Thursday, April 17, 2008

Do Food Allergies Promote Healthier Eating Habits?

Maybe we can use our kids' food allergies as an excuse to help them eat more healthfully. Many of the foods that kids are allergic to these days are foods that parents have come to rely on, sometimes offering too much of a certain food or offering these foods too often on the family menu.

Examples would be peanut butter (nut allergy), cheese & ice cream (dairy allergy and lots of white bread (wheat/soy allergy).

Supermarket peanut butter is loaded with fat, sodium and sugar. So having that off the list is not such a bad thing. Likewise, dairy products, while healthy in small amounts, are not so healthy in large quantities due to high amounts of fat and cholesterol.

As parents of kids with food allergies, we're forced to find ways to feed our kids that don't include classic kid "greatest hits." (Will there ever be a day that people don't push PB&J on kids? I hope so!)

Thanks to a case of strep throat over the past week or so (a family affair, unfortunately! :)) I've had some extra time to sit around watching BBC America. I love that channel--it almost made up for the high fever and difficulty swallowing. (Not to mention the horse-sized penicillin tablets. Bleh.)

BBC America has a very eye-opening nutrition reality show called "You Are What You Eat." It takes people with very unhealthy eating habits and makes them look at what they eat in an average week, kids included.

After viewing tables full of fries, pizza, take-out food, etc. people are usually ready to try some new "healthy" foods. Gillian McKeith, the host of the show, has a very strict eating plan that avoids dairy, wheat products, red meat, etc. (She does allow nuts, though not peanuts.) She's big on giving kids soy milk and rice milk, instead of cow's milk. She loves whole grains like quinoa, etc.

Participants seem to get very healthy on this diet. I mean, these people not only lose weight, their skin improves, their hair looks better, everything. It got me thinking, through the fog of ibuprofen and OJ, that maybe she's onto something for the food-allergic parents among us.

Now, I'm a baker, a cook and I love to eat all kinds of foods, so I definitely wouldn't want to give up all fats and sugar forever. (That's what baking's all about.) But it's great to find out about - and to try - some alternatives to some of the biggest food allergens out there. At the very least, it's food for thought!

(Note: I'm not a nutrionist and am just spouting off, as I am wont to do on this blog. If you have nutrition questions, please ask a professional. Thank you.)


Unknown said...

Interesting post! In my case, yes, my child's food allergy and eczema has absolutely changed my eating habits. I am convinced that the chemicals we use in our homes and the ones that are in our processed foods are causing some of today's children's health problems like autism and food allergies. I am making an effort to buy fresh, organic food as much as possible and not rely on convenience foods. It's tough to be creative and plan more, but I think it is critical!

Jenny said...

You're absolutely right. Food allergies make you think about nutrition in general a lot more closely and they definitely require creativity!

Thanks for reading my blog and come again!

Modern Allergy Mom said...

Some great points. In my research I have read a lot about parents who adopt alternative diets to improve their child's behavorial problems. It is also well known that many kids with Autisim avoid wheat, sugar and other preservatives. My wheat allergic child is the most easy going kid. he eats the most natural diet due to his allergies (7 foods). No refined wheat , little sugar etc etc. I have also recently read a bit about the Feingold diet which sounds interesting.