Reader Question: What do I feed my 15 month old with food allergies?

A friend recently posted on The Willing Cook facebook page (you should become a fan if you’re not already) the following question:

I would love some help on how to find EASY dairy free meals/snacks for a 1 year old. I am a bit stumped… I am at a loss and tend to feed her the same things over and over…She loves things that have lots of flavor though and I think she is getting bored!  Thanks for any info you can give me!…Can’t do soy either for now.

This is a very common concern as many food allergies are discovered at this time when solids are first being introduced.  It is hard to cover all the nutritional bases when feeding a one year old.

Factors that must be taken into consideration when feeding a young child with food allergies:

  1. Nutritionally balanced for ultimate growth.  The first few years of life are compact with physical and developmental growth.  Poor nutrition can have a detrimental affect on both.
  2. Avoid/eliminate all food allergies.
  3. Gear food toward the developing palate and small motor skills.

My little guy at 15 months.

Here are the suggestions that I recommended to this new allergy mom:

  • Milk: Almond or Coconut milk.  Be sure your child does not have a tree nut allergy before giving Almond Milk.
  • Butter substitute: Earth Balance makes a dairy and soy-free margarine.
  • Sweet Potatoes: Great cooked as fries or mashed up.  Add ketchup to fries or doctor the mashed sweet potatoes with brown sugar and cinnamon.
  • Avocado:  Such a nutritious vegetable (or is it a fruit?) packed with healthy fat.  It isn’t typically a food that older kids like, so the earlier you can introduce it, the better you’ll be.  Just cut it up into little chunks and she can eat it plain.  You can also add it to rice or beans for more of a “meal”.
  • My son loves flavored rice vinegar in rice.  It gives it a little tangy sweet flavor and stirs up the flavors a little for her.
  • Beans, any and all:  Great for the little pincher grasp and very nutritious.
  • Olives are great too.
  • Mashed Potatoes: Since my husband is limited, we don’t make the traditional mashed potatoes.  But the alternative is very good and my non-allergy girls love them too.  I add a touch of olive oil (about 1 Tbsp) and enough chicken broth to bring it to the desired consistency.  Add salt to taste.  If you desire butter on it, you can add a pat when served.  You could use the Earth Balance butter mentioned above instead of the olive oil (although the olive oil is a very good fat for her to have).
  • If she’s on the small side, a nutritionist always recommended adding olive oil to as many foods as possible.
  • Hummus: My son LOVES hummus.  He eats it about everyday.  Since she’s so little, you probably don’t want to serve it with hard things like carrots or tortilla chips, but you could serve it with cut up tortilla shells or pita bread.  Just be sure to read the ingredients on the breads as they may contain dairy and/or soy.  Read hummus labels as well because some contain vegetable oil (soy-based).
  • Sorbet: There are dairy free sorbets on the market (you’ll have to read labels for soy).  Be sure to read labels for cross-contamination.  You could also make homemade fruit sorbets or popsicles.  Just google it.
  • Yogurt: Whole Foods carries a wonderful coconut milk yogurt, but it is pricey.  I want to try my hand at making homemade coconut or almond milk yogurt, but I haven’t yet.
  • Bread & Jam: Since it’s probably wise to hold off on PB&J at this stage, most kids love Bread & Jam (just be sure to read those labels for bread and jam ingredients).  Since you have to avoid soy, you might have to resort to making homemade bread.  You can read the book “Bread and Jam for Frances” to go along with the treat.
  • Buttery Noodles: Cook fun shaped noodles, add dairy & soy-free margarine or olive oil and a touch of salt.  She will love the taste and working with her “pinchers.”
  • Soft Pretzels: I guess that store-bought brands contain soy, at the very least.  Here is a Whole Foods recipe for Homemade Soft Pretzels.  Substitute non-dairy milk.  I have not made this recipe myself, but it sounds great!
  • Couscous: My son loved this stuff when he was younger.  It really helps the little ones learn to eat with a spoon.
  • Polenta: This was recommended to my son by the nutritionist.  You will have to read labels and find one that doesn’t contain milk, but I’m not sure about soy.  I haven’t made it for a long time, but he always liked it.  I cut it into slices and fried it in some oil in a skillet and served with a little ketchup.
  • When a recipe calls for milk, like pancakes, I just do a straight substitute with a non-dairy milk.
  • Grains: If she seems to be handling those well, try different versions of oatmeal.  Steel cut oats, baked oatmeal, oatmeal w/ cinnamon, diced apples & raisins.  Cream of wheat is also very good.  Cooked rice with sugar and milk (non-dairy) is very tasty too.
  • Snack: Mike Sell’s Puffcorn-they are made with corn oil and contain no butter.  My son loved these at this age because he could pick them up and they are easy to chew with fewer teeth.
  • Of course, there is always the tried and true fruit, vegetables and meat.
  • I’m not sure what your doctor has said about peanuts, but I would steer clear of that right now.
  • Keep in mind that it takes about 10 times trying a new food before a child will develop a liking to it.  So don’t give up if she doesn’t like something on the first try.

