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Posted on Sep 5, 2007 in For Kids, Tips | 68 comments

Back-to-school lunchroom restrictions

Back-to-school lunchroom restrictions


Tuesday was our son’s first day of preschool, although it wound up being more of a sneak preview of the school as students are required to actually be three years old before they can attend on a regular basis. Bug will turn three in October, so although we were able to attend the first-day orientation and help him settle in today, it’ll be another month until he’ll go regularly. Like many schools now, his preschool has an allergy policy that restricts what foods parents can send along. As I understand it, we’re not to send along nuts, nut products, milk or yogurt.

This reminded me of why I got into making bentos in the first place. A few years back, my husband was misdiagnosed with celiac disease, and we ate gluten-free for nine months before he was given the all-clear. At the time, cross contamination via dropped crumbs, hands, utensils, etc. was a major concern, and I could only begin to imagine how hard it would be to keep a child with celiac disease away from traces of gluten in school.

So I’m motivated to make sure our lunches won’t pose a significant danger to the children with allergies in Bug’s class. I started looking at food policies at other schools, and thinking about how this will change how I pack Bug’s lunches. It appears that nut and milk bans are fairly common nowadays, but our varied diet is going to require some scrutiny. How will this affect Bug’s bentos? Mine and my husband’s can remain unchanged (click photo for details of the allergen-laden lunch packed in a Laptop Lunchbox). Pesto radiatore lunch (Laptop Lunch)

1) No Peanuts or Nut Products

This is probably the most common lunchroom restriction, serious because exposure is hard to avoid and symptoms can be severe. In addition to peanuts, other nuts include almonds, beechnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, hazel nuts, hickory nuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts. Nut products can hide in a number of places, including baked goods, crackers, health bars, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, etc. — there’s a more complete list of products that can contain peanuts here.

Impact: For us, this will mean Bug will do without the following at school: peanut butter sandwiches, nut-crusted fish, peanut-based curries, nut garnishes in salads and sauteed vegetables, “sesame” noodles using peanut butter, Nutella, bourek fillings that include nuts, salad dressings using peanut butter as an emulsifier, etc. This is livable, but I’ll try to keep it top of mind to minimize the chance of hidden nuts products. Possible substitutes include soy nuts or crunchy snack peas for texture in salads, mustard or tahini as a salad dressing emulsifier, etc. (sesame products are allowed).

2) No Milk or Yogurt

Less severe than a full-on lactose ban, we’re to avoid packing liquid milk or yogurt. For example, baked goods that include milk as an ingredient are okay. Cheese is also fine, so the little cheese triangles and Babybel cheeses will continue to make an appearance.

Impact: This rules out cereal with milk, Greek yogurt with fruit, yogurt sauces, spicy curries that I tame by adding yogurt, etc. Soy milk would be a possible substitute for regular milk, but as Bug will be eating breakfast before school I don’t think it’ll have much impact on us other than yogurt sauces for things like tamales. I wonder if sour cream and crema are also out of the question for Bug…

How have you adjusted to lunchroom food restrictions, and was there anything surprising to you? Let us know in comments if you’ve got any helpful advice!



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  1. Wow! The only restrictions on our lunch menu are things you would hope they would say. No candy, sweets, juices, packaged puddings, etc. I can give them just about anything and they not only applaud but encourage healthy lunches from home. Where I live they did a huge overhaul on the cafeteria food as well, so if they have to eat a school lunch, I don’t feel overly bad.

  2. This was really interesting to read, and very up to date as so many people nowadays are suffering from allergies due to foods. I remember when I went to kindergarten myself we had these restrictions, even with eggs.

    I guess the same restrictions goes with pine nuts right? Then probably pestos should be avoided as well.

  3. If your child eats in his classroom, the restrictions usually go out the window if there are no allergy kids in there. If it’s a lunchroom, you have to be strict. We like sunflower seed butter as a pb substitute. I’m not really sure why yogurt isn’t ok. I thought dairy allergies were mostly caused by lactose and the fermentation process generally converts the lactic acid. That is why cheese is ok too.

  4. I really enjoy your site - it gives me hope that I’ll be able to continue to feed my family well when our first child is ready for school. I do have a question, though. Are kids able to purchase milk at schools that have a milk/yogurt ban? I grew up in the 80s and can’t imagine a school lunch without that little carton of chocolate milk!

  5. Our daughter’s school has the kids with nut allergies sit at a special table, where there is absolutely no nuts allowed. I cannot imagine not being able to send peanut butter and jelly occasionally.

    As for milk, I didn’t think lactose intolerance was quite like other allergies. It’s not like one stray drop of milk is going to require the epi pen.

    I have a friend that has celiac disease and one that can’t have dairy or soy and they can eat around us even when we’re having something they can’t.

    The school policy seems a bit over-restrictive to me, although, it’s probably harder to control sharing with the preschoolers. I’ve never heard of anything like this in elementary school.

