Managing Food Allergies at School

Get tips and tricks for managing food allergies at school.
Healthy Kids Lunchbox

Healthy Kids Lunchbox

Healthy kid's lunch box made up of pita bread ham and salad, fresh fruit, sultanas and drinking water.

Photo by: Brett Mulcahy

Brett Mulcahy

Do you struggle with what to pack for snacks and lunches in a nut-free school zone? Here are some practical tips to help make it easier.

Food Allergy Concerns

It may seem trivial, but avoiding food allergens can mean steering clear of a life-threatening emergency for some kids. While peanut and tree nut allergies cause some of the greatest concern, food that comes into the classroom can also affect children who suffer from conditions like celiac disease or a dairy allergy. So whether your child suffers from an allergy — or the child that sits next to your child suffers — it’s important to be aware.

Some schools are 100-percent nut-free zones, others designate peanut- and nut-free classrooms, and some allow for nut-containing foods to enter the school cafeteria but keep a nut-free lunch table. Whatever your school policy is, it’s important to follow it. Many states have specific plans in place; you can search by state at websites like foodallergy.org.

4 Tips for Packing Meals and Snacks

1. Read labels.

Improved allergy info is now available on most packaged foods. Check ingredient lists for things like peanuts and tree nuts (such as walnuts, almonds, cashews and pistachios), and look for disclaimers that read that the food contains a specific allergen or if it was “processed in a facility that also processes” things like nuts, milk, eggs, soy and wheat.

2. Opt for alternatives.

Experiment with allergen-friendly options like sunflower seed butter and certified allergen-free cookies and snack foods. Many kids can’t even tell the difference.

3. Name names.

Visit various allergy organization websites to find lists of specific brand-name products that are allergen-free to help make shopping easier.

4. Go fresh.

When packing a nut-free snack for your little one, start with fruits or veggies such as raisins, apples, carrot sticks or a banana. Then add another component to keep things interesting — see some examples below.

Healthy Snacks

Here are four healthy nut-free snack ideas. Make the snack energizing and satisfying with a balance of healthy carbs and protein.

• Peach + whole-grain pretzel sticks
• 1/2 bagel with cream cheese + raisins
• Applesauce pouch + dried edamame snacks
• Crunchy baked chickpeas + fresh berries
Healthy Lunches

Packing an allergen-free lunch is easier than you might think, even if your kiddo is a loyal PB&J fan. All of these options can also be tweaked to be free of dairy and gluten.

• Cheese, sliced turkey, crackers, yogurt + carrot sticks

• Sunflower seed butter and jam on whole-grain bread, baked potato chips + apple

• Chicken noodle soup, whole-grain roll + cheese stick
• Veggie quesadilla, guacamole, tortilla chips + diced pineapple

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

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