7 Allergen-Free Snacks to Take to School

elementary age children are sitting at their desks and are eating their healthy snacks

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 8% of children have food allergies, or about one in 13 kids. That means in an average sized classroom, about two children will have food allergies.

Whether your child has a food allergy or not, it’s important to be mindful of what they bring into their school. “Although your child may not be allergic, many children have food allergies and intolerances,” says Morris Nejat, MD, a specialist in adult and pediatric allergy and immunology at NYAllergy.com.

Megan Lavin, food allergy expert and author of the cookbook, "An Allergy Mom's Lifesaving Instant Pot Cookbook," gives an easy-to-understand example: "If you give your child a peanut butter sandwich, and they have peanut butter all over their hands and get it on a shared toy or surface, this could lead to a reaction in an allergic child."

All schools have different rules in terms of what type of snacks you can bring in, but many parents still like to be mindful of potential allergies of their children's classmates. Ahead, we’ve gathered some expert-approved, allergen-free, classroom-friendly snack ideas.

How to Decide If a Snack Is Allergen-Free

Food allergies can be incredibly stressful for parents and children alike. Some food allergies can cause severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, hives, vomiting, and dizziness. Food allergies can be deadly, too. Not all food allergies have severe symptoms, but they can still cause discomfort for children.

“We are realizing food allergies don't just cause anaphylaxis and hives,” Dr. Nejat explains. “They also cause eczema, colic, and indigestion among other issues.

In all, there are eight allergens that make up about 90% of food reactions in the U.S., according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These common allergens include dairy, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy. This is something to keep in mind as you consider reducing the allergens in the snack foods you send to school. “For the best results of being able to serve it to the widest audience, it's always best to go for snacks free of the top eight allergens,” Lavin advises.

Dr. Nejat says that if you are looking to reduce allergens, it’s smart to keep things simple. “Prepared foods often have hidden ingredients that are not obvious,” he says. “The rule is, if you didn't make it, know how it was made.” That means it’s important to read food labels carefully, Dr. Nejat says, and pick snacks that have recognizable, basic, allergen-free ingredients.

It's also important to note that some allergies pose more intense cross-contamination risks than others. In general, its always a good idea to talk to your children about not sharing food they bring in for themselves at lunch in case a classmate has an allergy.

Our experts helped us gather some school snack ideas that can be easily prepared, are healthy and filling, and that have as few allergens as possible. Here are our tip picks.

Cinnamon Applesauce

applesauce

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“Applesauce is an easy, light snack for kids that is free of all top eight allergens,” says Natalie Kravat, RDN, a registered dietitian working and editor at Jugo Feed. She says that making applesauce at home is easier than you might expect. “All you do is bring apples, water, lemon juice, and cinnamon to a boil in a pot for about 1/2 an hour,” she describes. Once the apples are very soft, mash them up with a fork or masher to turn the mixture into sauce.

You can transport homemade applesauce to school for your child in a sealed container. You can also send your child to school with a pre-packaged pouch or cup. Just make sure that the applesauce has no added ingredients that could contain allergens. Kravat also suggests making sure the store-bought applesauce has no added sugar.

Fruits and Veggies

apples

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Fruits and veggies in their simplest form are a great option, and don’t contain any common allergens, says Lavin. Within this category, there are many different ways to serve these foods to your kids, including fruits and veggies that are dried, freeze dried, or cut into shapes.

“If you want to add a protein to it, sunflower seed butters taste an awful lot like peanut butter, and are great for spreading and dipping,” Lavin suggests.

In terms of transporting fruits and veggies to school, mandarin oranges work great, because the peel protects them until your child is ready to eat. You can also consider carrot sticks in pre-packaged containers, pre-packed apples, or dried fruit.

Corn Chips and Dip

guacamole

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Lavin says that some of the best allergen-free snacks are of the Mexican variety. “Corn chips and salsa, or chips and guacamole are almost always a hit, and are both allergy-friendly and quite filling as well,” she describes.

