Common Allergen Alternatives
So you found out that your child has a food allergy and are wondering, what now? What can I feed them? What can’t I feed them? Don’t worry! While it may feel like the common allergens are everywhere, there are plenty of alternatives to help fuel their growth, expand their palates, and produce tasty meals. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about allergen alternatives for your child.
What Are Common Food Alternatives for Allergies in Children?
Food allergies are all too common, affecting nearly 8% of children, with 5% of children under the age of five having allergies to one or more foods. The most common food allergens referred to as “The Big 8” make up 90% of all food allergies. These common food allergies are:
- Tree nuts
Cooking for children with allergies can be complicated because it doesn’t just mean removing the allergens from their diet - it also means finding new ways to cook meals that still taste great without them. After all, birthday parties still demand cake even when allergies are present.
That’s why it’s helpful to learn how to use food allergy alternatives for these common allergens. Your kids will still be able to enjoy all the meals they love, and you’ll know that they’re enjoying them safely.
Food Allergy Substitutes
Eggs are both a common allergen and an important ingredient in many baked goods. You can swap them with a store bought vegan egg replacement, mashed banana, applesauce, or ground flaxseed mixed with water.
When purchasing prepackaged foods, or when eating out, opting for vegan meals is a surefire way to avoid eggs.
There are many great plant-based dairy alternatives on the market these days, so finding a milk replacement is easy. Simply swap cow milk for a plant-based milk made from peas, soy, almonds, cashews, oats, rice, or coconut, or others. When researching which plant-based milk is best for your child, be sure to look at the nutritional content of calcium, protein, and fat, and opt for what suits your child best.
As dairy allergies and vegan diets have become more popular, most stores carry a spectrum of delicious dairy-free cheeses. Like most foods, you may test a few different brands and types of cheese to see which dairy-free option your little one likes best.
Other dairy products also have substitutes available - there are many plant-based options for yogurt, sour cream, and cream cheese as well. Add some fresh fruit to a bowl of cashew yogurt and you have a healthy, tasty, and safe snack for your little one.
Just as with substituting eggs, opting for a vegan option will ensure your child isn’t being exposed to dairy.
Peanuts and Tree Nuts
If you grew up eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, you may be wondering what is a peanut butter substitute? In recent years, many nut-free choices to replace peanut butter have come on the market, much to the delight of parents of children with allergies. Roasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds can replace nuts in many recipes and make great nut-free butters as well. Roasted soy beans, chickpeas, or peas can fill in for snacking nuts as well.
Gluten-free options have grown significantly over the last decade as well, with an estimated 1% of the population having a gluten sensitivity. You can now purchase gluten-free breads, pastas, crackers, and more in most grocery stores. But you may also want to cook gluten-free at home as well, and that can be done with the purchase of gluten-free flours. Rice flour, oat flour, potato starch, barley flour, and more can be purchased in specialty stores or online, and offer a great substitution for wheat flour.
Soy is hard to avoid in packaged foods, but is easier to manage when you’re cooking at home. Swap soy oils for canola or olive oil, swap soy-based margarines for real butter, and swap soy sauce for coconut aminos or chickpea-based miso.
Cooking for Children with Allergies
Cooking tasty, healthy meals for kids with food allergies can be made simpler with the above substitutions and a few extra tips and tricks.
- Find a swap-friendly recipe when possible. Chances are good that someone has already tried to make the swaps you’re looking at doing. A quick Google search might yield some good ideas or alternatives that have already been tasted and vetted.
- Look for in-depth resources. There are lots of resource groups, recipe forums, and websites that can offer you really helpful guidance when looking for a recipe. Kids With Food Allergies is a great place to start. These are especially helpful if your child has multiple allergies, which narrow your options.
- Cook at home or find clearly allergy-safe options. Avoiding an allergic reaction is easier when you prepare your child’s food yourself, or find premade options that definitively state they’re free of allergens.
With allergens top of mind, Tiny Organics recipes were developed to be free of The Big-8 common food allergens. Find out more about our menu here!