For many parents of young children, food allergies are a very real part of day-to-day life, with around 1 in 10 Australian kids experiencing an allergy while they are young. Whether your child experiences a food allergy themselves, or they attend a daycare where allergy-friendly lunchboxes are required, it is important to understand what a lunch that is free from allergens looks like, and how you can keep them fun and tasty.
What does allergy-friendly mean?
Before we get started, you might be wondering what “allergy-friendly” really means. A food allergy is a reaction by your body’s immune system to a food that is usually harmless. The reaction consists of your immune system producing antibodies called Immunoglobin E, which can result in allergy symptoms. This response by the body is known as an allergic reaction. For children who suffer from a food allergy, the best way to avoid these reactions is to avoid the food their immune system is responding to altogether. This is otherwise known as an allergy-friendly diet.
The most common food allergies experienced in children are dairy, egg, peanut, tree nuts, sesame, soy, fish, shellfish and wheat, meaning that you may need to avoid foods with these ingredients when packing a daycare lunch. This could be to suit your own child’s allergies, or that of another child in the centre.
What to look for in healthy, allergy-friendly lunchbox snacks:
Despite needing to avoid the most common allergens mentioned above, there are still plenty of delicious lunchbox snacks and meals your child can enjoy. When searching for ideas that are convenient, delicious, and healthy, we suggest taking these tips into account:
- Always read the ingredients list on pre-made snacks; beware of the most common allergens, along with high levels of added sugars, salt and saturated fats.
- Purchase a wide variety of fruits and vegetables each week that can be packed into lunchboxes for diversity.
- Pack leftover dinners where suitable for convenience.
- Keep gluten-free & dairy-free bread or wraps in the cupboard; making allergy-friendly sandwiches or wraps is a great, quick, and easy meal.
- Find a few staple allergy-friendly snacks that your child loves to include as treats.
Although they seem simple, keeping these tips in mind can help you create a strong, healthy, and enjoyable base for daily daycare lunches, thus allowing you more time to spend planning more creative snacks and meals to add into the mix.
Allergy-friendly lunchbox ideas
We understand that always trying to think of new and creative allergy-friendly lunchbox ideas can be hard, especially when your kids are still in daycare. To give you a little inspiration, we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite allergy-friendly snack ideas for their daily lunchboxes:
- Carrot/celery/cucumber sticks
- Salad sandwich, made on gluten-free & dairy-free bread
- Fruit & Pure Water Apple drink
- Gluten-free pasta dishes (with sauce that doesn’t contain the common allergens listed above)
- Coconut yoghurt
- Smoothie Drops
- Plain popcorn
- Fruit puree – either blend your own or purchase a pre-made option such as our Frooshies
- Meltaway Sticks
Having little ones with food allergies or packing lunchboxes to suit the needs of other children can be difficult – as fellow parents, we hope that these tips and ideas help to make your life just that little bit easier as you navigate these daycare years with your kids.