Learning to be an anti-diet intuitive eater means relearning listening to our bodies when deciding what and how much to eat. The idea is to not “overthink” what we eat and not over-analyze specific nutrients. But what happens when you are trying to eat intuitively but also have food allergies?
As an intuitive eater myself, I had not put much thought into the idea until my oldest son started eating solid foods and had multiple allergic reactions. Luckily, I found some easy substitutions that allowed us to serve him foods similar to what others were eating so he was still exposed to a wide variety of items. Honestly, these foods do come with a higher price tag, and the substitutes did not always have the same taste or texture, but overall, I felt we were navigating his food allergies well and still raising him to eat intuitively.
However, when my second child came along, at one month old after I nursed him, he started reacting to foods I was eating. This is when I had to alter my diet. I had to eliminate foods I ate and truly enjoyed on a regular basis. Side note: Women who are breastfeeding are too often told to alter their diets if their baby is experiencing gas or discomfort when that is not always the answer. Please take care if you are in this situation and seek support from your providers before eliminating anything from your diet or if you think your infant has a food allergy or intolerance.
Shortly after, we would discover that my second son would develop even more food allergies as he started eating more solids. So now I was navigating two children with food allergies as well as having to avoid foods myself due to his food allergies. To say this was challenging is an understatement. I actively work in the anti-diet and intuitive eating space and still struggled with this adjustment! There were changes I needed to work on for myself as well as with my children, specifically my toddler, to help everyone foster a healthy relationship with food while simultaneously understanding the importance of why some foods needed to be avoided. It takes a lot of work and does not always come naturally, especially when initially diagnosed with a food allergy, but you can still eat intuitively!
Here are some things I’ve learned and tips to keep in mind if you or your children have food allergies to teach them to be intuitive eaters:
1. When looking at food labels, cover up the nutrition facts panel and only look at the ingredients section. Once you know a specific food item or brand is safe, you do not need to look at it again. (If you are someone who is struggling with an active eating disorder and food labels can be triggering, you can ask people in your support system to look at labels for you.)
2. Find substitutions for the foods you’re allergic to if possible so you can still make the recipes you desire. This applies if you have children with food allergies as well as if you are breastfeeding a child with food allergies. If able, find alternatives to the same types of foods that family or peers are eating so they
do not feel left out.
3. Eating out: research allergen-friendly restaurants, look up allergens ahead of time if they are available online, and/or double check with the staff at the restaurant as to which foods are allergen free. It can be a lot of work to eat out and can be stressful, so if you are noticing it is providing more stress than pleasure, work with your team on how to decrease the stress if eating out is wanted or needed. There are also some social media accounts like @mymeal.foodallergy on Instagram that provide some tips for eating out when dealing with food allergies.
4. Continue using intuitive eating resources for you and your kids when dealing with food allergies. I recommend Intuitive Eating by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole, Fat Talk by Virginia Sole-Smith, and How to Raise an Intuitive Eater by Sumner Brooks and Amee Severson. Also, check out Niki’s blog post for ideas that can be used on how to raise an intuitive eater even if your child has food allergies (https://www.beyondnewtown.com/post/lessons-i-learned-from-my-
5. Lastly, if really struggling with your food allergies and your relationship with food, seek support from someone in the anti-diet and intuitive eating space. You can reach out to schedule an appointment with any one of our team members at Beyond Therapy and Nutrition Center by using our Contact page! You do not need to figure it out on your own!
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