An Elementary School Snack List – Nut-Free

As I mentioned in a “school lunch” post last year, my daughter’s elementary school is peanut/tree nut-free. Not only are peanuts and tree nuts not allowed, but foods made in factories that handle nuts are not allowed either. As a result, the school sends out a “safe snack” list so parents know what store-bought snacks are “safe” and approved.

When I first got a hold of this list last year my eyes just about bugged out of my head. Fresh off our original “100 Days of Real Food” pledge, I felt compelled to sit down and count how many snack suggestions I would consider to be “real food approved.”

Out of the 200 or so safe snack suggestions only 17 items, approximately 7%, were “real” whole foods. The rest were highly processed including suggestions like Wendy’s Frosties, Skittles, Oreos, Fritos, Airheads, Cheese Puffs, Twizzlers, Chips Ahoy, and Gummy Bears (for a morning snack for little kids!!). I knew I couldn’t just sit around and complain. I had to get involved and try to change things.

So I met with the principal and assistant principal last spring and as soon as I said the word “food” they of course thought I wanted to address the food in the cafeteria. They don’t have control over what is served for breakfast or lunch, but I told them that was just fine because I actually had a long list of other things I wanted to address first including…

  • The school’s “safe snack” list, which is full of highly processed snack suggestions
  • Student rewards and activities, which commonly involve junk food like “Popsicles with the Principal” and “Skittle Sort” (why not a button sort?)
  • Students are also commonly served cupcakes, cookies, and other treats for birthdays and celebrations in the classroom. Occasionally even more than one dessert treat a day is served on top of treats that are brought in from home and/or purchased in the cafeteria.
  • School fundraising events that encourage students and their families to dine at locations such as Donatos Pizza and Chick-fil-A.
  • Box Top class rewards that include a pizza party, Krispy Kreme Donut party, and a cupcake decorating party
Click image to download the “Elementary School Safe Snack List”

Those are just a few of the observations that alarmed me last year, which was our first year with a child in elementary school. It was also our first school year after deciding to cut out all highly processed food, so I guess one could say I was highly sensitive to it all.

Anyway, I was thrilled that the principal immediately handed me the reins of the “safe snack” list without a problem. I then partnered with another mom to come up with an addendum to the list because while they said we could add items to it we could not take anything away.

They said if Krispy Kreme donuts were not on the list as being nut-free then someone would surely send in Dunkin’ Donuts. But a compromise was fine with me. We can keep all the junk on there if we can also put our “healthy snack” addendum smack dab on the front…because I consider that progress.

So without further ado, here is a link to the “snack list addendum” that another mom and I worked very hard to create. Whether you want to use these snack ideas for your school or just for inspiration when packing your own kids snacks please feel free to use the list however you choose.

I’ve already turned it into our principal and so far she says it looks great. I was a little worried the description of “real food” versus “not real food” might offend some parents, but I figured I would let the principal make that call. We have our back-to-school orientation this week, and I am very anxious to see if they actually use our list with the “safe snack” handouts…keeping my fingers crossed!

Next up I hope to address the issue of all the junk food that’s used for rewards and activities by coming up with a list of alternatives. I will keep you posted on the progress!

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256 thoughts on “An Elementary School Snack List – Nut-Free”

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  1. The fruit suggestions are great! Although as a parent of a nut-allergic child, many of the items listed as real food snacks and many Trader Joe’s snacks on the list are not nut-free. It is a great step forward that schools are trying to adhere to nut-free policies and that you have taken this on to further educate and help parents with the daily snack dilemma.

  2. I love this post and I think it’s really important for parents to have “all” the information in regards to this kind of stuff. It’s so great that you could get some more real food suggestions out there.
    Just a little thought. I get that there are all of these food rewards at school that are not real food and really very much junk most of the time. However, when you were listing off all of that, it struck me because I remember some of those food rewards being the only time my family or other family’s got to go out to eat. We couldn’t always afford to go out to do anything and certainly couldn’t afford to go to a nice restaurant that had real food selections. Getting a certificate for a free meal at chick fil à because I got straight A’s meant we got to go out and do something fun. My mom made mostly real food meals at home and we always had enough to eat and such, but doing activities out of the house was nice, and food rewards made that possible. I love your blog and I love that you try to make real healthy food achievable for any family. I think it’s totally possible to have great real food on a budget. But I think not all of these food activities are necessarily bad. Some kids don’t really get a chance to do much out of the house and making it cheaper by them earning it through school means a fun time for the whole family.

