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40 Weeks of Nut-Free School Lunches – Week 1

Life Between Trips StuffedSuitcase.comI am the mother to a wonderful daughter who happens to have a severe nut allergy. Not just peanuts, not just tree nuts, but ALL nuts. We first discovered Faith’s allergies when she was about 6 months old and was spitting up a lot in addition to not gaining weight. Our pediatrician referred us to an allergist to be tested and we found out she was allergic to almost everything it seemed. As she grew up she grew out of many of the allergies and by the age of three, she was only testing allergic to nuts and eggs. We carried on with life, buying the epipen, but not always carrying it.

However in December 2010 our world and how we viewed Faith’s allergies took a huge spin. During an event where there was a cookie potluck, Faith had been playing with another kid (who it turns out had eaten a peanut butter cookie). She was in the restroom when a friend came to me and said, “Does Faith ever have trouble breathing?”. My heart went into my throat. I said yes and ran to the bathroom. By that point Faith had taken off her shoes and was crying and gasping. I picked her up and ran for the epipen.

Now here is where the BIG bad mommy moment comes…I didn’t GIVE her the epipen because she was still breathing. I thought, “do I just give it if she stops breathing”? I was on the phone with 911 and begging them to tell me what to do. They advised, “do what your doctor told you.” Wow, thanks a lot. I didn’t recall my doctor telling me when to give the epipen…was it trouble breathing or no breathing?? Wasn’t there something that had to be given after an epipen?? The medics arrived quickly and still NO epipen was given. They didn’t really know what to do either. She was still gasping for breath and her skin had started to show petechia. We were loaded into the ambulance and rushed to the ER. Once admitted it was discovered her oxygen sats were down in the low 80s and she was given a breathing treatment and hooked up to an IV. Thankfully, the treatments succeeded and she recovered.

I’m sharing this because I’m going to start sharing the nut free school lunches I make for my daughters each day. I’m hoping hearing my story will help others see that “nut free” allergies are a life or death threat to some of our kids. To my kid for one. At the end of the day I just want her to live through school, literally. Hopefully this will inspire some of you who have to pack nut-free school lunches because of a school rule or because of your own child.

So, onto the lunches! :)

Week 1 Nut-Free School Lunches

Week 1: 40 weeks of Nut Free Kids School Lunches #peanut #free #kid #lunchTop Right: mini whole wheat bagel with garden cream cheese and turkey; cheese stick; snow peas & tomatoes; strawberries.
[Items used: Rubbermaid LunchBlox Kid’s Tall Lunch Box Kit]

Bottom Left: sliced ham; soy sauce crackers; cheese wedge; carrots; cucumber; mango.
[Items used: Ziploc Container, Divided RectanglePantry Elements Silicone Baking Cups]

Bottom Right: chicken noodle soup in thermos; mini cucumbers & mini bell peppers; strawberries.
[Items used:  Thermos Foogo Leak-Proof Stainless Steel Food Jar]

40 Weeks of Kid’s School Lunches: Week 1 (Why we’re Nut Free!) | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15 | Week 16 | Week 17 | Week 18 | Week 19 | Week 20 | Week 21 | Week 22 | Week 23 | Week 24 | Week 25 | Week 26 | Week 27 | Week 28 | Week 29 | Week 30 (Spring Break) | Week 31 | Week 32 | Week 33 | Week 34 | Week 35 | Week 36 | Week 37 | Week 38

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  1. This is great, thank you. My daughter is not allergic to nuts but she is in a peanut-free room at preschool due to another child. Luckily we don’t eat “peanuts” or related products as often as a snack but it’s always good to have ideas for when she does have to stay through lunch down the road!

    • Hi Kiera, thanks for stopping by! My thought was, “I’m making these everyday, why not share them?” Hopefully it will help other moms (or dads) get ideas for meals and snacks that don’t have nuts or peanuts.

  2. Thank you for the lunch-pack tips! I am glad my son’s school is nut-free. Thanks for sharing your daughter’s story, it will help spread awareness that nut-free may take a little extra planning, but could save a kid’s life. All the best to you and your family.

    • Thank you Sherry! It seems that the nut allergy lunch topic is really being focused on at most schools. By putting my story out there, I hope that people will see that food allergies can be very serious. It’s not an intolerance, it’s a life risk allergy. Take care & have a great weekend!

  3. Thanks for doing this! I have a son with egg and nut allergies as well and it’s nice to get some fresh ideas for lunches!

    • Hi Stephanie! I really hope these lunches can give you some ideas! My nut allergy also has egg allergy, but she does fine with fully cooked eggs. So adding hardboiled eggs to her lunches is an option for us. She recently ate one that wasn’t cooked long enough and got violently sick at school. I feel for these poor allergy kiddos!

