Chicago mom of two, Kim Lutz, co-founder of Welcoming Kitchen
Consulting, is out with a new book just in time for all of the
holiday and school celebrations. Welcoming Kitchen: 200
Delicious Allergen- & Gluten-Free Vegan Recipes (Sterling,
2011). She shares a yummy, kid-friendly recipe.
Apple Pie Muffins
If you want a deeper, richer sugar flavor, use dark brown sugar;
light brown sugar will be less intense.
Makes 12 muffins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Oil a standard muffin pan.
In a medium bowl, combine oat flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, salt,
cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir with a whisk.
In a large bowl, combine applesauce with ½ tsp. baking
Add flaxseed meal, oil, brown sugar and rice milk.
Mix dry ingredients into applesauce, one half at a time.
Add apples. Stir to combine.
Divide batter into muffin pan.
Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the
middle of a muffin comes out clean.
Oat-free variation: Replace oat flour with 2 cups gluten-free
all-purpose flour plus 1 tsp. xanthan gum.
Looking for allergy-friendly items for parties and activities?
Food allergies in the classroom often are the cause of
confusion, worry and controversy among parents of both allergic and
Party organizers may not know what to serve to the class-some
parents want to bring in homemade items, but aren't sure what is
"safe." Teachers don't know if they should still use M&Ms to
teach simple math concepts.
Even certain craft projects, such as the ever-popular peanut
butter bird feeder, are suddenly off-limits.
Unfortunately, misinformation and misunderstandings can be more
than inconvenient-allergens in the classroom can trigger
potentially life-threatening food allergy reactions.
With 1 in 12 U.S. children reported to have a food allergy by
the journal Pediatrics (and nearly half of those kids experiencing
a severe allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis), the odds are better
than ever that food allergies will be a factor in local classrooms
So how do you limit food without sacrificing class parties,
plain old classmate bonding and even sometimes, important
If you're a teacher or a parent helping out, start by educating
yourself about allergies. If you're the parent of an allergic
child, educate those around your child.
Cindy McCarty, a Girl Scout leader and substitute teacher in the
western suburbs, has dealt with severe food allergies among
students and says she is happy to accommodate food allergy needs,
but she appreciates being pointed in the right direction.
"The best thing that parents can do is to give me a heads-up
about the allergy right away," the mother of two nonallergic kids
says. "Tell me where to find safe foods and what to look for when
reading food labels. So many times, it's simply a matter of knowing
what I'm looking for."
She's also ready to remove a project or food for allergic troop
members. "If we have allergies in the troop, we eliminate certain
things right off the bat," she says.
Parents and teachers can also switch to nonfood products in the
Carrie Burk, whose 4-year-old daughter is allergic to peanuts,
sees both sides of the allergy equation. Before she had her
daughter, she was a fourth-grade teacher at an Itasca school with
several food-allergic students.
"As a teacher, I know that food does motivate a lot of kids,"
she says. To make the classroom safe for all, Burk found new ways
to motivate, teach and reward-without using food as a tool. One of
Burk's most popular student rewards was a balloon toss for
birthdays, where she had kids bring in balloons instead of cupcakes
At Burk's daughter's preschool in Oswego, there also has been a
shift away from food treats. "Most parents bring in nonedible
treats such as pencils, stickers and balloons," she says.
Joyce Davis, a Gurnee mom of a peanut-allergic sixth-grader,
says it is a huge help when parents of nonallergic kids are open to
accepting class party customs that don't always feature allergenic
foods as the central focus.
"Every parent remembers when they were kids and they brought
homemade cookies and cupcakes to school. It's not the same world,"
Davis says. "Food allergies can be severe and people can die."
In fact, it was a peanut allergy-related death in Chicago late
last year that caused changes at her daughter's elementary school
on Chicago's North side, says Tracey Mayer, the mother of a
first-grader with multiple food allergies.
Following the death of a girl at a neighboring school, "Our
school floundered through many new allergy rules and mandates,"
Mayer says. Eventually, the administrators and parents decided to
limit the amount of food used in class activities.
The new, less food-focused events such as "Electronics Day"
(where kids get to bring an iPod, etc.), scavenger hunts, longer
recess periods and "No Homework" passes have been a hit.
"Some of the teachers commented that the kids enjoy these
activities just as much, if not more, than the food treats," says
Class parties present challenges in classrooms with
food-allergic students, to be sure, but what about when food plays
a role in art projects or science experiments?
Science educators like Kelly Vaiculius, a science center
facilitator at La Grange District 102, says food allergies are
taken into account for experiments and activities without
sacrificing any of the learning opportunities.
"Kids don't miss out on any of the science since they complete
the lab work," she says. "Most kids these days are savvy enough to
understand that changes are made to keep them-or their
classmates-safe and that they don't usually affect the group and
the learning experience."
In her years as a teacher, Burk says that while foods are often
the go-to for certain educational activities (such as using
M&Ms for math), it's just as easy to use an inedible item. In
fact, de-emphasizing sugary treats may have long-term health
benefits, especially important when childhood obesity and juvenile
diabetes are also on the rise.
"It's not just a food allergy aspect, it's a health one," says
Burk. "Instead of focusing on what foods students can't have in the
classroom, I think we can promote healthier eating."
Jenny Kales is a freelance writer and mother of two from La Grange Park. She also is the creator of the award-winning blog, “The Nut-Free Mom,” nut-freemom.com and is always happy to contribute allergy-friendly food to a class party.
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