Living With Food Allergies

Non-food Rewards for Children with Food Allergies

Written in collaboration with Gina M. Lee, M.Ed.

The CDC’s Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools and Early Care and Education Programs recommends the “use of non-food incentives for prizes, gifts, and awards.” This practice is also recommended by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Other well-respected health organizations and institutions recommend this approach as well.

While a shift to non-food incentives may require slight changes to school traditions, there are potential benefits. This practice can help ease anxiety surrounding the serving of food at school and the subsequent chance of accidental exposure to allergens for children with food allergies. Below is a list of low cost or no cost rewards that can be used instead of food.

No Cost Rewards

  • Allow extra time for reading, computer, art, games
  • Enjoy class lesson or reading time outside
  • Allow child to choose class activity or game
  • Give a “no homework” pass or no homework for the class
  • Present certificate of achievement
  • Give free time at the end of the day
  • Have a class sing-along
  • Create class coupons with special privileges
  • Allow child to choose music to play for the class
  • Child or teacher can read a favorite book to the class
  • Allow child to wear something fun to school according to a theme: pajama day, hat day, sports day, color day, pattern day (for class or grade)
  • Allow child to earn prizes or gift certificates donated by local businesses
  • Have a reading party (children bring blankets to sit on and read favorite books)
  • Allow child to choose a poem, short story, or joke to read to the class
  • Create a class story (go around the room and each child contributes a line to the story)
  • Allow child to use a camera or iPad to create a class or personal picture collage of school activities

finger puppets


Low Cost Rewards

Verify that these items do not contain allergens for any of the students. For example, some of these items are made of latex and should not be offered to a student with a latex allergy.

  • Awards or medals
  • Books, bookmarks
  • Bracelets
  • Bubbles
  • Class craft
  • Crayons
  • Finger puppets
  • Glow sticks
  • Grab bag
  • Necklaces
  • Notepads
  • Pencils
  • Pencil cases, grips, sharpeners, toppers, erasers
  • Playing cards
  • Ribbons
  • Rings
  • Rubber balls
  • Stickers
  • Sticky notes
  • Stress balls
  • Tote bags
  • Trinkets/toys: slinkies, small figurines, spinning tops, yo-yos

“The best reward we can give our children is our time and attention.” -Gina M. Lee, M.Ed.

Kids drawing

Rewards from the Heart

  • Give the child extra attention: ask about outside interests, smile, or give a pat on the back
  • Give verbal praise that is specific
  • Allow child to sit by a friend
  • Attend an after-school activity of the child’s to show you care
  • Allow child to share a special item or talent with the class
  • Make child the “Student of the Day,” “Super Kid,” “Line Leader,” or “Star of the Day”
  • Allow child to sit in a special seat
  • Allow child to write or draw on the board
  • Allow child to do class (or school) morning announcements
  • Recognize child/class achievements during morning announcements, in a school newsletter, on a school (or class) bulletin board or on the school website
  • Allow child to help out with a lesson or be a teacher’s helper (hand out papers, put away supplies, etc.)
  • Give child an important responsibility
  • Have each classmate write a compliment about the
  • child, create compliment book for the child to bring home (index cards on a ring work well)
  • Allow child to read or help out in another class or a younger class
  • Choose an incentive based on interest (i.e. allow a child that likes to draw to create a class or school sign/poster)
  • Write a positive note directly to the child or send a positive note home to child’s parents
  • Allow child to eat lunch with a favorite teacher, principal or other staff member
  • Allow child to invite a special guest to the classroom (as a guest reader or to play a game with the class)
  • Donate the child’s favorite game or book to the class
  • Have classmates sign a t-shirt, Frisbee, or ball for the child

Active Awards

  • Allow child to pick a song for a class “dance break”
  • Allow class to perform a skit
  • Allow child to make deliveries to office or other rooms
  • Pick class game to play outside: kick ball, whiffle ball, capture the flag, basketball
  • Play inside class games: 7-up, charades
  • Allow time for fun outside activities: Frisbee, hula-hoop, jump rope, Chinese jump rope
  • Create an obstacle course
  • Allow child to lead Simon Says
  • Have a class scavenger hunt based on a curriculum topic
  • Create a walking club during recess
  • Allow child to play a game during recess with a staff member
  • Allow extra recess
  • Host a day of educational activities, games and experiments
  • Play curriculum hopscotch (Instead of throwing a rock before you jump, the child must correctly answer a math fact or other fact from a lesson before moving)


Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Non-Food Rewards. Retrieved online October 5, 2014 from
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2014. Adolescent and School Health: Childhood Obesity Facts. Retrieved online October 5, 2014 from
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2014. Adolescent and School Health: Physical Activity Facts. Retrieved online October 5, 2014 from
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2013. Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies In Schools and Early Care and Education Programs. Retrieved online October 5, 2014 from
Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Retrieved online October 5, 2014 from

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Non food Reward PDF

Medical Review October 2014.

