Summer break is coming to an end, and for some, school is already back in full force. As I try to process where summer went, I am also trying to wrap my head around making and sending lunches and snacks each day. The school we attend is a nut-free school, and I know this is becoming more and more common, either as a school policy or an individual classroom policy. We happen to be a food allergy family, with nuts being a concern and risk for our child. This had me thinking about how I can help other families who are needing ideas on what to send with their child and still stay within the policy.
As a family, we are well-versed in the food allergy world; we live it each day, and it’s part of our routine to read labels we understand the risk of contact with certain foods. We know what to look for and how to navigate our way around an ingredients list on a product.
One thing I always tell people to keep in mind when going to a peanut-free classroom is that all of the same precautions need to be taken, regardless of your school’s policy on certain foods. Peanuts can be in so many things! Not only a peanut butter sandwich, peanut butter crackers, peanuts; it can also be found in granola bars, cookies, snack mixes, etc. Even if it’s not stated in the name of the product, it can just as likely be in the product!
Over the years of strict avoidance of peanuts, and other foods, we have become accustomed to diligently reading labels and looking for key words like “may contain” or “produced in a facility”. These phrases on the back of many products have been very helpful and somewhat comforting in helping us make safer decisions for our child and other children. Sometimes I hear that people aren’t sure what to pack in their child’s lunch since a peanut butter sandwich is out. I get that it can be difficult to make changes, especially when it comes to food, but I assure you there there are still many delicious peanut-free options out there that are also safe for those classmates with an allergy!
Here are a few easy swaps that may be helpful as you navigate back-to-school on a peanut-free campus or in a peanut-free classroom.
GORP (good ol raisins and peanuts) – Opt for a homemade trail mix and instead of peanuts! Try pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds for a totally nut-free option. Popcorn, pretzels, and some cereals also make for a nice snack mix add-in.
Fruit and Granola Bars – Look for options that have a clear label indicating a “may contain” risk.
Peanut Butter and Jelly – Sunflower seed butter is a great nut-free alternative! This swap can be a bit more pricey, however, there are many grocery stores that offer different sunflower butter options.
Peanut Butter Crackers – Try a homemade version with saltines and sunflower butter or other nut butter. Also, cheese, cured meat, and hummus are other options.
Heading back to school after a long summer break can be challenging as we navigate new routines and policies! I always try to have a plan and be as prepared as possible, as I know I am not alone in this. Also, feeding kids is hard, and kids usually like what they like and can make a fuss over change. However, I also find that kids are often quite understanding. So if you find that you are having to make some food swaps in your school or classroom due to an allergy, know that as a food allergy family that has a school-age child with a nut allergy, we are grateful to you for helping keep our child safe. And hopefully with these few examples I shared, you will feel prepared for another school year of packing lunches and snacks.