    I guess I just know how many different things there are out there to be allergic to. To restrict every one of them seems impossible. Can you imagine if they wanted to help the celiacs by not allowing wheat? There’s just no way.

  6. I didn’t mean to rant. I do love you site, so creative and fun. And inspiring.

  7. Wow. I’ve never seen a milk or milk product ban. Peanuts are pretty common. I guess I am fortunate that my son (4th grade) has no restrictions at all at his school. He doesn’t particularly care for peanut butter but he does like peanuts (go figure) and Nutella.

  8. You poor thing. That sounds really strict. I suppose it’s because they sometimes share their food at that age.
    Good luck to Bug when he finally starts for real in October. Small just started nursery yesterday. End of an era for us. I cried and had a couple of glasses of wine last night!
    Hope all is well. I haven’t checked in for a while (holidays,etc) and the site is looking amazing. I did say you’d inspired me to try making bento style lunches for hubby and the children too when school started again. I stuck to it, started this week! Hubby is loving it.
    Little prefers the lock and lock containers as he finds them easier to open and any stray liquid doesn’t spill everywhere while in transit.

  9. Yes, preschoolers share a lot, even if the teachers are on top of things. I had a kid yesterday help himself to another kids grapes & every year I seem to have at least 1 ‘grazer’ who decides that everyones lunches are fair game & roams the tables looking for stuff. And, to be completely & totally honest, these kids usually have parents who don’t pack any kind of ‘treat’. No chips, candy or fruit snacks or anything ‘fun’ like that. I understand that healthy eating is important but if you’ve packed a good lunch, an Oreo or a few Cheetos aren’t going to wreck the kids lunch.
    AFA the allergies, you can get soy yogurt & soy & rice milk. There’s also soy butter that can be substituted for peanut butter.

  10. I was surprised at the sesame seeds restriction, because they’re seeds, not peanuts, or nuts from trees. So I searched it, and found that some peanut allergy sufferers also have seed allergies. Hmmm, good to know, especially since they’re finding that 10-15% of the populations in US, UK, and AU suffer from peanut allergies.

    But I also learned in that search session that many peanut allergy suffers are also allergic to soy products. I wonder how good a soy ban would go over since so many processed foods have soy.

    Milk allergies aren’t just limited to lactose (commercial yogurts often are NOT lactose-free like home-made yogurt is). People can also be allergic to the milk protein, like cow’s milk has casein protien, and milk from goats/sheep have different named proteins I can’t remember LOL. So it depends on whether you’re allergic to lactose, or a certain kind of milk protein.

    And like others have commented, I was surprised they’d ban milk products because I’ve never heard anyone going anaphylactic just from being around someone consuming a milk product. But after reading MJ’s comment, it makes more sense 8^)

  11. The only restriction Princess has for her primary school is no candy :)

    Otherwise they just strictly enforce the “no sharing” rule. Then again, we are talking kindergarten and up, so it is probably a bit easier to control. Also, they don’t have a lunchroom and eat in the classroom, so there is one teacher watching about 17 kids-so then no sharing can be pretty well enforced.

    Thanks for the great site, btw, I’ve really been enjoying it. Hopefully I’ll get a lot of ideas to keep my “lunchbox report” fresh.

  12. My daughter has a peanut allergy (and outgrew an egg allergy at age 5). The “I.M. Healthy” brand of soy nut butter is peanut-free and tasty. You’ll never miss peanut butter. Most health food stores carry it and you can order it from Amazon.

    BTW, I found your site about a month ago and have been very inspired by the info and pictures here. Thanks for all the great ideas!

  13. Thanks for being so sensitive to the needs of allergic kids. My son is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts and, overall, I’ve found most parents to be understanding and cooperative in trying to keep him safe. Of course, there are always those few who take it as a personal affront when they can’t pack peanut butter in their kid’s lunch, but thankfully, they are few and far between. Thanks again for being so proactive! Your site is great.

  14. I know a gluten ban would probably be the hardest to enforce, but as a celiac I may have a celiac child some day. I’m imagining a preschooler with sticky, crumb-coated hands grabbing at something in my kid’s lunchbox. That seems highly likely in room full of youngsters. I am in awe of how all you moms handle this stuff!

  15. The school my boys attend doesn’t have any bans on any foods. I was surprised when my son started kind. and I asked if I could pack him pb&j. The secretary responded “If he’s not allergic you can send it”.

    But they do ban all homemade baked goods for parties. All baked goods must be store bought.

  16. Wow.. my daughter’s first day of pre-school is today also- but I packed her bento like I always do. I wonder if that restriction applies to my daughter’s school as well since we are in San Jose..

  17. wow I never know that you can’t bring peanuts to school~
    I thought peanut butter and jelly is the main snack that students carry around when they are at school~
    Thanks for the information!

  18. My first thought on reading this was what a responsible parent you are! I think many parents would read “no nuts” and go, “OK, so that’s no peanut butter, no problem.” Going further and thinking about all the other stuff that has nuts-way to go!

