This is a guest post written by pediatric dietitian Marisa VanSchuyver, MS, RD, CSP, LD
A serious and misunderstood health problem, food allergies wreak havoc on growing numbers of our children. As many as 2 children in every classroom experience food allergies. Food allergy prevention is the best medicine around.
Is there anything we can do to help prevent food allergies in our children?
How we introduce food to our little ones may impact the development of food allergies. New recommendations changed how we approach feeding our children in the early years.
Follow along for some basic and easy to apply ideas.
When should I give foods to my child for the first time?
Goal: Introduce foods around 6 months of age
Current recommendations for food introductions are to wait until around 6 months of age. Look for your child’s readiness cues and provide only breast milk or formula until that time. New recommendations do not require waiting to introduce any certain food for allergy prevention, even for foods that are the most common food allergens. Keep reading to figure out how to introduce these foods.
You can find a guide on infant feeding here.
When do I introduce a new food?
Goal: Wait between each new food introduction
Trying peaches today? Wait 2-3 more days until you add in another new food. If your child develops trouble breathing, rashes, swelling, vomiting, diarrhea or changes in his stool pattern, it might be a reaction to the food you just started. Talk to baby’s doctor before trying that food again. Every time a new food is introduced, wait a few days until you add anything else new.
What food should I introduce first, and so on?
Goal: Choose foods that provide the most nutrition
Many families try rice cereal with breast milk or formula first. This tradition started with the thought to offer a food least likely to cause an allergic reaction and tasted bland. You can actually try any single ingredient fruit, vegetable, grain or meat as a first food! Many children benefit from meats as their first food (to build up their iron stores). For this first year, carefully choose foods that add nutrition to your child’s diet. Items like carrots or sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin A or a whole grain baby cereal like brown rice provides iron and folate. Always choose foods that are the right consistency for your child and stay away from foods that may cause your child to choke. Remember the first bites are just for taste and they will not ‘eat’ very much.
Marisa has over 6 years experience working with children and teens as a dietitian. She has worked at Dayton Children’s Hospital since 2009. She earned her master’s degree in nutrition from the University of Oklahoma and is certified specialist in pediatric nutrition. She enjoys working with families and helping foster healthy eating habits.
Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States: Report of the NIAID-Sponsored Expert Panel. 2010.
Greer, F.R., Sicherer, S.H., Burks, W.A., and the Committee on Nutrition and Section on Allergy and Immunology. (2008). Effects of Early Nutritional Interventions on the Development of Atopic Disease in Infants and Children: The Role of Maternal Dietary Restriction, Breastfeeding, Timing of Introduction of Complementary Foods, and Hydrolyzed Formulas. Pediatrics. 121(1), 183-91.
Sicherer, S. (2007). Food for Thought on Prevention and Treatment of Atopic Disease Through Diet. The Journal of Pediatrics. 51(4), 331-33.