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”

  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!

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