This post is from contributing writer Mary Voogt of Just Take A Bite.
One of the hardest things about an allergy diagnosis is taking food away from your child.
“Sorry, no more yogurt for breakfast. Nope, no more butter on your muffin. Say bye-bye to that peanut butter sandwich.”
Then you break the news. You also have to rotate your food. The raisins you like to snack on every day? Now you can only eat them every four days. I hope you enjoyed that apple. You can’t have another until later this week.
This may sound like a joke, but it’s not. Using a rotation diet for allergies is one of the most important things you can do. It certainly does not make dealing with allergies easier, but it will help in the healing and prevention process. By rotating the food you eat on a four-day cycle you allow the body time to heal. It also prevents the development of new allergies, which is so common. Eating the same foods day after day when you have allergies is a recipe for disaster.
If you have never heard of or tried a rotation diet be sure to read about how it works and why it is critical for those with allergies!
So… just how DO you get your kids on board with this new way of eating?
Let them have control!
Whether your child is a teenager or a toddler it is important that they are part of the process, that they have a say in what they eat.
Do it together.
After my four-year old’s latest addition of allergies (some now potentially anaphylactic) he was pretty upset about all of the foods he had to give up…again (he’d taken a lot out, then been able to add some back, then the allergies got worse again partially due to our lack of rotation).
Then I told him we had to get back to a rotation diet. He wasn’t too happy about that either. And I felt overwhelmed trying to keep track of when he ate what.
So TOGETHER we planned out his rotation diet.
I started with a list of all of the food he could eat, categorized in food groups. Then we started adding foods from each group to all four days, making sure he had a say in what went together.
Make it fun.
To help us remember we made a place mat with his rotation diet. I printed the lists of food for each day on a piece of paper. He drew pictures (he can’t read quite yet) so he knows what is on the list.
The placemat stays at his spot at the dining room table. So whenever he is eating he can double check the list. He is learning at a very young age how to manage his own allergies and keep himself healthy instead of just having mom and dad dictate what he eats. I am enabling him to be in control of his health.
Now we can choose foods together. When he wants a snack on day one we check the list…strawberries! When it’s time for lunch on day three…teff crackers with Organic Sunbutter (they make other varieties, but some have added sugar and this one doesn’t).
I have turned something daunting into something fun.
I also keep a list for myself to help with meal planning. Since I have more than one rotation diet to keep straight (little sister has one, too) it is critical that I am organized. I keep the lists right in the kitchen so I can see them every time I prepare food for my kids. To get you off to a great start with your own rotation diet planning, I’ve created a simple, but very helpful, printable for you to use.
My son loves using his rotation diet placemat. It works well for a young child. He loved drawing pictures of the food. Stickers would work well too. A super simple way to make a place mat is to cover paper with clear packaging tape. It’s easy to clean! It could also be a chart on the wall.
An older child could use a chart or even keep track of their rotation diet electronically (I assume that’s what older kids do these days. Do they use paper and pencil anymore? I haven’t entered that phase yet!).
Kids in the Kitchen
An added bonus of allowing your child to take control of their food choices is that they take more interest in what’s going on in the kitchen! My son loves to help cook. The combination of doing this online kids cooking class and working on a rotation diet has been such a blessing for us.
My four-year-old knows more about how food quality impacts your health, where food comes from and that there are so many more choices than chicken nuggets and hot dogs than most adults.
How many people do you know that regularly eat teff porridge, pumpkin yogurt, and spread lard on their muffins? My son does! He even calls the lard frosting when I add a touch of honey. Not to mention he will devour a pile of roasted purple cabbage or cauliflower before even touching the rest of the food on his plate. And almost always asks for seconds. He has developed a healthy appetite for a wide variety of foods.
At first, the struggle with allergies and rotating foods seems overwhelming. But there are so many blessings that can come from it.
Whether you deal with allergies or not it is important to teach your kids about choosing healthy food, taking care of their bodies and eating a wide variety of food. Getting kids on board with a rotation diet can be really fun! Especially when you take the time to let them help you prepare the food.
Looking for more information on a rotation diet? Mary breaks it all down in her post on how a rotation diet helps with allergies.