Childhood food allergies are on the rise – according to FARE, 15 million Americans face food allergies, including eight percent of children under the age of 18. That means one in every 13 children or roughly two students in each classroom are affected by food allergies. Fortunately, families living with food allergies now have access to a plethora of great tasting products and recipes, along with free-from resources to help eliminate concerns. To commemorate National Food Allergy Awareness Week (May 13 – 19), SunButter®, the maker of premium allergy-friendly sunflower butters, joins forces with registered dietitian Katie Ferraro to identify five essential tips for navigating food allergies:
- Get a medical diagnosis—Avoid self-diagnosing food allergies as it may lead to unnecessary restrictions.
- Consult with a registered dietitian—Once you have a food allergy diagnosis, a dietitian can help craft a well-balanced meal plan consisting of foods you and your family can eat.
- Read those labels—Newer laws mandate clear disclosure of allergenic ingredients, so take advantage of and familiarize yourself with product labels.
- Seek support from other families living with allergies—A new food allergy diagnosis can initially feel very isolating, but there are many families with similar situations. Find a food allergy support group or online community, like the Food Equality Initiative, Kids With Food Allergies, Food Allergy Research & Education and Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team, to share ideas and experiences with.
- Be adventurous with new foods—Don’t think of a food allergy as merely a “ban” on certain foods, but rather as an opportunity to explore new foods that are compatible with your diet.
“My most valuable recommendation for families with food allergies is to approach the diagnosis of a new food allergy as an opportunity to try new foods,” says Katie Ferraro, MPH, RDN, CDE. “For example, if you’re dealing with a peanut or tree nut allergy, explore and try other types of plant protein like the sunflower seeds in SunButter.”
More than 170 foods have been reported to cause allergic reactions and eight of those foods – milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and crustacean shellfish – are responsible for more than 90 percent of serious food allergic reactions in the United States, according to FARE. The U.S. grown and made, specially-roasted sunflower seeds found in SunButter products are processed in a dedicated facility and every jar is free from the top eight food allergens.
“Food allergies are becoming increasingly prevalent for families and in schools today, making it difficult for parents and school officials to navigate common limitations,” said Justin LaGosh, director of sales and marketing at SunButter. “SunButter is committed to providing nutritious products with simple ingredients that any family can enjoy, and we hope more and more brands will contribute to the free-from space by considering food allergies when creating new or innovating existing products.”