  19. I have heard of the food bans at schools just recently, and I’m kind of surprised. I don’t have kids (yet) so I don’t have to worry about this, but what surprised me is the strict-ness of it all. When I was a kid, there was no ban. If the kids were allergic to something then it was up to them or their parents not to pack or eat it. It doesn’t seem fair to the other kids that such a ban is in place. I wonder how many kids really have such allergies in a school. I’m not saying it is a bad idea, just that it seems a little strange to me to have a school-wide ban.

  20. p.s. I was a kid not that long ago, I’m just 22 now. :)
    Does anyone know when the first instance of school food bans was?

  21. I’m allergic to nuts and a ban on nuts and peanuts (which is not a nut but belongs to the family of leguminous plants) is very reasonable. As the amateur botanist I will also offer upp and I think someone mentioned it above too although there are more to it, there’s botanical nuts and then there are nuts that are regarded as stone fruits. Almonds and pistaschios for example is not a nut per se but belongs in the family of stone fruits (cherries, peaches, apples etc), whereas hazelnuts etc is a nut. Not to confuse matters though better just say nuts are off limits and that’s the end of it.
    However, an allergy to milk proteine can be as severe as allergy to eggs in that age. And allergy to soy-products, but then lets face it, you can be deadly allergic to just about any food item.
    If you banned any- and everything those poor kids would have nothing to eat ;).

    There are great rice-milk subs and soy too, instead of milk. I prefer rice milk products, there’s also a product here made out of oats that I like. I am not into soy subs that much.

  22. Good information. I know a wide variety of people with different allergies and we have a few different ones in our family. I have a soy sensitivity so we avoid almost all processed foods if we can so understand how difficult it is with all those hidden ingredients.

    I am almost 35 and I remember food bans for individual classrooms growing up. 1 grade had a no nuts or nut products of any type for 1 year (mainly snacks brought to share). Another had a no dairy products or ingredients in things of the shared snack or treat.

    Today is the real test of Bento lunch for us. 1st day of school and both kids have theirs for lunch today. Luckily I have a 5th grader and a 3rd grader so they have a lot of input on their lunches. So far I am excited as I have already had fewer conflicts about their lunches.

  23. I, too, was in elementary school in the late 70s and early 80s and we did have a ban on peanuts in lunches one year because of a food allergy in my class. And I grew up in a very rural, middle of the country place, not at all progressive.
    As I recall, it was because the cafeteria was being renovated and we had to eat in closer quarters for much of that school year.
    But preschool is another animal — my 4-year-old was in preschool for a short time when she was 2, and we were restricting peanut butter on the advice of her pediatrician (she’s not allergic, long story). She wound up having peanut butter one day because she took it off another kid’s plate. I was mortified, but the teachers assured me it happens all the time with kids that young.

  24. Thank you on your informative article. My granddaughter is highly allergic to peanuts and dairy. Her 1rst grade classroom is a dairy and peanut ‘awareness zone’. Parents are given an approved list of snacks. You would be surprised how supportive the other parents have been. This year they have a new principle who is trying to cancel her 504-legal document of her medical plan for school. He thinks its all silly. Well having a child open a reese’s peanut butter cup in the same room with her put her in respiratory arrest.

    thank you for shedding a positive light on this situation.

    PS she and her mommy pack her bento together the night before.

  25. Wow, no Peanut Butter? What are the parents of Vegetarian kids going to do? PBJ were a staple of my lunches when I was a kid and refused meat!

  26. at my daughters school there is a ban on all nut products and meat. she attends a jewish preschool, so the meat ban is in accordance with kosher laws.

    the nut ban is totally fine, we were avoiding peanuts for a long time due to earlier allergy issues so she loves sunflower butter (tastes like peanut butter with a sunflower seed aftertaste) sandwiches.

    the meat ban is a bigger issue, my dd is a picky eater and she isnt a huge fan of most protein foods. but we made it through last year and we will make it through this year, too.

  27. See this is just another case of schools going too far! while I uderstand that nut dust may trigger a reation in some children the whole dairy thing crosses the line. I think the schools are far overeaching their limts when they tell YOU what to pack in Your childs lunch. As some with with both nut and few dairy allergys as well as many other foods I have always respected others right to eat what they want. When I was in first grade my class had a hot chocolate party,something I was not allowed to have . My teacher did not cancel the party she gave me a juice box instead. At a young age I knew my allergies and it was explained to me to eat only what I packed. I also work with small children and once had a student in my program that was allergic to everything from gluten to dairy to nuts to sun screen. She once brought in a snack for the class that she herself could not eat. Her parents never ask that we restrict other childrens eating habbits they simply said that SHE was not to eat anything that did not come out of her own lunch box.

  28. The child of some friends of mine is severely allergic to milk protein and carries an epi-pen. He’s been known to get blue lips from eating vegan pastries in the same display case as dairy ones. Peanut allergies can also be this severe. Other food intolerances don’t tend to be, and religious restrictions certainly aren’t (if you keep strictly kosher or halal, you’re very much concerned about how your food is prepared, but this doesn’t extent to concern that someone from a different background eating food in the same room as you).

