The first thing I learned about peanut allergies was the difference between airborne and non-airborne nut allergies. Children with an airborne nut allergy can get extremely sick from just being in the proximity of a peanut. Children with non-airborne nut allergies are generally OK to sit next to a child with nuts in their lunch, but could have an averse reaction if they ingest them. Non-airborne allergies get even trickier since nut butters can easily smear on a table or spread to common classroom objects via sticky fingers and if a child with a nut allergy accidentally ingests nuts by touching something contaminated and putting their fingers in their mouth, they could become ill or worse. What you realize very quickly, is that whether airborne or not, the risk of a child getting sick is almost equal.
As hard as it can be for kids with allergies to watch their friends enjoying foods that are of limits for them, it can be just as challenging for their concerned parents who are trying to come up with nutritious alternatives that their allergic kids actually want to eat. I try to come up with allergy-friendly recipes to make packing a nut-free school lunch easier, and I hope that these will give you and your kids some new favorites for the lunch box!
Important Note: for families with a severe but allergy, read the labels to make sure all the ingredients you purchase are not processed on machinery that also process peanuts!
Cocodate Cookies 1 of 8
Once you taste these Cocodate Cookies I'll bet you'll wish that you double or even tripled the recipe because you'll want to always have a bunch on hand in the cookie jar, your kid's lunchbox, the car and in big bags in the freezer for everyone to enjoy! With only four ingredients and packed with toasty coconut and super sweet dates, they're free of many of the most common allergy-causing foods.
Sunflower Butter Bran Muffins 2 of 8
These Sunflower Butter Bran Muffins are packed with tons of fiber and are protein-rich to keep kids sated during the day. And since sunflower butter tastes very similar to peanut butter, most kids won't be able to tell the difference. That's good news for everyone in the classroom!
Chocolate Chip Granola Bars 3 of 8
These Chocolate Chip Granola Bars are unbelievably delicious and, if you wrap them individually, just as easy to grab when you're on-the-go as the ones you buy at the market (plus, you'll have no problem pronouncing all of the ingredients in these). Chewy and crunchy with toasted oats and a sweet surprise in every bite, these Chocolate Chip Granola Bars are a must for your back to school rotation!
Cinnamon Honey Roasted Chickpeas 4 of 8
These Roasted Cinnamon Honey Chickpeas are my version of healthy junk food. They're probably not prepared the way you're used to eating chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans), which are soft in texture once cooked and traditionally used as the basis for savory dishes like hummus, soups and stews. Instead, these are super crunchy and sweetened with a light coating of cinnamon and honey, making them even more addictive than those junky snacks you can't pry out of your child's hands. In fact, with only three wholesome ingredients including the protein packed chickpeas, you'd be hard pressed to find another snack food that's this good for you.
Spinach Cake Muffins 5 of 8
These Spinach Cake Muffins have just the perfect amount of sweetness and an appealing bright green color, but no intense spinach flavor. Chloe joined me in making a batch and got so into it I caught her eating spinach leaves directly out of the measuring cup -- who says kids don't like their greens?! I always find that when you give little ones a chance to be a part of creating something in the kitchen, it can transform food for them in a way that's just as much fun to make as it is to eat!
Banana Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies 6 of 8
Is it really possible to have a cookie recipe that doesn't call for any sugar or butter but still produces cookies just as sweet and delicious as the ones you're normally used to eating? Well, not only are these Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies incredibly easy to make -- even for moms that rarely bake -- they're nutritious and tons of fun for kids to get involved in making. The dates and bananas add a rich sweetness to every bite and the toasty oats give these cookies a crispy texture. And if you prefer bars to cookies, it's easy to convert this recipe.
Animal Crackers 7 of 8
Animal crackers are synonymous with kids. Little ones just love these imaginative treats and I'd bet you have your own fond childhood memories of eating them....and with good reason. Animal crackers are fun, scrumptious and many moms generally keep them on hand to keep everyone happy. If your kids are like mine, any food in the shape of an animal is usually a hit, and the first time I made these crackers for my son and daughter, there was a lot of excitement about which animal they each were going to pick first.
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies 8 of 8
As the batch of these Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies baked I wondered, would they be as buttery and yummy as a regular chocolate chip cookie? Would the kids like them or think think they tasted like cardboard as I think some vegan baked treats can? Well, if the half-empty cookie jar on day one was any indication, I'd say that they're beyond pretty darn good. What the kids and I didn't finish, my husband quickly dispatched.