With all the allergies popping up these days, parents who are already facing picky eating difficulties with their children are now also faced with the added obstacle of finding healthy, kid-friendly snack foods that are nut-free. There are quite a few products coming out now with the “peanut-free label”, which make it easy to identify a safe snack choice. Unfortunately, these snacks not always the healthiest and can be loaded with sugar.

Here are some ideas for quick, healthy, kid-friendly snacks (nut-free, of course) to help with this challenge. Print them out and stick them on your fridge for a quick reference when packing lunches.
  • Fruit or fruit cups (packed in water or juice)
  • Fruit sauces (such as apple) with no sugar added
  • Cut-up vegetables (baby carrots, celery, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, etc.) with low-fat yogurt dip or hummus
  • Cheese strings
  • Yogurt cups
  • Dry cereal (nut-free, of course)
  • Air-popped Popcorn
  • Unsweetened dried fruit (raisins, dates, cranberries, etc.)
  • Crackers (with cheese)
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Low-fat, homemade oatmeal raisin cookie
  • Guacamole or hummus with baked pita chips
  • Homemade low-fat muffin, such as carrot, oatmeal, blueberry or banana
  • Bread with pea or sunflower butter (only if label says it’s nut-free) & jam

When dealing with nut-free restrictions, it’s important to prevent cross-contamination. A good idea is to keep your “nut-free” snack products in a different cupboard than nut-containing products in your home. Cross-contamination can occur any time a nut product has come in contact with another food, a surface or your skin. If the area isn’t properly cleaned, residue can be transferred easily to a “safe” food. 

What to do when grocery shopping

When purchasing packaged foods, such as cereals and granola bars, it’s always important to read the label every time, as manufacturers can change their products at any time. 

Below are some ingredients that indicate traces of nuts in a product:
  • peanuts
  • vegetable oil (may be peanut oil)
  • mixed nuts
  • ground nuts
  • mandelonas
  • peanut butter
  • beer nuts
  • peanut oil
  • goober nuts
  • goober peas
  • peanut flour
  • artificial nuts
  • hydrolyzed peanut protein
Also, watch for labels which say: "May contain traces of nuts or peanut" and treat these products as if they contain nuts. When shopping, avoid foods that do not have a label, are in bulk bins, or are unpackaged (such as baked goods) and placed near other goods that may have nut ingredients. 

Some other potential sources of peanut are: 
  • cereals (especially granola mix)
  • granola bars
  • cookie and cake mixes
  • rice cakes
  • crackers
  • ice cream
  • and candies. 

Janine Bolton

source: Andy Sweenpole
It seems these days that everywhere you turn there is a child with some type of allergy. Gone are the days of sending peanut butter sandwiches in school lunches, and planning a birthday party can mean accommodating for a few different allergies among attendees. Eggs, dairy, and nuts are the most common food allergies.

Allergy versus Intolerance

It’s important to note that there is a difference between an allergy and an intolerance. An food intolerance is often mistaken for an allergy, and can have a variety of symptoms, often originating in the gastrointestinal tract. Intolerances do not involve the immune system, and are usually caused by an inability to digest or absorb certain foods, or components of those foods.

An allergy occurs when your body’s immune system overreacts to a normally harmless substance. Symptoms can vary widely in type and severity. With food allergies, it is usually the proteins in foods that cause a reaction. There are eight types of foods that are believed to cause 90% of all food allergies. They are: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat.

Are allergies more common today?

In a word: Yes. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) reported an increase in food allergies of about 18 percent from 1997 - 2007, especially among children. Current numbers estimate that 5-6% of children have food allergies. The reason(s) for the increase in allergies among kids isn’t clear, and many theories exist. 

One possible explanation for the rise in diagnosis of food allergies is an increase in awareness. Parents and physicians may be more likely to consider a food allergy diagnosis these days when, years ago, people may have attributed a rash or vomiting as just common illness. It didn’t always occur to people to consider food as a cause. Others attribute the increase in food allergies to the changes we’ve made to the way we grow and process foods.

One thing we do know is that most children outgrow their food allergies to milk, egg, soy, and wheat by the time they are 10 years old, and often before 5 years of age.
It is estimated that about 85% of children who are allergic to milk or eggs will outgrow their food allergy, and just about all children who are allergic to soy or wheat will outgrow their allergy, too.

According to The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, most children will outgrown their food allergies to milk, egg, soy and wheat between 5 and 10 years of age. It’s estimated that about 85% of children with allergies to milk or eggs will outgrow them, however, not all allergies are likely to be outgrown. Only about 10-20% of kids will outgrow their allergies to nuts, fish or shellfish, and therefore, these allergies are usually lifelong.

If you think your child has a food allergy, it’s important to get an allergy test done from your doctor. Eliminating foods from your child’s diet without a proper diagnosis may compromise their nutritional intake. For more information, visit www.foodallergy.org.

Janine Bolton

Sunfood Nutrition