Allergy-friendly school lunches
The Allergy Friendly Family Cookbook is set to revolutionise family kitchens and the school lunchbox
READING LEVEL: GREEN
Launched* today, The Allergy Friendly Family Cookbook is set to revolutionise* family kitchens and school lunchboxes, with practical tips drawn from the latest research by paediatric* and allergy specialists at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI).
Co-authored by professor Mimi Tang, Associate professor Kirsten Perrett and Dr Vicki McWilliam, the cookbook offers easy-to-understand, evidence-based* advice and is packed with allergy-friendly recipes from breakfast, lunch and lunchbox ideas through to dinner and dessert.
To create this book, MCRI teamed up with food site taste.com.au to look at more than 50,000 recipes on their website. They took the most popular food options and looked at ingredient substitutions* and modifications* to accommodate* allergy requirements.
Data from MCRI’s HealthNuts and SchoolNuts studies showed that egg and nut allergies are the most common food allergies in young babies and school-aged children.
However, Professor Mimi said most children with egg allergy will outgrow that allergy during childhood whereas nut allergies will persist* throughout life in most cases.
“Throughout the school years, peanut allergy is the most common food allergy affecting around three per cent of children.”
Studies show that food allergies have become more prevalent* in recent decades, but the reasons for this increase are not fully understood.
“Food allergy is caused by complex interactions* between our genes* and the environment, so the increase must relate to changes in our environmental exposures* because our genes don’t change in such a short time frame,” said Professor Mimi.
“We now understand that the environmental factors we are exposed to in early life, from the time we are developing in the womb through the first years of life, are the most critical* in programming* our immune responses* throughout life.”
She explains the factors that have been linked to an increased risk of developing food allergies include reduced microbial exposures (from the environment, siblings or pets), the modern diet (lacking in nutrients that support a healthy gut microbiota*), living further away from the equator (reduced UV exposure) and vitamin D insufficiency*.
“There is a huge amount of research into the risk factors driving food allergy, it isn’t just one specific thing, although I suppose you could say the modern lifestyle is the central player.
At this time, there is no cure and people living with food allergies must simply avoid foods that can harm them. She said you need to read ingredient labels carefully and check everything you eat which is more difficult when eating out at restaurants or a friend’s home.
Commonly, children and families living with food allergy will end up restricting* their diets unnecessarily to minimise the likelihood of accidentally eating an allergen.
“It is difficult for busy parents to prepare meals while avoiding a range of allergens because there aren’t many resources that focus on eliminating* individual allergens while maintaining diet diversity*. Families tend to prepare a limited repertoire* of meals using a limited number of ingredients, which can mean they are not maintaining a diverse, balanced, nutritionally adequate* diet overall. Diet is such a critical factor in maintaining one’s health. We wanted to help families manage their food allergies by making it easier to prepare healthy meals”.
- launched: on the market and available to buy
- revolutionise: to bring about change
- paediatric: a branch of medicine concerned with the care of babies and children
- evidence-based: making decisions using best evidence available
- substitutions: use one thing instead of another
- modifications: to make changes
- accommodate: to fit in
- persist: to continue something despite is being difficult
- prevalent: widely accepted or dominant
- interactions: where two or more things communicate
- genes: DNA passed from parent to child
- exposures: the state of having no protection from something harmful
- critical: almost an emergency
- programming: process of giving a set of instructions
- immune responses: the way the body defends itself against substances it sees as harmful
- microbiota: microorganisms that live in the human body
- insufficiency: lacking in something
- restricting: to limit something
- eliminating: to remove or get rid of
- diet diversity: a variety of foods
- repertoire of meals: all the meals they could cook
- adequate: satisfactory or acceptable
- Why will The Allergy Friendly Family Cookbook revolutionise family kitchens?
- How many recipes from taste.com.au did the team from MCRI look at?
- Is there a cure for people with allergies?
- What is the most common allergies in young babies and school-aged children?
- Why is it difficult for busy parents to prepare meals while avoiding a range of allergens?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. Children with Allergies
Put yourself in the shoes of a child with a peanut allergy which affects around 3% of children.
What things would you need to consider before attending celebrations such as birthday parties, kid’s events, etc, where there will be food?
How could you minimise the risk to yourself, but still participate in and attend these special events?
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Health and Physical education, Personal and social, Critical and creative thinking
If you have or had a food allergy, what would you like other children and places that serve food to know?
Design a sign that represents the key things you’d like everyone to be aware of.
Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Health and Physical education, Personal and social, Critical and creative thinking
Allergy Safe Lunchboxes
Create a poster advertising the new cooktop to parents at school. Ensure you include why the recipe book is so special and why it’s important for lunch boxes to contain allergy-prone food.
If you disagree with allergy safe lunchboxes, you can choose to explain why it’s not fair to ask everyone to have special lunchboxes and what a solution to having students with allergies in your class might be.
Whichever option you choose, remember to consider your audience and be respectful.