Nut-Free School? Perfect Sandwich Recipe For Kids & Parents

Nut Free “Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich”

As a plant-based mom, I’m always looking for easy, healthy, tasty meals I can whip up for my son. As with most kids, Laken attends a peanut-free school. This year, his preschool class is completely nut-free, so I’ve had to make some adjustments with my normal lunch offerings.

Luckily, I’ve come upon the perfect solution for the busy parent: hemp & sunflower seed sandwiches! I like to use Food For Life’s Cinnamon Raisin bread, which is made from whole sprouted grains, has no added sugar, and tops out at 3 grams of protein per slice. This is great nutritional value added to the 9-11 grams of protein from the seed butters, depending on how much you use.

I also add a dose of protein, iron, iodine and other trace elements by sprinkling a bit of sea vegetable flakes in between the jam and nut butter. At this small dose, the kids won’t taste anything, but they’re getting an extra kick of minerals. My favorite brand is Sea Seasonings from Maine Coast Sea Vegetables (www.seaveg.com)

Ingredients:

2 slices whole grain bread

2 tablespoons hemp seed butter or sunflower seed butter

¼ teaspoon sea vegetable flakes

2 tablespoons 100% fruit jam

Directions:

I think we all know how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, right folks?

A Vegan Mom Needed Advice On Pre-School Food…So I Answered!

A letter from a vegan mom in my Brooklyn neighborhood:

I’m wondering if any vegan families can share their experience with sending their child to pre-school and dealing with group snacks, cooking projects, etc. Since my son’s dietary restrictions are not allergy-related I am a little reluctant to have him singled out as different or make him feel as though he is being deprived of something other kids are enjoying. (Can a two-year-old understand the ethical reasons for veganism?) On the other hand I don’t really want him to develop an affinity for animal products. One reason I am wondering this now is that some pre-school applications ask about dietary restrictions, and I’m not sure whether to mention this at this point. > > Thanks in advance!

Here’s my answer to her question:

Hello E.,

My son and I are vegan, and we’ve had a great experience at our preschool these last 2 years. We are “ethical vegans,” meaning we don’t have allergies either. I just made it clear to the director and his teachers that we don’t eat animal products. There were a couple of instances where some milk did make it into his cup, but on the whole they have been really great, easy to work with, and aware.

I bring in a box of rice or hemp milk every week so he can have that at snack time. I pack all of his meals and snacks every day. I’ve asked the teachers to let me know when they’re going to do cooking projects, and they let me know 2-3 days in advance so I can help them adjust a “vegan version” for him to help with.

Examples:

- I brought in canned, unsweetened coconut milk and real maple syrup for them to use for a rice pudding recipe.

- They used my vegan broth instead of chicken when making vegetable soup.

There is a big list of every food allergy in the class, and more than half of the class has some food they can’t eat. So it’s really no big deal that Laken is vegan. I think that will be true at most schools. In addition, the other parents have been great in terms of “party days” and birthday celebrations. The other parents or a teacher will let me know if someone is bringing in cupcakes to share, pizza, etc. I have frozen vegan cupcakes in the freezer that I can thaw overnight and send him to school with on the day. I’ll make a really simple frosting out of melted vegan chocolate chips to top it fresh that day.

For pizza parties, which happen 2-3 times a year, there is a local pizza place that will deliver a whole wheat, vegan cheese pizza with Daiya, soy-free cheese. The teachers even loved it! If you don’t have a pizza place in your area that has this option, stop by and speak with the manager and offer them a bag of Daiya. Tell them your family will happily order from them in the future if they’ll start carrying this cheese – it’s a great marketing strategy for pizza places to offer “dairy-free cheese pizza’s” for all the lactose intolerant out there!

