Allergy-free Birthday Cakes

First birthday cake

For both of my children, their first birthday cakes were their first solid foods. That means all at once they covered their faces with milk, eggs, wheat, and other potential food allergens. A lot of us take the chance that our baby won’t have a reaction or sensitivity to birthday cake even if we are careful introducing new foods slowly otherwise.

If you are introducing your baby to new foods at a birthday party, at least simplify the birthday cake recipe to reduce the number of potential food allergens.

Wheat-free Cakes. If you aren’t attached specifically to the idea of having a cake, frosted rice krispie treats have that cake feel without wheat. An ice cream or frozen yoghurt cake could also be a wheat-free treat if you aren’t also avoiding dairy.

Egg-free Cakes. If you are avoiding eggs, avoid egg substitutes unless they are egg-free. Check the label. You may need to look online for vegan cooking ingredients. If you are lucky enough to have a local vegan bakery, even better. Save yourself the time and support a local business.

Dairy-free Cakes. Some cake mixes are dairy free. If you have a favorite homemade recipe, a simple substitution of soy milk may be enough. Wacky cake is a common and much loved dairy-free and egg-free cake that uses vegetable oil for moisture and binding.


Cake Flavors

For babies who have been eating solids foods, they may already know carrots, zucchini, applesauce, and bananas. All of these make great additions to cakes. The cake will just push familiar flavors a little. Since a lot of the sweetness in these cakes comes from the fruit or vegetable, you won’t need to add so much sugar.

You may also want to avoid chocolate, peanuts, and tree nuts. Until you have introduced these foods and know that you child has no problems with them, you can easily flavor your cakes without them.


Frosting

If you are avoiding buttercream frosting, there are several ways you can create that frosting feel without adding a slab of butter and powdered sugar to your cake.

Cream cheese frosting is sweetened with powdered sugar and made loose enough to spread with milk. If you want to avoid adding sugar, try mixing yoghurt and cream cheese until it is a texture you like. You could also use whipped cream, but don’t put it on the cake too long before you serve since it can lose its firmness and soak into the cake.

Or, avoid frosting altogether. A light sprinkling of powdered sugar or fresh-cut strawberries dress up a cake.


Check with the Guests

Your child isn’t the only person you should look out for when you are making a birthday cake. Either make a note on your invitation to let you know about any food allergies or just call the guests. Sometimes it is easier to speak up about food sensitivities when it feels like a casual question. When I receive a dinner invitation, I dread the conversation when I say, “I can’t have dairy or this or that.” I often wonder if my saying that will be followed up with, “Oh, don’t bother coming, then.”

Make it easy for your guests to speak up.


Are you ready to make your cake?
Do you know what you plan to avoid in a recipe? The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network has a free allergy-free recipe database with cake after beautiful cake that you can use to introduce your baby to the joy of birthday cake.


Resources

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Tips for allergy-free cooking – Egg free!

Wheat-only pasta

Egg allergy is the second most common food allergy in children after cow’s milk, and it is more common in children than in adults. About 2% of children have some form of egg allergy. Sometimes a baby will show allergic reactions to eggs then grow out of that allergy by 5 years old. Breastfed babies with egg allergy can react when the mother eats eggs, as is true with other allergens, so both members of the nursing pair should avoid eggs.

I grew up until I was 5 years old on an egg farm, and I have local organic eggs delivered to my house every week. I’m a huge egg lover. I say that to make it clear that, unlike with cow’s milk allergies and wheat allergies, I have no personal experience with egg allergies. If you have experience you would like to share, I would love to hear from you.

Still, I offer a few tips I’ve gathered from others who do avoid eggs in their diets.


Egg Allergy Symptoms

Symptoms are similar to other food allergies where the body is fighting what it sees as a foreign invader: a skin reaction such as hives or rash; a respiratory reaction, including congestion and even allergic asthma; a gastrointestinal reactions, such as nausea and stomach cramps; or anaphylaxis. For some, this can be a life-threatening food allergy, but for others it causes a bit of inconvenience. The seriousness of the allergy for your child or other family member should determine how careful you are about avoiding eggs in foods.


