Note: This is a guest post by Dr. Stefanie Stevenson, an Integrative Physician who sees patients in Montgomery, OH. Dr. Stevenson has a special passion for the healthfulness of food served to children in schools. She is actively involved with The Sycamore Wellness Community, a Facebook group that provides information about good nutrition for children. You can learn more about Dr. Stevenson’s services here.
All three of my kids started school last week, which means myhomework began as well! After leafing through the four million forms I needed to fill out, I came across a suggestion list for nut-free snacks. It seems every year there is a child with severe food allergies in each of my children’s classrooms. It is really not surprising since the incidence of food allergies has exploded in the last decade. What I do find surprising is that many of the suggestions often provided for “safe” nut-free snacks are the very foods that may be playing a role in this explosion of food allergies. This year I was really pleased that the list from my school offered healthy, natural choices. Too often, suggested nut-free snacks from various schools, parents, or coaches include items like:
Fruit Rollups/Fruit Snacks
Rice Kripsie Treats
Many of these foods include ingredients like soybean oil, genetically modified foods, partially hydrogenated fats, and high fructose corn syrup, all of which are indicators of poor quality foods. Why do we think that nut free foods have to be nutrient free as well?
Instead, some easy ideas for safe and healthy nut free snacks include fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy, and whole grains. I often send in snacks like:
Apple (whole or cut up with cinnamon)
Carrot sticks, cucumber slices, jicama matchsticks, or red pepper strips
Dried raisins, cherries, or mangoes
Air popped popcorn
A handful or two of low sugar breakfast cereal (i.e. Cheerios, Kashi Heart to Heart)
Triscuits or Ryvita crackers
Low fat mozzarella cheese stick
Pumpkin or Sunflower seeds
The snack you send for your child simply needs to carry them through for an hour or two until they get to lunch or until school is dismissed. It should be an added source of nutrients in their morning or afternoon to give them good quality energy for the next part of their day. I hope the suggestions I’ve included here will help you set them up for a successful, energy-filled school day!