Tag Archive for: eating

Food Allergens for Infants - A Rough Guide

Amongst children aged up to two, the incidence of proven food allergies is only 5% and such reactions are generally mild.We previously looked at the types of food for parents to avoid giving infants and now follow up with a separate post about foods that are most likely to cause allergic reactions in the very young.

Some reactions towards food are also not true allergies, in the scientific sense. For those that are, it’s important to stress that severe allergic reactions (a.k.a. ‘Anaphylaxis’) in infants under one are rare. However such severe reactions should always be treated as a medical emergency. Even amongst children aged up to two, though, the incidence of proven food allergies is only 5% and such reactions are generally mild. Nonetheless, parents, carers and guardians of infants will naturally want to be cautious. Today’s post discusses the food types that most commonly cause allergic reactions and how they can be introduced to infants.

Severe allergic reactions (Anaphylaxis) in infants under one are rare, however such reactions should be treated as a medical emergency.

Symptoms to Look Out For

So, what are the symptoms of an allergic reaction? The NHS lists symptoms like sneezing, wheezing, coughing and a blocked or runny nose as possible signs of an allergic reaction. Itchy, red, watery eyes or a red, itchy rash are also possible signs, as are worsening symptoms of eczema or asthma.

The Most Common Food Allergens

According to the NHS, the 8 food types that are most likely to cause allergic reactions are:

Cows’ milkEggs
Gluten (found in wheat, barley, rye, oats etc.)Nuts including peanuts*
Seeds & seed derivatives*Soya
Shellfish*Fish

* We touched upon some of these ingredients in our A-Z Guide to Foods to Avoid Giving Infants but will mention the following again: seeds and nuts, including peanuts, should only be served to under-fives crushed, ground or as a ‘butter’ as they are otherwise a choking hazard; eggs should be avoided before the age of 6 months and thereafter never be served raw/lightly cooked except if they exhibit the Red Lion or “British Lion Quality” stamp; shellfish should also never be served to infants raw or lightly cooked.

Always read food labels carefully.

Eggs are one of the 8 food types that are most likely to cause allergic reactions, according to the NHS.Mustard, celery, the preservative/antioxidant sulphur dioxide, the legume lupin and molluscs are the next most common food allergens after those listed in the table above. Kiwi, the fruit, is also known to cause allergic reactions in some infants, however is apparently the only potential allergen out of those listed above that doesn’t have to be listed, by law, on the ingredients list of pre-packaged food products.

When to Start Watching Out for Allergens

The NHS recommends slowly introducing the food types above, usually from about the age of 6 months if they’re developmentally ready. This is the age when babies most commonly start the process of weaning i.e. moving – gradually – towards eating solids. Start only when the infant is well, including having a good skin condition, because eczema is a possible sign of an existing allergy. The NHS strongly recommends that you talk to a GP or health visitor before introducing new foods to infants who are already known to have an allergy diagnosis or family history of allergies, including eczema, asthma and hay fever.

Any ‘new’ food types, particularly known allergens from the list above, should be introduced to the infant only one at a time, preferably early in the day so that you have more time to monitor for any reactions. Accepted advice is to start only with a tiny initial amount and monitor for possible symptoms of an allergic reaction. When the introduction of peanuts was delayed to a later time in the child's development, the risk of developing an allergic reaction to them increased.Amounts can later be increased, bit by bit over the following days, if the infant is found to be tolerant. And, of course, a new food type can then be tried only once the previous one has ‘passed the test’. However, bear in mind that some allergic reactions are far from immediate. Known as non-IgE food allergies, their symptoms can take anywhere from 2 hours to 3 days to show. So, the message is to be very careful and methodical when it comes to introducing new foods to your infant.1

1: More detail about IgE (rapid) and non-IgE (delayed) allergy symptoms and other useful information about the introduction of potential allergens to infants can be read in a very good article by baby and child nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed.

Once introduced and shown to be tolerated by the infant, the new foods should then remain a part of the child’s usual diet and be eaten regularly. This minimises the chances of the child developing an allergy to such food types later on. Interestingly, where the introduction of peanuts and hens’ eggs has been delayed to a later time in the child’s development, the risk of developing an allergic reaction to them has actually increased. So, the risks need to be carefully balanced.

