I live in a very young community, such that my daughter is in one of 14 kindergarten classes at her school. There are lots of little kids and, sadly, lots of peanut allergies. A note was sent home with us when we met my daughter's teacher last week to advice that some children in the school have allergies so severe they can die if they come into even the slightest contact with peanuts.
The risk is real, and the resulting rules are strict; not only are no products with nuts allowed (which I expected) but no nut butter alternatives are allowed either.
Apparently not enough parents labeled their nut alternative spreads in the past, and rather than police each child to ensure they don't have the real deal, no alternative spreads are allowed. The safety of the children comes before the need for me to provide one of the few foods I know my picky daughter will eat.
I find it very frustrating. I'm nervous about finding enough food options that she will eat. Alternative nut butters are entirely safe. I'm completely annoyed that parents would risk trying to sneak peanut butter in their kids' lunches, ruining it for the rest of us.
But all of that aggravation and annoyance is my problem. I am perfectly OK with not doing anything that would risk the life of a child.
My child can eat anything without the risk of dying from anaphylactic shock. I am very lucky that I don't have to double check every single thing she eats to make sure it's not deadly for her. I am very lucky that I don't fear that every time I'm not with her, I have to trust that other children won't share a treat with her she might not be able to eat. I don't have to worry at every playground we go to that a kid might have had peanut butter for lunch, didn't wash their hands and used the same swing my daughter is now on moments before. I don't fear for my daughter's life, over something I have little actual control, every single day. I am very lucky.
If I think it's a lot of work to find an alternative to nut butter alternatives for my daughter's school lunches, I need only think about parents for whom the allergy is a reality to get some perspective. Parents who complain about the burden on them to accommodate children with deadly allergies would change their tune on a dime if it was their child who was afflicted. Because the second it's your own child's life at risk, there would be no question about the measures you'd take to keep them safe, and the efforts you would pray others would make as well.
Opponents to the strict rule are concerned about the slippery slope, and I admit I am too. Allergies are much more prevalent in our children's generation than I ever remember them being in our own. In fact, I don't recall one child growing up who had a peanut allergy. In my daughter's class in daycare however, five of the 16 children had peanut allergies. Times have certainly changed.
I don't know where the slippery slope ends. One friend can't send spreadable or 'smearable' (whatever that is) dairy in her child's lunch. Where will it end? When is the burden of accommodating other people's children too much?
Parents of children with severe allergies would put their children in a bubble if only they could. Those of us who don't need to and shouldn't make it harder. If I can keep a parent from worrying that their kid won't come home from school, and all it means for me is a bit more creativity, then really, annoying though it is, I'm OK with it. Because if it was my child, I'd hope people wouldn't put their own convenience ahead of my child's life.
Hemp seeds (also called hemp hearts) have a wonderful nutty flavor that works well in pesto recipes, while arugula provides a tempered peppery bite. Hemp seeds owe their mega benefits to the fact that they are brimming with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Use this vibrant sauce in pasta dishes; as a way to enliven sandwiches, burgers, and pizza; or atop roasted potatoes. Serves: 6 Ingredients: 2 packed cups arugula 1/2 packed cup fresh basil 3 cloves garlic, chopped 1/3 cup hemp seeds 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano Juice of 1/2 lemon 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil or hemp oil Directions: Place arugula, basil, garlic and hemp seeds in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times until coarsely minced. Add cheese, lemon juice and salt; process until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Through the feed tube, gradually add oil while the machine is running until fully combined. Nutrition score per serving: 207 calories, 19g fat (4g saturated), 2.5g carbs, 6g protein, 0g fiber, 159mg calcium, 1mg iron, 239mg sodium Switch hits: Swap out basil for parsley or cilantro Make vegan pesto by using nutritional yeast instead of cheese Add avocado oil instead of olive oil
