Food allergies are on the rise. Every three minutes someone seeks emergency treatment for a food-induced allergic reaction. 1 in over 13 children in the U.S. reports having a food allergy. That’s over a 50% increase since 1997! Approximately 17 million Europeans also report having food allergies. And we don’t know why. There are theories but no concrete causality that explains the rapid increase in allergic reactions to food in developed countries. (FARE)
Kids are not the only ones suffering. Adults, too, can suddenly develop allergies to foods they’ve previously enjoyed; I did. Soy — a painful discovery I made over and over because it’s virtually added to everything. As a result, I’ve had to revolutionize the way I eat. But since my daughter was born with eight food allergies (make that nine — we discovered a new one during the Thanksgiving break), I had some experience making allergen-friendly, healthy and delicious meals. I still miss Chinese food, though.
The first thing people want to know when they hear about my daughter’s allergies is what she’s allergic to: dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, eggs (whites and yolk), all gluten grains, shellfish, onions, white beans, flax (and her food intolerance is a longer list). The second thing is what could I possibly feed her. That’s where this series of allergy-friendly meals comes in. The meals I fix her have to be varied and nutrient-rich as well as free of ALL of her allergens and delicious, so she’ll eat them and keep growing strong and passing her physical every year. And if I can do it, anyone can.
Now for a few easy, yummy, allergy-friendly meals!
Here I have quinoa; fresh baby spinach, fresh baby arugula, chard, and kale; fresh Roma tomatoes; and diced ham free of preservatives, additives, nitrites, nitrates, and any broths or solutions containing allergens. I usually mix it all up with a pinch of sea salt, steam it in stoneware in the microwave for one minute, and add olive oil. But you can also layer it, as I did in the photo, for a more aesthetic appeal (this trick tends to work for picky eaters).
Keep it simple — super simple for the staples (part 1) — just use your list and play with ingredients to come up with as many meals as you can. You may be surprised how many allergen-friendly, tummy-happy, and oh-so-healthy recipes you create! Let’s play around with what I have in my kitchen at the moment to get you started.
Above, you can see I switched out the quinoa for pasta. It happens to be gluten-free pasta (there are many now, so you can change that up, too!). A change that simple can transform a meal. And if you have more wiggle room with herbs and spices than I do, even better!
In fact, think about all the grains you have. Just grab one, toss in some veggies, a protein source, season it, and there you go! These are the closest ones in reach in my cupboard: (left to right) amaranth, rice, and the gluten-free pasta there.
Since I mentioned veggies . . .
Cooking with color not only excites little tummies (and distracts them from the fact that they may not be keen on veggies), but variety in color usually indicates a variety in nutrients. Win-win! And bell peppers are especially wonderful vegetables. Read about them and get another recipe in our article Add Some Pepper to Your Life!
Some green, yellow, red bell peppers, a protein source (doesn’t have to be ham — best to switch it out to salmon, beans, or whatever you prefer), and a potato. Prepare this meal how you like!
Mixing and matching your dried staple foods and fresh produce not only provides a variety of healthy meals, but it can be less costly if you shop smart. Add in your delicious fresh fish and meat (if you like) and more possibilities are available. I could keep posting photos, but the DP has just requested a sandwich. And since she can’t eat normal bread with wheat flour and eggs, or have mayo or any traditional condiments, for that matter, she has agreed to let me photograph her allergen-friendly sandwich to share it with you.
If you don’t have time to bake your own allergen-free bread, you can buy it like me. I recommend this wheat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free (virtually everything-free) Tapioca bread by Ener-G. I spread Earth Balance soy-free, dairy-free butter spread on two slices (to keep the bread from drying out), toast them lightly, add deli meat, fresh spinach, fresh tomato, and a dash of sea salt. That’s it! Healthy snack for her, quick and easy prep time for me.
Hope you’ve found this helpful! Please send me your own allergen-friendly snacks and recipes. I’m always looking for new and fun ways to keep my family healthy and share with other parents!