Allergies to soy are among the most common food allergies affecting children. Although more than one quarter of a million children in the United States are allergic to soy, it is one of the most frequently used substances found in packaged foods. In fact, soybeans are so widely used in packaged foods in the United States, eliminating foods containing soy could result in an unbalanced diet. The following five quick tips can help you avoid soy in your child’s diet and keep his or her nutritional intake balanced and healthy.
By Any Other Name…
Soy can appear on food labels and in ingredient lists under a variety of names. The most common references to soy, or products derived from soy, include:
- Bean Curd
- Bean Sprouts
- Soy Lecithin
- Soy protein
- Soy sauce
- Monoglycerides and Diglycerides
- MSG (monosodium glutamate)
- Teriyaki Sauce
- Textured Vegetable protein or TVP
- Vegetable Gum
- Vegetable Starch
- Vegetable Broth/Stock
If any of these items appear on an ingredient list, soy is present in the food and it is best avoided.
Inspect Food Labels and Ingredient Lists
Be sure to check food labels and ingredient lists. Although they are not always clear and consistent, food labels are required to identify any known allergens present in the food item. Sometimes allergens are hidden in foods under names you may not recognize. Reference the above list of soy names and foods derived from soy to be sure products you purchase are free of soy. If you have questions about a particular ingredient, be sure to contact the manufacturer to obtain more information, and your child’s pediatrician to ensure the food item is safe for your child.
Use Whole Foods
Use whole foods whenever possible—items that have one ingredient such as fresh fruit and vegetables—and unprocessed foods such as dry kidney beans or rice. Soy is primarily found in packaged foods, but is not present in whole, unadulterated foods. Using whole foods also allows for exposure to a wider variety of nutrients and minerals in your child’s diet than would be in what is now, arguably, the traditional American diet of processed foods. The USDA advises children eat fresh fruits and vegetables from the full spectrum of colors to obtain optimal nutritional benefits. Processed foods tend to utilize relatively the same nutrients in all products and tend to restrict nutrition.
Eating soy free can be easy and does not require restricting your child’s nutritional intake. While transitioning to preparing meals “from scratch” can seem overwhelming, there are many “whole food” recipes available that create great-tasting easy-to-make meals in little time.
Substitutes for Soy
Soy is often a staple in many Asian style dishes. Soy substitutes may be helpful for your family if you find you would like to continue eating dishes that use soy but need to substitute it for an allergen free food. Substitutes for soy can include:
- Soy Sauce
- Organic Coconut Aminos (organic versions do not usually contain soy)
- Homemade versions made from various combinations of soy free broth, balsamic vinegar, cider vinegar, molasses, salt and spices.
- Various organic Miso pastes made from chickpeas or adzuki beans
- Green peas, fresh fava beans and lima beans
A little research can yield a variety of substitutes for soy in Asian dishes and marinades, though there may be some trial and error in adjusting the substitutions to your family’s tastes.
Dining Out with AllergyEats
Eating out with a soy allergy does not have to be a scary proposition any longer. With AllergyEats, you can search local restaurants based on allergy to soy as well as the level of restaurant “allergy friendliness.” The site also includes restaurant reviews from past patrons to help you decide if the restaurant meets your family’s needs. The AllergyEats provides downloads for Android and iPhone apps regarding restaurants and food allergies.