trying sublingual immunotherapy to help him not be allergic to these foods anymore but so far have decided against it. From what I have learned about food sensitivities and healing the gut, I feel it’s best for him to just avoid these foods forever, but I also realize that’s not ideal. It’s hard to know what to do, really.

One good thing is we taught him early on what his allergies and sensitivities are. He knows them to the point he even asks me if a new food I give him is gluten, dairy, and egg-free. I always assure him that I’d never give him something that wasn’t but that I do appreciate him asking and I hope he’ll always ask people.


We Realize We Are Lucky

Though our son has food allergies and sensitivities, we consider ourselves very lucky they aren’t severe. At this point if he eats gluten, dairy, or egg he’ll end up scratchy for a while until it works it’s way out of his system. We realize that for so many other families, food allergies are SO much more severe. Our hearts go out to them.


Keeping Allergens Separate

We have two toasters, one for gluten items and one for gluten-free items. We also are lucky enough to have a kitchen, and fridge, big enough to keep gluten and gluten-free items separate. My oldest has his own area for snacks, crackers, and other grab-and-go items and the twins have their own cupboard as well. My husband and I also have areas in the kitchen for our own goodies. We also don’t have any wheat flour in the house because it spreads so easily.

My husband and the twins have a drawer in the fridge that contains their bread, bagels, cheese, lunchmeat, and other items, to keep them separate from the gluten-free items. Dairy milk is kept next to the Almond milk but one is a gallon and one is a carton so luckily we haven’t messed that up so far. The dairy and dairy-free yogurts are kept in separate places in the fridge, as well as the soy and non-soy ones. I’m an over-organizer and for this it really works out.

The fridge freezer and chest freezer are less organized but we do what we can to keep everything in the same spot even when we stock up on items so we don’t accidentally feed the kids the wrong food. We’re considering buying a new fridge and freezer as ours is 16 years old and has been making a weird sound lately but I’m honestly nervous because the one we really like doesn’t have a little flip-out portion in the freezer drawer for my eldest’s gluten-free waffles to go. Haha! Sounds petty but depending on the day, that’d upset him quite a bit.

The kids all have their own colors, which helps with so many things, including making sure we don’t accidentally give our oldest foods he shouldn’t have. The twins have blue and red and my oldest has green. I always work with his food first so I don’t accidentally transfer any gluten to his plate. I also wash my hands after touching gluten, before touching his or my food. We both have other sensitivities but gluten is the most likely to float around and contaminate other foods. I always have his plate on the right in the same spot as well so when I’m moving around the kitchen quickly to get everything put together I don’t accidentally put gluten bread on his plate, etc.

When we have hot foods we typically use regular “adult” plates because we don’t like even non-BPA plastic to be heated. They have color-coded silverware though.

When doing dishes, we wash all of the gluten-free items first with our normal dishcloth. Once those are done we use a different cloth to wash the items containing gluten. Seems extreme, I know, but I did a lot of research on hidden gluten and cross-contamination so I’m quite finicky about this.

Most of our pots and pans are stainless steel so we don’t have to worry as much about gluten sticking to them after they’re washed. However, we do have one pot and one pan that are designated to be the gluten pots and pans. We have a separate strainer as well since gluten can stick to the little crevices. We don’t typically cook with gluten though, mainly just Mac and Cheese once in a while for the twins while the eldest has Daiya mac and cheese which is gluten and dairy-free. Otherwise, all of our cooking is gluten-free.


Meal Plan and Preparation

Ever since I started having a more complicated diet back in 2015 I’ve been using Plan to Eat to plan our meals (click on link for my blog post). It has been a lifesaver to cut out the “what’s for dinner?!” question every night and ensure we have the food we need in the house and don’t waste any.

At this point, since the twins are picky eaters and we’re home together all day, I only meal plan dinners which I ensure are safe for all of us to eat. I meal plan the week before and go grocery shopping (or these days shop via Target or Aldi Drive Up or Shipt Delivery) on Fridays so we have groceries for the next week.

Honestly, though, I have been meaning to start actually planning lunches. I tend to put so many different random things into lunch that it seems like too much to plan but even if I just had a basic main dish idea I think I’d have more nutritious meals for them.

Breakfast

All of us, other than my oldest, eat breakfast before my oldest is awake and tend to have frozen pancakes, waffles, yogurt, cereal, and/or fruit. I have the equivalent, but allergen-friendly variations, for my oldest to eat when he gets up as well. Since I’ve been unable to find frozen pancakes my oldest can eat, I use the Namaste Pancake Mix with egg replacer or the King Arthur pancake mix with an egg replacer to make mini pancakes and freeze them.

Lunch

For lunch, since the kids are home with me all day I tend to start prepping it about 15-30 minutes before it’s time for lunch and honestly should plan it out more than I do. Currently, the twins are 2-1/2 so they are quite picky eaters which makes it difficult. I generally make them all a similar plate of food for each lunch but will have variations depending on allergies and what they will actually eat. Luckily my oldest likes fresh veggies like bell peppers so that helps. They all love fruit and lately when they won’t eat meat I just put a glob of peanut butter on their plates and they dip their crackers into it. It’s not perfect but it works.

