It's not unexpected to get a notice at the beginning of the school year or see a note in your daycare information letting you know the building or classroom is peanut and tree nut free.
Peanut and tree nut allergies both fall within the top 8 most common allergens and can produce some pretty severe reactions.
For small children, avoiding and understanding allergens can be difficult, so keeping buildings nut free for younger kids takes away a bit of the massive workload teachers already deal with.
It also takes away some of the stress for parents who are sending their children into the care of others.
Hearing that your child can’t have their favorite pb&j forlunch or granola bar for snack can be frustrating and may bring up feelings of anger for being inconvenienced, but as an allergy mom - THANK YOU!
It is so, SO appreciated knowing that other parents will take steps to make sure my baby is in a safe environment away from me while he learns how to manage his allergy on his own.
You can’t send peanut butter, so what CAN you send?
There are so many (pea)nut butter alternatives on the market now and, personally, I think a few of them are much better than peanut butter! I have 5 alternatives to share and will rate them - based on my experience and tastes - from “worst” to best.
None of these are bad and I would (and do) eat them all, but I prefer some more than others for reasons such as nutrition, value, flavor, and versatility!
My least favorite. While this is a nut butter, and schools are typically peanut AND tree nut free, I included it because it might be allowed in some buildings and is becoming a popular alternative.
This gets last place because it is typically the most expensive, harder to find than other alternatives, and... gross. I like cashews, but I do not like them pureed.
This nut butter contains very little protein and has almost no fiber - both of which growing kiddos can benefit from! I also don’t think it makes a suitable substitute for peanut butter in recipes.
I really have little to say about cashew butter. It’s a fine alternative, but would definitely not be my first choice.
Again, a nut butter that may or may not be allowed in snacks and lunches. I really struggle to find brands that do not contain peanut contamination and some stricter policies don’t allow anything with cross contamination.
This option is also on the more expensive end of the spectrum BUT it is available nearly everywhere. I have no issues finding at least one brand on store shelves whileshopping.
Almond butter is nutritionally similar to peanut butter. Most jarred brands contain very minimal ingredients, and that’s ifthey contain more than just almonds. However, I find the flavor to be fairly bland.
The consistency and flavor are not at all similar to peanut butter, so if you’re looking for a substitute that your child won’t notice, this isn’t it.
I have yet to find an almond butter that doesn’t cement my mouth shut and make me need to chase it with a gallon of water!
It can be very dry and heavy! . It works well as a substitute in some recipes such as energy balls/protein bites or granola bars.
Chickpea butter is a newer alternative to the market! It is incredibly difficult to get a hold of if you’re not in a metro area and it is on the expensive side.
From my research, they market the brands as free from all 8 top allergens, which makes this a GREAT choice for daycares and schools.
Nutritionally, compared to peanut butter, it has less protein and more carbs and contains more ingredients than the rest of the substitutes.
On the other hand, it tastes great! I haven’t tried using it in recipes and I’m not sure it would work too well, but on a sandwich with some jam - two thumbs up from me! I LOVE chickpeas and I’m happy to see this new spread coming to stores.
A VERY popular choice for families seeking a peanut free spread - sunflower (or just “sun”) butter.
This option is very easy to find in stores and is generally safe for all allergies. It’s slightly more expensive than peanut butter. A lot of families say their pb loving kids love sun butter the most, but we find it to be thinner, oily, and it has a gritty texture even in the “creamy” options.
I also think it tastes too salty to be compared to peanut butter, but the flavor is nice. It pairs well with jelly on a sandwich, and makes a great substitute in recipes.
Just know it must be refrigerated after opening - personally, I don’t enjoy refrigerating spreads.
In terms of nutrition, it has more calories and fat than peanut butter while offering lower carbs. There are very minimal added ingredients, and it can be found in multiple flavors and textures!
Something fun - if you use sun butter to make “peanut butter” cookies, the insides of the cookies will turn green from a chemical reaction with added baking soda/powder!
