Eating safely with a food allergy

In most cases, it is still possible to have a nutritious diet while avoiding food allergens. Read about some essential nutrients you may be lacking if you're avoiding allergens.


Consult a dietitian

If you're avoiding whole food groups, it is essential you consult a dietitian to ensure your diet is adequate. This is especially important for young children who need good nutrition for growth.

Calcium

Getting your calcium requirement may be tricky if you're avoiding milk and milk products.

Cow's milk alternatives

For people who are not soy allergic, soy milk with added calcium and vitamin B12 is a good alternative to cow's milk.

Plant-based milks such as rice, oat and nut (introduce nut milk with care) may be a useful alternative to cow's milk for toddlers, young children, adolescents, and adults. Look for plant-based milks that are fortified with vitamin B12, riboflavin, calcium and vitamin D.

Other foods high in calcium

Foods high in calcium include broccoli, tinned fish (with bones), oysters, soybeans and parsley. Foods with medium calcium content include tofu, baked beans, mussels, dates, almonds and bread. Foods sometimes fortified with calcium include orange juice and breakfast cereals.

Calcium supplements

If you or your child have multiple food allergies, a calcium supplement may be necessary to meet requirements – your dietitian or health specialist will be able to advise.They can also discuss the type and amount of calcium supplementation required. Choosing a milk-free supplement or one that does not contain calcium from shellfish sources may be necessary if you have a cow's milk or seafood allergy.

Iodine

If you have multiple allergies, your diet may be low in iodine. Important dietary sources of iodine include most bread, seafood, milk and milk products, and eggs. Low levels of iodine may lead to health issues often referred to as iodine deficiency disorders including poor growth and development in infants and children, thyroid diseases and goitre. Discuss dietary management of your allergy with your dietitian to ensure adequate iodine intake.

Selenium

If you have multiple allergies, your diet may be low in selenium. This is because the main sources of selenium for New Zealanders include eggs, wheat, seafood and dairy products. Other good sources of selenium include legumes (chickpeas, beans, lentils), meat (especially liver and kidney), and Brazil nuts (if you do not have an allergy to tree nuts).

Omega-3 fats

Fish is a good source of omega-3 fats, but other sources include canola oil, soybeans, walnuts, and linseed (also known as flaxseed).

Iron

Iron is a mineral particularly important for infants, children, teenagers and pregnant women. It may be difficult for children with multiple food allergies to get enough iron. For children with eczema, some iron may be lost through flaking skin.

Red meat is a very good source of iron, with lesser amounts in chicken, pork and fish. Other less well-absorbed sources of iron include nuts, whole grains, chickpeas, lentils and green leafy vegetables. Sources of foods with added iron include some breads, breakfast cereals, and certain yeast-containing spreads. Vitamin C improves the absorption of iron from plant foods so including vegetables and vitamin C-containing fruit or fruit juice at each meal is beneficial.

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