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Lunch box snacks for every food allergy

Nutritionist Rania Batayneh, MPH is the author of the best-selling book, The One One One Diet. She holds a master’s degree in public health from the University of Michigan.

With the rise of food allergies, moms more than ever need easy, tasty and healthy foods to share with their kids and families. Food allergies affect up to 15 million Americans. In fact, one in every 13 children under the age of 18 have a food allergy. Simply put, that's about two children in every classroom.

As a nutritionist and mom, I am always looking for food solutions for my clients and their families. I am blessed, my son does not have any food allergies; it seems however that he may not be very tolerant of veggies.

Make this year's back-to-school lunch box more fun, tasty and safe. Below, I share food solutions for five lunchbox dilemmas. You may notice that some of the suggestions overlap; for example, it is likely that you will find a soy-free veggie burger that is also egg free (I share my pick below).

Parents should read labels and look at the ingredients panel as they are shopping for groceries. The cleaner the label the better.

Nut free

This is one of the areas in which schools have taken action steps due to the severity and life-threatening reaction when a child who has a nut/peanut allergy is exposed to them. Perhaps not all of the classrooms are nut-free, however your child may be in one or have an allergy to them so you want to find a safe snack great for your kid's lunchbox. If your child does suffer from a nut allergy then it is even more important again to read labels, as nuts may not be a part of the ingredients list but it may be indicated that this food "may have been manufactured in a facility with/may contain peanuts." My favorite nut-free food find comes from Somersault Snack Company. This sunflower seed-based snack is a good source of fiber, vitamin E and offers the same amount of protein as a serving of almonds, but with fewer calories and less fat. These crunchy nugget snacks come in single-serve packages in the Pacific Sea Salt and the Cinnamon Crunch flavors that are perfect for your kid's lunchbox. I love the fun characters on each of the different flavors; the cool surfer girl on the Cinnamon Crunch flavor is having fun while snacking.

Photo credit: Somersault Snack Co.

Soy free

Your search for a soy-free veggie burger is over. Hilary's Eat Well not only makes "The World’s Best Veggie Burger" but they make it completely allergen friendly (dairy free, gluten free, soy free, egg free, yeast free, corn free, and nut free). What's left is an amazing ingredients panel: millet, quinoa and sweet potato along with spices and other veggies. Although many veggie burger brands are looking to mimic the taste of meat by using soy protein, Hilary's Eat Well takes a different approach and focuses on making products with whole, real food ingredients. The result is a delicious, easy to prepare veggie burger that's a healthy option for families and more. Because the patty is fully cooked and does not contain dairy, eggs or milk, it is sure to keep perfect in your kid's lunch boxes.

Photo credit: Hilary's Eat Well

Meat free/vegetarian/vegan

Although not an allergy, meat-free is an eating lifestyle. Hummus is slowly becoming America's favorite dip, and with good reason. Each tablespoon contains 1 gram of fiber as well as 1 gram of protein. Hummus is a great alternative to cheese or mayo on a sandwich. It is also a wonderful dip for baby carrots and celery. I love the Sabra Classic Hummus 2-ounce single serve containers. They fit perfectly into your child's lunch box.

Gluten free

This is not only a buzzword in the world of dieting, but it is also a necessary dietary modification for individuals who have celiac disease. Although not a high percentage, 0.4 percent of children are allergic to wheat. One food that can be a bit tricky is oats. By nature, yes, they should be gluten free, however, because of contamination in the fields where oats are grown side by side with wheat, it is very possible that many oat-filled products are not gluten free. Well, parents, you're in luck. KIND Healthy Grains Bars are not only baked with gluten-free oats, but they also contain five super grains. I love the Vanilla Blueberry Flavor. Tip: Have your kids spread a nut or seed butter on it and make a "gluten free" PB&J.

Photo credit: Kind Snacks

Dairy free

If you have a child who is intolerant to lactose, one of your main concerns is getting calcium into her diet. Children 4-8 years old need 1000 mg of calcium daily. 1 cup of milk contains 300 mg of calcium. Other calcium-rich foods that contain calcium include: broccoli, red kidney beans, almonds and sardines (yes, I hear you, your kids probably never eat these foods). So, now you're left with a "dairy-free dilemma." This is where I want parents to get creative. Take any non-dairy yogurt and add chia seeds to it to make a parfait for your kids. Yes, chia seeds. They are a nutrition powerhouse. Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 137 calories, 1 gram of saturated fat, 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 177 milligrams of calcium, and 4.9 grams of omega-3 fatty acids (the good stuff for your kid's brain). You can add chia seeds to smoothies, mix it into your yogurt, top your oatmeal with it. I love the Trader Joe's Chia Seeds. I use them when I am making my Chia Seed Chocolate Pudding recipe from my book, The One One One Diet. Replace cow's milk with a non-dairy option to keep the recipe dairy free.

Photo credit: SkinnyNotSkinny.com

Disclaimer: I am a Nutritionist Spokeswoman for Somersault Snacks. My favorite flavor is the Dutch Cocoa and it makes for a delicious mid-afternoon sweet treat.

Photo credit: Tetra Images/Jamie Grill/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

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