According to reports by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, there are over 12 million Americans who are afflicted with some sort of food allergy. Peanuts are among the food allergies most likely to cause a life-threatening reaction, and because of this more than 30,000 U.S. schools have adopted a “peanut-free” policy for all students. While these rules are sometimes met with contempt or outright backlash from parents whose children do not suffer from any potentially deadly food allergies, compliance is not optional. If your child attends a peanut-free school, here are ten sandwiches that you can pack for them in lieu of the forbidden kid-favorite PB & J:
- Soy-nut Butter and Jelly – Soy-nut butter is a great substitute to the traditional peanut butter spread, and is available under several brand names and easily found in most major grocery stores. Because it’s such a close alternative, it can be used in place of peanut butter for the traditional PB & J, Ants on a Log and a variety of other classic kid dishes.
- Sunbutter and Honey – While it’s less common than peanut allergies and not as likely to cause life-threatening anaphylactic shock, soy allergies do exist. For those kids, soy-nut butter isn’t a viable peanut-butter substitute. Thankfully, Sunbutter, which is made from roasted sunflower kernels and carefully controlled in order to minimize any risk of allergen contamination, is available in most grocery stores. Because both soy-nut butter and sunbutter both bear a striking resemblance to peanut butter in color and texture, it might be wise to include a note with your child’s lunch explaining that the questionable-looking sandwiches are compliant with the peanut-free policy.
- Cream Cheese and Jam – It’s difficult to go wrong with cream cheese, especially when it’s paired with the fruity sweetness of jelly. Parents with concerns about fat content can opt for the light variety, but kids who have a reasonably active lifestyle and participate in athletic play should be fine with regular cream cheese.
- Hummus Wrap – There’s very little that’s new or exciting about the same square sandwiches that everyone else packs for lunch; parents with budding non-conformists might find that the unique rolled-up shape of a wrap can help up its attractiveness to notoriously picky kids, while the nutritious value of hummus endears it to parents.
- Yogurt Parfait – Parfaits need not be the pain that you think; just snag some pre-diced fruit and hulled, sliced strawberries from the produce section of your local market, along with vanilla yogurt and nut-free granola. Layer the yogurt and fruit in a container, leaving the granola separate to avoid sogginess. Remember that the sweetness of the fruit will boost the sugar content, so avoid the sweetener-laden brands directed at kids in favor of the less expensive, healthier “adult” variety.
- Cucumber and Cream Cheese – Spreading cream cheese and tossing cucumber slices on two slices of bread is so simple it almost feels criminal, but it’s a great lunch option for kids in peanut-free schools. Opting for flavored cream cheese can give taste buds a punch if your youngster feels that plain is too bland.
- Mini-Bagels – Even half of a full-sized bagel might be too cumbersome for a kid, especially one with a smaller appetite. Because mini-anything tends to be a hit with the smaller set, packing a few sliced mini-bagels and your child’s favorite topping is a great way to keep both her and the school district happy.
- Pita Pockets – The great thing about a pita pocket is that it can be stuffed with just about anything. This no-fuss lunch also comes with the added bonus of being sealed along the sides and bottom, which can help to prevent stains from dropped food.
- Cold-Cuts – Unless your family is vegetarian or vegan, there’s no rule stating that you have to forgo protein-rich deli cold cuts. Packaged luncheon meats due tend to be laden with sodium and preservatives, however, so it might be wise to stock up at the deli counter instead.
- English Muffin Pizzas – A dollop of tomato sauce, a sprinkling of cheese and a few pieces of pepperoni on an English muffin “crust” make for quick, unique pizzas that your kids will love. Fortunately, they only require a brief stint under the broiler to melt the cheese, making them a snap to prepare.
While it can be tempting to rally against a peanut-free policy, remember that these rules tend to be most common in preschools, kindergarten and early elementary school, when children who suffer from these dangerous allergies are least likely to grasp the full importance of avoiding peanut products and lack the self-restraint to turn them down. Your compliance, while inconvenient, could be saving a child’s life.