Amy H. Meunier: A parent’s caution helps a child stay safe
To the editor:
The Amherst school system recently banned tree nut- and peanut-containing products in hopes of making school safer for kids and parents coping with food allergies. My sons’ school is also peanut- and tree nut free. Tree nuts include all nuts such as coconuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts and walnuts.
So what’s a parent to do? Well, fortunately, peanuts and tree nuts are some of the more common allergens. If you look at the end of the ingredients list, you will see in bold print “this product contains.” This warning is required for dairy, soy, egg, wheat, fish, shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts; the eight most common allergens, or “the Big Eight.” So, when you buy packaged products, look at the end of the ingredients list for the bold print allergens.
As a simple peanut butter substitute, I offer sunflower seed butter. Sunflower seeds are a good source of magnesium and phosphorus, and some B vitamins as well as iron. Hummus is also a great alternate protein which can be found in various flavors. Use as a dip for vegetables or multi-grain pita chips. My kids love the comfort of a thermos of hot soup for lunch on cold days. It’s hard to pack a lunchbox with variety five days a week. My son’s lunchbox has different compartments so that I pack vegetables, fruit and protein for each lunch. It’s a challenge some days, but by giving your child options, they may just be eating more fruits and vegetables. These are added steps for those parents who are not used to taking such precautions. But habit becomes routine and you’ll find it doesn’t take much longer once you have favorite safe products to buy. As you change your habits, know that your caution is helping a child stay safe.
Amy H. Meunier
The writer, a mother of two, is a dietetics student at UMass Amherst.