(BPT) - Did you know 85 million Americans avoid buying foods with the top nine allergens because of allergies of someone in their household? According to Food Allergy Research and Education, $19 billion is spent annually to avoid specific proteins or allergens in their food. For parents especially, you know packing nutritious lunches your kids will actually eat is a struggle — but it's even more challenging for those with food allergies or sensitivities. Fortunately, more companies and products are available today to make this a little easier.
“Creating lunches that are appealing both in how they look and taste, especially for particular dietary needs, is not as hard as it used to be,” said Gina Fontana, certified health coach and founder of the blog Healthy Little Vittles. “We can still enjoy our favorite meals by replacing problematic ingredients with alternatives that won’t cause us to experience unwanted symptoms.”
For consumers trying to avoid the most frequent allergy culprits, or who just want to follow a more plant-based lifestyle, here are tips for creating tasty lunches that kids and adults alike will be happy to find in their lunchboxes.
What are the top 9 allergens?
Food Allergy Research and Education lists the top food allergens as:
- Tree nuts
For many with severe allergies, brief contact with even a trace amount can cause a serious allergic reaction.
How can you replace the sandwich?
Sandwiches are probably the number one lunchbox staple in the U.S. but choosing bread that’s delicious and appealing to the eye while not containing gluten or wheat can be difficult.
Fortunately, Little Northern Bakehouse creates entirely allergy-friendly and gluten-free bread. For parents, using their bread can help keep kids’ minds at ease as they head back to school with sandwiches just like their classmates have. Kids will never know the difference between this gluten-free bread and the real thing, because the size, taste and texture are like a typical slice of bread. Its Whole Grain Wide Slice is a good-sized gluten-free bread, differing from others that tend to be smaller.
“The size of this bread makes it easy to fill, wrap and get creative with whatever you pack inside,” said Fontana.
Fontana created this recipe for using the bread to make a tasty lunch whether for the lunchbox or as a delicious weekend on-the-go option:
1 loaf Little Northern Bakehouse Whole Grain Wide Slice Bread
Vegan cream cheese
2 nori sheets
Everything bagel spice for garnishing
Peel and slice cucumber into thin strips. Spoon avocado into bowl and smash with fork.
Cut crusts off each bread slice. Microwave one slice of bread at a time 12-15 seconds, then gently roll slice of bread flat with a rolling pin, making sure to flatten ends well.
Spread thin layer of vegan cream cheese over slice, then add piece of nori (cut to fit the slice of bread) on top of cream cheese.
Spread thin layer of smashed avocado over nori, then add slice of cucumber and some shredded carrots toward lower third of the bread slice.
Roll slice from the bottom up, then place rolled slice onto a plate, seam side down. Then repeat the process for all the bread slices.
You can slice the rolls like sushi or just eat as rollups! Sprinkle with everything bagel spice before enjoying.
Keep leftovers stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
Replacing the classic PB&J
Now you’ve got a bread option, but how can you replace the peanut butter in the perennial kid favorite, PB&J? Try one of these ideas to replace peanut butter:
- Sunflower seed butter
- Vegan cream cheese
With one of these options, you can pack an alternative PB&J. Pair with apple slices, carrot sticks and raisins, and let your child enjoy the freedom to be a regular kid with your average kid’s lunch.
Find creative ways to pack
One great tool for lunches is the bento box, originating from Japan, but now available everywhere. With these containers you can include several bite-sized lunch items including a variety of fruits, veggies, dipping sauce, vegan string cheese and other items. They are also washable and reusable, which helps cut down on excess packaging.
Visit LittleNorthernBakehouse.com for recipes, tips for gluten-free living and more.