Five common child food allergies and substitute options

There is nothing harder than preparing your child for a playdate, a sleepover or even snack time if they have food allergies.

And with an increasing number of children in the United States with a food allergy, there are some frustrated parents. Let us help. 

Haley Cox, St. Joseph's Hospital Clinical Dietitian

A food allergy happens when the immune system reacts negatively to something you’ve eaten. One in 13 kids has a food allergy in the United States, an increase of 50% since 1997, according to FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education). More than 170 foods are known to cause allergies. The most common allergens that account for 90% of all reactions in kids are:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts and other tree nuts (walnuts, cashews)
  • Soy
  • Wheat/gluten intolerance
  • Fish and shellfish (shrimp, crab)

With that many allergens and the increasing number of kids with food allergies, parents should be prepared when sharing foods with children.

“Food allergies are extremely serious and can be life threatening,” says St. Joseph’s Hospital Clinical Dietitian Haley Cox, MS, RD, LD. “Some allergies are so severe that the child cannot be in the same room as the food item.”

Cox advises parents to be open with other parents, school teachers, church leaders and others about a child’s allergies. It’s also important to read food labels very carefully. Some allergens, like soy, nut, egg and gluten, are found in many products that you may not expect.

Often times, depending on the food allergy, you can tailor the menu to provide safe choices for everyone, Cox says.

“It is possible to have a fun, tasty, kid-friendly party all while providing safe food options.”

Here are some foods to avoid and some substitutes parents can offer at their next sleepover or social gathering:

Nut allergies
Avoid: Nuts (peanuts, cashews, walnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios); peanut butter; baked goods with nuts; peanut oil; peanut flour; nut butters; pesto; pralines; trail mixes with nuts

Substitute: Ham or turkey sandwiches; Goldfish; Skinny Pop Popcorn; Pretzels; Wheat Thins; fruits and vegetables

Wheat allergies and gluten intolerance
Avoid: Flour (all purpose, bread, cake, durum, enriched, instant, pastry, self-rising, soft wheat, whole wheat, amongst others); wheat (bran, durum, germ, malt, sprouts, starch); rye; barley; bread crumbs; cracker meal; bulgur; Matzoh; pasta; semolina; spelt; wheat grass; wheat protein isolate; whole wheat berries

Substitute: Chex cereal (except wheat); Nut Thins crackers; Pop Chips; fruits and vegetables; rice chips or falafel chips with hummus; gluten-free pizza; gluten-free chicken tenders; gluten-free pretzels

Milk allergies
Avoid: Milk (from any animal and in all forms – whole, skim, lowfat, nonfat, condensed, evaporated, malted); ice cream; butter; buttermilk; casein; cheese; cottage cheese; lactose; pudding; sour cream; whey; yogurt

Substitute: 100% fruit juices; almond, cashew, soy or rice milk; non-dairy ice cream, cheese or yogurt

Soy allergies
Avoid: Soy (soy cheese, soy milk, soy ice cream, soy oil, soy flour, soy nuts, soy sprouts, soy yogurt); soybeans; soy protein; soy sauce; tofu; tempeh; textured vegetable protein (TVP); edamame; miso; tamari

Substitutes: Soy-free miso; real butter and milk; olive oil; teriyaki sauce

Egg allergies
Avoid: Eggs (from any animal and in all forms – dried, powdered, solids, white, yolk); eggnog; albumin; lysozyme; mayonnaise; egg substitutes; marshmallows; baked goods; pasta

Substitutes: Egg replacements; applesauce; banana

  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000