In regards to your question about wether a 2 year old can understand your ethical reasons for not consuming animal products, I believe that kids have a natural love for animals. From the beginning, I have talked with my son about how we love animals, how they are our friends, and how we don’t eat our friends. He gets it, and it wasn’t hard. I don’t tell him that other people are bad for eating animals, I just tell him we don’t. A couple of resources that made this really easy:

Charlotte’s Web

The Black Stallion

That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals

Bear Feels Scared

So, if you have any more questions, feel free to ask. There are more ideas and recipes in my 2 books Living Vegan For Dummies and Vegan Cooking For Dummies, which are both available online and at bookstores.

Be well, Alex

Healthy Kids: The 5 Most Dangerous Foods to Feed Your Child

I’m always looking for great ideas on how to feed my son easily, healthfully and deliciously.

I also counsel families and clients on how to best feed their kids with Crohn’s, asthma, constipation, and food sensitivities.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman posted this great list up on his site and I wanted to send it out for all y’all:

The Five Most Dangerous Foods to Feed Your Child

1. Butter and Cheese – full of saturated fat and fat delivered chemical pollutants

2. Potato Chips and French Fries – rich in trans fat, salt, and carcinogenic acrylamides

3. Doughnuts and other trans fat – containing sweets – rich in trans fat, sugar, and other artificial substances

4. Sausages, hot dogs, and other luncheon meats – containg N-nitroso compounds that are potent carcinogens

5. Pickled, smoked, or barbequed meats – places you at risk of both stomach cancer and high blood pressure

Get your children hooked on healthy foods instead! Here’s my recipe for Baked Kale Chips that kids love to eat & make:

Thanks Dr. Fuhrman!

(Dr. Fuhrman’s supplements for healthy kids and pregnancy are the best, by the way!)

Daycare Dilemma: Food Coloring Crisis

My son Laken attends a wonderful daycare here in our Brooklyn neighborhood. The teachers are kind, fun, and attentive, the director is hands-on, creative, and energetic. I enjoy the other parents and kids, and I’ve even stopped by the 3/4′s classroom to give a little talk about healthy vegetables.

Sometimes our plant-based, natural food diet causes a wrinkle for the school, but I have found them to be very responsive and supportive of our food choices. (I guess I should say MY food choices – L would probably love to eat ice cream all day long!)

A few weeks ago the teachers posted a sign-up sheet for us parents to get involved in a fruit salad project. Parents signed up to bring in different fruits of different colors. Great! I thought – fruit salad! What a great cooking project!

And then I realized most of the foods on the list are on the Dirty Dozen list - the most sprayed, highest pesticide-residue foods available.

Gulp.

What’s a natural-leaning mom to do? I decided to take action. I printed off 30 copies of the Dirty Dozen/Clean 15 produce lists and put them in every kid’s mailbox so their parents would see which foods should be purchased organic. Then I posted one next to the sign-up sheet that parents saw as they reached the classroom.

The next issue at hand? The teachers also wanted a parent to bring in whipped cream and food coloring to top off the fruit salad! Ugh. My first thought was “why??!!!”

Why teach our kids to top off sweet fruit with sugary whipped cream, colored with man-made, possibly toxic food coloring?

Here’s my problem with artificial food colorings:

Many studies have determined a link between artificial food coloring and cancer, brain tumors, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), and other behavior disorders, especially in children. It’s probably the tar and hydrocarbon derivatives as well as petrochemicals used to manufacture artificial food coloring.

I decided to take the middle road. I put my name down on the line for “whipped cream/food coloring” and rushed to the phone. I called the good people at www.naturalcandystore.com and asked them to send me their           natural food coloring kit,

so I could give it to the school. Then I bought some

Soyatoo Rice Whip from www.veganessentials.com for the class to mix up with the food coloring – it’s not the healthiest thing on earth, but it’s a lot better than Cool Whip, and it’s dairy- and HFCS-free.

See…I can compromise! I thought it was better to bring in alternatives and show the other parents that there are alternative products for their families, too.