A note of encouragement: When first dealing with food allergies, it is VERY overwhelming.  But you learn to work with it.  Pretty soon it becomes second nature, but remember that you always have to stay on your toes.

I am still thinking on more ideas for a 1 year old.  Can you help this new allergy mom with any suggestions?

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16 Responses to Reader Question: What do I feed my 15 month old with food allergies?

  1. Crafty Mama says:

    Great tips!! And yes, avocado is a fruit. 😀 Our second-born has a dairy allergy, so we may use these on our third-born as well, when she’s old enough to eat food, just to be safe.

    • Cook says:

      Crafty Mama,

      If you have any tips to offer, please do so! I hope the ones posted here are helpful to you.

      And thanks for clearing up the avocado debate 🙂


  2. Great tips! My 17 month old son is allergic to gluten, dairy, and soy, so at times I do feel like I get in a rut with food. Some things you didn’t mention are safe cereals (like Chex and Kix). I pour the cereal directly on his tray, and coconut/rice milk in his sippy cup to go along with it. I also mix vegetables and meat into his rice cereal so he gets a variety of tastes.

    • Cook says:

      You’re right! Those are great tips to add. I don’t know how I missed the cereal option as it is great for the little pinchers.

      Thanks much!

  3. Erica says:

    thank you for letting me know about chex! I have an 8 month old that has been diagnosed allergic to wheat, rice and peanut. I have been going crazy with not being able to give him cheerios. And every baby cereal “may contain wheat”. I have never been a label reader or a great cook (even with 5 kids), so any more suggestions would be awesome!

    • Cook says:

      Rice is pretty tough to avoid for a baby as it is a rare allergy and an easy go-to grain. You can make your own baby cereal with non-wheat & rice grains. Millet is a good option. You can try guaranteed gluten-free oats, but they are pricey. Quinoa is gluten-free. If you’re starting to look for “cheerio” type pincher-foods, you could try the Mike-Sells Puffcorn. You could cut it up into smaller bites. I would think it would dissolve pretty easily. Let me keep thinking….I always like to answer reader questions in a post because others might have the same question. Thank you for the suggested topic!

  4. Sarah P. says:

    Thank you for your post. My daughter is almost two years old. She is allergic to dairy, eggs, soy, tree nuts and peanuts. She breaks out in hives when she eats fava beans, lentils, and chickpeas. (She has had a skin test but is going to have another done to see where she is now.) It is easy to get discouraged about how little she can eat and how to communicate the seriousness of her allergies to my family. Thank you for your blog and the encouragement that it is possible to feed her and be frugal too.

    • Cook says:


      It is certainly not easy to live a life with so many food restrictions, but it is possible. Do you really have a choice? Your daughter is so blessed to have a mom who takes her needs seriously and does the best possible for her.

      Your encouraging words are what keep me going around here. I really appreciate your kindness! Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or face any needs along your food allergy journey where I can help.


  5. Lindsay says:

    This has been so helpful, any additional tips would be greatly appreciated. I have a 10 month old son who is allergieric to dairy, soy, bananas, and peas, and the allergist wants us to stay away from eggs, all tree nuts and beef until he is around 2. My husband and i neither had food allergeries, so this is all a learning game. I work full-time, and feel that to handle his allergy I almost need more time to prepare meals, do research, find foods, etc. Currently he is still on babyfood because it is much easier and Infant NeoCate formula, and when he turns ONE we will be on Junior NeoCate. However it will be here before we know it and I already feel like i give him the same things over and over. I need easy, and perfect ideas for kids just starting out. Please any additional tips and help would be apprecaited so much. I am so glad i came across your website, it seems so informative and I have been on for an hour now.

