9 Healthy Habits for Food Allergies

Focus on Food, Sleep and Exercise

Exercise is a healthy habit for people with food allergies. Army Medicine

Being healthy means you have healthy habits. So how do you eat healthy with a food allergy? Eating healthy with food allergies isn't the only thing that will help you be healthy. Other lifestyle habits, which are cultivated over time and with a commitment to long-term health, will help you along the way to a healthy life. You may be surprised to find that healthy habits not only include food choice but other lifestyle choices as well. Here is my list of 9 healthy habits that will help you be healthy, even with a food allergy:

Healthy Habit #1: 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.

Healthy Habit #2: 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.

Healthy Habit #3: 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.

Healthy Habit #4: 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.

Healthy Habit #5: 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.

Healthy Habit #6: 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.

Healthy Habit #7: 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.

Healthy Habit #8: 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.

Healthy Habit #9: 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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Article Sources

  • 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Exercise Guidelines
  • National Sleep Foundation
  • Resources