My son was recently diagnosed with a severe dairy allergy, and it really made me look much more closely at the food we eat. We were never big on fast food or processed food, but now we can't even stop for McDonald's french fries in a pinch - they are not dairy free. So many processed foods have tiny traces of dairy that could make my son very sick, in addition to having many ingredients that I can't even pronounce or recognize. Most loaves of bread in the grocery store have milk. Many brands of pretzels and crackers and chips and cookies have milk. Most jars of spaghetti sauce have - you guessed it - cheese! Margarine contains milk. Even many soy cheeses and yogurts include small amounts of dairy amongst their ingredients. So often, we may not even pay much attention to what is in our food until it really matters.
In many ways, I think that our departure from eating whole foods and from spending time outside in the sunshine has made us sicker. Incidence of food allergies is rising steeply, especially among children. In one interesting Australian study, food allergy rates are correlated with latitude, suggesting that increased sun exposure seems to have a protective effect against developing food allergies.
But besides spending more time out in the sunshine making vitamin D, and besides putting more whole foods in our bodies, how can we address the existing allergies? Most importantly, as a good rule of thumb, don't serve any food to any child without asking their parent first. If possible, avoid processed foods and serve either homemade treats, or serve the best snack of all - fresh fruits and vegetables, with a big glass of water.
My son's favorite dairy-free snacks include veggie chips with hummus, sesame blue corn chips with salsa, strawberry and blueberry shish-kabobs on toothpicks, homemade oatmeal-peanut butter cookies with vegan chocolate chips, and pasta with tomato sauce, which he would be happy to eat 24/7. However, many of these snacks wouldn't be safe for other food allergies.
What are your favorite allergy-safe snacks?