  3. We used to do a cultural day in school. I went to a school where the majority of the kids were military dependants. We had a lot of kids who had at least one parent from another country including me. I can’t remember any of the food being processed junk. It was a potluck lunch. It was always so much fun and taught us about other cultures.

  4. Great. Thanks so much! Please advise a grandparent who wants to order an occasional box of healthy snacks for a
    first grade classroom’s morning start from a local supplier. Best bets: milk, fruit … fresh, dried, juice, other???
    Some arrive having had no breakfast!
    I will act on this weekly.

  5. I am wondering if anyone has had experience with having teachers or admins be responsive to a list. My child’s recommended snack list included Cheetos, rice crispie treats, cookies, and doughnuts to name a few. The kids rotate bringing in a snack for the class daily. I don’t know if I go to the teacher first because that is the list the teachers came up with or if I go to the principal…. Just curious others experiences….

  6. Thank you for this list and for speaking up.
    I am amazed by the junk people send into school for their kids to eat. Our kids are supposed to bring a healthy snack daily for mid-morning. My daughter comes home asking why she can’t have Oreos like Hailey or Cheetos like Leah.
    I would love if more parents would pay attention to the part of the school notice that said “healthy.”

  7. Love the idea and the list. I did want to note that pine nuts are seeds not nuts, so I wasnt sure why the ding on the roasted pine nut hummus…

    1. Some people with nut allergies do have reactions to pine nuts. Little is currently known about how often this occurs or how common pine nut allergy is. Therefore, people with nut allergies are told to avoid pine nuts. Therefore, I would keep your note on your list. Parents would thank you.

  8. I teach as a Community Educator, and at my new sites one of the first things instilled with the after school leaders is to ditch the candy. Many of them are basically training our children with snacks like a pet, or what I call “candy bribery”. My heart sank the other day when I met a new group of 8 year olds, most of who already could use major dental restoration work. And there was a “leader” walking around with a HUGE bag of Smarties, using the sugar as a means of discipline :(

  9. thank you for your time and your list. As an allergy mom I cringe at the word “pretzel” the reason why brands are in the label is because everyone non allergy tends to not read them and brings in an item that is made in a peanut facility. Think about your apples? Do you cut them with a knife that you use to spread peanut butter on bread? Our school is not peanut free and I do love your blog and have your book. But, I hope that everything you put on your list has been investigated to be peanut free. We actually don’t shop at trader kids for most items because 90% is made in a peanut facility. I hope that we can all find a common goal to eat healthy and keep our kids safe. I would hate it if your child was the one with an item that put my child in the hospital and possibly ended his life.

  10. Thank you for this! Our daughter is starting a new school in January that is nut-free. In addition to packing her lunch each day, each family is required to bring the morning snack for the class two weeks out of the year. Now we can find a variety of real foods that are safe for the class!

  11. I am a grandma. I just ate a school lunch for grandparents day last Monday with some grandkids of mine. It left quite a bit to be desired. I understand the “g
    ist” of the change, but someone needs to get creative. I say this as I remember the young boy walking nonchalanty by the trash and dumping his mini carrots without ever sitting down!.

  12. this is what my children’s school thinks is good, healthy food.
    This list is because some kids have allergies!
    This list is ONLY what we can pack for our kids for holiday parties, for snacks in school, etc.
    Everything on this list is not real food, gmo laden junk.
    i will not support these companies.

    kellogs poptarts (fruit flavors only)
    jello brand gelatin cups (no pudding)
    hunts lemon flavor pudding
    popsicle brand popsicles
    100 calorie right bites- keebler mini stripe cookies
    oreo cookies original flavor
    golden oreos
    teddy grahma
    lorne doone cookies
    kellogs or betty crocker fruit gummies
    goldfish crackers
    kellogs rice crispie treats
    barnums animal crackers
    wheat thins, keebler or saltines brand crackers
    rold gold pretzels ( no other brand accepted)
    sun chips
    lays original chips
    ocean spray original cranberries
    cheez its
    dum dum lollipops
    capri sun drinks
    handi snacks, ritz crackers n cheese dip, mr. salty pretzels n cheese dip, breadsticks n cheese dip
    keebler scooby doo graham cracker sticks
    fritos corn chips (original flavor)
    special k bars ( vanilla, chocolate drizzle, strawberry only)
    pop tarts mini crisps
    pre packaged apple slices
    apple sauce, bannana, orange, watermelon, cherries, grapes

    This list is iron clad, no deviation. no organic yogurt, no cheese, no pears, nectarines, peaches or organic pretzels, nothing from whole foods. only poison!

