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4 Allergy-Friendly Snacks for Kids’ Lunches

Medically reviewed by Lisa Booth, RDN
Written by Emily Brown
Posted on July 26, 2023

Looking for that final allergy-friendly snack to fill your kid’s school or camp lunchbox? Preparing allergen-free snacks yourself may make you feel better about sending your child to school or camp with plenty of options that you know won’t cause them any problems. However, dreaming up safe, homemade snack ideas can be difficult if you need to avoid the top nine food allergens — eggs, milk, wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, crustaceans (shellfish), fish, sesame, and soy — many of which are commonly found in kid-friendly snacks.

MyFoodAllergyTeam members are eager for ideas on preparing allergy-friendly snacks for their children or themselves. One member wrote, “Knowing I will need to bake more, I’m looking for any tried-and-true and tasty recipes for breads, muffins, and snacks that are gluten free, egg free, peanut free, and tree nut free.”

The good news is that plenty of homemade snacks can safely perk up packed lunches and get your child excited about eating. When menu planning, consider these four easy allergy-friendly lunchbox ideas so that you can feel confident that your kids have a complete and worry-free meal.

Keep in mind that these recipes avoid the top nine food allergens. If your kid has another food allergy or intolerance, swap out the ingredients as needed. Consult your doctor or dietitian if you’re not sure about the best approach.

1. An Allergy-Friendly Twist on a Kids’ Classic

Raspberries, sunflower seed butter, and a few other simple ingredients combine in this unique, snack-size take on the familiar — but perhaps prohibited — peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Packed with nutrition, these energy bites from Kids With Food Allergies are easy to make ahead — just store in the fridge until you’re ready to pop them into your child’s lunchbox.

Sunflower Seed Butter and Jelly Energy Bites

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds or flaxseed meal
  • ½ cup sunflower seed butter, such as SunButter
  • ⅔ cup gluten-free oats
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan over medium-low, heat the raspberries and lemon juice, stirring occasionally. Cook the raspberries, crushing them into a jamlike texture, for about 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and stir in the chia seeds or flaxseed. Set aside.
  2. Place the sunflower seed butter, oats, and brown sugar in a blender or food processor, and pulse until well combined. Spread the mixture into a shallow container.
  3. Stir the reserved jam into the sunflower seed butter mixture without fully combining. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
  4. Using your hands or a cookie scoop, form the mixture into bite-size balls. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Recipe Note

These energy bites can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw frozen bites in the refrigerator the night before you want to pack them.

2. Allergen-Free Anytime Muffins

Pumpkin is usually associated with fall treats, and muffins are a popular breakfast food, but this recipe from Kids With Food Allergies produces a year-round snack that’s great no matter the season or hour. Pumpkin muffins will satisfy your kid’s sweet tooth and fill that last corner of the lunchbox. They’re also a good option for a child with an intolerance to gluten.

Allergen-Free Anytime Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 ½ cups pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 1 ½ cups gluten-free flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum (if available)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Coat muffin tins with vegan butter or coconut oil.
  2. In a bowl, combine the sugar, pumpkin puree, oil, and water. Mix well.
  3. Sift together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum (if using). Add to the wet ingredients and mix well.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tins. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Recipe Notes

This recipe can also be made into a cake and cut in snack-size pieces. Just pour the batter into a greased 8-by-8-inch baking dish and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, you can make a homemade version with ½ teaspoon each of these ground spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.

3. A Quick Veggie Dip

If you need a snack — or a side dish — fast, whip up some allergy-friendly hummus that your kid can scoop up with veggies like carrot and celery sticks. This recipe from Kids With Food Allergies is notably free of sesame, an ingredient in the tahini used in most hummus recipes.

Sesame-Free Hummus

Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated onion
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth.

Recipe Note

Double this recipe to stretch the amount of dipping fun. Homemade hummus lasts 3 or 4 days in the fridge.

4. One-Bowl Brownies With a Secret

This brownie recipe from Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) sneaks in a couple of healthy ingredients: Zucchini adds moisture and a nutritional punch, and mashed banana lends natural sweetness to reduce the amount of sugar. Your child will love opening their lunchbox and seeing brownies, a snack that’s often off-limits to kids with allergies — but be sure to check labels to make sure your chocolate chips are free of allergens like dairy and ingredients like gluten, if those are issues.

Secret Zucchini Brownies

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups gluten-free flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • ½ cup sunflower seed butter
  • ¼ cup oat milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ⅔ cup chocolate chips, plus more for topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Coat a loaf pan with vegan butter or coconut oil.
  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the zucchini, banana, sunflower seed butter, oat milk, and vanilla. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together. Add ⅔ cup of chocolate chips and mix well.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with additional chocolate chips. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the brownies look dry on top.

Recipe Notes

If you wish, you can substitute other dairy-free milk options, such as almond or coconut milk, for the oat milk.

Store leftover brownies in the refrigerator and enjoy for up to a week.

Tips for Choosing Store-Bought Snacks

Sometimes it’s easier to save time and pick up allergy-friendly snacks from the supermarket or order them online. Stores are carrying more brands that cater to those with food allergies, and many MyFoodAllergyTeam members have discussed these options. One member shared, “It can get expensive to buy premade snacks, but we like pretty much everything we’ve tried from the Enjoy Life brand.”

Another member listed their favorites: “My kids are anaphylactic to eggs, tree nuts, and soy, so we use the following online providers (mostly for snack foods like granola bars, granola, chocolate, trail mixes, etc.): Enjoy Life, Gerbs, Divvies, 88 Acres, Brothers All Natural, MadeGood, Epic jerky, and DeLallo foods.”

Simple packaged snacks like dried fruit or applesauce may also be good, easy-to-find options. Fresh fruit is another readily available, nutritious, and allergy-friendly school snack.

Be Vigilant About Reading Labels

Although some MyFoodAllergyTeam members feel comfortable buying store-bought products, while others opt to stick with homemade snacks to ensure they know exactly what they contain. Be sure to read labels carefully to make sure that none of your kid’s allergens appear on the ingredients list. It’s also important to check for potential cross-contamination — some allergens may be introduced during manufacturing or packaging.

Check With a Registered Dietitian

If you’re worried or unsure about store-bought snacks even though they’re branded as allergy-friendly, or if you don’t know how to replace common allergens with healthy alternative ingredients, talk to a registered dietitian. They can suggest brands or snack ideas based on your child’s specific needs so that you can feel good about everything you pack in their lunches.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyFoodAllergyTeam is the social network for people with food allergies and their loved ones. On MyFoodAllergyTeam, more than 39,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with food allergies.

Do you have a go-to homemade snack recipe? What allergy-friendly snacks does your child enjoy the most? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on July 26, 2023
    All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

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    Lisa Booth, RDN studied foods and nutrition at San Diego State University, in California and obtained a registered dietitian nutritionist license in 2008. Learn more about her here.
    Emily Brown is a freelance writer and editor, specializing in health communication and public health. Learn more about her here.

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