My toddler was diagnosed with allergies to peanuts, dairy, eggs, and wheat when she was not yet 12 months old. It was good she was diagnosed so early, because she didn't know what she was missing when she saw someone with ice cream, for example, as she never had tried it. It was so frustrating, though, to see everyone else's growing babies and toddlers with little Gerber puff snacks(Veggie puffs, for example) or cheerios, or teething biscuits or goldfish crackers, and to read in the ingredient lists that each of these products had wheat or dairy! I found that MOST ALL of Gerber's baby products have wheat or dairy in them, other than the pure fruits or vegetables. Meat sticks? Contain whey. Sweet potato veggie puffs? Wheat starch. Arrowroot cookies? Wheat flour. Even many of the "dinner" combinations of stage 3 or 4 baby foods have wheat flour added, or have dairy products. Beyond baby foods, several products on the shelves have wheat added as a thickener, or have dairy of some sort, or have egg or nut. It can get so frustrating! However, I have found, over time, ways to get around these problems.
I discovered Gerber's apple wagonwheels(it's been a while, is that what they're called?) were fine for my daughter to eat. Also dried, dissolvable fruits or corn. I read the labels on several different brands of cold cereals, to find that Lucky Charms cereal had no wheat(note from Oct 2009- it Lucky Charms do have wheat currently), while any brand of Cheerios did contain wheat. Corn Chex has barley(which my daughter cannot have)(note from Oct 2009-Corn Chex is now Gluten-free, no barley malt) , but Rice Chex is just fine for her, as well as Kix. These, along with fruit snacks, became my daughter's little snack-on-the-go foods. I used cereal for snacks at home or even meals outside of breakfast.
As she got older, we had to find more foods for my daughter to eat. We found she really loved "potato pearls," a product similar, but different, from potato flakes. She loved to eat these dried potato granules in dry form! These were basically her staple food for awhile. And on trips away from home, these were so easy to take along with us for her stay at relatives houses. (note from Oct 2009, read labels carefully, at least one kind of potato pearls my daughter had did have an allergen, I think milk). My daughter likes oatmeal. Actually loved it every morning for quite awhile. (And she'd have it for meals other than breakfast, too). We also discovered she liked sweet potatoes. We would simply bake one potato in the microwave, dress it with olive oil and salt, and she'd eat it! Then she gravitated away from the sweet potato, but she likes regular baked potatoes, still with only olive oil and salt(now , at 2 1/2 yrs old, she uses barbecue sometimes, too). For awhile, my daughter ate a LOT of hot dogs, plain potato chips, cereal, and fruit. Not the greatest balanced foods, I know. Then she caught on to chicken drumsticks. Plain. All we had to do is boil them up for her, or even easier, just cook them in the microwave. No spices, no breading. She also enjoyed rice, chicken broth, olive oil(for added fat), and hamburger mixed together, for a space of time, as well as rice mixed simply with tomato sauce and sometimes hamburger. We discovered that she loves rice pasta(which is impressibly almost like the wheat version), though usually she will only eat it well when it's just been cooked. She really doesn't it leftovers of that very well. She seems to prefer it plain. Lately, she's not into it as much. I hear it's common for a toddler to really latch on to a food, then grow tired of it, or simply latch onto another one.
I was very happy when my toddler got used to rice milk. She wouldn't drink it at first. She would tolerate small amounts of soy milk, but we thought her frequent diarrhea might be connected to soy, so we stopped giving her soy for months. (We've brought it back and she seems just fine now). My husband got her to start drinking rice milk. She refused it until he brilliantly decided to drink it out of the carton in front of her and she mimicked him! I was, at first, a little upset that he drank out of the carton in front of her, but it actually got her to start drinking the milk! And then we got her to drink it out of a sippy cup. This was a good addition to her diet because we use enriched rice milk, which has calcium and various other important nutrients. Now that we give her soy, she also enjoys enriched soy milk and soy yogurt.
Basically, we have found foods for my toddler to enjoy, many of which are simple to prepare. As I've tried to actually cook or bake things special for her, she often hasn't cared for them anyway(ie: rice-vegetable stir fry, or pinto bean tamale soup). She didn't even eat cookies very much when I baked them, at first. I think she had to get used to the idea of eating cookies! What I'm trying to get at, is that it hasn't really done much for me to worry about cooking things special for toddler, other than staple whole foods. She likes simple foods. The motive and energy behind my learning to bake without her allergic foods was more for me, as I am breastfeeding her younger sister, and am going off of dairy, eggs, nuts, and limiting wheat consumption. I also wanted to combat my fear of "what if my children don't outgrow their allergies, how WILL they have nutritious, enjoyable diets?" And I wanted my child to start being able to experience the enjoyable treats other kids and adults experience. I don't know that my toddler will always be content with having fruit snacks instead of cupcakes at a birthday party. (note from oct 2009- my toddler as grown into a young girl who is open to trying new things, and eats well overall, with a very healthy range of nutritious foods from all four main food groups. She still likes simple, basic meals, like a complex carbohydrate(ie sweet potatoes, simply fried in canola oil), separate from a meat(like a hamburger simply cooked with wheat-free soy sauce, or a very lightly seasoned roast, which she likes to dip in barbeque sauce or ketchup), separate from a fruit(fresh, smoothie, juice), separate from a vegetable(she actually likes cauliflower(she grew to like it with soy sauce and now will eat it without as well), carrots, and cucumbers). She does like basic soups in which I cook ingredients together, for example, lentil, rice, drumstick soup with carrots and celery).
So, what does your baby or toddler eat, if they're allergic to wheat, eggs, dairy, and nuts? How have you dealt with efforts at providing balanced nutrition? I hear a lot about the importance of adequate fat in the diet before age 2. (Now that's a challenge without dairy, I welcome your ideas! note from Oct 2009- adding canola oil to vegetables, potatoes, etc is one idea. Also, I notice my little girl loves meat fat, and I don't hold her back from eating it) What has been your experience with your child and your doctors? Anyone have successful experiences working with a nutritionist? (I haven't gotten one for my child, but I wonder about getting one).
(note from October 2009- I have learned a lot about nutrition since this post- I strongly recommend Joneja's book "Dealing with Food Allergies in Babies and Children." I feel much more confident now in providing a nutritious diet for my children. See my front page on my blog, "recommended books."