Food Allergies and Growing: What Is the Connection?

Children who have food allergies may be smaller than other children, and children who are allergic to more than two foods may be smaller than children who were only allergic to one or two foods. So rather than brush off the fact that your food allergic child is smaller than their peers or siblings, it is important to get a closer look at what you can do to ensure they are growing properly. There may be steps you can take to help your child achieve their maximum height as an adult.

Little boy with glasses and a bowtie measuring his height
RichVintage / Getty Images 

Preventing Growth Problems

If your child is diagnosed with a food allergy, or multiple food allergies, it is very important to be sure to discuss their nutritional needs and growth with their doctor. Having your pediatrician track their height and weight every three months will help to monitor any issues before they might consequently fall off their growth curve.

Keeping a food diary for a few days a month will also provide a more detailed look into their caloric and nutritional intake. It can be beneficial to also share this information with an allergist or nutritionist, so that they may be able to provide additional guidance. These professionals can tell you what foods to add or include when managing an allergen-restricted diet, provide detailed information on label reading, and help ensure that your child continues to grow at a healthy pace.

Getting the Necessary Nutrition

For kids with food allergies, the best strategy to analyze their nutritional status is to look at their daily meal pattern, rather than focus on meal-by-meal choices. Looking at their patterns of eating will give more insight into what nutrients they are getting and where they may need additional supplementation.

Consider these suggestions to evaluate your child's overall diet:

  • Make lists of foods your child can eat despite their food allergy. This will focus on the variety of foods they can actually enjoy, rather than on the limitations of their allergy.
  • Take the list of foods your child presently eats, and divide it into food groups. At meals help your child to choose a food from each food group in order to improve their intake of a balanced diet.
  • Make note of both food favorites and new foods to try. Once new foods are tried they can be added to the regular list. This will help your child to diversify their intake and expand the list of foods they are eating on a regular basis.
  • Continue to rotate foods so that your child does not get bored of certain foods and remains open to new options.

Understanding the Allergen

It is important to understand what nutrients your child might be missing in their diet due to the fact that they are limited in food choices due to a food allergen. The guidelines below pertain to the top 8 most common food allergens, what nutrients may be missing and how you might substitute them in your child’s diet.

  • Milk. When allergic to milk, your child may lack protein and calcium. It is important to supplement with fortified milk substitutes, leafy greens and increase other protein foods. Calcium is a very important nutrient, so it is essential to find substitutes for this in particular. In addition to calcium-rich or calcium-fortified options, supplements are often indicated.
  • Eggs. When allergic to eggs, your child's biotin, iron, folacin and vitamins A, D, E, B12 may be low. By adding in dairy, leafy greens, enriched grains and other proteins, such as meat, fish, and poultry this can boost their diet.
  • Soy. When allergic to soy, your child's protein, iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin B6 can run low. Protein foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy, as well as vegetables, leafy greens and enriched greens all can serve as substitutes.
  • Peanuts and Tree Nuts. When allergic to these, protein and vitamins are often at risk of not being sufficient in the diet. Adding in protein-rich foods, as well as fruits, vegetables, and enriched grains can better balance their intake.
  • Wheat. When you have a wheat allergy, it can leave your child deficient in B vitamins and Iron. Adding in additional protein sources, leafy greens, fortified alternate grains, fruits, and vegetables can serve as alternate sources.
  • Fish and Shellfish. When allergic to these, your child may need extra niacin, protein, vitamins B6, B12, A, and E. Try to add in protein-rich foods, dairy, enriched grains, and vegetables.

A Word From Verywell

It's normal to be concerned if your daughter with food allergies is the shortest in her class or if your son seems to have fallen off the growth curve. By using the strategies above, you can make sure your food-allergic child is getting all the necessary nutrition. And talk to your doctor if you're concerned about your child's height since she can help track it and watch for any problems.

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