Kids with nut allergies, and their parents, need to be vigilant about foods that will trigger an allergic reaction. Kids don't want to feel deprived of delicious snacks, but with so many choices available, there's no reason to worry. It's important to constantly read food labels, even when foods eaten did not previously contain nuts. Manufacturers may change ingredients without warning.
1. Fresh Choices
Fresh fruit is always good choice for allergic kids. There is no ingredient list to worry about and no problems of cross contamination. Keep sandwich bags of pre-cut varieties on hand in the refrigerator for quick access. Have kids help make a fruit salad with their favorite choices. Freeze juice and berries in ice pop molds for a fun treat. Always keep a good supply of fresh vegetables on hand for snacks. Roll up a piece of turkey lunch meat with cantaloupe chunks inside for a snack with a little more protein.
2. Other Choices
Buy string cheese or small, round cheese bites for the kids to snack on. Add it to a cracker or rice cake that is specifically nut-free. When in doubt, always contact the company. Many kids like yogurt; buy the kid-friendly squeezable varieties. Mix up a smoothie with milk and frozen blueberries. Pop some popcorn and add Parmesan cheese or garlic. Bake your own healthy nut-free muffins for breakfast or for an after-school treat.
3. If Peanuts are the Problem
If your child is allergic to peanuts but other types of nuts are safe, make nut butters at home. Nearly any nut can be made into spreadable butter, perfect for pairing with jam or jelly. Parents can prepare butters at home by grinding nuts in a blender or food processor. The fats contained in the nuts will typically make the butter moist enough. Almond and cashew are the best for spreading. If you buy nut butters, be certain there's no possibility it can be contaminated with peanuts.
4. Unexpected Sources
Sometimes there are nuts or nut contamination in unexpected places. Be careful when taking your child to an ice cream store. The scoop could be contaminated from someone else's flavor. Vegetarian foods often have nuts in their ingredients because they are added as a source of protein. Salad dressing, gravy and even hot sauce may use nuts as a thickening agent. Some sweets such as hot chocolate, cookies and pudding may unexpectedly include nuts. Asian foods often contain nuts.
5. Law to Protect the Allergic
There's a law mandating that all labels on products regulated by the Food and Drug Administration must state if the food contains the most common allergens, one of which is peanuts. The label may say "contains peanuts" underneath the ingredients list, or it may have the word "peanuts" in bold type within the list of ingredients. This makes it easy to spot the allergens quickly. The label may also say "may contain peanuts" or "produced in a facility that also produces peanuts." Take this information seriously as it may indicate cross-contamination.
- American Dietetic Association: Food Allergies and Intolerances
- The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network: Peanut Allergy
- Mayo Clinic: Peanut Allergy
- Kids With Food Allergies; Healthy Snacks for Kids with Food Allergies; Melanie Carver, et al.; August 2009
- American Dietetic Association: Are There Alternatives if I Have a Peanut Allergy?
- Food Safety; Children and Food Allergies - Awareness Can Save Lives; Howard Seltzer; October 2010
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