  4. So should you have given her the epipen? We don’t have nut allergies in our family but just curious in case I’m ever in a situation where I need to know. Do you only give it if they stop breathing?

    • Jamie, yes we should have. Our MD was astounded that the paramedics didn’t. An epipen should be given at ANY sign of breathing troubles, not just if they stop breathing. You still have to get help to counter the epinephrine, from what I understand. My friend who has an allergy kiddo and a MD hubby says, “you can’t kill a child by giving the epipen, but you can kill them by not”. That’s what she tells her babysitters.

      • Wow! That is good to know, thank you! I’m glad your daughter was ok. And thank you for sharing your nut free lunches, like I said before we don’t have a nut allergy in our family but when my kids go to school I will always send them with nut free lunches in case one of their classmates does!

      • Thank you so much for these lunch tips and your personal story. Mine is similar in that, even knowing she had a tree nut allergy and having the epi pen handy, I gave her benadryl thinking that she could breathe…sort of. When I went in to see her allergist 1 month later at her annual check-up he was beyond FURIOUS with me! He basically gave me the smack down that I needed (through lots of gulps and tears of course). I was “that” person who, before having kids of my own, thought all this nut allergy hoopla was silliness and not worth all the hype. Of course, after giving my daughter at age 1, my homeade walnut pesto (never having nuts before), I started to feel the pangs of sorrow and desparation parents of kiddos with severe nut allergies suffer every day. After that day in the ER I had a new life mission: I want to keep my child alive. period. the end.

        • Thanks for sharing your story Michele. Being a mother of an allergy kiddo really does add a new level of stress and responsibility to our lives. I’m glad your girl is safe and was ok!

  5. It’s ok! I’ve struggled on giving an epi pen or not also. Paramedics are sometimes completely clueless and even ER doctors too, ugh. I gave it to my son one time (he has all sorts of severe allergies, including but not limited to nuts) when he was coughing and choking and gagging…. He was still breathing but clearly struggling. I didn’t care, I jabbed that thing into his leg and I cried while he cried, but as soon as it was over, he stopped coughing. Then I called the ambulance and they wondered why I called because he looked perfectly normal. Then we went to the ER and they wondered why we were there becaus all of his symptoms stopped, so I was just left scratching my head. Later, The allergy dr said I did the right thing. So yeah it’s tough to know when to do it, so don’t block your mommy instincts, they were right in the first place. ;) You did good though! Thanks for the lunchbox recipes. :)

    • Thanks so much Bonnie for commenting! I feel better knowing that I’m not the only mom with this struggle. Did your little guy require any meds to counteract the epinephrine?

      • Oh you’re absolutely not alone! My husband and I both struggled with the Epi pen thing – do we give it to him or not?? But I finally settled by just doing it. And it was amazing the difference it instantly made.
        We’ve been dealing with these blasted allergies for about 3 years now so I’ve had a lot of talks with the doctors and done a lot of reading on my own. I’ve never done anything to “counteract” the epinephrine…. In fact, if it doesn’t work within a certain time frame, you’re technically supposed to give a second shot. What my son’s allergy doctor also recommended was to give him double Benadryl dose (for my guy it’s 2 tsp) and a dose of Zyrtec (1 tsp.) and then a dose of the prescription steroid (Prednisolone). These all will help the reaction from coming back and will keep the symptoms down. What you may be thinking of is the fact that your doctor probably told you to go to the ER immediately if you ever have to give the Epi pen shot. The reasoning behind that is because the reaction (throat closing, unable to breathe, etc) can actually come back within about 6 hours…. I have no idea why! Especially in the case of a child, they want to be positive the reaction won’t come back, so they suggest going to the ER to be monitored. However, in my experience, the ER doctors can be dumber than stones when it comes to severe allergies and they have no clue why you’re there sometimes if the patient is not exhibiting current signs of an active reaction. They ended up releasing us within an hour and left me with my jaw hanging open and scratching my head wondering what just happened.
        Anyway, I’m certainly no doctor, but you definitely hit on my passion (kids with food allergies) so I thought I’d share my experience with you. Hope this helps! :)

  6. Thank you for sharing. I am a mommy of a nut allergy child I am one myself. I know what its like. It freaked me out when my daughter first encountered it She was almost on a breathing tube but thank you to the Lord everything went well. Its so scary when she goes to school even when its a nut free school but children are children they bring peanut things when they shouldnt. I love what you have done. THANK YOU

    • Thanks for stopping by Leah! Love that your school is nut free! But as you say, there are still worries. Our school is not, and I really worry each day. Thankfully Faith has become very aware and responsible with her allergy and watches out for herself. My biggest worry is the traces you can’t see like on doors, tables, chairs, and playground equipment. I just have to pray for her safety and equip her and those around her to be aware. I find that awareness is the biggest struggle right now, and the best thing we can do is change the way people see life-threatening food allergies.