    • Cook says:

      You are so kind! I was just telling a reader earlier today that it’s encouraging words like yours that keep me going with this blog. I’m currently writing a new series called “Life with Food Allergies”. They are things that I wish I had known when I was first starting out. It is going to be a long series and it’s only about 4 weeks in. I have a lot to cover. I love when readers have questions or need more tips as it helps direct what I write. I will give your situation some consideration and perhaps I can add it in to the series in the coming weeks. In case you didn’t see it on the side bar, here is the link to the series…

      Thank you so much for visiting! I hope you’ll come back often.

  6. Jessica says:

    My son is 10 months old and after going to the allergist his list of “NO” food is growing quite large. Dairy, apple, banana, sweet potato, corn, garlic, mango, avocado, mustard, celery, fish, peanuts, tree nuts. So far he hardly eats solid’s. I think he has not had a very plesant expirence with eating solid b/c he is always getting hives and or vommitting. Wish I had more of an idea how to get him to eat more food. He is not gain weight well. Right now he only want to eat prunes, pears, or cheerios and now with corn allergy added to the list. I’m not sure I should be giving him the cheerios.

    • Cook says:

      That is quite a long list for such a little guy. Thankfully, he’s not to that age yet where he absolutely needs to have solids to survive. I understand your frustration though. My son had a very hard time gaining weight around the same age and we saw several nutritionists. One thing that was suggested to us is to add 1-2 Tbsp olive oil to whatever mashed food he’ll eat, whether vegetable, fruit, or starch. The fat is good and healthy. You could do the same with coconut oil, assuming he is allowed to have coconut. You might consider having him retested around 24 mths to see if he has grown out of any of those foods because that is a very long list and is definitely concerning. If I may ask, what sort of test did they perform on him? I’m only asking because there is often the chance of false positives with certain tests coupled with the young age.

  7. Mayra B. says:

    Hello! I am soo excited to have found this site. I have an 8 month old who I know for sure has a dairy and soy allergy. (we are on elecare). I believe he is allergic to all legumes; greenbeans, peas, beans, and mango, avocado and something is weird with cinnamon. I get stuck in not being adventurous with foods because I’m scared of the reaction. I feel for all of these moms. It is a struggle to get to a safe and comforting place because I’m sure it was a rough ride getting to where we are. Anyways good advice on here, I’m looking for other foods to help him try and develop his palate. Thanks Cook!

    • Cook says:

      I really appreciate your kind words. I’m glad you found me too 🙂 I’m so sorry to hear of all your little one’s allergies. I hurt for him and you. Keep your chin up because things should become more apparent as he gets a little older. I highly recommend getting him tested as he approaches 1 year old. Some pediatricians won’t test that young, so you may have to go to an allergist (which is actually what I would recommend). That could really give you some answers. In the meantime, stick with the basic foods as much as possible.

      If you every have any questions or need advice, please don’t hesitate to send an email, post on Facebook, or leave a comment.

      All the best…

  8. Myra G says:


    I’m also glad I found this site. My daughter is 16 months and she is allergic to dairy, soy, eggs, and oats. I didn’t find out till she was about 4 months old. I got her tested when she turned 12 months and she was still allergic. It’s been very hard for me to think of other foods I can give her for breakfast and lunch. Shes missing out on “natural” calcium, her doctor suggested to give Flintstone vitamins. Now that I’ve seen all the suggestions I will be trying in the morning. Thanks for the tips. She goes back for testing when she turns 2. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

    • Cook says:

      I’m glad you find the site as well, Myra! Be sure you check out all the ingredients on the vitamin labels as well. I use the Trader Joe’s multi-vitamin for my children because I remember there being some weird ingredients in some of the “mainstream” brands. I hope that you’re able to find some things here that make your journey in the world of food allergies a little bit easier. Please let me know if I can be of any other help!

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