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Packing Your Child’s Lunchbox with Fun – Not Food Allergens!

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD Wellness Services Corporate Dietitian


Aug 2nd, 2017

Sun Butter Bites

Whether it’s for your child or out of concern for one of their classmates, more and more parents are packing lunches free of major food allergens and/or gluten. With a new school year beginning, now is a great time to share ideas on how to lose the allergens, but not the fun when packing your child’s lunchbox.

One in thirteen children, or roughly two in every classroom, have food allergies, according to a recent national survey. Milk, eggs, and peanuts account for the majority of allergic reactions in young children while teenagers and adults mostly react to peanuts, tree nuts, and seafood (fish and crustacean shellfish). If it seems like food allergies are on the rise in children, it’s because they are! In the United States, food allergy prevalence among children increased by 50% between 1997-1999 and 2009-2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. On top of that, a recent study reported peanut or tree nut allergies more than tripled between 1997 and 2008.

To kick off the back to school season, here’s a handful of fun, allergen-friendly recipes that will surprise and delight your children! Read on for three non-bread entrée options, because PB&J was so last school year. Duh!

 Portable Gluten-Free Pasta Salad

With so many substitution options, this Portable Gluten-Free Pasta Salad recipe is totally customizable! Mix and match ingredients to fit your child’s tastes and food tolerances. Use tuna, salmon or roast beef as a substitute for the grilled chicken or shredded kale or zucchini in place of the carrots. 

Portable Pasta Salad

Sunflower Butter and Jelly Rolls

Try a gluten and wheat-free alternative to the iconic PB&J sandwich! To make this Sun Butter and Jelly Roll Up recipe, simply top wheat and gluten-free tortillas with sunflower butter and jelly then roll! You can even slice the roll into bite size pieces for super easy snacking.

Sun Butter and Jelly Rollups.


Turn a crisp, juicy apple into wheat and gluten-free sliders! To make an “Apple-Wich”, simply slice the apple widthwise into 1/4 –inch slices and add your fave fillings. We recommend sliced turkey or roast beef topped with sliced cheese or sunflower butter spread topped with trail mix. Let your (or your child’s) imagination soar!


In need of a sweet treat that is free of peanuts and tree nuts? Here are two yummy lunchtime desserts the kids will love!

Fruit & Seed Chocolate Cups 

Fruit & Seed Chocolate Cups are crunchy yet creamy and will make the perfect allergen-friendly alternative to popular candy bars and snack cakes! 

Fruit _ Seed Chocolate Wafers

 Sunflower Butter Bites

Five simple ingredients come together to make these delicious Sunflower Butter Bites! With three different flavor options including Apricot & Coconut, Chocolate Covered Cherry and Cran-Raisin, there is sure to be something for everyone to enjoy!

  Sun Butter Bites

Your Back to School Allergen True or False Quiz

1. A food allergen can be cooked away if the temperature gets hot enough.

FALSE—Unlike microbiological risks, heating does not destroy allergens or lessen the risk of a reaction.

2. Peanuts are not the same as tree nuts.

TRUE—Peanuts are a member of the legume family and grow underground, whereas tree nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, etc.), grown on trees. However, an estimated 25-40% of people with peanut allergies are allergic to tree nuts as well.

3. No need to worry when products state that they “may contain” an allergen on the label—they are just covering their legal bases.

FALSE—Experts advise that consumers should always take seriously any “may contain” warnings especially if they have severe reactions to their allergen.

4. Gluten is now the most common food intolerance.

FALSE—The most common intolerance is to lactose, a natural sugar found in milk and milk products. Lactose intolerance is thought to affect up to 10% of adults.  

5. If a student with a food allergy is having GI (gastro-intestinal) irritation symptoms like nausea and vomiting after eating their meal, it may still be related to their food allergy.

TRUE—Allergic symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, along with the more recognized symptoms of skin rash, swelling of throat and lips, tickly throat, etc.

6. Once someone has a food allergy, they will have it for the rest of their life. Conversely, if you don’t have a food allergy as an adult, you will likely not develop one.

FALSE—Depending on the person and the food allergy, people sometimes can grow out of their food allergy. Conversely, people can develop a food allergy at any age and have a reaction to a food that was well tolerated before.


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