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Nutrition Tips for Picky Eaters with Food Allergies

Published May 31, 2024

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Navigating the dietary needs of picky eaters is challenging enough, but when food allergies are added to the mix, it can become a daunting task for parents. Ensuring that picky eaters with food allergies receive adequate nutrition requires careful planning and creative strategies. In this blog, we’ll review some practical nutrition tips for parents to help their kids maintain a balanced diet while managing their food allergies.

How Common Are Food Allergies in Kids?

Food allergies affect approximately 8% of kids in the United States, with the most common allergens being milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish (Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2011). Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe, making it crucial to avoid specific foods. For picky eaters, this restriction can further limit their already narrow food choices.

Ensuring Balanced Nutrition

  1. Identify Safe and Nutritious Alternatives: Finding substitutes for allergenic foods is essential. For instance, if a kid is allergic to dairy, consider calcium-fortified plant-based milks such as almond, soy, or oat milk. A study in theJournal of Pediatrics highlighted that fortified plant-based milks can effectively meet calcium and vitamin D needs.

  2. Incorporate a Variety of Foods: To ensure a well-rounded diet, introduce a variety of safe foods. Rotating different fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein sources can help prevent nutrient deficiencies. According to theAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dietary diversity is key to ensuring adequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals.

  3. Focus on Nutrient-Dense Foods: Prioritize foods that are rich in essential nutrients. For example, quinoa is an excellent source of protein and iron, while sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A and fiber. TheJournal of Nutrition states that nutrient-dense foods can help fill nutritional gaps for picky eaters with food allergies.

  4. Create a Positive Mealtime Environment: Encourage a positive mealtime environment where trying new foods is fun and stress-free. A study inAppetite found that positive reinforcement and a relaxed atmosphere can significantly improve a picky eater's willingness to try new foods.

  5. Involve Kids in Food Preparation: Letting kids participate in food preparation can increase their interest in trying new foods. Research published inPublic Health Nutrition shows that kids who are involved in cooking are more likely to eat a variety of foods, including those they might initially resist.

Practical Tips for Parents

  1. Meal Planning and Preparation: Plan meals ahead of time to ensure they are balanced and free from allergens. Batch cooking and using allergy-friendly recipes can save time and reduce stress during busy weekdays.

  2. Read Labels Carefully: Always read food labels to avoid allergens and check for hidden ingredients. TheFood Allergy Research & Education organization emphasizes the importance of understanding food labels to prevent accidental exposure to allergens.

  3. Consult a Registered Dietitian: A Registered Dietitian can provide personalized advice and meal plans tailored to your kid's specific allergies and nutritional needs. A study in theJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that dietary counseling significantly improves nutritional status and dietary adherence in kids with food allergies.

  4. Use Supplements if Necessary: If certain nutrients are difficult to obtain through diet alone, consider using supplements. For instance, omega-3 supplements can be beneficial for kids who are allergic to fish. Consult with a healthcare provider before starting any supplementation.

  5. Educate Your Kid: Teach your kid about their food allergies and the importance of avoiding certain foods. Empowering them with knowledge can help them make safer food choices, especially when they are outside the home.


Managing the nutrition of picky eaters with food allergies requires careful planning, creativity, and patience. By focusing on safe and nutritious alternatives, incorporating a variety of foods, creating a positive mealtime environment, and involving kids in food preparation, parents can ensure their kiddos receive a balanced diet. 


  1. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: "Prevalence and Characteristics of Food Allergies in US Children" (2011)
  2. Journal of Pediatrics: "Nutritional Adequacy of Plant-Based Milks" (2018)
  3. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Dietary Diversity and Nutritional Adequacy" (2016)
  4. Journal of Nutrition: "Nutrient-Dense Foods and Dietary Quality" (2017)
  5. Appetite: "Positive Mealtime Environment and Children's Food Acceptance" (2015)
  6. Public Health Nutrition: "Children's Involvement in Cooking and Dietary Habits" (2014)
  7. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Impact of Dietary Counseling on Nutritional Status in Children with Food Allergies" (2019)
Food Allergy Research & Education: "Reading Food Labels for Food Allergies" (2020)