Archive for August, 2012

Fruits are the best snacks.  They are terrific sources of nutrients—vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

But kids with multiple allergies may not be able to eat from the entire variety of fruits.  Some fruits are known to produce allergic reactions, especially fruits like mangoes, papayas, pineapples, bananas, avocados, some kinds of berries, and in rare cases, apples. 

It is good practice to follow a few precautions before trying any new food, even fruit.  One strategy is to mash and apply that food to the skin to see if it produces any kind of itching, rash, redness or hives.  Even if no such symptoms occur, it is wise to give a very small quantity while introducing that food for the first time.  Allergic reactions can appear after several hours, so it is best to watch and wait before continuing to serve the new food.

Allergists recommend that all fruits should be washed thoroughly.  Many fruits have been treated with pesticides and fungicides.  Peeling is important, especially when fruits and veggies have been waxed, as in the case of apples, pears, cucumbers and squashes, 

Conventionally grown strawberries are often treated with a fungicide and must be washed well.

No plant/fruit wants to be eaten.  Some have ways of fighting back, with chemical ‘weapons’ which can attack the body’s immune system, producing a damaging mediator, namely, histamine.

Some fruits cause allergy-like reactions because they contain histamines—e.g. bananas, pineapples, avocados.

Pineapples and papayas contain certain protein breaking enzymes which can attack the mast cells, which are a part of the body’s immune system.  Nutritionists recommend that these fruits should not be eaten on an empty stomach.  Canned pineapple is safe, as the heat used in canning destroys this enzyme.  Mango is another such fruit and must be introduced with caution.

Dried fruits are often treated with sulfites to prevent them from browning.  Kids with asthma could react to sulfites.

Fruits and veggies fall into certain botanical categories, ‘food families’.  Although it helps to know which ‘family’ a fruit or a vegetable belongs to, there is no thumb rule which indicates that a child who is allergic to a food from a certain group will be allergic to other foods from the same group.  Kids allergic to ragweed, may not necessarily be allergic to bananas which belong to the same family as ragweed..  There can be cross reactions with pollens such as birch pollens with apples.  Even peaches, plums and cherries are know to affect kids with birch pollen allergy.

The keyword here is caution.  The good news is that there are lots of options with fruits.



One apple has more fiber than a serving of oatmeal.  A medium apple has nearly 160 g of potassium, somewhat similar to oranges and bananas.  Researchers in the UK say that kids who are big apple eaters have better lung function and are at a lower risk of asthma.

Orange juice, when taken with meals, increases the absorption of iron and calcium from food.

Juice with pulp is better than pulp free juice.  Fruit pulp not only contains fiber, but it also has minerals like calcium, vitamins and antioxidants.

Most fruits are high in Vitamin C, the big antioxidant.  Berries and citrus fruits are great sources of this vitamin.  Fruits, as key sources of Vitamin C are extremely important for kids who are on regular maintenance medications for allergy.  Since steroids reduce the absorption of Vitamin C from the gut, these kids need to have that extra bit of Vitamin C.

An avocado is a fruit, not a vegetable.  It has 60% more potassium than a banana, and is cholesterol free.  It contains the good, monounsaturated fatty acids like olive oil.  Mashed avocado can be used as a butter alternative—just add  pinch of salt and spread it on those rice crackers.

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This is a satisfying comfort food.  Serve a favourite hot soup with this cold salad, and you have a wholesome meal for everyone at the table.

If wild rice is not available use brown rice, preferably the basmati variety.

To know more about wild rice, read my note on RICE, in the BASICS category

wild rice salad


  • 3 cups cooked wild and brown rice blend. (one cup uncooked rice will yield almost 3 cups cooked rice).
  • 2 cups cooked turkey breast cut into 1/2 inch cubes.  (Use chicken if you like)
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped.
  • 1 large red pepper, chopped
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons orange zest (grated orange rind)
  • 3 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper(red chilly powder), or to taste
  • Salt to taste.


  1. Gently stir in 1 cup washed and rinsed wild and brown rice blend in 3 cups boiling water, using a large saucepan.
  2. Reduce heat, cover and allow rice to simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Uncover and check to see if rice is well cooked, or needs a little more water.  Cover and cook for a few more minutes if required.
  4. (I pressure cook for 10-12 minutes).
  5. Fluff cooked rice with a fork, and allow it to cool.
  6. In a large bowl, combine cooked rice, cooked and diced turkey breast,
  7. chopped onion, bell pepper and parsley.
  8. In a smaller bowl, whisk together orange juice, rice vinegar, olive oil, orange zest, garlic, brown sugar, salt, and cayenne pepper.
  9. Pour and mix gently into the rice and turkey mixture.

Make a few hours ahead and refrigerate before serving.


Did You Know–

A quarter cup of cranberries yields just 90 calories.

Cranberries are a good source of Vitamin C, a quarter cup serving gives us about 20% of our daily requirement.

Cranberries also contain potassium and phytochemicals

They do not have any fat or sodium, and are high in fiber

Pumpkin seeds are rich in Vitamin E.

Parsley is a good digestive aid, and is full of goodness—Vitamins C and A, iron, copper and manganese. 

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What is MSG?

