Health Advocate Blog

Allergen-Free Classroom Treats

We live in a world where many children have allergies to one or several of the following foods: wheat, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish, shellfish, or soy. These 8 types of food trigger 90% of allergic reactions.  As many as 8% of children in America have diagnosed food allergies, according to a study recently published in the journal Pediatrics.

Because of the prevalence of food allergies, parents who are tasked with providing classroom treats for birthdays or for holiday parties are faced with the challenge of finding snacks that everyone in the class can safely eat. That’s no easy feat!

Often, it’s easier for parents to bring in pre-packaged treats for a classroom function.  This is because the FDA requires that the presence of any of the eight most common allergens, which are listed above, is disclosed on the food’s labeling/packaging.  This allows you to easily see whether or not a product contains these allergens, which helps you make smart decisions when choosing classroom treats.  Many parents of children with food allergies prefer that their children are given pre-packaged snacks instead of homemade treats since this reduces the risk of cross-contamination from someone’s home kitchen (for example, cross-contamination could occur if residue from peanut butter accidently stayed on a spoon that was used to mix cupcake batter, which could pose a problem for a child who is allergic to peanuts).

Fruits and vegetables are among the safest—and healthiest—bets for snacks that are free of the 8 most common allergens. Bear in mind that occasionally some tropical fruits (such as coconut) might trigger an allergic reaction, so you may wish to avoid them when you’re putting together a classroom treat. Consider arranging fruits and veggies on kabobs or making up a tray of fruits and veggies for kids to pick from.   For a fruit tray or kabobs, try using blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, grapes, cantaloupe chunks, watermelon slices, oranges, and raisins or dried cranberries.  For a veggie tray or kabobs, include carrot sticks, broccoli florets, slices of bell peppers, sliced tomatoes and sliced cucumbers.

Another fun idea for a classroom snack is a frozen treat. We all know that it doesn’t feel like a party without ice cream, but unfortunately many ice cream products contain milk, sometimes contain wheat and eggs, and often become cross-contaminated by nuts. The good news is that there are dairy-free, egg-free, wheat-free and nut-free alternatives. Consider bringing in frozen lemonade, Italian ice, or whole-fruit popsicles for a safer cool treat.

Looking for a crunchy treat to bring in?  Lightly salted rice cakes—which can be topped with fruit jam—or air-popped popcorn are two fun and healthy ideas.

Remember, if you or your child has or might have a food allergy, Health Advocate is here to help.  If you are a Health Advocate member, call us to help you locate an in-network physician or allergist who can help diagnose any suspected allergies.  We can also help you locate a nutritionist that can give you healthy allergy-friendly recipes—or, if your Health Advocate membership includes wellness coaching, we can connect you to a Wellness Coach that can help you come up with healthy, safe recipes that you and your family can enjoy.