Conquering Packing Allergy Safe Lunches For Non-Allergy Kids
Updated: Oct 8, 2019
I always joke that my daughter thoroughly screened her mom's resume in the womb. I am a registered dietitian and have a daughter with multiple, severe food allergies which means navigating food labels and being innovative in the kitchen comes in very handy to help other parents navigate packing safe lunches for their non, food-allergy kiddo.
I am so grateful for these questions as it means my village is working to keep my daughter safe.
Here are some questions I am asked frequently:
How do I know a product is safe?
Read BOTH the ingredients list and the ALLERGY statements on the back of a food label. In Canada, food products MUST display the following common allergens in the ingredients list:
Fish and molluscs, crustaceans
Ingredient list looks like this
Allergy statements appear after the ingredients list. It is still important to read the ingredients list, that is the most accurate source of info.
Is the product safe to pack for lunch if it MAY CONTAIN one of the allergens not allowed?
The consensus amongst allergy parents is that this should be fine. However, any foods that come from a bulk bin, is considered to contain peanuts and other allergens. Bulk bin foods are unsafe.
What are some peanut and egg free, healthier packaged snacks ideas for my kids?
Unsweetened fruit cups or fruit sauce cups or fruit pouches with a vegetable blend
Spiralized vegetables like sweet potato, slices of cucumber, quartered grape tomatoes
Safe granola bars (always check the label). For quick reference, Made good bars and Free Yumm products are safe.
Whole grain crackers like low sodium triscuits (always check the label)
Whole grain breads like mini rounds or mini pita (always check the label)
Cheese strings or cheese rounds
Hummus (check the label)
About baking and cooking for my kid's lunch - My kiddo and no one in my family is allergic to anything so it’s new territory for me. So if I’d make some non nut granola bars or muffins for his lunch but my house is not but free...that would be dangerous. I’m assuming yes but I want to make sure.
Firstly, thank you for being so cautious. Here are some steps to follow:
Start with a clean pan and utensils that have been washed with a new sponge, then the baked goods should be fine. Dish sponges can trap food proteins so best to use a clean sponge to re-wash your dishes if they might have come into contact with any allergen in your kids class.
Ensure allergens are not present during the baking and that any of the ingredients going into the mix have not been double dipped with a contaminated utensil. i.e. using jam as a recipe ingredient but the jam was contaminated with a knife that was used to spread peanut butter.
Avoid foods from bulk bins as the same scoop may have been used in different bins, resulting in cross-contamination.
Be cautious of specialty, imported products because food labelling regulations vary by country.
Here is a handy reference guide
About protein suggestions for lunches - My daughter's classmates have severe allergies to sesame, nuts, eggs and dairy so all that is off the table (ha ha). She doesn't like to eat meat. She likes wow butter but I don't feel comfortable giving her soy every day. So far she has had wow butter in every lunch. Any other ideas?
Here are some suggestions but please always check labels and ingredients and product formulations change regularly.
Frozen or homemade Lentil/veggie samosa (check ingredients)
Refried bean quesadillas
Refried beans and salsa as a dip with tortilla chips or tortillas cut into wedges
Homemade or pre-made falafels (no sauce as it usually contains sesame)
Make nutrition boosted muffins
Alternative seed butters: sun butter, pumpkin seed butter, soy butter
Meat and quinoa bites
Pillsbury original rolls or croissants (no affiliation) filled with meat or refried beans or falafel then baked
White bean dip for veg/bread
For older kids: roasted pumpkin seeds or chickpeas
What are peanut and egg free dips or spreads?*
Hellmans vegan mayonaise (many other vegan mayo's contain mustard)
BBQ sauce (most contain mustard)
*Note: it is always important to check the ingredients list since recipes change
Do you know of any hummus brands that don't contain sesame?
It is really hard to find actually. PC makes one but if kiddo does not like it, here is a very easy recipe to make your own. You can freeze it in portions and thaw it in the fridge overnight.
The freezer is my ultimate favourite time-saving appliance. When you make a meal that can be frozen make a double portion to freeze. You will save time on dishes and meal prep the next time you re-heat
About eggs that are on baked goods or bread - can kids with egg allergies eat eggs baked into other foods?
That is a very good question. The answer is, it depends.
For example, my daughter is very very slowly working her way up the “egg ladder” that means that based on her blood work + skin prick test + clinical history the allergist and I decided to try offering a small amount of baked muffin daily at home to increase her tolerance. This works out to be 1/16 of an egg daily baked for a min of 30 minutes.
So, the question you can pose is exactly whether the child with the allergy can tolerate baked goods like a muffin/loaf with egg baked in it. If it is a baked good that has an egg wash brushed on the outside to give it a shiny look like challah or croissant then the egg concentration would be higher and more likely to get on hands while eating.
It may also depends on the age of the kids. Older kids will less likely get exposed to someone else’s lunch where as younger kids are more handsy and put things in their mouths.
Teach Your Kids to Be A Food Allergy Ally
Currently there is no cure for food allergies. It is estimated that food allergies affect as many as 6% of young children in westernized countries like Canada, that's at least 1 in every classroom. Let's support food allergy kids by using positive dialogue.