My absolute favorite pb alternative! There are many families who choose to avoid soy and it’s also a common allergen, so I understand this may be a controversial choice, but for us it’s a non-issue.
Soy butter offers the same calories, fats, carbs,and protein as peanut butter BUTsoy is a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential proteins and amino acids the body needs!
It’s a great choice nutritionally whether or not you need a peanut alternative. It also contains minimal added ingredients and I have yet to find a brand that isn’t top 8 free.
Soy butter is the easiest option to find in stores. There are countless brands available, and there is so much variety between the brands - crunchy, creamy, chocolate (think hazelnut spread!), cinnamon...so many choices!
It is comparable in price to peanut butter and I find the texture to be almost exactly the same while the flavor isn’t too far off.
I use it as a 1:1 substitute in any recipe with no issues. I definitely recommend giving this one a try!
You’ve picked an alternative, now what?
You’re probably wondering what you can do with your nut butter alternative besides slapping it on some bread but really, most of these options can be used in the same way as peanut butter!
Keep It Simple
My family loves using soy and sun butter as a dip for apples and bananas. We make sandwiches and spread it on toasted waffles or put it on a tortilla with a banana, roll it up, and cut it into slices!
Branch Out A Little
Muddy buddies orpuppy chow, whatever the name in your region, soy butter works SO well as a substitute in this recipe!
To mix it up sometimes, we make them like rice krispy treats with a melted marshmallow/butter mixture and top with extra powdered sugar.
Protein/energy balls are a popular Pinterest snack and can be made with any blended spread you have.
They’re commonly made with peanut butter because of the nutritional value but each alternative offers its own benefits and you can adjust your other ingredients to fill in any gaps.
Warm peanut butter cookies and milk were always a favorite treat of mine, but now I enjoy warm soy or sun butter cookies just the same!
The soy butter creates an almost identical cookie, while the sunflower butter offers a sweet and salty cookie (that can even turn green with the right ingredients!).
I haven’t tried it yet, but I bet the chickpea butter would make a fantastic cookie as well!
Don’t Want To Make Something Yourself?
Options are limited and on the expensive side, but there are a couple candies available from allergy friendly companies that imitate popular candies on the market. Free2Be, No Whey, and Enjoy Life all provide top 8+ candies and candy imitations safe for schools and daycares!
There are a decent amount of brands that cater to food allergies and restricted diets. We have been able to find granola bars, granolacereal, cookies, cracker snacks, and so much more to replace foods typically unsafe for our peanut allergic kiddo.
Or Skip The Alternatives!
Don’t like the choices at your grocery store? Kiddo not accepting anything other than peanut butter with their jelly? Skip it! Make something completely different for snack and lunch!
-Lunchmeat, peppers, and hummus in a wrap
-Build your own pizzas with na’an (and sauce, cheese, preferred toppings…)
-DIY Lunchables with crackers, meat, and cheese slices
-Cream cheese andfruit sandwiches (smashed berries and cucumbers are popular)
-Waffles or pancakes with your favorite breakfast meat and fruit
-Salad with grilled chicken and bread on the side
-Last night’s spaghetti or coldpizza
Don’t feel limited to just peanut butter lunches! It is so easy to get overwhelmed when you feel restricted, but I promise there are other options out there!
Allow yourself to be creative with lunch and throw some new foods in there too. My kids are incredibly picky at home, but when they’re eating with their peers, they are more willing to try new foods!
My oldest, who hasn’t touched avegetable since he was a toddler, came home from school asking for carrots and cucumbers for his lunch the next day!
With so many options available to you, I’m confident you will find a peanut butter alternative (or even a way to skip it altogether!) that works for your family and will keep your child’s classmates safe.
If you’re worried you’ll face some resistance from a picky kid, take some time to test out a couple of options, try introducing without making a big deal about the change, and serve it in different ways before you give up!
Check your labels at the store and, again, thank you for keeping those other babies safe!