by Sarah Schlichter
As a Registered Dietitian, I see my fair share of clients who have food allergies themselves, or have a child or family member with food allergies. I am also one of the many with food allergies. Since finding out I was allergic to tree nuts in 7th grade, I’ve learned to pay attention to nutrition labels and ingredient lists, for fear of eating something contaminated with tree nuts. For me personally, peanuts are okay since they are technically a legume, but anything made with tree nuts is off limits. I have experienced some scary allergic reactions and have empathy for those who have as well. I understand the gravity and severity of food allergies, and hope to spread some awareness about it as well.
Food allergies are currently on the rise. It is estimated that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies, including 4-6% of children (5.9 million children under age 18) (Source). A food allergy is a medical condition where exposure to a food that is an allergen triggers a response (allergic reaction). When this happens, the immune system attacks proteins, which they see as allergens, in the food that are normally harmless. Food allergy symptoms can range from mild (itching, some hives) to severe (tightening throat, difficulty breathing, and even anaphylactic shock).
While Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) reports allergic reactions from over 170 different types of foods, there are typically eight major food sources that account for 90% of allergic reactions. Milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish are known as “The Top 8” and cause the most serious allergic reactions among people.
Food allergies in children is a growing concern. The Centers Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the prevalence of food allergies among children has increased by 18% between 1997 and 2007. Parents need to be overly cautious about packing foods and snacks for children. The CDC has even published comprehensive guidelines to help manage food allergies in schools, providing practical information and strategies for use that comply with federal laws and regulations.
Fortunately, Sun-Maid offers a variety of delicious, portable allergy-free products and snacks. Raisins and dried fruits can of course be eaten by themselves, or added to things like yogurt (can do dairy-free if sensitive to dairy), salads and chia pudding. Adding raisins and/or dried fruit to your child’s snack not only adds an extra serving of fruit, but also provides fiber, iron, calcium, potassium and phytonutrients. Raisins are a more nutrient-dense option than processed foods like potato chips, and are free from cholesterol and saturated fat.
If you’re looking for some safe ideas, here are some healthy snack suggestions.
Sarah Schlichter is a Registered Dietitian with my Master’s of Public Health in Charlotte, NC. She works in nutrition counseling and consulting, and blogs at Bucket List Tummy.