Avoiding Eggs

Avoiding eggs in foods is difficult. Egg nog, egg noodles, and egg rolls may be obvious enough, but you need to watch out for mayonnaise, marshmallows, breads and crackers, glazed breads like bagels, cream pies and doughnuts, ice cream, pudding, battered foods, and more. Even some root beers and wines contain egg products.

Eggs are so commonly used that you will undoubtedly find yourself reading labels closely. Eggs are required to be listed on food labels, but they aren’t always listed as “Eggs.” Also egg-derived ingredients, such as: albumin, apovitellenin, globulin, lecithin, livetin, lysozyme, ovalbumin, ovoglobulin, ovomucin, ovomucoid, ovotransferrin, ovovitellin, phosvitin, silici albuminate, simplesse, and vitellin. If the ingredient is “ov-” anything, as in ovum or egg, avoid it.


What to use in baking?
Corn starch, potato starch, arrowroot powder, or soy powder can all be used as egg substitutes in baking. Usually for bread, though, it’s just as easy to find a different recipe that isn’t intended to include egg.

You could use an egg substitute, but some of them include egg whites, in which case you might ask how much of a substitute it is. Most egg substitutes are meant to lower cholesterol rather than egg proteins, so this is not an appropriate food for those with egg allergies unless it is specifically egg-free.

What to use in brownies? “Use 1½ tablespoons (22.2 milliliters) oil and 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) of baking powder for each egg,” suggests KidsHealth.org.

What to use in cookies? Rather than just using your old recipes and substituting ingredients, try some of the amazing egg-free recipes at EgglessCooking.com. They have a lot of recipes for cookies and other baked desserts.

What to use in a cake? A banana or a cup or applesauce can act like a binding agent. Still wondering what to do with the zucchini from harvest (I have a freezer full of it), use it in cakes and forget the eggs. Cakes are generally more forgiving of ingredient changes than breads.

What to use in pasta? Just choose or make pasta without eggs. Most dry pastas are just wheat and water, but fresh pasta often uses eggs. Labels, labels, labels.

What to use for shampoo? Check the label. There are plenty of non-egg choices, but there are shampoos that include egg products. I even remember putting a raw egg mixture on my hair as a teenager. (It was a very long time ago, and I don’t remember why that was supposed to be a good thing.)

What to use for creams and ointments? Check the label. As with shampoo and other cosmetics, there are plenty of choices. Just find one that doesn’t include the long list of egg-derived ingredients.

Whether to give your child vaccinations should be discussed with your doctor. Flu vaccinations in particular are often cultured in eggs.

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Tips for allergy-free cooking – Dairy free!

Soy milk

I am familiar with milk-free, dairy-free cooking because I don’t, shouldn’t, can’t eat dairy. But I still do, and that’s a problem.

Ice cream. I love it. Sadly, ice cream doesn’t love me—and it’s starting to be clear that it doesn’t love my children either, though they are still happily in denial. This fact punched me in the stomach again over the weekend when my family had ice cream and I had a few bites. Yes, I know better. I’ve spent my whole adult life avoiding dairy, but what I have is a food sensitivity rather than an allergy. Both need to avoid dairy, though for parents who need to create 100% dairy-free meals, the consequences of a few bites are far greater.

Whether you are avoiding milk and dairy because of intolerances or you need to completely change your way of cooking and eating to cut out all traces of dairy, here are a few tips on allergy-free, dairy-free meals for children and the whole family.

What to drink? Soy milk, rice milk, and almond milk all have a light, mild enough taste that you could drink them. My dairy delivery service offers all of these, and I have both soy milk and orange juice delivered with our local milk.

What to put on cereal? Though you could go with soy, rice, or almond milk, I find that cereal with orange juice suits me better.

What to put in sauces? I use light coconut milk. We eat curry a lot, and that taste works really well in some other sauces.

