A friend of mine just found out that her toddler is allergic to wheat, soy and almonds. Ouch. There’s nothing like having to re-vamp your entire diet, this I know from experience! Those first few months are difficult, because you quickly discover that allergens are in everything, particularly in the foods that toddler enjoy most!
But you get used to it, and in many ways having food sensitivities has been a blessing to our family. We eat much better now, we read the labels on every food product that comes into our house (an enlightening process which I highly recommend to everyone…you’ll be shocked at what’s in so many processed foods!). We cook most things from scratch now, and I have learned to plan meals and shopping ahead to make sure we’ve got meals and snacks in the house that everyone can eat.
In our family, we’re dealing with Gluten (wheat, barley, and rye), dairy, nut, coconut, and raw tomato allergies or intolerances. We used to have to watch soy, too, but that seems to have gone away (praise God!). It sounds awful, but it’s not really as bad as you’d think. You just have to learn to work around things!
Cooking gluten free is something that takes a little time to learn, but once you do it’s really not much harder than cooking with regular flour. But those first few weeks when you’re wondering what on earth to feed your kid…and everything you look at seems to have at least one allergen on the label…are really tough. Here are a few products that we have tried that are great quick snacks or basic kid-friendly foods to get you started. You can find them in a local health-food market (Whole Foods is a good bet), and many of them may be found in a regular grocery store. If your favorite grocery doesn’t carry something you like, ask a manager if they can start stocking the food for you. We’ve done that, and our local grocery store now carries some products that we used to have to drive elsewhere to buy!
One thing I want to add before continuing is always check the label. Sometimes companies change ingredients, and something that was safe last week isn’t OK to eat anymore. I’ve fallen into that trap more than once! So I’ve just gotten into the habit of reading it before it goes in the cart.
Without further ado….a list of gluten, soy and tree nut free snacks and meals:
A few “normal” snacks that are naturally allergen free:
Rice Chex cereal (we use these for bread crumbs in recipes, too…just pulverize them in a food processor)
Philadelphia cream cheese (check label on anything but the plain kind)
Boar’s Head meat products
All natural peanut butter
Bits of all natural cheese (check the lable)
Rice crispy treats made with puffed rice (just rice…check cereals for soy. You can get plain puffed rice or Millet in a bag without additives, and they make good treats), butter, and marshmallows. We like to add some peanut butter, too!
(the allergy free shop allows you to choose which allergens you need to avoid…a great resource for shopping or just for getting ideas!)
Glutano crackers. Taste like a Ritz! Great with peanut butter, cheese and meat, peanut butter with slices of fruit, cream cheese with meat or fruit. You can make a lunch for a child with the above suggestions plus some fruits and vegetables.
Puffed amaranth hot cereal. Sort of like instant oatmeal, just add hot water and (I suggest) some brown sugar or maple syrup, maybe a few raisins or sliced banana.
Ian’s (a great allergy free brand!) french toast sticks. These are wonderful for when you make a nice breakfast for the family and don’t want your allergic child to miss out…heat them up and serve them with pure maple syrup, real whipped cream, or fruit.
Corn Thins make a great grilled cheese sandwich. Spread butter on one side, place a slice of cheese on top (and maybe even some soy free lunch meat) and place another buttered thin on top. Grill like you’d grill a regular sandwich.
Ener-G dinner rolls and hot dog buns are great. I’m not a huge fan of their breads, but they are soy free (my favorite brand of gluten free bread is not soy free, sadly). These are best toasted. I often slice buns into 3 or 4 thin slices, and use them instead of sandwich bread! The buns somehow just taste better and are softer than the breads. Great for hamburgers, PB&J’s, sloppy joe’s, pulled pork and whatever else you might want to eat on bread.
Tinkyada pasta. This is my all time favorite gluten free product. Also soy and dairy free! This tastes the most like regular pasta (and believe me, I’ve tried a lot of pastas!). It comes in just about any shape you’d need, including lasagna noodles and some very cute pasta shapes that are great for kid’s mac and cheese or casseroles. Cook them just like you’d cook regular pasta. It can pass for “normal” pasta, so you can serve this to the whole family without complaints (although it’s much more pricey than regular pasta). Use this along with….
Velveeta cheese! Ok, not my very favorite and “cheese” probably isn’t the right word for it. But there are some things you just need Velveeta with! Cook up some of the noodles above, and then make a sauce with velveeta and milk. Yummy, kid-friendly mac and cheese, just about as quickly as you could make it out of a box! Make a big batch and then keep it in the fridge, leftovers make great lunches. If you can get away with it, add peas or broccoli bits and maybe some chopped chicken or soy-free ham (Boar’s Head is always grain and soy free).
Ian’s brand again…these fries are yummy and so cute. They are more expensive than regular frozen fries, so consider making a big batch of regular fries and doing these on a separate tray. Due to the cute shape, you’ll be able to tell which fries are OK for your allergic child to eat, and it’s not a bad thing for the child with allergies to get something special once in a while.
And more praises for Ian’s….”Nuke-able” meals, allergy free! Here’s one favorite…the chicken nugget meal. They also sell chicken nuggets, fish sticks, and mini corn dogs (along with a few more complete meals like the one to the right). These are wonderful for quick meals when a babysitter is coming over, or if you’re sending your child to spend the night with relatives who may not be good at understanding what he or she can and cannot eat. I buy regular microwave meals for the other kids and an Ian’s meal for the one who’s allergic.
Kinnikinnik Pizza crusts are great. Use a little tomato sauce, some cheese, and whatever else your child likes on pizza (be cautious with the pepperoni, make sure you read the label because processed meats are notorious for having soy). You can even pre-make pizzas and them freeze them for later, so that if your family is eating frozen pizza or wants to order out, you have something on hand for the allergic child. Yea for pizza!