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{Peanut-Free} School Lunch Solutions

When my daughter started school, I was already in the groove of not purchasing products with Nuts or Peanuts in them. My Husband has a severe Nut allergy, once fleck of Nut or the dust of Nuts can land him straight into the hospital. When my kids were born my doctor suggested I refrain from introducing Nuts or Peanuts for years – since my Husbands allergy is so severe.

Yet though I read labels constantly, I still find it hard sometimes to catch that fine print that says it’s safe for those with allergies. The introduction of that wonderful eye-catching label that says that products have been made in peanut-free facilities, are a blessing for us. After all, I have 3 kids and my grocery shopping is done as fast as this Mom can shop – I have no time to study the fine print. This peanut-free label saves me time, grief and provides peace of mind.

Just like my home, Isabelle’s school is peanut-free {due to severe allergies in her classmates}. And we parents all know, making lunches is tedious enough {not another sandwich!}, without our choices being limited even more. If you shop at Loblaw’s {The Real Canadian Superstore, where I am}, the President’s Choice® and no name® brands have kid-friendly peanut-free items. They have the peanut-free logo on display, so you can spot them very easily. {and, besides Costco, this is the only other grocery store that has double-seater shopping carts. Ya, for Twin-friendly!}

My family has never been able to purchase fresh baked good from the bakery before – it’s just too much of a risk. If one spoon, or one board isn’t washed properly after being exposed to nuts and peanuts – everything is contaminated with allergen. The first of it’s kind for supermarkets, that I am aware, some bakery departments at Loblaw’s will offer freshly baked muffins, cookies and brownies made at their exclusive offsite peanut-free baking facility. This opens up whole new shopping choices!

Here are some tips when choosing Peanut-Free Lunch Products:

  • www.myorganizedchaos.net,Read labels and ingredient lists and teach your kids how to read them, too – every single time
  • Understand what “peanut-free” means: that the product- or food-in-question doesn’t contain peanuts, peanut butter, peanut oil, traces or any derivative of peanut at all! Note that it does not necessarily mean it’s “tree-nut” free – so parents need to read ingredient lists to be sure
  • Empower kids to ask questions about food origins – kids with peanut sensitivities shouldn’t eat foods if they don’t know where, how or with what they were made
  • Parents and kids should be aware of the dangers of cross-contamination – using a knife to spread jam on a piece of bread that might have been used earlier in a peanut butter jar (even if there isn’t any peanut butter in sight) means that the knife has been cross-contaminated and may elicit an allergic reaction
  • When shopping for school lunches and snacks, avoid buying from bulk food bins – even if there’s an ingredient list available, you’ll have no idea if it’s been in contact with a peanut product since scoops inevitably get moved from bin to bin
  • The best store-bought “baked” snacks for a peanut-free environment are cookies, crackers and cereals that are properly labelled and pre-packaged; in a traditional bakery setting, cross-contamination is very possible
  • Don’t forget that in addition to all of the delicious President’s Choice- and no name-brand peanut-free products available, there are many other snack choices that are nutritious, kid-friendly and don’t contain peanuts, including:

~ Any fruit or vegetable, such as grapes, celery, apples, carrots, oranges, bananas and raisins – don’t forget about applesauce!
~ Dairy products like cottage cheese, string cheese and yogurt

My daughter loves meat, lettuce and cheese sandwiches – but we both love a break from the routine. To mix it up, I love to send soups in a thermos, or tuna salad with crackers. I always send at least one fresh fruit and some cut-up fresh veggies and dip. Other ideas include granola bars {Loblaw’s has a nice selection of peanut-free varieties}, a package of bran bites, dried fruit or raisins. I also pack a juice box and a water bottle too.

Share your ideas for a Peanut free lunch!

Disclosure: I was provided with product and compensation to facilitate this post, opinions are my own.

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13 Comments

  1. My oldest son is allergic to peanuts, though not in a severe way. It’s crazy when you say “peanut allergy” that everyone automatically assumes it’s life threatening right away, there are so many levels of allergy I wish people were more aware of that.

    Peanut, soy, and egg allergies are all really tough ones to deal with because they are in SO many things that we don’t even realize they’re in. Soy and egg can even be found in jars of prepackaged baby foods. There are people everywhere that can’t even order an ice cream cone at Dairy Queen because their peanuts are not contained enough.

    Peanut free treats for the lunchbox …..

    My son’s favorite is yogurt or pudding cups. Veggies are always present, celery sticks, grape tomatoes, carrot sticks, whatever he picks for that week. Fruit is a nice sweet treat too. Sometimes I throw in a handful of M&Ms or Skittles.

