by Kim Beavers, MS, RD, LD, CDE

Food and fear are two words that do not belong together one sentence. However, severe food allergies can instill fear in both children and parents when it comes to food related events. Since eating is an everyday occurrence, it is important to be educated about food allergies and to educate those providing care for your family. Knowledge is power! According to The Center for Disease Control four to six percent of children have food allergies of some type. In a typical classroom of 25 students, at least one student is likely to be affected by food allergies.

A food allergy is defined as an abnormal response to food triggered by the immune system. The immune system overreacts to the food (as a perceived threat) and triggers a protective response. Allergies tend to run in families but it is difficult to determine whether a child will develop these allergies. Symptoms of allergies range from very mild reactions to severe reactions, and the severity of the reactions can change. The most severe reaction to a food allergy is anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening reaction.

While any food can cause an allergic reaction, “the big eight” account for approximately 90 percent of all reactions and they include: eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy. Once a food allergy is diagnosed, the most effective treatment is to just avoid the food in general. One might think avoiding a particular food is easy but it can get complicated and it is important to know how to navigate around a food label. Sometimes allergens can be in an unexpected food item. To be certain a food allergen is not consumed, read and pay attention to the product ingredient list and the “may contain” label (shown in the picture left).

Fortunately, many recent food trends have produced a variety of food options that make suitable substitutes for many of the major food allergens. These trends may not be related to allergies, has spawned the popularity of a variety of wheat free flours, non-dairy milks and yogurt and various nut butters to replace peanut butter. These items are now more widely available and subsequently a bit less costly than they once were.

Managing food allergies at home is one thing but managing allergies at school presents challenges. Here is a great list of steps to take from Food Allergy Research & Education to help parents educate themselves and others as necessary:

1. Become Informed and Educated. Know your child’s allergy and become familiar with your schools approach to managing food allergies.

2. Provide Information to the School About Your Child’s Allergy (the severity) and Medication. Download a Food Allergy Emergency Care Plan at

3. Build a Team. Partner with key personnel such as the school nurse, teachers, administrators, cafeteria staff, maintenance,  transportation staff, coaches and other parents. Be open to their questions and concerns.

4. Ensure Appropriate Storage and Administration of Epinephrine. Know where your child’s epinephrine is located at school, who has access to it and find out who will administer the medication if needed.

5. Help Reduce Food Allergens in the Classroom. Speak with your child’s teacher about the role of food. See the teacher checklist at

6. Address Transportation Issues. Plan transportation ahead, including after-school activities.

7. Prepare for Field Trips and Extracurricular Activities. Ask for advanced notice to address any food allergy concerns.

8. Prevent and Stop Bullying. Bullying of children with food allergies is serious due to the life-threatening nature of some allergies. Verify your school has a strong anti-bullying program.

9. Assist Your Child with Self-Management. Preventing allergic reactions involves making good choices, advocating for themselves and recognizing potentially dangerous situations.

This recipe is a great alternative to the standard sandwich. Serve it with gluten free crackers and fruit and you have a nut free, gluten free, dairy free and delicious meal.

Chicken and Rice Soup with Lemon

After discussing back to school lunches my daughter and I both agreed that this would be a great addition to the lunch box! My rendition of this classic soup makes quick use of leftovers and transforms them into a delicious soup.

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 ½ cup of frozen chopped mirepoix (see note)

1 clove minced garlic

1 cup chopped cooked chicken

1 cup cooked brown rice

4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 ½ teaspoon grill chicken seasoning (if needed – see note)

2 tablespoons minced parsley (optional garnish)

Place a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add oil. Once the oil is hot add in the mirepoix mix, sauté for 3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté another minute. Add the chicken, rice, broth and lemon juice and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 ½ cups)

Nutrition Breakdown: Calories 140, Fat 3.5g (0.5g saturated fat), Cholesterol 20mg, Sodium 520mg, Carbohydrate 16g, Fiber 2g, Protein 10g.

Diabetes Exchange Values: 1 Starch, 1 Vegetable, 1 Lean Meat

Kim’s note:

• Frozen chopped mirepoix mix is frozen chopped onion, celery and carrot. It is a great starter for recipes if you do not wish to use the fresh. I typically keep some of this in my freezer. If I have fresh of course I use that, but having this already in the freezer is a real time saver and a great soup starter.

• Grill Chicken seasoning — if your cooked chicken is highly seasoned you may not need additional seasoning in the soup. But if you just have bland boiled chicken then I do advise adding some seasoning blend such as grill seasoning to the soup for added flavor.

• Priming a thermos is a key procedure in keeping foods hot for lunch time. Priming a thermos is simply “pre-heating” the thermos. To prime a thermos, fill the thermos with boiling water, seal, wait 5-10 minutes. Pour the water out of the thermos and pour hot food into the thermos and seal it up. Now your thermos will keep food warmer longer.


Kim Beavers is a Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator for University Health Care System. She lives in North Augusta with her husband and two children and she is the co-host of the culinary nutrition segment Eating Well with Kim, which airs at noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday on WRDW. To be notified of new recipes join Kim’s facebook fan page at To search for specific recipes go to You can also watch the segments at


This article appears in the October 2018 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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