While corn is about as common a grain as wheat, it’s not a common allergy, and corn chips are a great way to enjoy a crunchy snack. Wheat allergies affect up to 1% of children in the U.S., though many outgrow it by the age of 12. Not all kids like salsa, but the ingredients in salsa are usually just veggies. Avocado is a great allergy-free choice, while also being high in healthy fats and fiber.

Hummus and Veggies

hummus

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If you are looking for an allergy-friendly way for your child to get some vitamins and protein, consider hummus and veggies, says Kravat. “You can easily prepare your own hummus at home by blending a can of chickpeas with 1/4 cup of olive oil, salt, and pepper until smooth,” she describes. You can also buy pre-packaged hummus to send to school, with veggies on the side.

As Kravat points out, this snack is free of the top eight allergens. However, most hummus contains sesame, which is a fairly common allergen, according to the FDA, which calls it the “ninth major food allergen.” Kravat’s homemade hummus suggestion doesn’t contain allergens, and you can look for store-bought versions without sesame seeds.

Packaged Allergen-Free Snacks

chips

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If you are pressed for time, there are many shelf-stable, pre-packaged crunchy snacks or protein bars that are allergen-free.

“Dried cereal is a good substitute for crackers, since crackers often have wheat or butter,” Lavin recommends. She says that you can look for cereals that are made of corn or rice to avoid allergens. Speaking of rice, rice cakes are another good option. Rice is not a common allergen, and there are often flavored rice cakes available, if you are looking for variety, Lavin points out.

Bagged chips are also often allergen-free. Look for basic potato chips or corn chips. Gluten-free pretzels are another option similar to chips, says Lavin. You can also seek out pre-packaged protein bars that are devoid of common allergens. Again, just always check labels for ingredients, as even sometimes a flavored potato chip may have added dairy or other allergens.

Fruit and Veggie Smoothies

smoothie

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If you are looking to get more fruits and veggies into your kids and provide them with an allergen-free snack, smoothies are a fantastic option, says Kravat. “You can mix and match smoothie ingredients depending on what flavors your child enjoys and what you have on hand,” she says.

Kravat offers this suggestion for an allergen-free smoothie that kids will love: 1/2 banana, 1/4 cup berries, 1/4 cup avocado, 1 handful of spinach, unsweetened coconut milk, and ice. Transporting a homemade smoothie to school can be tricky, but there are many airtight smoothie containers on the market to choose from. You can also consider a pre-packaged allergen-free smoothie pouch.

Zucchini Chips

zucchini

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Potato and corn chips can get old, and aren’t always the healthiest option when you buy them from the store. Kravat says that zucchini chips can be a wonderful snack choice that kids love and that is allergen-free.

Here’s how to make them:

  • Cut zucchini into thin rounds
  • Drizzle with olive oil or avocado oil
  • Add salt and pepper
  • Place rounds on a baking sheet
  • Bake for 2-3 hours at 200 degrees F
  • Flip chips every 1/2 hour to ensure they are baking evenly

A Word From Verywell

Navigating allergy-free options can be confusing, and it can be hard to find snacks that kids will enjoy. If your child has an allergy, if your child’s classroom is allergen-free, or if you just want to send your child into school with allergen-free snacks to protect others, there are many options out there. If you have further questions about food allergies or allergen-free food preparation, please reach out to your child's pediatrician, a registered dietician, or healthcare provider.

6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Food Allergies.

  2. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Food Allergy.

  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Food Allergies: What You Need to Know.

  4. Food Allergy Research and Education. Wheat Allergy.

  5. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Avocados, raw, all commercial varieties.

  6. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Food Allergies.

By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a lactation consultant and writer covering maternal/child health, parenting, general health and wellness, and mental health. She has worked with breastfeeding parents for over a decade, and is a mom to two boys.