Are food allergies making it hard to come up with snacks for your child’s school lunch? Food allergies affect up to 6 percent of kids in the U.S. with peanuts and tree nuts presenting the most serious risk. Milk, eggs, soy and wheat are also common allergens, but you don’t need to stick to pre-packaged snacks to stay safe. Here are some easy ideas for allergy-free school snacks.
Peanut Butter Alternatives
While peanuts and tree nuts are off-limits, you can still make faux “peanut butter” using allergy-friendly seeds, like sunflower seeds. You make it the same way you would regular peanut butter – by adding 3 cups of seeds to your Vitamix machine and blending until smooth. Get creative with a mixture of seeds – try adding hulled pumpkin seeds or pepitas, or stir in whole flaxseeds after blending. Add more flavor by mixing in cinnamon, vanilla, maple syrup or even cacao powder.
Pair the faux PB with chopped veggies, combine it with strawberry chia jam on whole-grain bread, or spread it on celery sticks with raisins for allergy-friendly “ants on a log.” You can also use the seed butter in place of nut butter in baked goods, like muffins, or use it instead of peanut butter in jelly rolls with a berry dipping sauce.
Allergy-Free Granola Bars
Most pre-packaged granola bars contain at least one major allergen – not to mention they’re often loaded with sugar. Instead, create your own granola bars using your Vitamix machine, making substitutions as needed to accommodate allergies. Use other crunchy ingredients, like sunflower seeds or cacao nibs, instead of raw almonds, and replace the wheat germ with ground flaxseed or stabilized rice bran. Make your granola bars wheat-free by replacing the wheat flour with alternatives like oat flour or rice flour.
Dairy- and Egg-Free Pudding
A healthy chia pudding not only bypasses common allergens, like the eggs and dairy found in regular pudding, but it's also high in omega-3 fatty acids that help support learning and development. The basic recipe is simple: combine a half-cup of rice milk with 2 tablespoons of whole chia seeds, and stir until it forms a gel. Some store-made rice milk contains lots of added sugar, so make your own at home using your Vitamix machine.
Adapt the flavor to suit your taste: mix in half a mashed banana and a sprinkling of cinnamon for “banana bread” pudding, or add cacao powder, a pinch of cayenne and strawberry puree for a “chocolate-dipped strawberry” pudding with a little kick.
Naturally Allergen-Free Options
Packing fruits or veggies allows you to avoid common allergens without much time spent in the kitchen. Vegetables with hummus, a container of roasted vegetables or fruit salads are quick, easy options.
Be sure to clean each cooking surface and the Vitamix machine thoroughly with soap and water before making any allergy-free snacks, to avoid potential cross-contamination.