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Back to school: dietary requirements and allergies

Back to school is a busy time. Make life easier by planning ahead when it comes to dietary needs

Back to school: dietary requirements and allergies

Between juggling homework, sport practice, dance lessons and new friends, the back to school period is already busy, so thinking about dietary requirements shouldn’t be an added worry for you.

To help prepare, here are some top practical tips for playdates and packed lunches and what sort of questions to ask other parents.

when looking after a kid with allergies or intolerances:

1. Focus on what's possible
The best place to start is by sitting down and looking at everything the kids can eat, rather than what they can’t. Check out some of our delicious recipes for inspiration.

2. Ask questions
When meeting new parents, ask them what their child likes to eat. That opens-up the conversation, giving you the chance to chat about any foods you should avoid. Also ask what you should do if their child does have an allergic reaction and if they carry a EpiPen, just so you’re prepared.

3. Check what information is available through the school
Some schools have a forum for parents to discuss what their kids can eat, and what to watch-out for. Similarly, some schools are completely nut-free zones. Check with the school to see what policies they have in place.

4. Label packed lunches with any allergens
That way your kids won’t share their food with another who may have an allergy.

5. Check food labels
Ingredients labels on food products will tell you if it “may contain traces of X”. If it does, check with the kids’ parent whether this is OK for their child to eat.

6. Read up on how to use an EpiPen
If a kid does have an allergic reaction to something, know what to do. Learn how to handle the situation and try not to panic if the situation were to arise.

7. When preparing meals, avoid cross-contamination of ingredients
Use labelled Tupperware, and make sure you’re using a different surface and utensils for preparing foods with allergens.  

For parents of kids with allergies or intolerances:

Becky O’Leary, blogger and mum to six-year-old Peggy, who's coeliac, and wife to Crohn’s disease sufferer Chris, has provided her top tips and hacks for that busy back to school moment...

1. Regular dialogue
"Keep the doors of communication open between you, other parents, the school and any catering companies if relevant. This is vital to encourage a safe, inclusive environment for your little ones. Have a chat with teachers too, so they can make sure the classroom is safe when sharing food or having kids’ cookery classes."

2. Keep snacks on hand
"I literally can’t travel ten minutes down the road without a gluten free snack for Peggy! After a day at school, it’s always good to keep something in your bag for hungry little tummies. Supermarkets are great for tasty free-from treats, so stock-up!"

3. Plan
"Back to school is a busy time, and meal prep can take a little more work if cooking for specific dietary needs. There are loads of recipes that work for everyone, without having to make separate sides for each member of the family – just be realistic about what you can do amongst all those extra-curricular activities!"

4. Flexibility isn't just for yoga
"Life sometimes throws curveballs. If thrown one, have a few simple, handy recipes stashed away, which can be cooked easily (frozen food is great for this)."

5. Slow and steady wins the race
"If you don’t have a slow cooker – get one! When busy getting Peggy ready for school, or to-and-from parties and playdates, cooking can sometimes become an afterthought. With my slow cooker, though, I can pop everything I need in and family mealtimes are made so much simpler – no fuss required!"

Getting ready to pack the kids off to school this September? Find everything you need to fuel them for a day of studying, including our award-winning Free From range, online or pop into your local store.