Allergy-friendly food products for kids
There are few subjects that I'm as passionate about as finding fun foods that are suitable for my 10 year old with multiple food allergies. Imagine going to a birthday party and needing to avoid the pizza and cupcakes, or passing by the ice cream truck parked outside school every day as your friends line up for a cone. When Drew was diagnosed with a food allergic condition (eosinophillic esophagitis, if you're wondering) two years ago, it became my mission to serve him food that matches the experience his friends were sharing. With the help of these products, I've been able to do that! Here are some of our favorite kid-tested foods to add to make your celebrations more memorable.
1. Daiya Pizza
My sentiment for this pizza boils down to two words: Life changing. For a kid with a dairy allergy, pizza had been off the menu for some time. I've made various attempts using mini bagels, tortillas, and English muffins (and Daiya's shredded cheese), but nothing has come close to this frozen time-saver. In addition to being dairy-free, it's also soy-free, nut-free, egg-free, and gluten-free. Available in Cheeze Lover's, Margherita, Fire-Roasted Vegetable, and Mushroom & Roasted Garlic.
2. Cybele's Free to Eat Cookies
These packaged treats were an instant hit in my household! Made in a dedicated gluten-free, allergy-friendly bakery, you won't find any nuts, eggs, dairy, or soy here. Just soft-baked goodness in three flavors: Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chunk Brownie, and Oatmeal Raisin. (I confess, we've taken these on vacation!)
You'll want to visit this site to find out if you're lucky enough to live near one of the many retailers carrying these goodies; otherwise, bookmark it and head there every time you're looking for baked goods that are fit for sharing! I could go on and on about their treats-made in a dedicated peanut-, tree nut-, milk-, sesame- and egg-free bakery. (Some of the candy is also gluten free.) I relate to the couple who started the business-they were both sick and tired of watching their little boy yearn for his classmates' or friends' baked goods so they set out to create allergy-friendly desserts that everyone would love. And they succeeded. I'm grateful to them, and to Drew who's willing to share the Molasses with Lemon Cookie Sandwiches (similar to a moonpie) with me! If, like me, you're always looking for fresh ways to create festive treats, you'll also want to pick up a copy of their cookbook, which has fabulous ideas for birthdays, bake sales, and any other occasion that's on your calendar.
4. Home Free
I'm all for treats but the nutritionist in me also wants to serve something a little healthier from time to time (okay, most of the time!). That's where Home Free cookies come in. They're still allergy-friendly (no peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, or dairy, and certified gluten free), but the cookies also have whole grains-a welcome addition. These lunch-box friendly cookie packages have 10 grams of sugar-about what you'll find in many standard granola bars. Available in Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Mini Cookies, Gluten Free Double Chocolate Chip Mini Cookies, Gluten Free Vanilla Mini Cookies, as well as organic versions, and versions that contain wheat.
5. Ian's Natural Foods
Ian's makes a number of kid-friendly favorites, like chicken nuggets and patties, onion rings, and French Toast Sticks, without triggers like wheat and gluten, milk, eggs, nuts, and soy. Its packaging makes it very easy to find foods based on your family's needs. Since Drew is a seafood-lover, he goes for the fish sticks (there are versions with and without gluten, and both are free from milk, eggs, nuts, and soy), which I use in a pinch to make a crunchy fish sandwich. Because of Drew's food allergies, takeout isn't an option, so I appreciate having an alternative on hand when I don't feel like cooking (hey, I'm only human!). Other household faves: Allergy Friendly Chicken Nugget Kids Meal (it comes with alphabet-shaped taters and a brownie!), Mac & No Cheese Sauce, and Popcorn Turkey Dogs, which I often send to birthday parties. Its Whole Wheat Panko Breadcrumbs is another staple (for nights when I do do the cooking).
6. Enjoy Life
This is my favorite brand for allergy-friendly chocolate chips, chocolate chunks, and chocolate bars. The bars come in handy when I get last-minute information about school parties, and the chips and chunks are a legitimate stand-in for mainstream brands. Drew and I melt the chocolate morsels to create "fondue" (our annual Valentine's Day tradition)-perfect for dunkers like egg-free marshmallows, potato chips, allergy-friendly cookies, peppermints, and more! I've also used it to make peppermint bark and matzoh toffee. When you're dealing with multiple restrictions, it's an absolute delight to be able to find tasty chocolate, and this brand delivers (without the threat of cross contamination from nuts, soy, eggs, dairy, or wheat).
While checking out this brand, be sure to pick up a box of the company's Crunchy Cookies, available in Chocolate Chip, Double Chocolate, Sugar Crisp, and Vanilla Honey Graham. I used the Chocolate Chip cookies to create mini ice box cakes (tip: keep a can of coconut milk in your fridge at all times; it comes in handy to make a batch of dairy-free "whipped cream"), and to make dairy-free ice cream sandwiches (see below). The Vanilla Honey Graham cookies make a great base for s'mores (use egg-free marshmallows and ¼ of an Enjoy Life chocolate bar).
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7. So Delicious
When I explain Drew's food allergies to people, they are often saddened that he can't eat ice cream. Thankfully, he can have this non-dairy delight! The FDA lumps coconut among the tree nut allergens, so it's mandatory that companies call it out as a potential allergen. Still, the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology reports that most people who are allergic to tree nuts can safely eat coconut. We checked with Drew's physicians at the prestigious Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai in NYC and they agreed, so his longing for ice cream became a thing of the past! Drew's a mint chip addict, but it's always good to have the vanilla bean on hand, which I scoop between two Enjoy Life Chocolate Chip cookies for an instant ice cream sandwich (see above).
8. King Arthur
If you're in the mood to make your own festive treats, you'll want to have some of King Arthur's baking mixes on hand. It's the only mainstream brand that I know of that's made in a dedicated facility, which is not only gluten free, but also free of soy, milk, tree nuts, peanuts, as well as the other top allergens. (One of its competitors shares equipment with soy, wheat, milk, and nuts!) Many of the mixes call for eggs, but the website offers excellent advice for when you can (and can't) make substitutions. Its gluten free multi-purpose flour is my GF flour of choice. Check out the website for terrific, easy-to-follow recipes and get baking! I have to admit, one of my favorite things about cooking without raw eggs is that I get to lick the spoon!
I hope I've given you proof that allergy-friendly foods can be fun and tasty - and worth sharing with a crowd! And if you have any products you'd like to introduce me to, I'm all ears!
-By Samantha Cassetty, M.S., R.D
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