    As for “what else are kids expected to eat?” with the peanuts, I was a vegan most of growing up, and I never ate peanuts or peanut butter, just because I think peanuts are gross and no one else in my family was ever big on them. Of course there are things other than peanut butter for vegetarians (and nonvegetarians) to pack for lunch. If nothing else, maybe the bans will encourage people to be a little creative in their food choices.

    Honestly, it’s not a big deal to have to think about what you can and can’t bring to the school. It’s respectful of the families who spend all day terrified that their kid will stop breathing. For Jews, the idea of mindful lunch-packing is one we’re very much used to. Even if we don’t keep kosher at home, we generally are asked to bring only kosher lunches or snacks to events taking place in a Jewish facility. It’s just a matter of respect. If I felt it was invasive that I had to think about what I was packing or do some extra shopping, then I could choose for my family not to attend events in Jewish facilities. No one’s forcing us to learn or socialize there.

  29. I wonder if the restrictions are carried over from year to year, or if they ask the parents at the beginning of the year to send in a list of any restrictions, and then use that?

    Constantly banning tons of food options makes little sense, but if you have rules that match an actual need, it seems more sensible.

  30. To all: Thanks for all of your thoughtful comments! Bug’s preschool does send out a questionnaire each year asking about food allergies, and adjusts its policy accordingly. There is a child in Bug’s classroom with multiple allergies (fun family — I know them from Japanese playgroup). I’m not yet sure exactly where the children eat — I believe they all eat in the classroom, but I could be wrong. There’s no cafeteria (all parents send along a lunch) in the preschool, so there’s no milk available for purchase either. It’ll be interesting to see what the lunchroom restrictions are once Bug hits elementary school and the kids are able to better understand and control themselves (i.e. not graze from each other’s lunches if they have food sensitivities or allergies). I don’t mind the peanut allergy adjustments at all — I think I became much more sensitized to the issue a few years ago when my husband wrote a newspaper article about a peanut allergy drug (including visiting a child with a peanut allergy so severe that he had respiratory problems due to living close to a peanut farm!).

  31. And if I may add this. Eventually, with every precaution in place including epi-pen restrictions in common food areas where possible, you as an individual have to learn to live with your allergies. With todays formidable gozillion food additives this is easier said than done. As a result, I cook most food from scratch. You become a blood hound in reading content listings, and when you find a label you stick to it only then to find that, damn, they changed the recipe to new and improved! My point is that my parents taught me that although allergies were a thing I had to be wary of my life should not involve being afraid of food and eating. Being too protective of what an allergic child eats is, as we’ve pointed out, a matter of life and death in some instances yet you should also explore the joys of food and eating. And at the same time teach the child the tools it needs for the future to make its own choices on what it can eat or not; i.e. apples is not something I should eat. “I have an allergy and should be careful of…”

    I can’t remember how my parents did this, but it came gradually and with the foods I am allergic to, like oranges; I have never really wanted anything orangey; juice, fruit whatever, the taste is just distasteful to me. I have never craved any of it.

  32. My daughter’s preschool is this way too. They even said that if she eats anything with nuts on the way to school, we have to wash her hands before she enters. Apparently some kids can die even sniffing peanut dust. :(

    Are you going to make Bug lunches to take when he starts or do they not encourage that? My husband figures if we’re paying for her to have lunch she might as well eat their lunch. Less stress for me I guess! And there’s always field trip lunches. :)

  33. @38 from Pikko: I’ll continue to make Bug lunches, but it’ll be every day now instead of three times a week like we do now (preschool is 5 mornings a week). The preschool doesn’t have a lunch program, so parents are required to bring bentos. It’s a Japanese immersion preschool too, so all the kids will probably have bentos and Bug will fit in that way. If it weren’t for my whole “speed bento” project thing, this would probably be a huge pain in my rear…

  34. I read most of your comments, but just have a few minutes and wanted to comment.

    God bless your school…as a mom of a child with anaphlactic dairy allergy, I wish we went there. We send all of our son’s food, but when you are so highly allergic as he is, contact allergies, kids who drank milk on the way to school and touch their mouth and then my son, can all cause major scary reactions.

    THANK YOU for being so sensitive to the needs of allergic kids..I wish everyone was.

    FYI, just wanted to clarify that there is a major difference in lactose intolerance and a true dairy allergy. LI involves intestinal issues where the allergy can involve intestinal issues, but also hives, wheezing and even the immediate swelling of the airways and lack of ability to breathe.

    Love your site, had to get my two cents in, and keep bentoing!

  35. one more thing I forgot while on my soapbox :)

    We use sun-butter (sunflower seeds made into a peanut butter type paste) and my son actually prefers it to peanut, almond, or cashew butter.

