Try not to drive yourself nuts about peanut-free eating this school year.
Telegram columnist Amanda Burton has been named one of two winners of the Rotary Club of St. John's Northwest's Aidan Maloney Emerging Professionals Award. — Telegram file photo
Giving your children allergy-free lunches and snacks can actually be a lot simpler than you think.
When thinking of a healthy lunch, it’s important to remember meals should have at least three of the four groups from the food guide. Some of these food groups and foods generally do not contain peanuts, including fresh fruit, fruit cups, dried fruit, 100 per cent fruit leathers, 100 per cent fruit juices and fresh veggies from the fruit and veggies group. White and chocolate milk, plain low-fat cheeses and yogurt from the milk and alternative group. And low sodium pretzels, plain popcorn and whole grain crackers can be peanut-free additions from the grain group.
Even though these foods are most likely peanut free, it's always important to read food labels. Equally important is to always refer back to food labels when purchasing this product again. Ingredients can change without warning. It’s not safe to assume that, without looking at an ingredient list, a peanut-free product you’ve purchased before is still peanutfree.
So, what about the meat and alternatives group, i.e., where peanut butter and peanuts are actually found? In fact, there are many things that can be added to a sandwich, wrap or bagel instead of PB and J. Besides, beef, chicken, pork, fish and egg, consider soy nut butter (it says “nut” but it’s not actually that), sunflower seed butter, sesame seed butter, hummus or other bean dips, and even other nut butters like almond, cashew, walnut and hazelnut.
Some school may also limit tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios or walnuts) in addition to peanut, so be sure to be familiar with the particular policies and food restrictions at your school.
Again, a healthy lunch is all about foods from multiple foods groups and variety. The following are some nut free lunch ideas. A whole wheat tortilla wrap with romaine lettuce, hummus and red pepper strips, milk and an orange. A cheese sandwich on honey oatmeal bread with an apple and chocolate milk. Or perhaps, whole grain crackers with soy nut butter, baby carrots with dip, apple juice and yogurt. And last but not least, a homemade oatmeal blueberry muffin with a hard cooked egg, cheese string, grapes and water.
New food allergen labelling went into play last year, meaning any of the top priority allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, wheat, eggs, milk, soybeans, crustaceans, shellfish, fish or mustard seeds) are now listed clearly on the ingredient list in a statement which looks like , “Contains peanuts.”
Another way for parents to know if a particular product is peanut-free is by looking for the “Made in a peanut-free facility” logo. There are more than 100 Dominion PC products that use this logo and which could make an addition to a kid’s lunch bag, including granola bars, cookies, crackers and baked goods.
Any reaction is bad
About six per cent of kids are affected by a food allergy. While very few reactions are severe, even a mild allergic response to nuts should be taken seriously. Peanut allergies are responsible for more fatalities than any other food allergy.
So here’s what to do. While at school, encourage your kids not to share or trade their food with others. Teach your children about the signs of a food allergy reaction, and how to look for their allergen on food packaging ingredient lists. It’s important for parents and caregivers to be informed about food allergies and restrictions at their particular school.
If your child, or a child in their school, has an allergy, the pharmacists at Dominion can be a good resource. Not only can they provide information on the available products within the above mentioned peanut-free line, they have partnered with Anaphylaxis Canada to create an allergy awareness program to help educate people about this life-threatening condition.
Available are personalized consultations to prepare for an anaphylactic emergency, emergency plans for teachers, caregivers and more.
For further information on food allergies, you can also visit www.anaphylaxis.ca.
Amanda Burton is a registered dietitian in St. John’s.
Contact her through the website: www.recipeforhealth.ca.