The coolest thing? The teachers loved what I brought in! Now they’re using the natural food coloring to make playdough with the kids, and the director is aware of the websites and alternative products. It’s all working out in the end.

We’ll eat extra broccoli to make up for the whipped rice-cream…

Lentil Soup for the Soul

Vegan Lentil Souplentil soup

This recipe is amazing – very simple, very inexpensive to make, but with a HUGE payoff. It costs about $10 to make 10 servings of this organic soup. My 2.5 year old son loves it, and it packs more nutritional punch than that organic canned soup line I used to buy.

brown lentils

Ingredients

1 TB organic olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium yellow onion, small dice

1 carrot, small dice

1 celery stalk with leaves, small dice

6 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, washed and diced

1 teaspoon salt

½ pound brown lentils, washed and drained

4 cups No-Chicken organic vegetable stock

Extra water as needed

Directions

  1. Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.
  2. Stir in the garlic and warm until the garlic becomes fragrant.
  3. Add the onion, carrot, celery, mushrooms and salt. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Add the lentils and stock*, plus enough water to cover the veggies and lentils by one inch.
  5. Raise the heat to medium-high to bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.

*Optional: stir in 1 cup chopped spinach, or ½ cup diced yams or butternut squash

** For kiddo’s lunch, pre-heat a thermos with hot water in the morning and re-heat the soup for a few minutes. Pour out the water and fill with warm soup. Will provide a warming, satisfying school lunch.

One easy way to make school lunches healthier!

I live in New York City. It’s an amazing, maddening place to live. There are more health food stores and vegan-friendly restaurants per square mile than anywhere else on earth. Still, we have our health problems, especially in the public schools.

It’s bad enough that public schools offer high-fat, over-salted, artificially sweetened food to kids every day. Did you know they also serve that junk on single-use Styrofoam trays?

I have 2 major issues with using Styrofoam food trays for kids:

1. Health Impact: Styrofoam is known to leach polystyrene and BPA into food. Why does this matter? According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), styrene was reported as having a “possible carcinogenic effect to humans.” BPA is a controversial chemical linked to hormone disruption and cancer.

 2. Environmental: According to the New York City public school system, 850,000 of these Styrofoam trays are thrown away every day – after being used for about 30 minutes!

 

Sign the petition to Mayor Mike Bloomberg (“the green mayor?”) and the City Counsel to request that this crazy system be changed for our kids and the planet’s health: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/SOSnyc/

Because Styrofoam is cheap, lightweight and easy to use, the school systems began buying them en masse in the early 1990s. According to SOSnyc.org, or Styrofoam Out of Schools NYC, NYC Council Member, Bill DeBlasio, has introduced legislation to ban Styrofoam in NYC restaurants and city agencies (this bill does not cover NYC schools). They are working with his staff on planning a City Hall rally for the fall, 2009.

The alternatives at this point are:

  1. An immediate reduction in Styrofoam tray use. Every kid gets a tray even if they’re only buying a wrapped sandwich and a carton of juice. Why is this necessary? High school kids could handle a plate without a tray, and younger kids don’t all need a tray.
  2. Reusable, washable trays are the best solution. Kids need to learn that living in a throwaway society is no longer an option, and they need to understand the impact of their actions.
  3. Compostable single-use trays are available.
    1. It is safer for the kids to eat off of Bagasse or sugar cane trays, which are available for an additional cost of about .03 each. However, if the trays are not composted, their disposal is similar to other single-use products. Sugar cane is a renewable resource. The fibers being used for the sugar cane trays would be burned, otherwise. Still, the Sunshine trays are shipped from Asia.
    2. Power Tray, LLC is working on a new tray systems that would be made from locally sourced fibers from New York State. For more information, contact:

                                               i.     Jay Hilbish – Powertray Jayhilbish@power-tray.com

For more information, contact: http://www.SOSnyc.org/FullStory.html

 

Be well,

Keep up the good fight,

Alexandra

alex@nutritionforempoweredwomen.com