Approximately 3 million people in the U.S. are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts, according to Food Research and Education, and the number of children with peanut allergies tripled between 1997 and 2008. Because the most severe of peanut allergies can be affected by airborne particles, some schools have banned peanuts entirely. While this makes it safer for those with allergies, it poses a challenge for parents used to packing PB&Js for their children.
Peanut-Free Lunches and Snacks
If your child insists on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, look at potential substitutes. If tree nut butters are still allowed, you can make the sandwich with almond or cashew butter; if not, use a butter made from sunflower seeds. Other sandwich options include ham, turkey or roast beef, chicken, tuna or egg salad. For snacks, skip peanut-butter filled crackers, peanut-laden trail mix or kid-friendly "ants on log," or celery filled with peanut butter and raisins. Instead, provide whole wheat pita chips with hummus, raw veggies or cut fruit or a trail mix made from pretzels, raisins and dark chocolate chips -- all peanut-free foods.
Just a smidgen of peanut butter can contaminate an otherwise safe food, so careful avoidance of peanut products in your kitchen is a must for preparing peanut-free foods to send to school. In addition, peanuts or peanut residue can hide in places you least expect, such as snack foods, cookies or crackers that don't contain actual nuts, but are processed in facilities where peanuts are used. The Food and Drug Administration requires foods that have traces of peanuts labeled with "contains peanuts" or provide the source of the allergen in the ingredients list. However, fresh fruits and vegetables, foods regulated by the USDA -- including meats, poultry and certain egg products -- restaurant foods and supplements are exempt from the law.
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