Food Allergy Mom Doc

Donna DeCosta, a physician and the mother of two sons with life threatening food allergies, founded Her blog, website and social networks are dedicated to providing tips, ideas and resources to help you deal with the...

Donna is a winner of Top 25 Food Allergy Moms - 2012

What's your best advice for a mom struggling with cooking for children with food allergies?

For moms struggling with cooking for their children with food allergies, realize that it is a process. At first it may seem impossible and frustrating, but with time and education hopefully it will become doable and less stressful. Here are some tips:

-start off cooking with fresh produce and meat and less processed foods. Processed food often has many allergens and you cannot control their manufacturing practices. If you make meals from fresh fruit, vegetables, grains and meats you will be more in control of the ingredients;

-always read the food labels. Ingredient labels can change without warning. Read them at the grocery store and review the labels prior to cooking, especially if a new product;

-check out the many cookbooks, websites, APPS and social media networks that have great recipes and helpful substitutions; and

-involve your children! Show them how to read a label. Have them check to see if they think a food is safe. Ask your children to suggest fruits, vegetables, recipes or combinations to try which will help to empower them.

What's your favorite allergy friendly product?

I love Cherrybrook Kitchen! They have wonderful cake, cookie, brownie, muffin and pancake mixes that are free of peanuts, nuts, egg and dairy. They also have gluten free products. I have made delicious birthday cakes with their mixes as well safe cupcakes for celebrations. The cookies and cakes taste great and people don’t even realize they are egg free!

What's the biggest challenge raising a child with food allergies?

The biggest challenge to raising a child with food allergies is walking the fine line of teaching them to respect their food allergies and keep them safe without making them terrified and feel that they are missing out on the joys of life. Here are some things to consider:

-educate your child, in an age appropriate manner, about their food allergies. Teach them how to prevent, recognize and treat a reaction through websites, DVD’s, APPS, and books;

-take advantage of websites and conferences directed towards children and teens;

-role play various situations which they may encounter with friends and family, at school and in other social situations;

-consider joining a support group to share experiences with other parents and to hopefully have your child meet other children with food allergies so that they will know they aren’t alone;

-educate your child’s Food Allergy Circle including friends, relatives, caretakers and anyone with whom your child interacts. Not only is this essential for their safety, but it will help your child to feel understood and supported;

-emphasize, to your child, that this is only a small part of them. They are so much more than their food allergies. Help them to focus on all of the foods that they can eat and things that they can do;

-teach them to make adaptations and substitutions for unsafe foods. Encourage them to read labels and begin to make decisions for themselves, with guidance, thus empowering you children; and

-remind your children that millions of people live very full, fun and rewarding lives with food allergies and with proper planning and preparation, they can as well!