  7. Thank you for these lunch ideas and for sharing your story. My 4 year old son is peanut/tree nut allergic and he is starting preschool in a few days. His teacher assured me in person and then later via email that she would stay on top of his allergy. And then we went to back-to-school night where she served donuts with a clear peanut warning on the package. Most people don’t understand what it is like to JUST want to keep your child alive. Thank you for these great ideas and good luck on this journey with your daughter.

    • Hi Jenny! I can’t tell you how many of those little incidents I’ve dealt with. Good job being aware! I’ve found that teaching my daughter to question food at school and events helps. I believe that we need to help turn them into their best defense. I hope that this was a blip and your son can stay safe and healthy at school. You’re already doing great by opening the conversation and creating awareness in the school. Best wishes!

  8. Thank you for posting all of these! I’m pinning to look at throughout the year. My oldest child will be starting preschool this fall and her school is peanut-free. We are a family who eats a lot of peanut butter and granola bars… so these ideas will help us make this transition!

    • Thanks so much Carrie for stopping by! I love the idea of helping others come up with peanut free ideas. Consider trying Sunflower Seed Butter or WOW Butter if your kiddos love peanut butter. They’re not exactly the same, but your kiddos might not mind it! And, if you’re ever in Canada, stock up on granola bars. Most of the Quaker bars in Canada are peanut free (the package will be labeled).

  9. This is a fab find for me! My son’s new school is a nut free school and so I will have many ideas from here. Thank you!

    • WooHoo Stacey! Glad you found me and happy to hear that your school is trying to help keep kiddos safe. Hope you can find some new ideas that will help you with packing lunches!

  10. Thank you so much for sharing the nut free school lunches, my daughter does not have allergies however I am allergic to peanuts and she attends a nut free school. In addition she doesn’t like cold cuts or the typical sandwiches so I’m always looking for new ideas that are but free.
    To tell you the truth I do not recall what the doctor told me about the epipen either :( need to check on that thanks for the reminder. I do know a friends whose daughter is extremely anaphylactic who had a severe reaction and she was scared to prick her and nearly cost her life.
    Thanks again for sharing :)

    • Glad you like the posts Olga! The big thing we’re learning is that the consequences of not using the epi-pen are WAY worse than the minor side effects of using it. I’ve now witnessed my daughter receive an epi injection and she handled it just fine. When in doubt I’ll give and not second guess myself again!

  11. I read your story, I would feel terrible if that happened in my sons class (which is specifically peanut free). I’m searching for peanut free lunches for my picky eater and you have several things that I’ll definitely use.
    Now having said that, I want to say that I COMPLETELY disagree with no nut classrooms (unless very young children are involved). My son is 8 and in third grade, having a no nut room is NOT teaching him to be careful of people with allergies nor is it teaching the kid with allergies that it’s his responsibility. At 8 years old they should be learning this already.

    I feel like I can speak on this because I have 3 severe food allergies. Before I eat ANYTHING, even in a restaurant I ask what it’s seasoned with and if it can be cooked in a separate and clean pan. If they don’t know/can’t remember every ingredient not only that they put on it but what’s in the seasoning mix or if it was fried next to a sausage I DON’T EAT IT.
    My daughter’s friend who is 18 and married has a cinnamon allergy, at the fair we watched her get up and move 4 times because of people around her eating elephant ears with cinnamon sugar, she never once informed them of her allergy, she suffered and was having problems breathing. Finally her mother talked to someone behind her, they were very nice and very careful to keep it away from her. She had a no cinnamon room all through elementary school and sat away from people at lunch after that. She now doesn’t know how to deal with her allergy and other people.
    I on the other hand enjoy breathing and realize that this is MY problem and I must find the solution. Once these kids go to H.S., college, work, out into life there will never again be a NO ? room. I want everyone safe but everyone needs to understand how to work with a handicap whether it’s yours or someone other persons. I tried telling our school that our kids aren’t idiots don’t treat them like they are, the parent of the child with allergies disagreed with me. Hopefully that kid isn’t an idiot later in life and learns to manage HIS disability.