  36. @41/42 from Christie: Thanks for the tip on sun-butter; we’ll have to try some. I didn’t know the details about anaphlactic dairy allergy, so you’ve taught me something today!

  37. I am lactose intolerant, a trait inherited from my father who is borderline southern european. They lose their capability to tolerate lactose naturally as they grow older. North americans and northern europeans maintain their ability to tolerate milk sugar. Lactose intolerance is just that, an intolerance to milk sugar. You can get around it by minimizing your milk intake. The inability to tolerate milk sugar in some ethnities (asians, southern europeans) usually begin to appear in your early teens or sooner. There are lactose reduced milk products available in most stores.

    Milk protein ALLERGY on the other hand can kill you if severe enough as it involves the immunological system.

  38. First let me say I discovered your site by accident a few weeks back, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Where were you when I had to pack my daughter’s lunch every day in preschool? :)
    When my little one was in pre school they had one child who was very allergic to everything - from foods, to grasses. She had a lunch cooler with all her medications in it - most were just in case things…but I digress. While the ps didn’t enforce a class wide ban, they did send home a letter asking us to avoid sending in certain products. Becasue the little girl was so allergic,they had a teacher sit next to her at lunchtime to prevent grazing, etc. When my daughter’s birthday came around, I asked the little girl’s mom if there were any sweet snacks that were okay for her daughter to have, because I didn’t want to bring in something the whole class couldn’t eat. She thought that was nice of me, and offered to make something for her daughter if I told her the day I would be bringing a treat in. Apparently no one had offered to do that before. It just made sense to me - I didn’t want to make her child feel left out. (my little one is very sensitive to things like that)
    We don’t have any school wide restrictions in the school we’re currently at, except no home made treats. During the summer at her daycare they don’t allow things like Lunchables, because they are hard for the little kids to put together on their own, and of course, no candy, but that’s all.
    Anywhoo, just thought I’d share a ramble…:)

  39. While I can appreciate the need for these restrictions, it makes me really glad there weren’t similar food restrictions at my school(s) as a kid - I pretty much lived off peanut butter (on crackers, on bagels, in sandwiches with jelly or raisins or apple slices) and had milk with every lunch until eleventh grade.

    Even now, the lunches I pack for work include nuts at least once a week. Not sure what I’m going to do once I have kids.

  40. I’m posting a back-to-school with food allergy series at my blog, Scrambled CAKE. Take peek, share a tip, and leave a comment at

  41. Thanks Jenn! That’s actually a great idea. I’m an ovo-lacto vegetarian, so I’m okay with eating regular cheese.

    Ironically, I started hating peanut butter when I was a kid, because I had it all the time. I was a very picky eater, never eating meat when I was a kid, and then I got older and realized I was a vegetarian :)

    In response to a lot of the allergy comments - I too, have some pretty bad food allergies. For example, I’m allergic to Maple syrup/sugar/sap (and the tree too). I have to check labels carefully when I buy any type of pancake syrup, as the “natural flavors” listed on the bottle is maple, but “artificial” is corn syrup. On an unfortunate school trip to Canada when I was in high school, someone was passing around a box of that maple candy, and it made my throat close up! Definitely NOT a good thing. I’m also allergic to garlic and onion, to the point where both will cause me to become violently ill. Even if it’s in a dehydrated format. I can barely eat anything pre-packaged because nearly everything has garlic or onion in it, including every single brand of jarred tomato sauce (at least, that my grocer stocks) and every single brand of salad dressing. I cope with it the same way Jessica does - I cook nearly all my meals from scratch. When I go out to dinner, I have to pepper the server with questions, and if she doesn’t know the answer, she’ll bring out the chef/head cook. I’m on first name basis with some of the chefs at local restaurants! :) I think a lot of people (myself included) see talk about food allergies and think “oh my gosh, how do they cope?” I can’t tell you how sick I am of responding to the “I’d die without onions/garlic” comment I get, because well, not eating it means I don’t miss it. Even before my allergy was discovered, I wasn’t a big fan of either.

    However, I don’t like the idea of restricting others diet. Because of my allergies and because I’m a vegetarian, I have a lot of restrictions, but I’d never restrict anyone from eating what they wanted to. Heck, I cook with meat AND with garlic for people all the time, I just leave that stuff out of the portion I eat. When I’m visiting someone, I usually offer to do the cooking or bring along something I can eat. My best friend is allergic to peanuts, but he keeps a jar of peanut butter in his pantry for when I’m visiting, because he knows that for me it’s a good source of protein. We just make sure I’m the one who washes those dishes and I wash them immediately, as well as my hands, and brush my teeth…same as he does if he has meat or garlic/onions.

  42. Love your site!!! I’m surprised the school restricted your kids lunches. First year of Preschool for my Pod, and like other readers, the only restrictions were overtly sweet treats, candy, chips, soda but more out of health reasons and not allergies. Also, the teacher begged us to stay away from juice with red dye. We have the same issue with baked goods for birthdays, no homemade stuff, only the yucky store bought cupcakes with its frightful icing. But I had a teacher friend quip to me that her school implemented that because the parents got out of control in the one-up-manship when it came to their kids birthday. love your site again! You are such an inspiration. I’m timidly trying to make my way out of grilled cheese and carrots for Pod.

