From:  Charlotte Holt, cook and meal planner

Tip:  Dealing with Allergies

The UK has some of the highest prevalence rates of allergic conditions in the world, with over 20% of the population affected by one or more allergic disorder. Here at First Steps, we have a few children in our care that have allergies, with the most common being milk.

We thought it may be useful for parents to share some tips, advice, details and even some recipes with you.

The Facts

A staggering 44% of British adults now suffer from at least one allergy and the number of sufferers is on the rise, growing by around 2 million between 2008 and 2009 alone. Almost half (48%) of sufferers have more than one allergy.

Almost 1 in 12 young children suffer from a food allergy and they seem to be getting more and more common. Food allergies occur when your immune system becomes confused – instead of ignoring harmless food proteins, it triggers a reaction, which leads to the release of a chemical called histamine.

It is histamine which causes the classic allergy symptoms of hives or swelling.  More severe reactions are called anaphylaxis, and this may be life-threatening.

How Do I Know If My Child Has a Food Allergy?

Food allergies are much more common among children who come from families where other members suffer from allergy. Babies who suffer from eczema are at a higher risk of having food allergies. The more severe the eczema and the earlier in life that it began, the more likely there is to be a food allergy.

Here at First Steps we would always advise that parent’s seek medical attention and care if they think their child may have an allergy. Once an allergy has been diagnosed, we will do all we can to make that adjustment period as easy as possible and will work with you closely to assure your child is safe in our care.

How Can I Manage My Child’s Food Allergy?

Managing a food allergy in children or babies can be stressful not only for the child but also for the parents. There are three key things to be on top of when it comes to managing a food allergy:

1. Identify and avoid the cause (if possible)

2. Recognise the symptoms of an allergic reaction

3. Know what to do if it happens again

Weaning and Food Allergy

We found this information from The Department of Health very helpful and wanted to share it with you.

They recommend that high allergenic foods: Milk, eggs, wheat, gluten, soya, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, seeds can be introduced from six months of age. There is no evidence to support delaying the introduction of these foods after 6 months. They should be introduced one at a time, with a gap of three days in between each new food, so that it is easier to identify any food that causes a reaction. Make sure your child is well at the time of introduction, i.e. not when they have a temperature, just had a vaccination, or have a cough or a cold.

Once your baby has had several attempts at eating the individual foods, you can start mixing them to increase the variety and enjoyment of eating. It may be helpful to keep a food and symptom diary (a food diary template and lots more information can be found at ) to identify any foods that may have triggered a reaction. By the age of 12 months at the latest, your baby should have been introduced to all the major allergenic foods (where appropriate).


Cooking for a child with an allergy can be difficult. We understand that going out for meals can be tough too and trying to be creative in the kitchen often takes lots of reading and researching. We have found and enjoyed these recipes and thought it may spark some new dishes for our parents – happy cooking!

Sweet and Sour Chicken:

It’s one of the UK’s most populate takeaway dishes. However, if you suffer from food allergies, Chinese food can be quite a challenge. Soya sauce is used in almost all dishes, and even if you can tolerate soya, unfortunately, most soya sauces contain wheat.


·      1 tbsp rice vinegar or white wine vinegar

·      1/2 cube chicken stock

·      1 tbsp tomato puree

·      1 tbsp rice wine or sherry

·      6 tbsp apple juice or pineapple juice (reserved from tin if using tinned pineapple)

·       1 tbsp cornflour

·      1 tsp coconut oil or vegetable oil

·      400 g chicken breast

·      1 clove garlic

·       1 tsp fresh ginger grated

·      1 spring onion

·      1 whole green pepper

·      1 whole red pepper

·      1 medium onion

·      150 g pineapple fresh, or 2 rings of tinned pineapple



·      To make the sauce, in a heat-proof bowl, mix together the 1/2 stock cube with 2 tbsp boiling water until dissolved. Add the vinegar, tomato puree, rice wine, apple/pineapple juice, and cornflour. Stir well and leave to one side.