    This is a disgrace.

    We only eat organic which 95% of this list cannot be eaten by my kids.
    So because I eat organic I am discriminated against.

  13. This is yet another attempt by the Fed. to dictate, pure and simple. It is the opinion of the government that noone has the ability to make a decision except the government. With the current state of the education system, I would suggest that you educate your children at home whenever possible. And feed them what you can. My Grandmother always said, “a child will eat what his body needs, you need only to provide.” Current environments is mostly hostile to learning, with education, only, in those areas APPROVED by government agencies. REMOVE the federal government from the education system, except for financial support. Those systems not “doing it right” will perish rapidly.

  14. As said above the safe list is now unsafe. Peanuts are not a nut they are a legume. So giving a child edamame, legumes, garbanzo beans will send them to the hospital. So while they are healthy they are very dangerous to some children AND adults. Soy products included. I hope this list is corrected and some of those items are taken off the list.

  15. Well isnt it a good thing that peanuts are not from the NUT family. Good to see that Legumes which peanuts ARE apart of the Legume family are listed on this list. Its been proven that taking removing and becoming “nut free” does not solve any problems as a child with Anaphylaxis.. Its starting to get beyond ridiculous at how many REAL FOOD items that my sons school is removing… this is my sons current list this yr BLUE BERRIES, STRAW BERRIES, ALL STONE FRUIT, WHOLE EGGS and GRAPES….

  16. –I was super excited when I first saw this, but upon review, I would be concerned if this showed up at our school as a “nut-free” list of foods that could be given to nut-allergic children. Some of the items are way too risky for children with nut allergies. For example, your suggestion of “unsweetened raisins” is too vague. Specific brand names are needed, especially as it relates to dried fruit (as this is a particularly risky food item given cross-contact with nuts in facilities and in bulk food containers at grocery stores that are improperly cleaned).
    –In addition, the disclaimer to “check the labels to ensure the product is not processed in a facility that also processes nuts” is highly problematic. Facility statements like these are optional. Manufacturers do NOT need to include “may contain” or facility statements on labeling. Unfortunately, just because it doesn’t have one of those statements doesn’t make it safe. See this website for more info on current labeling laws:
    –Finally, if fresh foods are prepared in a kitchen containing nuts, special procedures need to be followed to avoid cross-contact for nut-allergic children. For example, if the same knife that chopped pecans is then used to slice an apple… the apple slices may now contain trace amounts of nut protein (and therefore can trigger an allergic reaction). Proper washing and food handling is required. Here is more information on this:
    –Thank you for encouraging us all to eat healthier. Please forgive me if this is duplicate information. I see you’ve received lots of comments!

  17. What my kids eat is absolutely, 100%, up to me. Not you. Not Michelle Obama. Where someone else’s life is at risk, I will absolutely make changes to what my kids bring to school. Otherwise, you mind your tofu and I’ll mind mine. My kids are allowed to have sugar & that is none of your concern. You do NOT get to dictate what is given as a reward in public school on my behalf. Ever.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree. This is not hostility or venom…’s the parent’s prerogative to decide what their child’s lunch should be, not the federal govenement’s. Are we to assume that parents are ignorant or totally incapable of providing their children with appropriate meals, given their intimate knowledge of their children? What arrogance. The state doesn’t have the right to decide what my child should be required to eat. After all, the state has approved the food pyramid, a faulty paradigm, at best.

    2. I think these are suggestions. Rather than sending home a list with nothing but crap suggestions on it, this list gives parents some healthy suggestions. They are still allowed to send in crap, as long as it doesn’t contain the allergens. I think it’s great! Even if they were the only snacks allowed – good! People can pump their kids full of crap foods when they get home, if that’s what they really want to do.

