Why You Need to Pack Nut-Free Lunches – Even If Your Kid Isn’t Allergic

It’s back-to-school time and that means another year of making lunch after lunch while silently hoping that your child eats, well, any of it. This whole process can get slightly more complicated if your child’s classroom or school is a nut-free environment, which is beginning to be more much more common and with good reason. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology notes that nearly 2.5 percent (which means at least 1-2 kids in each grade at each school) of all American children have an allergy to peanuts.

We know that many times reactions can be mild (like redness and itchiness) and other times they can be anaphylactic (vomiting, difficulty breathing, and in some cases, death). We also know that many times, parents of children with nut allergies don’t know what sort of reaction their child may be prone to, and that is a truly terrifying thought for any parent to shoulder. Fortunately, brands like SunButter make it easier for parents like me to support a safe and healthy environment for all children, while still maintaining a nutritious and delicious lunch for my own child, who is, luckily, free of food allergies.

 

 

Because many children have reactions that can be triggered through airborne particles or contact with another child or item that has been exposed to the allergen, schools are particularly vigilant about nuts. Honestly, we know our kids and we know their hand-washing skills often leave something to be desired, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that traces of allergens could possibly be left all over the school if not careful. Many parents often ask why their child’s lunch has to be nut-free because of another child’s allergy, but when we take the time to put ourselves in another parent’s shoes and make an effort to practice empathy and kindness, it’s really a no-brainer. Let’s face it — there’s no lunch option that is more important than another child’s life.

If you’re totally on board with nut-free schools, but you’re not-so-slightly stressed about your child who only eats PB&J, don’t fret. You’d be surprised how quickly they will take to SB&J — SunButter and jelly, that is. SunButter is the maker of premium allergy-friendly sunflower butters that are free of the top eight food allergens: peanuts, tree nuts, soy, dairy, eggs, wheat, fish, and crustacean shellfish. That makes it an awesome ingredient for your child’s nut-free school lunches.

Not only does SunButter pack as much protein and more micronutrients (like magnesium, Vitamin E, zinc, and iron) than traditional nut butters (like peanut butter and almond butter), but it also contains less saturated fat. The best part? You don’t have to go to a specialty store to get your SunButter. SunButter is available at major grocery chains, specialty food stores, and schools throughout the U.S. We get ours while on one of our very frequent Target runs.

SunButter is a versatile and school-friendly option that can be enjoyed as a standalone snack paired with fruits and veggies, spread onto an SB&J sandwich, or incorporated into your kid’s favorite recipe. So, if your little one loves those PB&Js, go ahead and make them one with SunButter, instead.

Pro tip: because SunButter looks, tastes, and smells so similar to peanut butter, I make sure to include a note in my child’s lunchbox stating that we use SunButter and not any nut butters to help teachers ensure the safety of all of their students.

 

You can add SunButter to any of your favorite recipes that call for a nut butter. Here are 3 of our favorite ways to incorporate SunButter into our kids’ nut-free lunches.

 

 

Chocolate Spread

Who doesn’t love a delicious and decadent chocolate hazelnut spread, right? If your child is prone to a sweet tooth like mine is, a chocolate SunButter spread is a great way to tuck a treat into your little one’s lunch.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of SunButter (room temperature)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

Blend all of the ingredients together and there you have it – your new favorite nut-free alternative to chocolate hazelnut spread (You can adjust the honey and cocoa powder to your taste). Spread a bit on your child’s favorite bread for a quick sandwich, perfect for school and on-the-go.

 

Nut-Free Cookies

I’ll admit it — I often pack a cookie in my kid’s lunch, just because. Peanut butter cookies are a favorite in our house, and now, thanks to SunButter, I can make a nut-free and school-friendly version to include in my little guy’s lunch on occasion (or, every Monday, because who doesn’t need a pick-me-up on Mondays?).

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup SunButter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (or 1/4 cup of honey)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat over to 375 degrees.
  2. Beat together butter with SunButter in your stand mixer. Add in sugar, brown sugar (or honey), baking soda, and baking powder until everything is combined. Beat in egg and vanilla. Slowly, add in all-purpose flour until everything is mixed together well.
  3. Chill dough for about 1 hour if it’s too loose to handle.
  4. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and flatten the tops with the tines of a fork.
  5. Bake for 7-9 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned.

This recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies – I dare you to not eat them all at once.

 

 

Thai Dipping Sauce

We are huge fans of Thai food around here, and when I make Thai for dinner, I’ll pack a lunch for my kid the next day that consists of chicken or tofu strips with a Thai sauce for dipping. I love peanut sauce and have spent many years trying to replicate my favorite sauce from my favorite Thai restaurant in New York City to no avail. My kids, though, much less picky than I am about these sorts of things, love this one.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup SunButter
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha (optional)

Directions:

  1. Toss SunButter in a food processor along with soy sauce, minced ginger, minced garlic clove, rice vinegar, and maple syrup.
  2. Transfer to a bowl after everything is nicely blended, and slowly whisk in water until your desired consistency is reached.
  3. If your kids prefer some spice, you can also add a bit of Sriracha (or more!).

 

It can seem overwhelming to supply peanut- and nut-free snacks for your child’s lunch, especially when you know that another child’s health and safety is on the line. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the teacher, the administration, or (if you know the person) to the child’s parent to ask any questions and to clear lunch ideas. It may seem as though many popular lunch options are excluded, but in reality, there are plenty of great kid-friendly foods you can provide for school.

As the saying goes, it takes a village. And if it was our child, we’d want someone to do the same for us.

 

This post was in partnership with SunButter, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everymom editorial board.

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