Glutamic acid is one of the amino acid links in protein.  When glutamic acid is freed from the protein chain, it becomes soluble in water or body fluids, where it meets a sodium molecule which floats with it.  Hence the name Mono Sodium Glutamate or MSG.

In most foods, some of the glutamic acid is freed from protein.  Since it is not bound to protein, this freed glutamic acid or MSG is absorbed quickly in the blood stream.  If the amount is small, the impact is non existent.  If the amount is large, its fast release and absorption can overwhelm the body’s metabolism, and trigger a reaction.

MSG is sometimes difficult to identify because it is hidden in other food additives, or is the result of food processing, when it is added as a flavor enhancer.

Manufacturers add it as an ingredient that is part of another ingredient, such as “hydrolyzed vegetable protein”.  This is simply vegetable protein that is broken down (hydrolyzed) into its constituent amino acids

MSG may even hide behind a label like “natural flavors”.

Milk protein contains about 20% glutamic acid, but it is firmly bound to the protein chain.  In the cheese making process, fermentation breaks apart the protein, and releases MSG.  The more AGED the cheese, the more milk protein is digested, and more MSG is released.

Highly fermented soy sauce could also have high levels of MSG

It is best to exercise caution with fermented foods

Certain foods, such as peas, corn, mushrooms and tomatoes contain high levels of free glutamic acid.  BOILING removes much of the water soluble MSG. When corn is removed from the cob and boiled, each kernel gets exposed to boiling water and loses most of the MSG.

MSG is probably lost during some forms of corn processing which occurs in products such as chips, syrups etc.

Cooking helps to minimize the MSG in food.  Beans and sprouts, especially must be cooked.

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Soups can be tasty, varied and wholesome. At the toddler stage, soups provide the best basic nutrition. Tasty and creative combinations add a new dimension to eating out of jars, jars and more jars. Moreover, it is better to develop a liking and taste for veggies at this early stage. A 2002 survey tells us that one in five babies is “eating candy every day. And the #1 vegetable for toddlers isn’t pureed carrots: its French Fries.”

For older kids, soups are good comfort foods. Soup bases and purees can be used in many interesting ways with pastas and meats to provide wholesome meals. Even if some foods have to be avoided, there’s plenty which one CAN have and enjoy,and pack in lots of nutrition too.

Homemade, fresh/frozen soups have many nutritional advantages over canned/packaged soups—

  • The high heat typically used in making canned and jarred foods softens veggies and causes them to lose color, flavor and nutrient value, while meat can shrink and toughen.
  • The thickness of canned soups often comes from added thickeners.
  • Many of these soups are loaded with sodium.
  • The main additives of canned foods are salt and sugars, as in the case of fruit.

All Soups recipes in this section yield 4 adult servings.

The whole family can enjoy these soups—in fact, it is essential to have part of a meal at least in common with the child who has food allergies. This reduces the sense of exclusion that food sensitive children may develop.

I like to double the recipe and freeze at least half of it, in such a way that even small portions can be taken out right after that soccer game, or to satisfy hunger pangs on a cold evening.

To Freeze Soups

  • Remove the portion to be kept aside, before diluting the rest with milk, broth or additional water.
  • Pour the thicker portion into ice trays.
  • Cover with plastic foil and freeze for at least 6 hours.
  • Remove ice trays. Invert, hold slightly above the plastic foil that will come off the tray, Twist the tray so that frozen cubes will drop onto plastic foil.
  • Pack in Ziploc freezer bags taking care to eliminate as much air as possible before sealing the bag
  • Only the required number of cubes can be removed as and when needed. Microwave and dilute with milk, broth or water, or add creamed silken tofu for a dairy free alternative.

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This delicious soup is a meal by itself!

Although parmesan cheese is great to add, I avoid using it, as it is an aged cheese, and likely to have high levels of MSG, or mono sodium glutamate, which could trigger an allergic reaction.  Mozzarella and cheddar cheeses are safer to use.  Of course, if Parmesan works for you, then go ahead.


Easy Minestrone Soup


  • 1 16 ounce can of pureed or strained tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken / vegetable broth
  • 2 precooked Italian sausages (optional)
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 small can (about 7 ounces) small navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • ( I like to soak dried beans in a large bowl of water for 4-6 hours, or overnight, cook them in a pressure cooker, then use them)
  • 1 cup small elbow shaped rice or quinoa pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fresh, minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, or a few fresh basil leaves, washed and torn roughly
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup finely cubed mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste.


  1. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil and add garlic.
  2. Allow garlic to sizzle and brown a little, then add onions.
  3. Saute onions for a minute or so, till they soften.
  4. Add cubed potato and carrots, and saute to coat them with oil
  5. Stir in pureed / strained tomatoes, and chicken / vegetable broth
  6. Gently toss in sausages and beans
  7. Cover saucepan, and let the soup simmer on medium heat for 7-10 minutes, or till vegetables are tender
  8. Add cooked pasta, parsley, herbs, salt and pepper and let simmer for a minute.

Serve hot or warm, whichever way you like it, and garnish with cheese.


For a dairy free serving, use finely cubed firm tofu instead of the cheeses.  Add tofu along with the cooked pasta.

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