With preschool classes starting up, parents once again have to choose their children’s snacks carefully to comply with the varying food restrictions at schools and care centres.
West Shore Parks and Recreation, like most facilities, has been ‘nut aware’ for a number of years with the uprising of serious peanut and other nut allergies.
“Most of our classes are ‘nut aware,’” says Karen Frost, recreation co-ordinator for the centre. “And all of our kids have a medical form, so if one child does have a severe allergy, we send home letters to all the parents to let them know what they can bring.”
Frost suggests fruit, crackers and cheese or yogurt for quick and healthy snacks parents can put together. “We don’t want any candy, high sugar content, chocolate, gum, any of that sort of thing.”
For other facilities, restrictions can be more stringent, such as at the parent-run Oak Bay Preschool.
“We are dairy, egg, gluten and nut free,” says Julita Traylen, who has a four-year-old daughter at the preschool.
The centre has several children with severe or anaphylactic allergies, and the strict food policy gives parents peace of mind that there’s no chance of an allergen popping up in the classroom.
But while those restrictions may ease parents who have to constantly check for allergens, those whose kids can eat anything often have a hard time thinking of healthy and quick alternatives to granola bars, peanut butter sandwiches and cheese and crackers.
“It’s tough for parents who don’t live with (severe allergies) every day,” adds Traylen.
Chopped up fruits and veggies, dried apple or banana chips, hummus, rice crackers and bean and lentil dips are all quick and easy options for school time snacks, she suggests.
“I personally bake vegan muffins and cookies with lots of seeds and oats and dried fruit. That’s our go-to snack.”
Wherever parents decide to send their kids for preschool and care, it’s a good idea to learn what food restrictions are in place and why before packing up the day’s snacks. There could be a life-threatening allergy in the classroom.