  43. I totally understand the food ban policy. As a mother of an egg allergic child, we do have an egg-ban for the days my daughter attends preschool, as well as a honey ban for another allergic child.

    My other daughter is gluten intolerant, and at her school there is a peanut ban, and another child is severely fish allergic, so I wouldn’t dare send fish even though there isn’t actually a ban. Some mornings I really have to think hard about what food I can send to which school, also keeping in mind what my kids can and will eat.

    I love that your site shows lot of interesting and tasty looking lunches that you can make that really don’t make us stop and consider that anything is missing.

    It’s a good reminder that there really are still a lot of tasty food choices even with restrictions. People always ask us what we eat given our restrictions, and we actually eat quite well. You come up with some really great creative foods. Thanks for the inspiration.

  44. @50 from Sasha: We’re really quite fortunate in the level of allergy restrictions as one of the children at Bug’s preschool actually has multiple allergies/sensitivities, including nuts, dairy, eggs, soy, and gluten. Restrictions could consequently be much more severe; we’ll see if any problems arise from the current level…

  45. My older son is in Kindergarten and they just have a ban on sugar treats. We pack his own lunch and snack- they eat in their classroom and I have not heard of any sharing- we forbid this with our son and ask the teacher from time to time and he does not have any allergies is just that chips and other not so healty stuff is out there that I don’t want him to have. He actually has a small sugar in-tolerance- I have it too, I just learned that eating a snack size candy bar makes me sick and avoid it.
    My younger son is in preschool and there is a lunch bunch option- where the kids eat lunch together and there is 3 adults in the room with the kids [usually 10-18 kids] eating lunch to assist with opening lunches, prevent sharing [the kids really don't do this], and one day there can be a peanut allergy. What we do is check to see if anyone lunches that does not contain peanut/nut items can sit with the boy who has the allergy and the rest sit at the other table. Before they get up from the table after eating lunch- we clean their hands and face of every child and then they can go play. We immediately clean the table space/chairs that the kids were sitting in.
    It seems to me that the school do bans rather than have a higher ratio of adults [workers and volunteers] to moniter kids and they should be washing their hands after they eat anyways so I think that would be a great habit for the kids to learn. I am going to have my kids do this.
    I love sunflower butter and that is all we use- I didn’t realize that it wasn’t a “nut” so thank you for that information.

  46. “Our daughter’s school has the kids with nut allergies sit at a special table, where there is absolutely no nuts allowed.”

    how lonely!

    There aren’t any restrictions at my school, but it’s kind of hard to moniter a few thousand high school students! haha.

  47. To clarify, I was quoting someone who commented earlier.
    Oops! I meant to put quotation marks around it.

  48. @53/54 from Siea: I edited your post to put quotation marks around the first bit. It would be hard to track thousands of high school students! Herding cats…

  49. my school has never had restrictions on lunch items, my friends and i share food but we know eachothers alergies so it’s ok btw midway during elementary school (3-4 grade ) children should know what
    their alergies were

  50. Wow a ban on milk products is great. I have never heard of that in canada but my son has dairy allergies and cannot come into contact with dairy products without breaking into a severe blistering rash or worse(eg, ice cream melted on a playground railing that he puts his hand on). I am dreading when he has to go to school. We are waiting until grade 1 or 2 to send him.

  51. @57 from islandveggie: Your son’s reaction sounds like the boy in our preschool — much more serious than lactose intolerance. It’s been a learning experience for us, but happily the milk/yogurt ban lets the kids play together safely. :-) If you can’t talk a preschool into something similar, waiting until he can reliably monitor his own intake sounds like a responsible plan.

  52. This sounds like a subject that has been well covered. I appreciate those who explained more about food allergies. I’ve spent several years watching over a food allergic child who, thankfully, outgrew the majority of his food allergies in time for kindergarten-just cashews and possibly pistachios left. We only had one pre-school year to worry. We still carry an epi-pen and his teacher and other school personnel have training from the district every year. Thankfully, he had to actually eat some of his allergens directly to react to them but we still kept them completely away from him. We hoped that his immune system would forget to respond and it worked. He now eats eggs, peanuts and dairy products with no ill effects when before it would cause his blood pressure to plummet and he would pass out.
    Mostly I wanted to comment on the birthday treat info others have shared. I have a tip to others. I would make acceptable treats for my son to have. The school kept them individually wrapped in the freezer or a special treat drawer so he had a cupcake, cookie or donut or candy when the others did. It really helped and the other parents felt comfortable bringing in special treats knowing that my son would get some, too.
    Kudos to you all for your good advice, encouragement and support.
    I wondered how Bug liked his year in pre-school. Hope it was fun and full of learning!
    (Love your site-I’m just starting to learn all about this as my family and kids’ school seek to make less garbage).

