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For kids heading back to school soon, the oft-dreaded lunch time looms large- especially for those with food allergies or restricted diets. What to do if your child is allergic to nuts, gluten or dairy, or if you and your child prefer a vegan diet? Is he/she relegated to carrot sticks and lettuce leafs? No way! Here are a few tasty ideas to get you started on the path of healthy lunches that pack a nutritious and delicious punch!
- Mom and award-winning blogger of the Vegan Lunch Bento Box (which offers a host of allergen-free menu ideas and tips), Jennifer McCann and her family are vegans-including her little boy James. When he started school, her biggest concern was how to pack vegan lunches that weren’t going to make her little boy a lunch-room pariah. McCann also notes how much diets and food sensitivities have increased since she was a child: “Food allergies certainly seem to be more of an issue for children than it was when I was a child. I hear from parents all the time that come to my website looking for things their dairy- and/or egg-allergic children can eat; vegan foods are perfect in that sort of situation, since they are all naturally dairy- and egg-free. As a parent it’s great to know you can bake your child some birthday cupcakes to bring to school that are free of milk and eggs, and that no one will be the wiser,” says McCann.
- McCann shares her lunch-time successes in her new book, Vegan Lunch Box: 130 Animal-Free Lunches Kids and Grown-Ups Will Love!(Da Capo Press). You’ll even find an Allergen- Free Index on page 265 to help frustrated parents find lunch-worthy options ASAP! Meat-free, egg-free, dairy-free and even gluten-free recipes from A-Z are covered. There’s Adzuki Beans with Pickled Ginger to Zucchini Lattice Mini Pizzas from my pizza oven, included to make meal time happy time.
- Take a page out of little James’ lunch box and mix it up with ethnic fare high in legumes and flavour yet free of many allergens. Options include: home made falafel, roti, pad thai, Japanese vegan sushi and Mexican flautas. Ole!
- Get your kids involved in making their own lunch and consult with them on what they like! Many lunch-time recipes are easy enough for kids to help and once they’ve invested the time, chances are, they’ll gobble up their creations with a smile on their face!
- For children with dairy, gluten and nut allergies- eating something as child-friendly as a cookie can be scary. According to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, a national advocacy group, it is estimated that food allergies affect about 2.2 million school aged children and 1-2% of adults nationally (about 12 million people). The solution? You can certainly bake your own using clinical psychologist and author Jill Robbins’ book, “Allergen Free Baking.” Like McCann, Robbins published this book after her son was diagnosed with several food allergies. Now he can have his cake and eat it too!
- Don’t have time to bake? Try Robbins’ Home Free Treats- a new, delectable line of organic, ready-to-eat baked, whole grain kosher snacks including chocolate chip cookies, brownie chip and oatmeal chip cookies that are free of peanuts, tree-nuts, eggs and dairy. Made with barley or oat flour, each cookie contains a ½ serving of whole grain and instead of dairy, she uses apple sauce to create moisture. If you didn’t know what these cookies didn’t contain, you’d never guess!While you’re here, be sure to check out our kitchen product reviews!