Food Allergies and School Lunches

September has ended… How are you doing with packing school lunches? This whole school lunch thing probably seems more like a chore at times… packing healthy lunches that are going to be eaten; while avoiding one of the most loved peanut butter and jam sandwiches. Luckily, neither of my girls have any food allergies but being the dietitian mom I like to pair nuts with other healthy foods for a well balanced meal or snack. Most schools have restrictions on certain foods such as nuts due to food allergies.  As part of our back to school series we are talking about food allergies and how to pack a nut free lunch that your kids will love.


Having a child with a food allergy can be very stressful especially when it comes to school and social events. Most schools are nut free while a few maybe peanut free. Check with your school and kids class to see what their policy is around food allergies. Let’s take a closer look at allergies.

What are food allergies:

A food allergy is when your body’s immune system responds to a food that it see’s as harmful. The immune system triggers a response by releasing antibodies in response to the food, usually a protein in the food. The next time you eat the food your immune system sends out an immune response.  Food allergies usually have a fast onset and trace amounts of the allergen may cause an immune response .

In the past it was recommended that all foods that were considered “high allergen” foods were restricted to babies. However, current research suggests introducing babies to high allergen foods as early as 6 months and continue to offer it, unless there is a strong family history of food allergies. For families with a history of food allergies talk to your health care provider prior to introducing solids.

What are symptoms of food allergies:

Common symptoms of food allergies include wheezing, coughing, sneezing,hives, vomiting, stomach ache, and swelling. Symptoms range from mild to severe. Anaphylaxis is a sudden and serious reaction which may lead to death.

 What are the most common food allergies in kids:

Peanuts and nuts


Milk, especially cow’s milk



With milk, eggs,and peanuts being the most common in children.  Sometimes kids grow out of food allergies.

What is a food intolerance:

Food intolerance is a non immune response to a food.The body has difficulty a certain food.  The symptoms tend to be delayed and can cause similar symptoms to food allergies such as gastrointestinal upset such as bloating. While food allergies trigger an immune response, food intolerances do not. Food intolerances are not usually dangerous. The most common food intolerance is lactose. People who have food intolerances may be able to tolerate small amounts of foods they are intolerant to.

Tips for Packing Nut Free Lunches:


Become a Savvy Label reader:

Read the ingredient list for nuts and tree nuts. Look for products that display a certified nut free label like this new product from natures path called Envirokidz. Beware of products that have been made in facilities that contain nuts, usually labelled.

Try Nut Alternative Butters:

For those kids who love sandwiches try nut alternatives such as sesame butter and jam sandwiches or cucumber and cream cheese. Another option is a deconstructed sandwich where the filling such as tuna or egg is separate and your child put it together when its lunch, no one likes a soggy sandwich.

Embrace Leftovers:

I am lucky my kids like leftovers. I try to pack at least two lunches a week using leftovers from the night before. My motto cook once, eat twice. Plus some leftovers like curries and chilis taste best the next day.

Provide Well Balanced Meals:

Kids spend a good portion of their day at school. To ensure kids get the most out of school focus on packing well balanced meats entered around whole foods such as vegetables, fruit, plain yogurt. Single ingredient foods tend to be a healthier option and are safer foods for kids with allergies.

Meal Plan:

I am sure you must be sick of hearing about meal planning. I feel like a broken record at times.  Trust me it will save you a lot of stress and time. You can even get the kids involved.

School lunches are a lot of work. It takes a lot of planning to make sure they are nut free, healthy, and eaten on a daily basis. Don’t worry about sending your child with a pinterest lunch. Let’s work together to keep our kids lunches safe while fueling their bodies and minds.  For nut free lunch ideas check out our blog post on school lunches.

Happy Lunch Packing!



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