  53. @59 from Di: I like the approach of providing the school with allergy-safe special treats so your child doesn’t feel left out. I can only imagine the anxiety a parent would feel having to carry an epi-pen — my hat is off to you!

  54. @61 from Mary Walsh: Thanks for your note. I’m not an expert on peanut allergies, but fortunately the recent U.S. food labeling laws mandate clear indications of peanut contamination on processed foods. Good luck!

  55. My daughter’s kindergarten requests peanut-free snacks for those things sent for the class to share (it’s all-day, and they have a daily snack which they handle by having each parent send enough for the whole class a couple times a semester), but they’re fine with anything packed in individual lunches. I’m actually a little worried about this, because I KNOW there’s sharing going on — among other things, I’ve had to speak sternly to my daughter about NOT giving away her food picks! — and I try to pack peanut-free anyway. And hope that any child who actually has the allergy knows better than to take things even if offered.

    BTW, I noticed that on the Tips page, the link that should lead to this article actually leads to the notice about the Ichiban Kan online store opening.

  56. @63 from Sara: Wow, that’s scary if there are peanut products potentially being shared in a lunchroom with an allergic kid. Hope they’ve got an Epi-Pen (and a lawyer) ready! Also, thanks for the heads up on the bad link — I hadn’t realized.

  57. Was going to weigh in and add that milk can DEFINITELY cause anaphylactic reactions, but I saw many people had chimed in about that already :)

    I know firsthand the terrors of hidden allergens in food. Along with the fish and shellfish, of all the stupid things, I’m horribly allergic to honey. It seems as if honey is hidden in everything, from granola bars to breads to cereals to mustard. I even stumbled upon it in chicken stock (caught it just in time). So I’m another one of those people who holds up aisle traffic frantically trying to read the ingredient list.

    You know what I wish? I wish that these companies were made to list exactly what the “natural flavors” were in their products. I don’t care about their paranoia re: giving away the “secret formula”…what if one of those “natural flavors” or “seasonings” is one you’re allergic to? A heads-up would be very nice…epi-pens hurt.

  58. Even older kids it can be a problem with pb contamination. My son who is allergice to peanuts and is in 2nd grade. His friend this summer at the pool was sitting next to him eating a pb & J sandwhich and reached over and grabbed a grape from my son’s lunch. Well that was all it took..just a little peanut residue from the kid’s hand on his food and my son was covered in hives. It is such a scary situation. Thankfully he did not go into the full blown respiratory shut down. But it can happen like that. It can set some kids off by smell only, thankfully our son is not. Basically for an allergic child even if someone doesn’t wash their hands after lunch if they ate a pb sandwhich it can cause a lot of problems for allergic kids. I know it can be hard to understand unless your child has allergies. Luckily our school does not serve pb at school only Sunbutter and has a peanut ban.
    I think it is great you are being so proactive and understanding!

  59. I totally agree with Sarah, and if my kid had such rules imposed on him, I fight tooth and nail about not being able to pack him certain things for his lunch just because of perhaps three children in the whole school being allergic. My heart goes out to the folks that truly have to deal with such allergies and for being victims of an over-sterilized culture, but making the whole school accommodate them seems excessive. What if a few kids allergic to something in the grass, like I was when I was younger? Should the school pave over all the lawns and the kickball field? My kid can’t play in the grass so nobody else’s should either! That’s like giving a whole class detention because of something the class clown did.

    A separate lunch table and cubby to store their food should be more than enough. At the most extreme children should wash their hands before and after they eat. This may sound harsh, but I have no sympathy for any allergic child that steals from another kid’s lunchbox and ends up eating something he’s allergic to. He should have been taught better, or the classroom should have provided a more secure way to prevent theft or kept an eye on him. If my child were the one with the allergies, I’d want his classmates to be aware of it, but being even in the same room as somebody eating something with “traces of peanuts” makes his throat close up, I wouldn’t expect any special accommodations. And if that were the case, again, a separate area for allergic kids should be set up.

    It’s mean and crude and extreme and I know I sound like a jerk, but it’s how I feel about the subject. And if I’ve offended you, well good. Hopefully it means you’re now thinking about the issue from somebody else’s perspective. And for the record, I am not one of “those few who take it as a personal affront” as Alesia puts it. I’m one of those loudmouths who says what everybody else is thinking but it too polite to ever say out loud or even admit it.

  60. @68 from Trini: I’m not offended, Trini — I’ve got pretty thick skin and appreciate differing viewpoints here (stimulates thought). For me the packing restrictions aren’t such a big deal when we’re talking about preschoolers who are still learning proper hygiene and what they can/can’t eat. We’ll see what happens once the kids get into grade school and beyond, though…

  61. As a former Montessori teacher, I just wanted to toss out there that the milk and yogurt restriction may also be a logistical issue. Many 3 year olds can’t open foil-topped yogurt containers or milk cartons themselves yet, so sometimes when they try to the Yoplait (or what have you) goes everywhere!