What to use for baking? Oil when your recipe uses molasses, honey, or other liquids. Nut butter when you can beat enough lightness into the batter. Margarine or vegetable shortening when you are making dense baked goods like cookies.

What to spread on toast? Peanut butter*, homemade or sugar-free jam, Marmite (takes a strong constitution or a British nostalgia), tree-nut cheese (like cream cheese), or Tofutti (like cream cheese).

*An allergy to peanuts is uncommon (about 1% of the population) but severe. Use peanuts or even tree nuts as milk substitutes carefully until you are sure your child shows no signs of allergy.

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Allergy-free School Lunch Strategies

Peanuts

If your child is going to school for the first time and has food allergies, you may be wondering how you are going to keep your child safe at a distance. You need allergy-free lunch and snack strategies.


Food Allergies Seem to Be on the Rise

In 2007, approximately 3 million children under age 18 years (3.9%) were reported to have a food or digestive allergy in the previous 12 months.

Almost 4% of children under 18 years of age, 3 million children in the U.S., reported having food or digestive allergies in 2007, and the number increased 18% over the 10 years previous. Several thousand children are hospitalized each year because of their food allergies. About 2% of Canadians have severe, anaphylactic allergies. It isn’t clear why the numbers are going up. It may just be a matter of increased diagnosis.

Allergic reactions can be severe to the point of being life-threatening for some. Food allergies involve a reaction of the body’s immune system. Symptoms of food intolerance tend to be much less severe gastrointenstinal reactions. The best-known food intolerances are lactose (milk) and gluten (wheat). Many children outgrow many food allergies, but peanut and tree nut allergies can stay for life.

The numbers of children with severe problems are low overall, but, if your child is one of the few, food allergies can be a big enough issue to shape family life.


Food Allergy Basics

U.S. Food and Drug Administration labelling laws identify eight “major food allergens” that account for 90% of all food allergies. There are, though, 160 foods identified as potential causes of allergies.

The big eight food allergens are:

  • milk,
  • eggs,
  • peanuts,
  • tree nuts,
  • seafood,
  • shellfish,
  • soy. and
  • wheat.

Allergic reactions can include: hives, flushed skin or rash, tingling or itchy sensation in the mouth, face, tongue, or lip swelling, vomiting and/or diarrhea, abdominal cramps, coughing or wheezing, dizziness and/or lightheadedness, swelling of the throat and vocal cords, difficulty breathing, or loss of consciousness.


Sending Your Allergic Child to School

If your child is going to school for the first time, you want to be sure that your child, your child’s teacher, and school officials know about any severe allergies.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control conducts a periodic survey to find out how schools are dealing with food allergies. Most schools (97.9%) keep records of students with severe food allergies, but not all schools that had students with food allergies adjusted the food offered to those students. Some schools (76.9%) had a written plan to feed these students, but there is enough of a gap that parents need to be prepared to help schools accommodate their children.

Work with the school to be sure that your child eats safely at school. Your child, though, is the first line of defense, since she is the one who will be able to say, “No, I can’t have a bite of your peanut butter cookie” or “I can’t trade sandwiches.”

The best resources I have found for back-to-school allergy strategies are in the PAL Back-to-school Kit from The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. The kit teaches not only the child with allergies but that child’s friends how to be safe and Protect A Life (PAL).


Resources for Parents of Children with Food Allergies

The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network – A nonprofit working to bring global awareness to food allergy issues. Their focus is information exchange for awareness and education. They have a Be a PAL Back-to-school Kit with a lot of essential information for students, parents, and educators, including lesson plans that help everyone in the classroom become more aware of those students for whom basic foods in other students’ lunch boxes can be life threatening. They also have a free allergy-free recipe database.

Food Allergy Initiative – A nonprofit funding research, improved diagnosis, and education and advocacy to keep patients safe. Their focus is finding a cure for life-threatening food allergies.

Kids with Food Allergies – A national nonprofit providing support and community for families. They have a recipe database available to paid members. Forums and support are available to free members. They also have allergy alerts for undeclared ingredients for products in Canada, U.S., and the UK.

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