    3. psht. ‘Sugar’ would be the least of the evils in some food that parents consider acceptable . Here’s an FYI – your kid acts different when they get MSG, TBHQ, BHT, artificial colors, artificial flavors and preservatives etc etc. those things have a real affect on the body of a child with an as of yet undeveloped nervous system or blood brain barrier. I can hear it a mile away and tell you which spazzy little spazzos need a diet change for the sake of the people who have to put up with them and their self control and focus ‘issues’. I can’t even imagine trying to be a teacher to a room full of kids who are off in toxic land. The kids who constantly eat like that don’t even realize they’re ‘drunk’ because there has been a constant supply of garbage food since they could say ‘chicken mc nugget’. Have fun living in your fantasy world… But sending an unruly, disruptive, attention span-less kid to school is not just ‘your tofu’. It’s everyone’s. And if u think food doesn’t do that stuff, talk to me when you’ve solidly eliminated anything artificial for a week…if u even can when your kid acts like a demonized detoxing heroin addict and demands their drug of choice!

  18. I’m reading and enjoying all the different points of view in the comments. The snack list is wonderful and I was delighted to see some affordable choices, including fruits and vegetables. No matter how affluent a school’s base population of families may be, I guarantee you that there will be a couple of families who are trying desperately to stretch food stamps and very limited funds. It was fantastic to see that this list is sensitive to that struggle in all families.
    One thing that caught my eye is how upset people are that some schools ban home-made treats in the school, allowing only food from a commercial bakery. The reason for that is usually a concern about Hepatitis being transmitted through food from home. Yes, I know, it seems like overkill, but a school district can and will require their own food service employees to have a physical. This includes, pardon me for being blunt to the point of gross, a stool sample that is tested for such pathogens. Same for commercial food preparation–there are safeguards in place that are supposed to guarantee that such contamination is impossible. It isn’t possible to know that whoever prepared food at home: A. Does not have Hepatitis A. B. Washed their hands properly C. Wore gloves while preparing food.
    I know, I know,it seems ridiculous and insulting, but it goes back to Lisa’s school principal-“If Krispy Kreme donuts are not on the list, someone will send Dunkin’ Donuts.” You can’t guarantee the behavior of anyone who isn’t employed by a commercial food preparation source. Yes, I know you can’t even guarantee that, but the thinking behind these rules is that at least there are fewer sources of possible contamination, so it could quickly be identified and eliminated.
    This was pretty widely reported upon when these rules began to become commonplace 7 or 8 years ago. It only takes one or two outbreaks of Hepatitis A for school districts to react or overreact.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hello Erin. Conventional grocery stores usually carry sugar free. Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Earth Fare and the like all carry varieties. Gogo applesauce, I believe, is two ingredients: apple and apple juice concentrate. ~Amy

  19. I just received our school’s approved snack list yesterday and like you stated, my eyes just about bugged out of my head. It’s filled with processed food. What makes matters worse, my child is gluten free, and about 90% of the list is gluten based junk. Also, my daughter relies heavily on frequent protein snacks because she is very sensitive to blood sugar fluctuations. There is not a single snack on the list that is a good source of protein. OK, soy butter and sun butter. But that’s it! I just finished emailing a letter to the superintendant, asking for concessions as long as there are no allergens in our snacks. I’m anxiously awaiting her reply.

  20. Thank You!!! For Popcorn, I would like to suggest that it specify plain popcorn or popcorn with real butter and salt or something to that effect. I know too many people who would just buy microwaved popcorn with who knows what flavor if they saw that popcorn was ok.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi there. Here are our terms of use: and in particular, here is an excerpt:

      “Printed Materials:

      You may physically print material to share with your friends, a work or church group, etc. in limited numbers, provided that you clearly state “Courtesy of” at the top or bottom of EACH page (in a header or footer), and provided of course that you do not sell the material for any fee or compensation.”

  21. Hi,
    Thank you for this post. I am a new to your site and really enjoyed this article on “real food” in school. I have tried very hard to keep our family diet VERY CLEAN and even then am just discovering my daughter (age 4) is showing signs of several food sensitivities. My twin boys recently came home with a “wagon wheel” as a “treat” from their teacher for doing a job well done. A WAGON WHEEL? Really? They are in a new school and in grade one and we just moved to a large city from a small town and this is new to us. I was unaware teachers gave (what I call) poison as a treat. I was instantly angry and my son sadly gave me his “treat” after I explained, again, how sugar affects our bodies. After discussing this with his teacher it was left that my boys will be given something different as a reward. Now I have singled them out amongst their peers because I believe in raising healthy kids? How does that work? (Sarcasm)
    Thank you for posting this. At this moment I feel as if I am the only parent in their class that is actually aware of what “real food” is. I hope I am wrong.