This isn’t the most perfect lunch, I completely admit that. Again, I should really plan ahead for lunches like I do for dinners. Today each kid has a mandarin orange, a piece of cheese (dairy-free Daiya cheese for my oldest), my oldest has peppers since he’ll eat them and the others won’t, and each child has a hazelnut chocolate spread sandwich. The twins have Nutella on wheat bread and my oldest has Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Spread on a Schar gluten-free bun. Usually, he’d have Schar gluten-free bread but he had a leftover bun from the other night that I had thawed for him but he didn’t eat. The twins also had little Ritz Bits with peanut butter crackers. Again, not the best meal but the twins won’t eat lunch meat or most vegetables so it’s what I gave them today. Yesterday I tried a meat and cheese sandwich but the twins left the meat and cheese behind and my oldest only ate the meat and cheese but not the bun. Ha!

On some days when I plan ahead, I make my oldest Daiya Mac and Cheese and the twins Easy Mac or regular Mac and Cheese, while being sure to keep everything completely separate. We have a pot and strainer we only use with gluten items like regular Mac and Cheese, otherwise, all other pots and pans are gluten-free.

Like I’m sure most moms, I just throw together something for myself out of leftovers or make a salad or sandwich. My husband has been working from home since the pandemic hit and he has his own gluten-heavy lunch – ha! Previously when he worked outside of the home he would batch cook lunches every so often and freeze them, then thaw as needed.

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Here is another meal where they are all eating pretty much the same thing and it’s all dairy, gluten, egg, and soy-free.

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Typical FoodsAllergen Friendly Substitutes
(Gluten, Dairy, Egg Free)
Frozen Waffles:Van’s Gluten-Free Waffles (contain soy)
Frozen Pancakes:Make pancakes and freeze them (post)
Yogurt:So Delicious Dairy Free Yogurt
Silk Dairy-Free Yogurt
Cheese Slices:Daiya Dairy-Free Cheese Slices
Shredded Cheese:Daiya Dairy-Free Cheese Shreds
So Delicious Dairy-Free Cheese Shreds
Peanut Butter:Peanut Butter
(have one that knife that has touched gluten never goes into)
Nutella:Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Spread
Mac & Cheese:Daiya Gluten & Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese
Granola Bars:Made Good Granola Bars
Crackers:Simple Mills Almond Crackers
Schar Crackers (contain soy)
Bread:Schar Gluten-Free Bread (contains soy)
Aldi LiveGFree Bread
Canyon Bakehouse Gluten-Free Bread (contains egg)
Udi’s Gluten-Free Bread (contains egg)
See my Where to Buy Gluten Free Foods blog post for more recommendations.

Food Sensitivity Testing

We had our oldest tested for food allergies and sensitivities when he was 20 months old through a pediatrician then decided when he was 7 years old and still having bathroom issues to get him rechecked. This time we went straight to the source and instead of going through a doctor, we went with YorkTest.

With YorkTest we were able to order the Junior Sensitivity Test for our son and complete the testing ourself! We just needed to prick his finger, which took quite a bit of convincing, but once it was all done he admitted it didn’t hurt for long.

YorkTest also has food sensitivity tests for adults and food allergy tests. All tests are HSA and FSA accepted, you get an expert analysis from their accredited laboratory, and get a results guidebook with a food and drink journal as well as easy to understand color coded results.

Below are some of their tests available and a full blog post about our experience with YorkTest.

Junior Food Sensitivity Test

The Junior Food Sensitivity Test analyzes reactions to over 100 foods. This test is for ages 2-17.

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Premium Food Sensitivity Test

At-home food sensitivity tests measures reactivity to 200 foods and drinks. Also available for a couple.

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Food Allergy Test

The Food Allergy test tests your IgE antibody reactivity for 23 common foods and 18 environmental allergens. For people 18+

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Couples Food Sensitivity Test

The Couples Food Sensitivity Test is great for couples to discover together the sensitivities they have. (This could also be two friends, you don’t have to be a romantic couple!)

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Parent and Child Food Sensitivity Test

If you and your child are wondering if you have food sensitivities, this is a great opportunity to find out together and save some money by purchasing together.

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Full Blog Post

My full blog post about our experience with YorkLabs food sensitivity tests.

food sensitivity testing

More Food Allergy Posts

Looking for more posts about food allergies? Here are some more I’ve written about my experience and tips.

gluten free foods
gluten free pancake recipe you can freeze for quick breakfasts with an image of pancakes

Tips for having a child with food allergies text with green background and a sign that says "food allergy" beside a boy eating food.

Founder, Professional Blogger at The Way it Really Is, LLC | [email protected] | Website

As a mom of identical twins and a son two years older, I have gained invaluable experience in the realm, and chaos, of parenting. With a Master's Degree and Education Specialist Degree in School Psychology, I spent years as a school psychologist, helping children navigate through their educational and emotional challenges. Now as a stay at home mom and professional blogger, I combine my areas of expertise to help you in your parenting journey.

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