At the PTA meeting on the first day of school, the principal announced a schoolwide ban on edible birthday treats. Most of the audience fell silent. I was the obnoxious parent who clapped and cheered – loudly!
But as Halloween approaches, costume parties are being planned at school. Almost every classroom has at least one child with a food allergy – my kindergartener is one of them. And every party planner is asking, “What kind of food can we have that won’t cause an allergic reaction?”
Personally, I’d prefer to keep the party food out of the classroom. But that’s a battle for another day. Today I’ll offer a list of allergy-friendly foods for school party planners.
1. Homemade snacks
Most parents of children with food allergies prefer pre-packaged snacks at school events because of the serious risk of cross-contamination in a home kitchen – for example, there could be peanut butter residue on a spoon that was used to stir cupcake batter.
The most common food allergens are:
- Tree nuts
- Shelfish (not kosher)
Most kitchens in the USA contain at least 2 of those allergens. If you know the parents of the children with allergies, ask if it would be OK to bring in rice crispy treats (nut-free and egg-free) or gluten-free muffins from a mix.
For my son’s school snack every day, I make fruit bars by blending dried fruit with raw sunflower seeds. For snacks at home I often make dairy-free chocolate “pudding” by whipping together avocado, banana, honey and cocoa powder. A friend of mine makes popsicles by freezing blackberry puree – no sugar added.
2. Fresh fruit and vegetables
Your best bet for safe snacks will always be fruit and vegetables, because they are free of the 8 most common allergens. Keep in mind that some tropical fruits may trigger a reaction – for example, people with a latex allergy are usually also allergic to bananas, because the plants are related. Here is a list of recommended fruits and vegetables:
- Apples, applesauce or apple cider
- Grapes – fresh or frozen
- Raisins (Sun-Maid brand are kosher pareve)
- Dried cranberries (Trader Joe dried cranberries are kosher)
- Canteloupe chunks
- Watermelon slices
- Carrot sticks
- Broccoli florets
- Slices of bell peppers
- Sliced tomatoes with sea salt
- Sliced cucumbers
3. Frozen treats
It wouldn’t be a party without ice cream – except for the fact that ice cream contains dairy and eggs, and is usually cross-contaminated with nuts. Fortunately, there are dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free alternatives:
- Minute Maid Frozen Lemonade
- Luigi’s Real Italian Ice
- Nestle Ice Pops
4. Crunchy snacks
When party guests have food allergies, it becomes necessary to substitute the old standbys with gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, dairy-free foods like these:
- Lays Simply Natural Thick Cut Sea Salted Potato Chips
- Ruffles Original Potato Chips
- Trader joe’s snickerdoodles
- Yehuda Gluten-Free Matzo
- Lundberg brand lightly salted rice cakes – delicious with jam, marmalade or apple butter
- Trader Joe’s Roasted Plantain chips (baked with sunflower seed oil)
- Enjoy Life brand cookies and chips – all free of the 8 most common food allergens
It’s a good idea for everyone to think about what we eat. When we stop and look at a list of ingredients, we are more likely to choose something healthy. In the long run, that means more parties!
Please share your family’s favorite allergy-friendly treats in the comments below.