When it comes to food allergies, one of the biggest mistakes parents make is feeding their kids the same foods over and over. While it may make life easier, it could cause more problems in the long run. Implementing a rotation diet is a great strategy for feeding kids with food allergies.
“You should try a rotation diet.”
I first heard those words when I went through a whole assortment of tests a few years ago and the results showed a lot of latent food allergies.
My first thought: “You want me to not eat the same foods two days in a row?”
How Leftovers Impact Gut Health
I am a creature of habit and the queen of repetition. I am an Analytical Eater after all! I could eat the same food for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for a week and not mind one bit. And if I really like something, I often do eat it every day. Plus I LOVE leftovers. I’m odd but I like cold leftovers better than freshly made food. So the idea of not eating things two days in a row was crazy to me.
My second thought: “How is that going to help?”
Turns out it helps a lot. Though I didn’t fully realize it at the time.
I went home, did more research and got started. I only had one child eating solids at the time. So it wasn’t that tough to modify meals for the family and work around my new diet. I stuck with it for a while and had fun experimenting with new recipes.
Then life got busy. I gradually fell back into old habits. I had a one year old that was always on the move. And a very smart four year old that needed lots of stimulation and always wanted to learn something new. Plus I was tired and struggling with adrenal fatigue. Back to eating the same foods all the time and feeding my kids the same foods.
Rotating Foods for Allergies
Fast forward a year and my son was diagnosed with along list of food allergies. All the allergist told us to do was avoid the worst offenders. That was it for advice.
Ok. We can do that. No dairy, eggs, rice, beans, peas, grapes, pears and a few other foods. Not fun. But we’ll manage.
Six months later we went for a retest. The allergies were worse, and new ones had popped up.
It was then that I learned how a rotation diet can help with allergies and just how important it is.
Can you guess what foods my son now reacted strongly to?
All the foods he ate frequently and foods we used to replace his allergens. Oops. Mom fail. Lesson learned. Sort of.
We’ve gone through this up and down cycle of sticking to food rotation and then getting busy and slipping back into old habits many times. And almost every time we pay for it by adding new allergies.
Knowing just how important rotation is, I was very strict about enforcing it with my youngest daughter from the start.
How A Rotation Diet Works
That’s a little background. I hope I didn’t lose you at the mention of a rotation diet.
It’s kind of a strange concept. Basically you eat foods on a four-day rotation. So if you eat an apple on Monday you can’t eat an apple again until Friday.
How does that help? And why four days?
Allergies can start or worsen with repeated exposure to an allergen, especially in allergy-prone people and those with leaky guts (which includes many of us). So if you are consuming the same food day after day, any reaction to that food will gradually intensify. It’s kind of like picking at a cut. The more you pick at it, the worse it will get.
When you eat a problem food, your body produces “masking” antibodies. After four days those antibodies are gone (if you aren’t eating the food). So you can better assess if a particular food was bothering you. If you eat the same food every day those antibodies do not clear out and you’re left guessing and having reaction upon reaction. Been there, done that.
Food Rotation on a Restricted Diet
Ideally you should rotate food families. But this is not always possible. My youngest daughter did not even have enough safe foods to span four days with rotating families. So we stuck with rotating individual foods and tried not to have food families span more than two days. You have to do what works for you.
An added bonus of rotation is that it forces you to have variety in your diet, which leads to a broader spectrum of vitamins and minerals. This is beneficial for the whole family, not just those with allergies. So get everyone on board!
Sound like a good theory but impossible to implement? It’s not. I promise. It just takes some planning.
How to Start a Rotation Diet
- Make a list of all of the foods you can eat. You can do this for the whole family or just for the individuals with allergies.
- Group the safe foods into food families.
- Now start filling in four days, including foods from each food group (fruits, vegetables, grains/starches, fats, proteins) in each day.
I also like to group foods that we commonly eat together. For example, beef and tomatoes are good on the same day for making spaghetti with meat sauce or tacos with salsa. I include peppers and onions on those days too. Rice tends to go well with chicken or pork. I put lettuce and a few favorite salad toppings on the same day.
Rotation Diet Meal Plan
Play around with it until you find a rotation that works for your family. Then start planning! Oddly enough a rotation diet can actually make meal planning easier. A lot of the decisions are made for you. The other day I was planning a meal for a day with pumpkin, rice, lettuce and cucumbers. So we had pumpkin pasta (rice noodles) and salads. Perfect!
I even manage to use leftovers by making my “day” go from dinner one day to lunch the next. So dinner leftovers can still be eaten for easy lunches. Then we start our next day with dinner again.
One down side to a rotation diet is that it can be hard to eat seasonally. It just depends on how restricted your diet is. We’ve been eating asparagus all year because my daughter likes it and tolerates it. Normally we only eat it in the spring when it’s growing in our garden. But having food options wins over eating seasonally. Not to mention on a rotation diet you can’t eat cherries every day for two weeks straight while they are fresh. The rotation is more important.
An Easy Way to Identify Food Reactions
Since starting a rotation diet with my kids, it is a lot easier to keep new allergies to a minimum and to spot an offending food right away. Sometimes people think I’m crazy when I say I can pinpoint food reactions in a couple days. But I can. It is because we use a rotation diet. This is also very helpful when re-introducing foods. It’s easy to tell right away if my child is still reacting or not. So we can try one new food a week when I think they are ready.
Before dealing with allergies, my diet was about the farthest thing from rotated. I ate the same foods day after day after day. And I paid the price with a long list of latent allergies. And I have seen firsthand how not rotating foods has negatively impacted my children.
Using a rotation diet is one of the most important things you can do for someone with allergies. And it is just one of the many topics I cover in my book Why Won’t My Child Eat?!. I’ve got tips on how to observe your child for food reactions and how to deal with picky eating. I’ve even got a tried and true method for feeding a child that refuses to eat anything (I’ve been there…for months). Plus lots more.
Get your copy of Why Won’t My Child Eat?! so you can take the guess work out of behavior issues and picky eating and start enjoying meal times again.
Do you have kids with allergies? Do you use a rotation diet or are you stuck in a rut with a handful of safe foods?
Get out of the rut and get on the road to better health with a rotation diet. Then take the next steps to having great eaters with the tips I share in Why Won’t My Child Eat?!.