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Allergies : An Allergy-Friendly Lunch Box

Whether your child has a food allergy or her school doesn't allow nuts in the building, the following ideas can help jazz up an allergen-friendly lunch box.

Go for whole foods. You'll rarely go wrong with simple, nutritious whole foods. There are no ingredients labels to scrutinize or opportunities for hidden allergens. Raw veggies (the more colorful, the better) and fruits are portable and convenient. Work some lightly cooked veggies into the rotation as well -- steamed green beans or broccoli from last night's dinner are great options.

Kids love to dip. Most kids are more likely to eat cut-up veggies and fruit with a spread or dip. If your child has a dairy allergy and cream cheese or Greek yogurt-based dips aren't an option, hummus is a tasty choice. Also try creamy avocado-based dressings.

Switch up the nut butter. There's a wide variety of nut butters out there -- skip the boring peanut butter and try protein-rich cashew, almond, sunflower, or soy-nut butter. Serve with celery sticks, apple slices, or gluten-free pretzels or rice crackers. Also spread on gluten-free bread with your child's favorite jelly.

Offer sandwich alternatives. Cooked brown rice mixed with beans, veggies, and shredded cheese or dairy-free cheese can be a nice change of pace. Your child may also enjoy gluten-free pasta with shredded carrots and broccoli, tossed with a little salad dressing or pesto. Or wrap mashed beans, shredded cheese or dairy-free cheese, and salsa in a gluten-free tortilla and cut into bite-sized pieces.

Let your child help pack her lunch and make choices about what to include. Remember, variety is key! While many schools have a no-sharing policy when it comes to food, your child will be less likely to want to trade food with her friends if she's excited about her allergen-free lunch.
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