When people find out how many food allergies and intolerances my daughter has, the first question out of their mouths is always “Yikes. What does she eat?” I have to admit that her list of food restrictions seems daunting: milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat/gluten, corn, soy, bananas and blueberries. Corn and soy are in everything, right?
Well, I didn’t get here overnight but I now have regular go to foods for her that keep her full and give me peace of mind that there is always food around that she can enjoy and she won’t feel like she is missing out. Even if your kids don't have food restrictions, I want to show you that it is still possible to feed them real food and not spend all day in the kitchen.
The core of her meals is usually the same: protein, veggies, fruit and a healthy fat. But life isn’t perfect and she doesn’t always eat everything on her plate at every meal and that’s ok. And sometimes I am too tired to steam a vegetable or we just don’t have one because we haven’t been to the store yet.
Who says that you have to have breakfast foods for breakfast? Because of her allergies, traditional breakfast foods like cereal, eggs and toast are out. I suppose I could give her Rice Chex and almond milk but I try to stay away from packaged foods with preservatives, as much as I can (but not always, I will get to that later). She loves meat and fish so I usually just feed her for breakfast what I would feed her for lunch or dinner: salmon or grass-feed beef with some fruit and veggies and a little avocado for a healthy fat. We like to mix it up!
Sometimes she gets bacon if I happen to have that made too. Do I get up early to cook up all of this meat for her? Heck no! I try to cook a couple of meats on Sundays and have them ready for the week so I can put them into her breakfasts and lunches as needed. That way I can give her a little variety without having to be a short order cook. And some mornings she just wants a few raisins and a squeeze pack and because she doesn’t have that every morning, I am ok with that sometimes.
I try to feed her a different kind of meat for lunch from what she had at breakfast. So if she had salmon for breakfast then maybe she would have grass-fed beef or organic chicken with fruit and veggies for lunch. For personal reasons I am trying to keep her away from grains (but do make one small exception with snacks) so I don’t venture into gluten-free bread for sandwiches, although that is an option.
But for a sandwich-like lunch I like to get Applegate Farms turkey slices and use those as the “bread” and make turkey roll sandwiches. So I will cut up cucumbers, tomatoes, apples, carrots and avocado and make a few different “sandwiches” and roll the veggies into the turkey slice like a burrito. She loves them and it’s a fun alternative to her usual meals.
I have to admit that by the time dinner rolls around, I am not really feeling inventive when it comes to meals. So it is back to the meat, fruit, veggies and healthy fats. She is limited on her veggies right now and mostly eats broccoli and carrots but I’ll take it! Many times my husband and I make a different meal for us because we want to eat with a few less restrictions than she has but a couple of times a week we either throw veggies and meat into the crock pot for a meal we can eat together or make a meal from some of our favorite Paleo recipe books that she can eat as well. She loves it when we add spices to meat so we have been experimenting lately.
I feel like snacks can be the most challenging because a lot of the grab and go food is not always safe for kids with allergies. And this is where I have lifted some of my restrictions on packaged foods because I just don’t want to stress myself out, ya know? For instance, my daughter is 2 and has teeth but sometimes she wants a squeeze pack for her snack. I try to stick to Earth’s Best and Happy Family fruit and veggie mixes. And of course I have to avoid the ones that have blueberries and bananas in them. I was excited to recently find at Costco that Happy Family has a line called Happy Squeeze and one flavor mix that she really loves is apple, pear, mango and kale. Some greens! We also routinely buy the GoGo Squeeze organic applesauce.
Another quick snack is also from Happy Family and that is their gluten-free puffs. I try not to let her fill up on grains too much but when we’re out and about and she’s hungry, it’s an easy go-to snack. Raisins are good but I try to be careful with those because she would eat them by the ton if I let her and I try not to let her go too crazy on the sugar, even natural sugar. And occasionally I let her have some potato chips because life isn’t as fun if you can’t indulge sometime, right? I usually get the Kettle Sea Salt Potato Chips or Trader Joe’s Ridge Cut Potato Chips.
So as you can see, it doesn’t have to be some big, elaborate thing to feed your child real food. I like to keep it simple and easy and quick. If she doesn’t eat everything then I package it up and save it for a later meal that day or for her meals the next day. The important thing here is for her to see what a balanced meal looks like on a plate, even if she doesn’t finish it.
Struggling with finding healthy foods for your kids? Get in touch and I will happily guide you.
Alison Blair is a Health Coach who supports moms whose children are newly diagnosed with food allergies. She lives in Concord, CA with her husband and 2 ½ year old daughter. She loves reading, writing, travel, wine and trying new restaurants. She can be found at www.healthybellyhealthylife.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.