HomeAsk the expert: Nutrition and food allergies – Back to school, the art and science of healthy eating

Ask the expert: Nutrition and food allergies – Back to school, the art and science of healthy eating

September 15, 2017

Linda Kirste

Linda Kirste is a Registered Dietitian. She works at HealthLinkBC where she operates the Allergy Nutrition Service ― a tele-practice-based service that provides nutrition education, as well as counselling and follow-up care for residents of British Columbia with food allergies.

This month, Linda provides tips on how to set up a healthy diet for kids with food allergies as they head back to school. In addition to providing sensible guidelines, she also provides three suggested recipes using substitutions for many priority allergens.

She starts with outlining the art and science of healthy eating below.

The science of healthy eating

Canada’s Food Guide is a tool that translates the nutrients the human body requires into everyday foods Canadians choose as their staples. The Food Guide’s three main principles – variety, moderation and balance – are threaded through four main food groups. Owing to their rapid growth, children thrive on three meals and two-three snacks a day.  When you aim to offer all or nearly all of the four food groups in most meals and snacks, you have greater assurance that your kids will meet their nutrient needs as they head off to school this fall.

The art of healthy eating

The art is putting the science into everyday practice. Getting organized, batch-cooking, and enlisting your kids to help in the kitchen will help you be successful. Cooking with children is fun, social, and can teach them valuable life skills. Striving to prepare meals together can be the beginning of meaningful, life changing habits that benefit the whole family.

I prefer to be inspired by a range of cookbooks, substituting where I need to for the common allergens. Along with a few of my favourite family friendly recipes, I’ve offered substitutes for the common allergens. So, feel free to customize to suit your families’ needs and taste preferences.



Muesli – A five-generation favourite in my family, offering 3 food groups, all in one bowl.

  • 250 mL (1 cup) large flake oats*
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) quinoa, pre- cooked
  • 600 mL (2 ½ cups) plain yogurt**
  • 45 mL (3 Tbsp.) honey
  • 350 mL (1 ½ cups) berries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 ripe bananas or Bartlett pears sliced and cubed

Mix ingredients together, portion into bowls or sealable containers to go.

Suggestions for substitutions:

  • Choose gluten free oats for wheat-free muesli.
  • While yogurt is traditionally made from milk, dairy-free soy or coconut based yogurts can be substituted. Tip: look for calcium fortified products. Consider adding 60 mL of sunflower seeds or other seeds to your recipe if you’re using coconut yogurt. The seeds will make up for the lower protein content of coconut yogurt.

Lunch or Dinner

Burritos – Kids will be thrilled to help assemble them. Make extra to serve the next day or freeze for another day. 

  • 1 can (14 oz.) (400 mL) refried beans
  • 250 mL (1 cup) green peppers chopped
  • 2 avocadoes, sliced
  • 250 mL (1 cup) salsa (mild, medium or hot to taste)
  • 300 mL (1 ¼ cup) shredded mozzarella*
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 10 large corn or multi-grain gluten-free tortilla

Set-up the ingredients in an assembly line. Portion the ingredients on one half of the tortilla. Fold the nearest tortilla edge over the fillings, then fold edges in (if desired) and roll. Bake burritos at 175 o C (350 o F) in a pre-heated oven for about 20 to 25 minutes.

Suggestions for substitutions:

  • Dairy-free mozzarella style shreds are available. Look for a product that is also soy-free, if needed. Dairy-free cheese substitutes usually contain little protein and calcium, but they add flavour. When using them to substitute cheese in recipes, offer alternate sources of protein and calcium to balance the meal. For example, add stir-fried chicken or beef to burritos and offer fortified rice or almond beverage as a good source of calcium.


Granola squares Delicious, nutritious and oh so portable!

  • 300 mL (1 ¼ cup) rolled oats, roasted
  • 250 mL (1 cup) pumpkin seeds, roasted
  • 75 mL (1/4 cup) chia seeds or ground flax seeds
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) (Packed) dried pitted prunes
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) (Packed) dried pitted dates
  • 75 mL (1/4 cup) maple syrup
  • 75 mL (1/4 cup) sunflower seed butter
  • 15 mL (1 Tbsp.) vanilla extract
  • 50 mL (1/4 cup) coconut flakes

Place fruit, syrup, seed butter and vanilla in a food processor. Blend until it is a thick puree.  Place oat flakes and seeds in a large bowl. Add puree. Knead granola by hand until thoroughly mixed. Press into a pan. Sprinkle with coconut flakes and refrigerate for about ½ hour before serving. Finally, cut into small squares.

Do you have a question you’d like to ask Linda in the months to come? Please send it along to us at info@foodallergycanada.ca.

Tags: , ,