Annika's Moist Cocoa Cake

Recipes & Diet

Safe Eats ® Recipes (Allergy-Friendly, Search Free of Your Allergens)

Annika's Moist Cocoa Cake

Rate Annika's Moist Cocoa Cake

4 starsAvg. rating: 4 from 16 votes.

 Recipe Information  
Category: Cakes
Recipe Created By: Amy Hugon

Annika's Moist Cocoa Cake


1 cup gluten-free flour blend
1 cup sugar
1 cup hot water
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 Tbsp Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 2 Tbsp water
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup margarine OR canola oil
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
confectioners (powdered) sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Panspray 8" square pan.

Mix together dry ingredients (except for chocolate chips) and water. Add Egg Replacer mixture and melted margarine or oil; beat well. Spoon batter into pan. If desired, sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Bake 30 minutes.

If desired, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar when cooled.

This does sag a bit in the middle. It would turn out better in smaller pans. If you make it in smaller pans, start checking for doneness at about 20 minutes.

However, since 3 kids have eaten half the cake in 10 minutes, evidently the sag isn't a big issue.

This does taste more chocolatey with the chocolate chips on top. The cocoa flavor is more pronounced if you omit them.


The egg replacer mixture can be replaced with 1 whole egg.

Gluten: Gluten is a protein found in specific grains (wheat, spelt, kamut, barley, rye). Other grains are naturally gluten-free but may have cross-contact with gluten-containing grains. Look for certified gluten-free products if you need to avoid gluten. Find out more about wheat and gluten substitutions.

Corn Substitutions: Corn is a common ingredient in products. Starch, modified food starch, dextrin and maltodextrin can be from corn. Consult with your physician to find out which corn derivatives you need to avoid. Many corn-free options are available in the US. Find out more about corn substitutions.

Egg Substitutions: There are many egg-free products and foods available to make your recipes free of eggs. Find out more about egg substitutions.

Butter and Margarine: Butter is a dairy product made from cow’s milk. Margarine typically contains milk or soy, but there are milk-free and soy-free versions available.

 This recipe is free of:
 Milk  Peanut  Egg  Soy  Tree nut
 Gluten  Wheat  Fish  Shellfish  Sesame

 Keep in Mind  
  1. Always read labels! Product ingredients can change without notice. Do not assume a recipe or product is safe for you. Contact manufacturers to confirm safety for your allergy needs.
  2. A check in a box on a recipe means you can make a recipe "free of" that allergen. You may need to use a substitution or alternative product to make that recipe safe for the allergies you are managing.
  3. If you need assistance with a recipe or ingredient substitution, post on our Food & Cooking support forums. You will receive personal help to alter a recipe to make it allergy-free for your child’s needs.
  4. You are welcome to link to our recipes. If you would like to publish our recipes elsewhere in print or online, please contact us for permission.

Comments (4) -

Help! My 3 year old is allergic to
Soy, Yeast, egg white, oats, rice, tomato, Apple, milk protein allergy, coconut, turkey, carrots, chocolate, nuts, has acid reflux no foods with acid, grapes, bananas, broccoli, beans, I need to Check my list to make sure I got them all. is there any recipes you may have to help me? It's so hard I can't find any.

Thank you,
Have a great day
God bless

Kathy P - KFA Admin 1/20/2016 1:28:07 PM

Hi Trish - Sounds like you have a lot of things to avoid, but we can certainly help! It's going to be hard to search the recipes based on all of those factors. I encourage you to post on our Food & Cooking forum at - members over there will have lots of ideas for you and we can help figure out how to swap things out if there is a specific recipe you find, but it has something in there you can't use.

Made this for my sons first birthday cake!! He is allergic to cows milk, soy,  eggs, oats, and peanuts so making him baked goods has proven to be difficult. This recipie worked except I couldn't find egg replacer anywhere so I used an equal amount of original apple sauce

Kathy P - KFA Admin 3/15/2016 11:13:09 AM

Happy birthday to your little guy! Good to know that applesauce works as the egg replacement. EnerG Egg Replacer that is referenced in the recipe is usually found in the specialty baking section - it's a yellow-ish box. There are some other brands as well.

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