  62. I’m 22, and don’t remember any restrictions of this type in school, nor do most of the people my age who I have talked about this with. However, I know people of parents’ generation that had such restrictions. Were they around, then fell out of favor and are now coming back? Just curious about that.

    Also, I have one friend whose daughter is severely allergic to peanuts. Like, can’t breathe is someone is eating a PB&J in the same room. So my friend homeschooled her until she was old enough to understand her allergy and ways to keep herself safe (late elementary school, iirc). She doesn’t go in the cafeteria (she is allowed to eat outside with a friend or in a teacher/counselor’s office), and only eats what her parents pack her. It seems to work well for them.

    By the way, how cool are the peanut allergy dogs? :) I read a story a while back about a girl who was severely allergic to peanuts, and now has a dog trained to detect peanuts in the area and alert her. He goes with her everywhere as a service dog. That would be a lot of peace of mind for me.

  63. I know this is an older thread, just found this amazing site. We just recently found out that my son is Allergic to milk, eggs, wheat and peanuts. Not looking forward to him going to school and having to deal with all this. My friend’s son is allergic to wheat and can’t use playdough or any other crafts that may contain wheat, so she is told she has to get products to make it herself and make sure she of course brings “safe” snacks for him and other stuff, yet is still required to pay the material fee for items he’ll never use. Besides that she would be required to come in on days of making the special crafts to help with her son.

    So for the parents of kids WITHOUT allergies, please have some sympathy, because it is very hard on the kids and parents. I am thinking It may be easier to homeschool until they either grow out of their allergies or find a school or teacher. Needless to say, my friend pulled her child out of the preschool. It was going to be too expensive and she would need to take more time from her work to go in and help out. That’s not the point of sending your kid to preschool.

    There are many crafts out their you can make without the “unsafe” ingredients for cheap too, in case your preschooler decides he wants to eat them. I hope one day this will be the norm, since Food allergies are on the rise.

    Just think how sad it is for the kid with the nut allergy to sit in the corner table by herself during lunchtime. Probably ridiculed because no matter how well informed kids are, they still like to tease others. And sometimes even the smell of peanuts can make a child go into anyphalactic shock. So a table in the corner won’t help. So how can you not be accomodating to those “few kids.” And to send a small kid off into another room by themselves, it’s like banishment. I guess you would only understand if your child went through it. It breaks my heart how insensitive people can be.

  64. I just found your site, because of my children’s interest in all things Japanese.

    As someone with very severe food allergies and who has children with them also, I grasp how restricting it is to not be able to pack a pb&j for your child. My mom’s school recently went peanut free and some of the teachers were complaining- this was in the summer. The teacher complaining was eating a candy bar with peanuts in it while filing some papers. My mom simply pointed out that if I came in contact with those papers- I would end up with a first class ambulance ride to the hospital. It isn’t just young children and sharing- think of common areas and things you touch while eating- the table, a chair, a serving dish. If there is a person with severe allergies coming behind you- someone would have to disinfect anything you had touched before that person came in contact with it.

    I don’t require others to keep up with my allergies or my children’s, and all my kids have always looked after themselves and each other since they were very young. I do ask that if we are in your house, that no peanut products or shellfish products are opened. Since this is a life or death situation, I’ve never had anyone complain.

    I know that allergies are on the rise, but my kids were just doomed by the genetic lottery- and I am from the generation when food allergies were unknown and weird.

  65. For the record, yes, many people can go into anaphylactic shock just from peanut traces in the air, and it’s disgusting that some of you would potentially kill a child just because you can’t not pack peanut products in your child’s lunch. Those of us with food allergies (I have a peanut allergy myself) are not second-class citizens and should be allowed to socialize like everyone else. I pray to God none of you ever have children with food allergies, you’ll probably inadvertantly kill them.

  66. My 5 year old has a life threatening dairy allergy. I was disgusted by so many of the comments left here, especially Wendy’s “It’s not like one stray drop of milk is going to require the epi pen.” I am thankful for Wendy’s children that they do not have a dairy allergy. For my son, it doesn’t even take the drop of milk to cause a reaction. If you touch something dairy and then touch the table, and he comes along later and touches the table, he is going to react. Normally it would just be hives, but should he ingest something that he has touched after touching that table- yes, an epi-pen is necessary. He’s 5. He should be able to be a kid. He is very good with his allergy, and he knows what will make him sick, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that others look out for him a bit too. As others mentioned, it’s a respect thing. And it may be a little inconvenient to have to think through one meal a day as you send a lunch to school, but think about all of the parents who are dealing with these food allergies. We have had to completely change our cooking, shopping, snacks, eating out- every single element of our food consumption. And it’s all worth it. This is a child’s life we are talking about.

  67. What about soy yogurt as a possible substitute? There are yogurts made of things other than milk. I have even seen coconut milk ones (though those are really gross).