This has come up recently with a family that I am supporting so thought I would share this challenge here and what assistance I have offered. When your child is diagnosed with a food allergy what I have noticed is the delay (often months) in offering other foods that are SIMILAR to the allergic food. It appears common that there is a reluctance to try new foods/ similar foods, and this is driven by fear. And rightly so! There are a lot of emotions that occur when you first offer your child a food, only to have a moderate, severe or life threatening reaction. NO WONDER you get some level of anxiety at the thought of trying the “other food” your allergist recommended is perfectly fine. Can you relate?
When you have a child with a food allergy (or allergies!) their diet can already feel quite restricted so the first step I see is to introduce the new/similar food that is going to make the most impact on your quality of life. As an example, Eric is allergic to soybean but the allergist has indicated that he can have string beans, snow peas and chick peas. The parent might want to pick chickpeas because things like Hummus, would be nice to have as a dip at home or at parties. So, chickpea becomes the first new food to try.
- Make a list of the safe food that the Allergist has indicated your child is NOT allergic to
- If you are unsure and want clarification – email your Allergist.
- Introduce one new food at a time
- Introduce the food that is going to make the most impact on eating at home and eating out, that is, improving quality of life.
- Set a date. For your own peace of mind I think planning the introduction of a new/ similar food is critical. Pick your day and if you can, ensure a support person like your partner/husband or other caregiver is present. Your anxiety will be reduced if you are with someone else when you introduce a new food. This is especially important if you have other children and in the unlikely case you needed to act, you have a spare set of hands.
- As recommended by your Allergist, the suggestion is to start with small amounts. Don’t give a whole prawn. Cut it into small pieces as an example.
- Each piece of the new food is given in timed increments about 15-20mins.
- Trust your Allergist. This is so important and the one thing to fall back on. If they have told you that your child can eat a certain food then get onto this plan quickly so that their diet becomes more varied, quicker.
- Celebrate. It may seem so incredibly trivial to non-allergic families but if your child has passed an at-home food challenge you should celebrate. Jump up and down, make a cake, call someone, call an Allergy Ally – perhaps someone that has followed your journey who cares, have a quiet cry (out of relief). Allow yourself to release the burden you may have felt, carrying the weight of avoiding that food, that your child has now safely eaten.
- Enjoy the new food, often!
I hope this has inspired you to feel more confident in trying your next food that you have been “holding off” for a better day.
Go forward, with confidence.