9 Healthy Habits for Food Allergies

When it comes to supporting your long-term health and wellness goals, there is a lot of truth to the saying "you are what you eat." Making smart, informed food choices should be a top priority - and while it may take a little more nuance, having food allergies should not sabotage your healthy eating habits.

Below you will find a list of some strategies for eating and living well while balancing your food allergies.

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Pick Nutrient-Rich Foods

More often than not, choose fruit, veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein foods. They pack a wallop of nutrition in a low to moderate amount of calories. Because of this, these foods are regarded as nutrient-rich. While you can find these foods everywhere, opting for them isn’t always easy.

Avoid the Trap of Too Much Junk Food

Easy, quick, tasty and minimal effort is tempting, but you should know how to skirt the junk food. Why? Because junk food may be nutrient-poor, offering lots of calories with few nutrients. Even with an indulgent day, or a child who is in a developmental stage that promotes junky eating, getting back on track with a nutritious diet should be a top priority for the person with food allergy.

Focus on Fiber

Understand the role of fiber, which helps with appetite control, and reduces the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer or diabetes. A diet plan that includes fiber will be chock full of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. This will help you regulate your appetite (read: avoid overeating) and set you up for a lifetime of health.

Keep the Food Variety Coming

Don’t eat the same foods day in and day out. Rotate different fruits and veggies in your meals and snacks, and aim to do so with all the food groups. Variety is the spice of life, after all, helping to keep nutrient intake and overall health a priority.

Exercise Most Days

Whether it be walking, yoga, running, swimming, or hitting the gym, figure out how to work in routine exercise. According to the recommendations for adults from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults need 2 1/2 hours each week of moderate-intensity exercise (brisk walking) and should be doing muscle-strengthening exercises 2 or more days each week. These recommendations take a variety of forms, all geared toward meeting the minimum exercise requirements to improve health. Children need an hour of physical activity each day. Exercise will help you feel energized and be more motivated to make healthy food choices.

Get Adequate Sleep

No matter what the age, everyone needs a desirable amount of sleep each night. Sleep promotes growth in children and overall good health in adults. According to the National Sleep Foundation, toddlers should get 12-14 hours of sleep per night; preschoolers aged 3-5 years should get 11-13 hours; for children aged 6 to 12 years, aim for 10-11 hours per night; for teens age 13 and older, a minimum of 7-8 hours; and for adults, a minimum of 6 hours.

Eat Foods That Help Preserve a Healthy Immune System

Foods that are rich in vitamins A, C and E may foster a healthy immunity, which is important for all food-allergic folks but especially for those who are still growing and those who have multiple food allergies. Try to capture these nutrients in your daily diet. Sources of vitamin A include vegetables and dairy foods. Citrus foods and 100% juice are good sources of vitamin C, and vitamin E can be found in oils, nuts, seeds, and fish.

Cover At-Risk Nutrients Like Calcium, Vitamin D, Iron, Zinc, and DHA

Having food allergies means giving up certain foods, often times this may mean a whole food group, like in the case of dairy. You need to know how to dodge the potential deficiencies this may cause by finding healthy, realistic substitutes for your allergens. For example, if you have a milk allergy, incorporate a non-dairy milk alternative to accommodate the "at-risk" nutrients of calcium and vitamin D.

Make Smart Allergen Substitutions

Sure, you can get gluten-free products on the market, but to be healthy you will need to find fortified gluten-free products or opt for alternative grains that contain fiber. Why? In the case of gluten-free products, key nutrients like B vitamins and fiber may not be added back into the product after processing. Go the extra mile to make sure your food substitutes are planned with nutrition in mind.

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