    1. That is true Loretta. My husband’s allergy started as very minor and is now life-threatening.
      Yogurt is great, my daughter loves the yogurt covered raisins! OK, I do too! 🙂

  2. Hey! I have a peanut allergy just like your husband. When I meet my husband he was a peanut butter lover..now of course he can’t eat it!! When he went to Germany for a business trip I guess he ate peanut better EVERY day! LOL! We can’t have any products in our house and our daughter can’t eat any peanut products at school because if she comes home and touches me or kisses on me then I have a trip to the ER!!! I came across a website that sales peanut free products that I have been buying from!!!

    1. Hi Mandy.
      I LOVE Nutella, but of course, haven’t been able to have it for the last 12 years.
      It’s just too much of a risk to have in the house.

      My daughter always heard about Peanut Butter from her friends, but could never try it.
      It disappointed her so much. {and we tried the soy-butter once…Blah}

  3. I don’t have any, but thank you for yours! It’s nice to know these things exist, and can even be ordered online!

  4. Another reminder to me to be so thankful no one in my family has food allergies! Heck, if it wasn’t for peanut butter I’m not sure Little Man would get the protein he needs! Hopefully your girls won’t end up being allergic. It’s so nice that more allergy-aware companies are popping up.

    1. That is so true Alyssa! I know a lot of friends that rely on PB for protein, for their picky kids. You really have to get very creative when you don’t have it as an option!

  5. instead of making a sandwich, put the meat and lettuce and cheese in a wrap. You can cut the wrap into pinwheels so they’re more bite size and more of a finger food. Or put cream cheese and banana slices in it and then slice it into pinwheels. I even rolled the sandwich meat into rolls like you would find on a meat tray and put it into a small baggie because at one time, the foods couldn’t be put together, they had to be separated from one another for some ridiculous reason. Lunches get boring really fast for us, so you can imagine how bored THEY get day after day. And you can put hot dogs in a thermos too. Put them in raw in the morning with some hot water and they’re ready by noon. You can cut the dogs and buns in half to make mini dogs. And don’t forget to send a packet of ketchup. My youngest lived on PB before he started going to school because he wouldn’t eat meat, so I know where you’re coming from. Our junior high doesn’t have a ban PB, so he’s been taking PB and jelly for 2wks. But, I’m sure that’s going to get boring very soon. Hope this has helped a bit and good luck with your lunch time dilemmas.

  6. We have a peanut free school so we make sure to send the kids with nut free lunches. We do veggies and jam and cheese and soups in thermos too. I love adding hard boiled eggs too although my son is allergic to them so we will have to come up with something different for him. Other then that cheese sticks and crackers.

  7. Tammi,

    I’m hoping that you will find this info most useful! Our daughter too is allergic to peanuts and our alternative to PB is nutella! Yes, I’m sure you are probably as surprised as we were when we first found out. They apparently changed their formulation in 2006 as a result of the prevalence of peanut allergies. I’ve copied some info from the nutella websites below. Hopefully you can enjoy nutella again (unless a family member is allergic to hazelnuts)!

    From the American and Australian Nutella website:

    Nutella Ingredients: sugar, modified palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk powder, whey powder, soy lecithin, vanillin.

    Australian nutella website – http://www.nutella.com.au/faq
    Q. If your child is allergic to peanuts will they also be allergic to hazelnuts?
    A. Not all nut allergies are the same. Peanuts are grown underground and are classed as legumes, while hazelnuts are tree nuts as they grow on trees or bushes. People with peanut allergy may also be allergic to other nuts such as hazelnuts but this does not mean they definitely will be. The prevalence of hazelnut allergy in Australian children is estimated to be 0.18%, compared to 1.9% for peanut allergies. [9] In addition to this information, in 2006 Ferrero changed the ingredients of Nutella. Peanut oil is no longer used.

    American nutella website – http://www.nutellausa.com/faqs.htm

    Does Nutella® contain any peanuts?
    Nutella® hazelnut spread does not contain peanuts or peanut ingredients, nor does the product come in contact with peanuts during manufacturing.

    Q: Where is NUTELLA® made?
    A: NUTELLA® is made by Ferrero Canada Inc., which is headquartered in Toronto, Ontario and is a subsidiary of Ferrero International. Ferrero International is a world leader and innovator and one of the top 5 confectionery companies globally. Ferrero Canada’s main production plant is located in Brantford, Ontario and supplies North America with NUTELLA®.

    1. Thanks so much for the information Annie!
      It is most helpful, yet my Hubby is allergic to nuts – so no hazelnuts for us.
      Maybe they should make a nut-free nutella?!
      lol

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