How many of you had a pb+j in your lunchbox on a regular rotation?! I sure did. Sometimes they were flat with jelly oozing after stuffing them into my book bag in their brown paper lunch bag. It’s a classic option, right? It’s inexpensive, offers nutrition + protein and is easy to make!

Well it’s not so easy these days. Recent stats say it’s 1 in 13 kids has a food allergy!! So odds are you know someone or have a classmate that has a food allergy. Schools or classes are limiting this classic sandwich. Sadly, some families aren’t ok with this because they have a picky eater that will only eat a pb+j.

This brings mixed emotions to me and I’ll share why. When I was pregnant and looking for a preschool for my oldest, I found one that I liked. The director mentioned that they aren’t peanut free because they want to teach the children more about real life. I remember thinking, ok, whatever, we don’t have an allergy so that makes sense to me.

Little did I know that the baby I was carrying on that first preschool tour is severely allergic to peanuts and other foods. We have to think about her safety often. Would I have put her in that preschool, nope, nope + nope!! How can you expect a young brain to understand and teachers to keep track of every little crumb. It’s a tough job even for those that deal with it ALL the time!

Sidenote: We moved cities and I toured another preschool that was peanut free. That’s where I feel safest leaving my child.

I understand peanuts and other allergens show up in the real world so we are teaching my food allergy daughter to ask about what she is being offered. As she’s gotten older she’s asking questions and will one day be advocating even more for herself and friends.

I’d like you to know that I was once that mom that didn’t get the dangers of food allergies. It wasn’t because I didn’t have empathy, it was because I didn’t understand what all it meant. Well now I certainly do. From the allergy appointments, reading labels, watching symptoms, seeing an allergic reaction,  anxiety, and epipens I get it. That’s why it’s so important for me to educate + advocate for others now! We don’t know what we don’t know, right?

Education and info on food allergies as been steadily increasing as more kids have food allergies. We live in an Information Age where so much is at our fingertips. So for the safety of others let’s make sure what we put in reach or in that lunchbox is safe! If you need an alternative to peanuts or any other food to help keep child safe DO IT! Your picky eater will find another food to eat. And if they give you a hard time use this as an chance to teach them about the needs of others. After all, empathy is a helpful life long skill.

The classic pb+j is just one example of a school lunch. Here are a few others ideas of what to pack:

  1. Sunbutter! This is an alternative to peanut butter that’s made from sunflower seeds and we are hooked. It pairs nicely with jam + looks the same as peanut butter. Other peanut butter free alternatives are Wowbutter and Sneaky Chef no-nut butter. These options even come in crunchy or creamy. If you can’t find these locally many online stores will carry them. Yes, peanut butter alternatives can be more expensive, but safety matters (and they are less costly than a trip to the ER for the allergy child’s family.)

*When you sub peanut butter with an alternative that looks the same please add a note or copy of the label + ingredients so teachers will know it’s safe for a peanut allergy child to be around. And here is our favorite jam too.

2. There are other nut butters alternatives like cashew, almond or hazelnut. But realize that many kids have tree nut allergies too. We have to avoid these because my daughter is allergic to tree nuts + peanuts. The cross contamination with tree nuts is pretty high so we have to stick with Sunbutter. Also, if avoiding peanut butter because your child’s school has a “no peanuts” policy, be aware that substituting other nut butters may not be allowed, either.

3. Cream cheese, guacamole, hummus are other ideas for sandwich bases. Also making your own “lunchable” in one of the many bento boxes available is fun. We often add pretzels, fruits/veggies a dip, crackers, cheese + a sweet treat.

Wishing you a safe + fun back to school. Let’s all work together and do our part in keeping all the allergy kiddos safe. Please remember that teachers + parents aren’t trying to make things hard on you when banning a pb+j from your child’s lunchbox. No life is worth this classic sandwich!

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