    • Hi Christine, thanks for commenting. I do believe that teaching my daughter to be her best defense and very aware is the absolute first step. However, I will say that eating food is not the only way a child can be affected. Faith recently had an anaphylaxsis reaction without eating any nut containing foods. We suspect she played on the monkey bars at recess or opened a door handle that had peanut butter or such on it then touched her face or mouth. If the classroom is nut free, I wouldn’t have to worry about a child leaving residue on the back of a chair or door handle or desk. So, while I agree that you cannot give kids a false sense of security and you must educate them to be their best defense, I do believe that creating nut-free school environments is helpful and proactive.

  12. Thank you for sharing these suggestions. My children (like most Australians) go to primary school where nuts are banned because of allergies. Unfortunately one of their favourite spreads is peanut butter! I’m also a teacher (secondary) and EVERY teacher is trained every year on the use of epipens. We also get told the message that without it they might die, but giving it won’t hurt. Because it’s a secondary school,students are supposed to carry their own epipens but we also have epipens in first aid kits in every staff room and in the school office in case of emergency. Teachers taking groups off-site also have to carry an emergency first aid pack with an Epipen in case. We take allergies like this very seriously. I was so sorry to hear your story and the stories of other comments but they made me so glad I have had this training that I hope I never have to use.

  13. Just fell upon your blog! I also have a 5 yr old that has a severe nut allergy- we carry the epipen but to date haven’t had to use it (fingers crossed) love the ideas and wish more parents would be willing to help by sending nut free lunches! I know kids love pb&j but if one meal a day they can avoid it – it makes the few of us that have to worry about it Daily a little less stressed! Thanks for all the lunch ideas!

  14. Do you have a shopping list for the food items used? I am new at this and it is obvious by my question, I’m in need of some guidance(hand-holding) LOL!

  15. Thank you for posting all of these ideas! My daughter, who is in 2nd grade this year, also has a severe nut allergy. It drives me crazy when other moms say that their child will only eat PBJ for lunch so she can’t sit near them at school. These are such great ideas to share!

    • It’s so hard to help others understand how serious the issue is. It’s not just a bunch of moms being overprotective. Our children could die because they touch a table where your child put their peanut butter hands. Educating the general population is very hard!

  16. Hi! We are not a not free family, or nut free school. However there are LOTS of kiddos with allergies. My son’s friend is allergic to eggs and nuts. His 2 favorite lunch items? PB&J and egg salad. I started making an egg free sugar cookie (nut free as well) for the school functions just so his friend could eat them too!! I make him wow butter and jelly (soy beans, tastes just like peanut butter) sandwiches. As for egg salad lol he just eats that at home. I took her allergy way more serious than the teacher. I too have allergies, to cinnamon!!

    • You’re such a caring person to go to such lengths. It means so much to us as parents to have a friend on our allergy kiddo’s side, and to know their parent(s) understand the threat and care! :) Thank you!

  17. Thank you for sharing your story and your recipe ideas. The elementary school in our district is nut-free, but not the middle nor the High School. The reasoning for this (& they start the training in elementary) is that these kids need to learn how to live safely in a “Nutty world”.
    While all this is happening, there are 3 other kids in the school who have the exact same life- threatening allergy : 2 of the kids to eggs & 1 to dairy proteins. You won’t believe what dairy is found in. The dairy-allergy kid was given a piece of gum and had a full-on anaphylactic reaction – later discovering that brand of gum has dairy in it. She is allergic to whey & casein. If she touches anything with these proteins she goes into anaphylactic shock. The 2 kids with egg allergies are just as bad. Yet these allergies are not given the same priority. A lot of the lunches you have here would kill these 3 kids.
    My daughter’s class has a peanut allergy kid, egg allergy kid & the dairy allergy kid- all 3 different kids. Bringing in treats that take ALL kids into consideration is incredibly difficult – vegan options work for 2 of them but not always for the nut allergy.
    I sometimes get the impression that the general population only think peanut & nut allergies are life-threatening & that other food allergies are minor. All food allergies should be taken seriously.

    • I absolutely agree! Perhaps you had missed why I started this whole series, it was because of my daughter’s allergies to nuts, not because of school rules.

  18. I just wanted to say I really appreciate how much time you took to put together all these lunch ideas. My daughter does not have a nut allergy but her school is nut-free. She’s the kind of kid who eats a peanut butter sandwich every day and I am at a complete loss as to what to pack her, so this series has been a great inspiration to me, and hopefully I’ll come up with something she’ll actually eat. ^_^

    • That’s great to hear, thanks, Michelle! Hopefully, you’ll get some great ideas. Consider getting a cookbook or letting her shop with you and come up with ideas she likes. I find both of my girls are way better about growing their palettes when they feel in control of the choices. :)

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