My name is Paige Wagner, Registered Dietitian, and I work closely with individuals of all ages for nutrition counseling. I specifically focus on food allergies, vegan and vegetarian foods, food service sustainability, and culinary nutrition. I currently work with chefs to teach cooking classes and analyze menu’s at Bowling Green State University. I work with a variety of students who have food allergies, eating disorders, auto-immune diseases, and more. My passion is developing and implementing allergen free recipes so students living with allergies can enjoy delicious, easy meals that are hassle-free!
Currently, there are 32 million Americans that are living with food allergies, which is a 377% increase between 2007 and 2016. Approximately 1 in every 13 children has a food allergy (that is about 2 in every classroom). The most common allergens (also known as the Top 8), include fish, shellfish, soy, milk, egg, peanuts, treenuts and wheat and sesame has now become known as the 9th top allergen (FARE, 2020).
Image from foodallergy.org
There are so many different topics that I could discuss about food allergies, including treatments, eating at home, away from home, back to school, new research, etc. However, I thought it may be best to start with kitchen tips for parents of newly diagnosed children. Newly diagnosed food allergies can be very terrifying for not only a child, but especially for the parents who cook their food. Not only are children often picky eaters, but throw a food allergy into the mix and you may constantly have anxiety around mealtimes. Here are a few tips that when implemented may help ease anxiety and fear around dinner time for you and your little:
- Familiarize with food labels: Make sure you know how to read food labels and train anyone who may be preparing food for your child on how to look for the allergen. For example, sometimes gluten can be hidden as modified food starch and it is also often found in soy sauce. For more tips on how to look for your child’s allergen, click here: https://www.foodallergy.org/resources/how-read-food-label
- Separate safe and unsafe foods. If you have family members who may still be consuming the food allergen that your child has (such as peanut butter), make sure that you assign labels to any of the foods that contain the allergen and keep them separate from allergen free foods. If your child has access to grab their own snacks, try using a colored sticker system on boxes so they know what is safe (green sticker) and not safe (red sticker).
- Keep separate utensils for foods that contain the allergen and foods that do not. It may help to write on the utensils or use a color system, along with labeling drawers. Make sure that anyone who may use them knows what color is used for what item.
- When cooking, make sure all family members wash their hands. Scrub down the counters with soap and water because soap must be present to remove the protein that causes the reaction in food allergies.
- Always avoid cross-contact. For example, do not batter fish in breadcrumbs and then use the same bowl of breadcrumbs to batter chicken. The fish protein that your child is allergic to will then contaminate the chicken that you were planning for them to eat.
- If you have children without food allergies, make sure that you educate them on not sharing food with their sibling who has the allergy. It may be helpful to adapt family rituals, specific seating arrangements, etc.
- Train all family members and anyone who may be with your child during a mealtime on how to respond to an allergic reaction.
Phew, that was a lot of information! On a lighter note, I wanted to share a few of my favorite cookbooks that I use daily. Also, below you will find one of my personal favorite recipes for allergen-free chocolate chip cookies!
Easy Allergen-Free Drop Cookies
- 1 ¼ cup quinoa flour or banana flour
- ½ tsp xantham gum
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ cup dairy-free, soy-free buttery spread, such as earth- balance
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp dairy-free milk beverage
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 to 2 cups vegan chocolate chips (enjoy-life brand is great)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Whisk dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
- Put wet ingredients in a stand mixer or large bowl. Using the stand mixer or a hand mixer, beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.
- Add dry mixture to wet mixture. Stir until dough sticks together and is well combined. Stir in chocolate chips. For softer, thicker cookies, refrigerate dough for 10 minutes.
- Place ¼ cup size spoonful’s of dough onto the baking sheet. About 3 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes for soft cookies, or until edges are golden brown.
- Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Serve, storing leftovers in an airtight container for 3 days at room temperature and any extra cookies in the freezer.
– Paige Wagner RDN, LD