Special Mention: Milk Conundrums

The NHS recommends “exclusive breastfeeding or First Infant Formula” milk for babies during their first six monthsThe NHS recommends “exclusive breastfeeding or First Infant Formula” milk for babies during their first six months (and, indeed, breastfeeding has many benefits). Breastfeeding is not always possible though, for one reason or another, which is where the mention of First Infant Formula comes in. However, with standard First Infant Formula Milk being based on cows’ milk, and cows’ milk being one of the food types that infants are most commonly allergic or intolerant to, a healthcare professional will need to be consulted in the event of a reaction. For those found to have Cows’ Milk Allergy (‘CMA’), alternatives like Hypoallergenic Formula Milk, Lactose-Free Formula Milk or even Soya Formula Milk may be suggested by the GP/healthcare professional. However, it’s important for such milk alternatives to be given only under professional medical supervision as there are important and specific considerations around each. We’ll explain more about those in a separate post in due course, where we’ll outline the different types of milk and formula for babies and infants. Watch this space for more details soon.

Another milk-related conundrum that nursing mothers may have is whether they should avoid potential allergens themselves in case it passes to the infant through breast milk. The NHS’s advice in this regard is succinct and straight forward:

“If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you do not need to avoid foods that can trigger allergic reactions (including peanuts), unless you’re allergic to them.” (NHS)

Please note: We hope guide is a useful starting point for parents/guardians who want to learn more about safely introducing little ones to new food types. However, it is a guide only and you should do your own research. Talk to your GP, health visitor or other healthcare professional if you need professional advice or guidance in regard to your child’s diet and any allergy- or health-related issues. Always check food labels and contact the emergency services urgently if your child exhibits signs of a severe allergic reaction.

Healthy Food at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham

Healthy snacks are included in the fees at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston/Birmingham.Meals at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery are freshly made, using high quality, nutritious ingredients, which are prepared for us by award-winning early years caterers. Healthy snacks, meals and drinks are all included in our nursery fees, as appropriate. We cater for all dietary needs (e.g. vegan, vegetarian etc.) and, of course, are mindful — and hugely careful — about any allergies amongst the little ones. We also participate in the ‘Startwell’ programme, which encourages our children and families in the Birmingham area to eat healthy meals and to live healthy lifestyles.

Searching for the best nurseries or pre-schools in Edgbaston, Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick?

Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Please get in touch if you would like to visit Leaps & Bounds or to enrol your baby, toddler or under-five child at this excellent childcare setting. We are a high quality nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham but are equally convenient for those who live or work in Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick. Why not bring your child along to see the nursery in action and to ask us any questions that you may have. You can also apply for a place if you’re ready to make a decision about your childcare. Please choose a button below to get started:

Next Time

Today’s article focuses on food that may cause allergic reactions in infants. We subsequently follow up with a great guide to Seasonal Allergies in Under-Fives. Instead of being caused by food, seasonal allergies are caused by such things as pollen, dust, mould and pet dander at certain times of the year. Click the green link above to learn about symptoms, causes and ways to help children affected by such allergies.

Is Your Child a Fussy Eater?

Today's article offers a handy guide to dealing with toddlers and preschoolers who are fussy about food.Is your child a fussy eater? If so, it can be rather frustrating for parents or guardians. It could also lead to a poorly balanced diet, which would be bad from a number of health and wellbeing perspectives. The good news, though, is that there are lots of things that parents can do to potentially cure the problem. Today’s article offers a handy guide to dealing with toddlers and preschoolers who are fussy about food.

Don’t Stress

If they’re in their early years, food fussiness is rather common, so you’re far from alone. When they transition from milk onto solids, everything is new to infants, from tastes to textures — and even colours when you think about it. While some little ones take to the new sensory stimuli with relish, others seem put off initially by many of these new food experiences. After all, most of them will not be as sweet as the milk they’ve been used to. Being wary of new food is perfectly normal too, even instinctive for many. After all, they don’t know what’s good or bad for them at such an early age.

Some Think They Don’t Like it

Another major factor in disliking certain foods is that children often think they don’t like it. That’s common to many children and, indeed, even to some older children. It’s even common for adults to later eat and enjoy foods that they wouldn’t have given the time of day to during childhood, simply based on a misplaced early belief that they didn’t or wouldn’t like it.

Try, Try and Try Food Again

Infants may need to try a new food as many as fifteen times before they accept it.

It can sometimes take 10 to 15 attempts before children will learn to like a particular food.That, above, is one of the main secrets of encouraging children to accept a particular food i.e. getting them to try, try, … and try it again. It can sometimes take 10 to 15 times before they’ll realise that, actually, it tastes pretty good now they’re used to it! It’s the very definition of an ‘acquired taste’ when you think about it and this seemingly odd facet of human nature is worth explaining to under-fives. It could encourage them to try more things.

