How to pack an allergy-free lunchbox

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With the increase in food allergies and the greater awareness of life-threatening ones, parents and kids have to be more diligent than ever to ensure that lunches are safe for kids.
It used to be that the biggest issue in the school cafeteria was whether or not the square pizza was edible and whom you should sit with on any given day. These days there is a lot more to think about. With the increase in food allergies and the greater awareness of life-threatening ones, parents and kids have to be more diligent than ever to ensure that lunches are safe for kids.

In some school districts, this has meant increased restrictions on what can be in a lunchbox. For some, this means that allergic kids have to sit in a separate area. For friends (and the allergic children), it can make for a sad or lonely lunchtime.

What can parents do? Plan a lunchbox without common allergic items.

Dr. Terri McFadden of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta says that peanuts are the important item to avoid. “I think if you avoid peanuts, and any peanut product, then you’ve done a good job of avoiding the food that’s most likely to cause a severe reaction,” says McFadden.

Beyond that, it can be tricky, since common food allergies include dairy, eggs, and wheat. “You can’t avoid everything. There is one level of alertness. You can find soy versions of yogurt and cheese, rice products, and wheat free products; these are products you can find usually in health food stores,” says McFadden.

Most importantly, make sure that the lunchbox still has proper nutrition. McFadden says that it’s important to ensure that kids get adequate protein, which can be found in foods like cheese, lunch meats, and yogurt. Also, include fruits and veggies, which generally have a low occurrence of allergies.

The bottom line? Parents, teachers, and kids need to be proactive.

“For the children that have food allergies…the children who carry an EpiPen® and have the adults around them well-versed…really do much better. If families, teachers, and caregivers are aware that it’s better to use the EpiPen® if there’s a concern, then those children do really well,” says McFadden.

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