When Allison started first grade in September, we received a note that said her classroom would be a “peanut-free zone.” To avoid problems for nut-allergic students, all peanut products would be taboo — not only in treats brought for the entire classroom, but even in individual student lunches.
Her classroom is not unusual in banning all peanut products. At many schools across America, the peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich — that childhood lunchbox staple — has been permanently banned.
I wouldn’t want to endanger any child’s health, so I strictly follow the peanut-free rule for school lunches. I have a lot of sympathy for parents of children with severe food allergies. But I have to admit that my first thought when I read the note was more selfish than sympathetic.
“Oh, great,” I groused. “The only kind of sandwich that my kid will eat has just been banned from her lunch.”
One of the other moms in Allison’s class took it even harder: the weekend before school started, she had industriously prepared 30 peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches (crusts removed, pre-bagged) and frozen them for quick ready-to-eat lunches.
The last time she and I talked, she pleaded for lunchbox suggestions. “I am seriously out of ideas,” she told me. “Sometimes my daughter’s whole lunch comes back home uneaten.”
Since I try to keep trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup out of Allison’s diet, I can’t take a short cut and feed her those pre-packaged boxed lunches marketed to children (yep, I’m anti-Lunchables). That means I’m on the line every morning to come up with a lunch that is simultaneously easy to make, nutritious, and irresistibly tasty. No pressure!
The first few weeks of nut-free lunches were a challenge, but it forced me to get out of the PB&J rut and be more creative. Here are a few peanut-free lunches that have been successfully tested on my very picky elementary-school student.
It’s important to keep children with severe allergies safe while they are at school, and we’ve found that it’s really not that difficult to pack nut-free lunches. If you find yourself in a similar situation, my suggestion is to get creative with school lunches, try lots of new foods, and make it work for everyone.
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