·      Chop the peppers and onions and pineapple into chunks about 2 cm and leave to one side.

·      Chop the chicken breast into the same size cubes as the vegetables and reserve.

·      Finely grate or crush the garlic and ginger, and finely slice the spring onion.

·      Pre-heat a wok or heavy-based pan over a high heat and add the oil. Add the garlic, ginger and spring onion, quickly followed by the chicken.

·      Stir-fry (cook over a high heat stirring constantly) the chicken for 5-6 minutes until cooked all the way through. Add a tablespoon of water at any point if required.

·      Add in the peppers and onions and stir-fry for a further 2 minutes. Add the pineapple and your sauce, turn the heat down to medium and stir until the sauce has thickened and is bubbling.

·      Serve immediately with rice or your favourite gluten-free noodles.

Creamy Coconut Ice Cream:

This is pudding sorted! You are just five ingredients away from this deliciously creamy coconut ice cream, and you don’t even need an ice cream maker. This makes a fairly solid ice cream, so you may need to take it out of the freezer up to 30 minutes before serving. Delicious served with fresh berries or diary-free chocolate chips.

Ingredients: (makes approximately 600 ml)

·      400ml of tinned coconut milk (full fat)

·      75g sweetener of choice, e.g. coconut sugar, honey, light maple syrup or sugar

·      150 ml dairy-free milk

·      2½ tablespoons cornflour

·      A pinch of salt


·      In a medium pan, measure in the sweetener and then add the tinned coconut milk. Heat gently until combined.

·       Add the cornflour to the dairy-free milk and stir until smooth. Add to the saucepan with the salt and stir until thickened.

·      Pour into a freezer-proof container and cool to room temperature, stirring every so often to prevent a skin forming.

·      Cover and place in the freezer, stirring every couple of hours with a fork to break up the ice crystals. Or pour into ice lolly moulds.

·      Alternatively, chill well and then use an ice cream maker.

·      Store in the freezer until required.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

One of the nation’s favourite desserts, this version comes in at under 270 kcals per portion and has broken free from the traditional lashings of butter and cream. This recipe is made of pure, simple ingredients, and the result is a much lighter, but just as delicious pudding.


·      200 g chopped dates

·      350 ml coconut milk 2% fat or rice milk, I use Koko UHT

·      1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

·      100 g vegetable oil rice bran, sunflower or rapeseed

·      100 g light brown sugar

·      200 g gluten -free self raising flour

·      1 tbsp water or juice if the mixture is too stiff


For the toffee sauce

·       400 ml full fat coconut milk

·      4 tbsp dark brown sugar

·      1 tsp black treacle

·      2 tsp cornflour



·      Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan or GM5. Line a 20cm square tin with greaseproof paper.

·      Begin by making the sponge. Add the chopped dates to a medium-sized pan and pour over the low-fat coconut milk. Bring to a gentle simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring every so often.

·      Remove from the heat, and add in the bicarbonate of soda, stirring until completely mixed in. It will fizz up a little and all those tiny little bubbles are what is going to create the lightness to the sponge. Allow to cool.

·      Mix together the oil and the sugar, then lightly fold in the self-raising flour. Finally, add the date mixture, and gently fold in so you keep as many of the bubbles as you can. Add in the extra tablespoon of water or any fresh juice if the mixture doesn’t drop off the spoon easily.

·      Tip into the tin, and bake for 30 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean and the sponge is springy to touch.

·      To make the sauce, add the coconut milk, dark brown sugar, and treacle to a saucepan, and heat gently. Mix the cornflour with 2 teaspoons of water, and add to the saucepan, stirring constantly until thickened.

·      Cut the sponge into 12 pieces and serve with the sauce in a jug for everyone to pour over themselves.

We really would love to hear if you find our tips and advice useful, and/or you would like a certain topic covered – just let us know, please contact Ian on or call 01625 859867.