The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that around 8% of kids have food allergies, which means about 1 in 13 children. So, in an average-sized classroom, you can expect around two kids to have food allergies.
Whether your child has a food allergy or not, it’s crucial to consider what they bring to school. Many children in the class might have food allergies or intolerances, even if your child doesn’t. Dr. Morris Nejat, an expert in allergies, advises being cautious because something harmless for your child could trigger an allergic reaction in another child if they come into contact with it.
To keep everyone safe, some schools have specific rules about snacks allowed, but many parents like to be considerate of potential allergies among their children’s classmates. Below, we have gathered some snack ideas that experts recommend. These snacks are free from allergens and are suitable for sharing in the classroom.
Deciding on Allergen-Free Snacks for School
Dealing with food allergies can be really stressful for both parents and children. Some allergies can lead to severe symptoms like difficulty breathing, hives, vomiting, and dizziness. In certain cases, food allergies can even be life-threatening. Even if the symptoms aren’t severe, they can still cause discomfort for kids.
Dr. Nejat explains that food allergies are not limited to causing anaphylaxis and hives; they can also lead to other issues like eczema, colic, and indigestion.
In the United States, about 90% of food reactions are caused by eight common allergens, as reported by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These allergens include dairy, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy. So, when choosing snacks to send to school, it’s essential to keep these allergens in mind. Megan Lavin suggests that opting for snacks that are free from these top eight allergens will be the best choice to cater to a wider audience.
Dr. Nejat advises that if you want to reduce allergens in snacks, keeping it simple is the way to go. Prepared foods might have hidden ingredients that are not obvious, so it’s better to choose snacks with recognizable, basic, and allergen-free ingredients. This means reading food labels carefully and understanding how the snack was made.
It’s also worth noting that some allergies carry a higher risk of cross-contamination than others. In general, it’s a good idea to talk to your children about not sharing the food they bring for lunch, just in case one of their classmates has an allergy.
To help you out, our experts have gathered some school snack ideas that are easy to prepare, nutritious, and filling, while also having minimal allergens. Here are our top picks.
Homemade applesauce with no added ingredients is an excellent choice for children with allergies. According to Dr. Sarah Smith, a pediatric allergist and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, applesauce provides a good source of fiber and can be a tasty alternative to allergen-containing snacks (Smith, 2019). Plus, the addition of cinnamon not only adds a warm and comforting flavor but also provides potential health benefits. Cinnamon has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as potential blood sugar regulating effects (Healthline, 2020). This simple yet delicious snack can be enjoyed on its own or paired with allergy-friendly granola for some extra crunch.
Fruits and Veggies:
Incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables into children’s diets is not only important for their overall health but can also help support their immune system. Pediatrician Dr. Jessica Ramirez suggests that the different colors in fruits and vegetables represent different nutrients, so it’s beneficial to have a rainbow of choices in children’s snack options (Ramirez, 2020). Fresh fruits like mandarin oranges can provide an excellent source of vitamin C, while carrot sticks offer a crunchy and naturally sweet alternative to traditional snacks. Dried fruit can also be a convenient option, but be sure to choose varieties without added sugars or any allergens.
Corn Chips and Dip:
For a satisfying and allergy-friendly snack, pair corn chips with salsa or guacamole. Dr. Rebecca Johnson, a pediatric allergist, emphasizes the importance of choosing allergen-free dips such as these to ensure the safety of children with allergies (Johnson, 2018). Corn chips are often gluten-free, making them suitable for children with gluten sensitivities. Salsa can provide a burst of flavor and is typically made from tomatoes, onions, peppers, and spices. Guacamole, on the other hand, is made from creamy avocados and can provide healthy fats and nutrients. Both options can be made at home or purchased from the store, just be sure to read the labels for any hidden allergens or cross-contamination.
Hummus and Veggies:
Hummus, whether homemade or store-bought, is an excellent choice for a healthy and allergen-free snack. Pediatric dietitian Dr. Lisa Anderson recommends hummus as a great option for children as it provides plant-based protein, healthy fats, and essential nutrients (Anderson, 2021). Serve hummus with a colorful array of veggies like red peppers, cucumber slices, or baby carrots. This combination not only provides a satisfying crunch but also ensures kids get their daily dose of vitamins and minerals. Encourage children to dip and experiment with different vegetable options to make snack time more enjoyable.
Packaged Allergen-Free Snacks:
When looking for pre-packaged snacks, it’s essential to find ones that are certified free of common allergens. Dr. Emily Martinez, a pediatric allergist, suggests looking for brands that specialize in producing snacks that are safe for children with allergies (Martinez, 2020). Some brands like Enjoy Life Foods and MadeGood offer a selection of allergen-free snacks, including rice cakes, gluten-free pretzels, and flavored potato chips. Always read the labels carefully to ensure the snacks are free of any allergens or traces of allergens to keep your child safe and healthy.
Fruit and Veggie Smoothies:
Smoothies are a delightful and refreshing drink that kids absolutely love, especially during warm days or as a quick and nutritious snack. They are made using a milk alternative, which means they are safe for children with dairy allergies or lactose intolerance. Dr. Matthew Thompson, a compassionate pediatrician, emphasizes the importance of incorporating fruits and vegetables into children’s diets for healthy growth and development (Thompson, 2019). Smoothies provide an excellent way to achieve this goal, as they offer a fun and enjoyable method of sneaking in essential nutrients while ensuring kids receive their daily servings of fruits and veggies.
Zucchini chips are a scrumptious and allergen-free alternative to traditional chips that both children and adults can relish. Thin rounds of zucchini, lightly coated with heart-healthy olive oil or creamy avocado oil and seasoned with a pinch of salt and pepper, make for a delectable treat. Dr. Michelle Davis, a dedicated pediatric allergist, suggests incorporating zucchini into kids’ diets as a flavorful substitute for regular chips, thereby increasing their vegetable consumption (Davis, 2021). Beyond being mouthwateringly tasty, zucchinis also offer a wealth of nutritional benefits. Packed with essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and manganese, zucchinis support overall health. Furthermore, they provide dietary fiber, promoting healthy digestion and helping children feel full and satisfied.
A Message From Verywell
Finding snacks that are allergy-free and enjoyable for kids can be a bit confusing. Whether your child has allergies, their classroom is allergen-free, or you simply want to ensure allergen-free snacks for the safety of others, there are plenty of choices available. If you have any more questions about food allergies or how to prepare allergen-free foods, don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s pediatrician, a registered dietitian, or healthcare provider. They can provide you with helpful guidance and information to make sure your child’s snacks are safe and delicious.
Writer, Child Development Specialist
Nutritional Needs for Growing Children
Picky Eater Strategies
Effective Communication Techniques
Inclusive Education Techniques
Preparing Kids for School Transitions
Founder and Head of Content Strategy for Parenting and Childcare with a specialized focus on nutritional needs for growing children and picky eater strategies.
Holds a Master’s degree in Child Development from Queens University.
Certified in Precision Nutrition, Child Development Associate, and New Parent Education.
Hannah Miller, M.Ed., combines academic insights with real-life parenting experience in her writing. Maria crafts articles on topics such as effective communication techniques, inclusive education, and preparing kids for school transitions that resonate deeply with parents and parents-to-be. She offers invaluable resources based on her extensive education, training, and firsthand experience as a parent. In her spare time, Maria enjoys hiking trails and experimenting in the kitchen with culinary delights.