Almost every brand of granola in stores includes nuts, so your best bet if you're trying to steer clear of them is to make a batch of your own, which is much simpler than most people think and almost always is fresher tasting than premade. Whole grain quinoa ups the health ante while molasses infuses the granola with wonderfully deep flavor. Mixed with Greek yogurt and berries, this DIY granola makes for a knockout nutritious breakfast. If you want to make sure the recipe is free of gluten, use oats labelled "gluten-free." Serves: 12 Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups rolled oats 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa 1/2 cup shelled unsalted sunflower seeds 1/2 cup shelled unsalted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) 1/3 cup unsulfered molasses (not blackstrap) 1/4 cup melted coconut oil or other oil of choice 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1/4 teaspoon salt Zest of 1 medium orange 1/2 cup dried apricots, sliced 1/2 cup dried cranberries or cherries 1/3 cup dried coconut flakes Directions: 1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together oats, quinoa, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. In a separate bowl, combine molasses, oil, vanilla extract, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and orange zest. Add liquid mixture to oat mixture and stir until all contents are moist. 2. Spread out mixture on a silicone or parchment paper-lined baking sheet and cook for 40 minutes, stirring granola after 20 minutes. Stir in dried apricots, cranberries, and coconut, and continue to cook for 20 minutes more (for a total bake time of 1 hour) until granola is golden brown. Cool granola completely and store in an airtight container for up to 7 days. Nutrition score per serving: 236 calories, 11g fat (6g saturated), 31.5g carbs, 5g protein, 4g fiber, 40mg calcium, 2mg iron, 54mg sodium Switch hits: Drizzle in pure maple syrup instead of molasses Forgo apricots in favor of dried mango Replace the quinoa with millet
Pad Thai is one of the dishes that first comes to mind when thinking of Thai cuisine. Sadly, most North American restaurant versions are little more than a big plate of uninspiring saucy noodles. A good pad Thai will be a medley of carefully matched ingredients that comes together fast with just the right amount of sweet, sour, and salty. Here roasted soy nuts provide the necessary nutty crunch traditionally achieved by peanuts. Soy nuts are rich in protein as well as range of minerals such as magnesium and copper. Serves: 4 Ingredients: 6 ounces rice noodles 2 tablespoons chopped tamarind pulp or 2 tablespoons rice vinegar 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce 1 tablespoons fish sauce 1 tablespoon coconut sugar or honey 1 small red chile pepper, minced or 1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes 1 tablespoon grapeseed or peanut oil 1 pound medium-sized shrimp, peeled 2 cloves garlic, chopped 2 cups bean sprouts, plus more for garnish 3 large eggs, lightly beaten 1/4 cup roasted soy nuts, plus more for garnish 2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced 1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped, for garnish 1 lime, sliced into wedges, for garnish Directions: 1. Prepare noodles according to package directions. 2. If using tamarind, mix pulp with 1/4 cup boiling water in a small bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. Press mixture through a fine sieve and reserve tamarind water. Stir together tamarind water or rice vinegar with soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar or honey, and chili. 3. In a wok or large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and stir-fry until just beginning to turn pink, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add noodles and stir-fry for 1 minute more. Stir in sprouts and tamarind mixture, and stir-fry until noodles have absorbed the sauce, about 1 minute. 4. Push noodle mixture to one side of the pan, add eggs and cook, stirring frequently, until eggs are scrambled, about 1 minute. Add soy nuts and green onions, and combine with noodles and egg. Stir-fry for 1 minute more. 5. Place on serving plates and garnish with additional soy nuts, bean sprouts, and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges. Nutrition score per serving: 390 calories, 9g fat (2g saturated), 52g carbs, 24g protein, 4g fiber, 103mg calcium, 4mg iron, 1,099mg sodium Switch hits: Swap out shrimp for chicken or tofu Try dry roasted edamame instead of soy nuts
Ground flaxseed infuses dessert breads with nutty nuances and significant amounts of beneficial omega fats. Riddled with chocolate chips, nobody will miss the walnuts in this guise of banana bread. Serves: 10 Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour 1/2 cup ground flaxseed 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon allspice 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 large eggs 1/2 cup 2% plain yogurt 1/3 cup pure maple syrup 1/4 cup melted coconut oil or canola oil 3 very ripe bananas, mashed 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips Directions: 1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together flour, ground flaxseed, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs, and stir in yogurt, maple syrup, oil, banana, and vanilla extract. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir gently until everything is moist. Fold in chocolate chips. 2. Pour mixture into a greased 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let loaf cool in pan for 10 minutes before unmolding. Nutrition score per serving: 299 calories, 16g fat (9g saturated), 32.5g carbs, 6g protein, 6g fiber, 69mg calcium, 1mg iron, 210mg sodium Switch hits: Use spelt flour in replace of whole-wheat pastry flour Trade yogurt for reduced-fat sour cream Sweeten the deal with honey instead of maple syrup
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