If you’ve got a school-aged kid, I bet you spend a lot of time thinking about food allergies—whether or not your child actually has one. That’s because they’re so commonplace these days—1 in 13 kids now suffers from them—even if your child doesn’t have a reaction to nuts, or kiwi, or eggs, or whatever, she’s surely been in class with at least one peer who does. And that means you have to scour snack labels, make sure lunches are clear of allergens, and really stop and consider the ingredients you use for school birthday cupcakes, or the annual bake sale. Many schools have also banned peanuts and tree nuts across the board, so you may have even had to reconsider the ever-popular PB&J. Probably much to your kid’s dismay. And in my experience, all of these restrictions often breed resentment with parents, too. I feel for you!
If you are a parent on the other side of this issue, like me, you think not just about your kid’s safety, but also the social piece of your child fitting in with her classmates when she’s the reason why a lot of favorite foods need to stay home. My daughter, Sami, was born with more than 30 food allergies, including a severe reaction to nuts. So at school, she had to sit at the No-Peanut table at lunch—which was colloquially known as the No-Friend table. It was that aspect of having a super allergic child that was a real shocker to me. You think everyone is going to rally around the kid who gets sick from nuts and eggs and a litany of other things—but it just gets treated as an inconvenience. Sami became the odd one out. The outcast. And it broke my heart.
That’s how my No-Nut Butter was born. As The Sneaky Chef, my mission is to give kids back their favorite foods—only made healthier and more nutritious. Neither one of my daughters would eat the peanut butter alternatives on the market—the ones made with soy or sunflower seeds. Not only did they hate the taste, to them, those products felt more like punishment than something that was actually delicious and fun. So I set out to develop the great equalizer: A nut-free butter that is delicious and could reach across both sides of the sandwich aisle—and please kids (and their parents) with and without allergies. Instead of looking to the usual nut substitutes, I went in a completely different direction and replaced the peanuts with peas, which are naturally nutty, sweet and creamy—and also happen to be really good for you, too (Sneaky Chef moment!).
I knew I was onto something when the kids at Sami’s school began to envy her lunch, rather than the other way around. In fact, her friends would come over to our house after school for play dates and request it for a snack. We couldn’t keep enough of it in the house! My No-Nut Butter also eliminated the need for parents to ever wonder what the heck their child could eat for lunch—because of his own allergy or a classmate’s.
As a mompreneur, I’m always looking to share my solutions with the world. But I was a small company with limited resources, and I had no way of doing that until recently, when I collaborated with Annie’s Homegrown. Now every kid can get their hands on their Pea B&J Pockets—to-go versions of the traditional lunchroom favorite, full of whole grains andmade with real fruit spread and a golden pea butter inspired by my own very own recipe. I have always looked up to Annie. She was the pioneer of better-for-you kids foods—and my children grew up on her macaroni & cheese and cheddar crackers. Now you can find the Pea B&J Pockets in any Target store. Who would have thought that a simple sandwich could bring friends together in the lunchroom?