Showing empathy to a child around their food misgivings can also help. They may well pick up on your advice eventually, even if it takes several tries before they learn to ‘trust’ and accept a particular food. Being enthusiastic about a food they’re wary of may also help.

Disguising Food

Hiding or disguising food is another useful approach for parents/guardians of children who won’t eat a specific food. A particular vegetable, for example, can be made into a mash, mixed in with a salad, made into a sauce or soup or even chopped up and used in a garnish. This will get the child used to the taste without realising they are eating something they weren’t keen on attempting.

People eat first with their eyes.

Make Food Fun!

Food can be made into a picture on the plate, to make eating more fun for little ones.Another way to encourage children to eat foods they are not keen on trying is to make them more appealing and entertaining. A plate of food could be made into a picture, for example. Broccoli could be used to represent trees, a mound of peas could represent a hilltop and cut up carrots could be made to look like a sun, perhaps. Pictorial themes might include faces, the countryside, space and exploration, animal shapes, rainbows, the seaside, the weather and so on. Children will naturally engage with this concept and it will make food fun.

Similarly, you might allow children to use plates and bowls that have fun designs that are revealed as food is consumed from them.

Pretending the food on the spoon is a train, car or plane coming towards them makes every mouthful fun!Then, of course, there is the old favourite for the youngest of the children — pretending the food on the spoon is a train, car or plane coming towards them! This, with suitable sound effects from the parent, makes every mouthful great fun!

Build Bridges

By that, we mean ‘food bridges‘. These are a way of harnessing a child’s liking of one food to introduce another. An example would be where, if they like boiled potatoes but not cheese or apple, you would sprinkle a little grated cheese or apple purée on top of the potatoes. Work with small amounts first and then they’ll gradually get used to the tastes.

Get Children Involved with Food

Getting children involved in choosing and preparing food can help encourage them to eat it.Getting children involved in all aspects of food may also encourage them to try different things and to accept them. Examples would include letting them choose the vegetables or fruit from the supermarket shelves, allowing them to be involved (under supervision) in the meal preparation and even helping them to grow their own food. Allowing them to decide how food is presented on the plate is another example. All these things make food fun and less intimidating.

Positive Signals & Encouragement

Children often do better with encouragement and its place around food is no different. So, some enthusiasm from parents/guardians in this regard will go a long way. “Ooh, that’s yummy!” or “It’s so tasty!” type comments will send positive signals to the child as they eat. Be positive about food, the different tastes and textures and how good food is for them. “It will make you grow up to be big … strong … energised … and healthy” etc.

Negotiate!

Some children can be quite stubborn so, if they’re refusing a decent food for no good reason, try negotiating with them! For example, “If you eat all of your peas, we’ll go to the swings” and so on. Focus on encouragement i.e. rewarding them rather than punishing them if they don’t eat. It’s the ‘carrot’ not the ‘stick’, to use the metaphor, as you want positivity around food, never negativity.

Teach by Example

Children instinctively learn from their parents, guardians, adults and role models.If a child is hesitant about trying a particular food, let them see you eat – and enjoy – some of it. You are their primary role model, after all. As we said before, remind them, perhaps, that it’s ‘yummy’ or that their friend or TV hero enjoys it. Children instinctively learn from their parents, guardians, adults and role models, so this is a very natural way to encourage them to eat things they really should be eating.

Don’t forget, it can take multiple tries, so don’t give in! Gentle perseverance is key when it comes to children trying food that they’re wary of.

Healthy Eating at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston

Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Our childcare professionals know all these approaches, of course. So, if a child is reticent about a particular food, we know just what to do to encourage them to try it, without undue pressure. Parents can also discuss their child’s food and eating with our childcare practitioners — we will always take on board their preferences and advice.

Healthy, fresh, balanced meals, snacks and drinks are all provided at Leaps & Bounds nursery/pre-school — they’re included in our fees. The nursery also adopted the ‘Startwell’ programme some years ago and this is a way to keep children eating healthily and keeping active. Learn more about the Birmingham Startwell programme here.

Looking for an Outstanding Childcare Service in Edgbaston, Birmingham?

Try Leaps & Bounds, a childcare nursery & pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

If you’re searching for the best nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham or near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, please contact us. We’ll be happy to show you around the setting, answer your questions and welcome your child to our lovely nursery and pre-school. Please choose a button below: