The world of nutrition can be an absolute minefield with kids, fussy eaters, treats, food myths, the media, all of which can leave us parents feeling totally bamboozled! Add to the mix a suspected food intolerance and we can be left totally stumped not knowing what to do! In a typical Irish child’s diet of cereal, ham sangers, yogurts, a dairy or wheat intolerance can feel like a serious hurdle. Many of us are dealng with kids with excema, bloating, digestion issues, ear nose and throat issues, behaviour problems, the list goes on. All of these conditions are on the rise in Ireland and its no wonder again when you think of the typical Irish lunch box for example. Maybe you suspect a food intolerance? Or simply are curious could reducing allergens improve certain symptoms. Here are some top tips to help you navigate your way through food intolerance in kids.
Identifying the culprit
A food intolerance test or appointment with a Nutritional Therapist would be recommended and can be very helpful. But maybe you have an inkling as to which food it might be? Generally dairy, wheat, gluten are a god place to start. An elimination diet of one food at a time can have dramatic results in some cases. The food in question needs to removed 100% for 3 weeks. So that means no exceptions, if you want to see results. You may notice an improvement in certain symptoms. At the end of the 3 weeks reintroduce the food for a day and see do symptoms reoccur.
During the course of the elimination (and in general) it would be of great benefit to provide some on-going gut support. A good probiotic will help to repopulate beneficial bacteria in the gut. Stewed cooking apples is an easy one to get into smallies, the pectin found in it is great for healing the gut wall. Chicken stock (made from boiling up a chicken or chicken carcasse for 4 hours) is packed with amino acids with gut healing properties, adding this wherever you can like soups, stews, other dishes. Fermented foods and drinks in small amounts can work wonders at boosting good bacteria but these are more difficult to get into kids, a kefir or kombucha drink may be worth a try in small amounts.
Preparation and thinking ahead are going to be key here. Sending food with the child wherever they go, be it a friend’s house, party, etc. Trying to keep talk about the elimination to a minimum, so as not to make a big deal of it. Talking more about all the foods we can have over the 3 weeks, rather than all the foods that are not allowed. Of course a little explanation will be required but playing it down as much as possible. Even the child will see the benefits if some of symptoms disappear, which will motivate them to keep it up, in many cases.
Breakfast can be the biggest hurdle with cereal and milk being the nation’s quick and handy go-to. Here are some nutritious dairy and gluten free brekkie alternatives to play around with:
Fruit Salad & coconut yogurt
GF Granola made with coconut oil & maple syrup served with nut milk
Banana, egg & gf oat pancakes with almond butter & chia jam or maple syrup, pecans & coconut yogurt
Oat bread (Loughbeg brand or homemade) with ghee/Pure spread & chia jam
Scrambled eggs with veg/gf oat bread
Smoothie bowl – fruit, veg, avocado & nut milk blitzed
A good way to make main meals cleaner and allergen free is by adding lots of veggies raw and cooked to the lunch and dinner table. Potatoes, brown rice, quinoa are good additions to add to meat/fish/eggs and veg. Salad is also a great versatile option, and a fun way to get kinds involved in the kitchen. Spiralising, grating, blitzing veg are great ways to fit more veg into a dish!
There are so many snack options made up of fruit, veg, nuts, seeds, for example. See a list of ideas below:
Apple & Almond butter
Banana & peanut butter stacks
GF granola & coconut yogurt
Veg sticks and hummus
GF oat crackers & chicken
Fruit Date & Nut Balls
Homemade oaty chia cookies
Coconut yogurt & chia jam