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September 15, 2011 at 9:44 AMComments: 9 Faves: 0

Healthy Solutions for a Peanut-Free School

By Jessica Corwin MPH RDN More Blogs by This Author

As increasing number of children are being diagnosed with peanut allergies and it is becoming more and more common for schools to ban them entirely. As the classic PB&J sandwich is often accepted by even the pickiest eaters, such a ban can quickly spur frustration for those packing school lunches or snacks for their children. Thankfully, many peanut alternatives do exist, and I am here to shed some light on a few of the most popular options.

Sun Butter Natural Crunch Sunflower Seed Spread

This hearty spread is not only peanut free, it's also gluten free and tree-nut free to boot! It is made without hydrogenated oils, making it a heart-healthy addition to your diet fulfilling 27% of your daily vitamin E requirements and a surprising 1/3 less saturated fat than the average peanut butter. Sun Butter does have a unique flavor profile and a slightly mealy texture in my opinion, but I am a huge fan and love the opportunity to mix things up!

Once Again Organic Cashew Butter

If you are going to try cashew butter, I hope you will opt for one from this organic and fair trade certified company. Once Again Nut Butter is helping to make a difference in health and environment globally by preparing products without the use of pesticides and paying their farmers and employers fairly - something not every company can claim, though surely something many more should strive for!

This line offers plenty of options, including sodium-free peanut butter, almond butter, and sunflower butter. The cashew butter is made with the addition of safflower oil to smooth out the texture, and, while they do take strong measures to ensure a peanut free product, if you are dealing with a severe allergy, this may not be the best choice for you as they still warn of potential cross-contamination. Just look for the raccoon on the jar to spot this inspiring brand, and if you still need convincing, take a peek at the story behind the little critter

Justin’s Chocolate Almond Butter 

While this option does contain added palm oil and sugar, it is absolutely delicious, and, if you enjoy the chocolate hazelnut spread Nutella, you will surely love this. Again, the variety of nut butters offered by this company are manufactured on equipment shared with peanuts and tree nuts, though the company strives to prevent cross-contamination between productions of each different product.

Barney Butter Crunchy Almond Butter 

This line of almond butters offers a refreshing and confident claim, a peanut-free guarantee! Barney Butters do not separate from the oil, preventing you from having to stir the natural product back together, a task many people don't enjoy (including my husband!). Furthermore, this almond butter packs more fiber, calcium, iron, vitamin E, and magnesium than your typical peanut butter. Sounds good enough to me!

I hope my suggestions will help the parents out there overcome the challenges posed by peanut allergies and peanut-free schools, and I would love to hear about other solutions you have come across! Enjoy mixing things up in that PB&J, or try something new with this tasty recipe courtesy of Barney Butter:

HOMEMADE POWER BARS

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

¼ cup slivered almonds

¼ cup sunflower seeds

1 tablespoon flaxseeds

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 cup unsweetened whole-grain puffed cereal

1/3 cup dried currants (optional)

1/3 cup chopped dried apricots (optional)

1/3 cup chopped golden raisins (optional)

¼ cup Smooth Barney Butter

¼ cup turbinado sugar

¼ cup honey

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray.

Combine the oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, and sesame seeds on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the oats are lightly toasted and the nuts are fragrant, shaking the pan halfway through (about 10 minutes). Transfer to a large bowl. Add cereal, currants, apricots and raisins; toss to combine.

Combine Barney Butter, sugar, honey, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low, stirring frequently, until the mixture bubbles lightly (2 to 5 minutes).

Immediately pour the almond butter mixture over the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon or spatula until no dry spots remain. Transfer to the prepared pan. Lightly coat your hands with cooking spray and press the mixture down firmly to make an even layer (wait until the mixture cools slightly if necessary). Refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes) and cut into bars.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month; thaw at room temperature.

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9 Comments

  • Thanks for posting this, Jessica! My nephew has a peanut allergy and he eats the Sun Butter Natural Crunch Sunflower Seed Spread. I actually tried that once and it wasn't bad at all. :) A great alternative with good nutrients!

    Also your homemade power bar recipe looks amazing. I will have to try and make those sometime!

  • I agree, those power bars sound awesome. My concern is that schools are BANNING peanut butter and jelly? Seriously, like a lunch room monitor is going around and sniffing kids' sandwiches and them expelling the offenders? Shouldn't it be the parents' job to determine what their child can/cannot eat?

    If they ban peanuts, why wouldn't they ban all the other high-allergen foods like milk, cheese, fish, shellfish, tomatoes, tree nuts, wheat, corn, and soy? How about banning foods that might not be good for you, like greasy hamburgers, fried foods, and pizza? Maybe foods that could make students uncomfortable later in the day, like beans, whole grains, onions, garlic, and cucumbers.

    Seriously. It's overly emotional policies like 'peanut free zone' that make me wonder about the education level of parents and the faculty. If your kid is allergic to peanuts, don't feed them peanuts. We don't need a law telling us to use common sense... or do we?

  • Sadly some people do need such a law, but in reality the issue shouldn't be about banning foods - it's about stepping up caregiver knowledge of food issues and teaching kids about their food allergies.

  • *agrees with Big Dave*

  • Yes, I agree with Dave. Caregivers need to teach their kids about their food allergies. To use my nephew as an example, he knows what he can and can't eat. I often forget all the things he is allergic to and sadly ask if he wants something that I am making. He responds, no I can't have that. And he isn't sad I offered to him and he can't eat it. He just knows he can't have it. So my sister-in-law has taught him very well!

  • I see on TV that they mention the Nutella as an alternative to peanut butter. I did just by a jar last week and tried it for the first time today on a Ritz cracker.
    My thought was it tasted like frosting, nice chocolate flavor, consistency of frosting from the can etc. Then one of the girls at work read the label and said it's 50% fat!
    I'm looking now and the calories in a 2 tbsp serving is 200 with a fat calorie of 100. I must admit I originally purchased it because I thought it was a healthy alternative to peanut butter - now I'm not so sure - but it does taste good!

  • I am so happy you post this. I'm also allergic to peanuts and mostly all nuts except for sunflower seeds . I been that way for as long as i can remember and i always wish that i could eat peanut butter because everybody in my family can eat it and love it and it look appetizing and i felt left out. Now i see that there is a product call sunflower butter i will be giving that a try.

  • Wonderful discussion! As a dietitian who has spent the past 5 years working with schools, I can recognize why people create the rules that they do, however I must agree with Dave in that it starts at home. If peanuts are banned at school the students will not have to pay attention, potentially coming to believe that they do not need to pay attention anywhere - birthday parties, restaurants, friends dinners, etc. Certainly a tough situation with liability issues and lawsuits. Did you know that merely 1/50th of a peanut can cause an anaphylactic shock, a reaction that can lead to death? This helps put the situation into perspective...

  • @Nancy, you have brought the supermarket labeling confusion to light, loud and clear. Oftentimes we want to believe a food is going to be super healthy just by the packaging or marketing claims. Take the term 'organic' for example, just because you see organic Oreos, it does not mean they are going to suddenly be healthy for you (though perhaps healthier for the Earth).

    If you want to know whether a product is going to be a healthy alternative, read the Nutrition Facts Panel and the ingredient statement. Here you will find the naked truth. Nothing but.

    I would not suggest a low-fat peanut butter as the fat is a healthy fat and we need fat in our diet... however there are people out there whom would prefer to live on fat-free diets and they may opt to try this unique twist on peanut butter...
    http://www.betternpeanutbutter.com/index.php

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