Food allergies are a serious problem in this country - nuts being a particular culprit. Most schools in our area (and many around the country) have banned nuts all together, regardless of whether or not the kids are known to have nut allergies.

Thankfully, safety measures like those or having designated nut-free areas in school cafeterias help protect the ever increasing number of America's allergic children, but it can make life difficult for busy moms who rely on protein-filled snacks for their kids that are made with nuts. I can't imagine how challenging it must be for parents who deal everyday with food allergies, so I've been spending a lot of time developing recipes which use protein and nutrient-rich seeds as an alternative to nuts.

I think these bars deliver the goods_ Sunflower seeds are packed with protein and vitamin E, pumpkin seeds with magnesium, and flax seeds with an off-the-charts amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Add in all of the other healthful ingredients in this recipe, and these fruit and seed bars are just as sweet, crunchy, healthy, and delicious as any nut-filled protein bar you'll find in stores. Even if you or your kids don't have a food allergy, try making a batch of these bars. My guys can't seem to get enough of them. And, it's a treat that most schools will be happy to welcome.

Fruit and Seed Bars (Makes 20 Bars)

1 cup old fashioned oats 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds (also known as Pepitas) 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds 2 tbsp flax seeds 1 cup dried fruit (blueberries, raisins, currants, cranberries and/or cherries) 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes 1/3 cup honey 1/2 cup sunflower butter

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 2. In a food processor, pulse the first 6 ingredients until finely chopped (it's ok if there are few coarsely chopped pieces). 3. Add the honey and sunflower mixture and pulse until starting to combine. 4. Pour the mixture into a 9 x 9 inch pan, greased then line with parchment and press down into the pan until completely even. 4. Bake for 25 minutes. 5. Let the bars completely cool before cutting into bars. 6. Serve.

*Cool, place in Ziploc bags, label and freeze. Defrost to room temperature and enjoy!

Catherine McCord is a model, actress and mother-of-two. She launched Weelicious in 2007, providing a solution to parents' hectic lives by showing them how to cook recipes that are kid-friendly, quick and nutritious. With a background at New York City's prestigious Institute of Culinary Education, and a passion for food, Catherine has developed recipes that appeal to a range of ages - from infants starting on solid foods, to school kids and adults. Weelicious focuses on educating kids and involving them in the process with how-to cooking videos featuring her 3-year-old son, Kenya, and 1-year old daughter, Chloe. With a new recipe or tip debuting daily, Weelicious is a wealth of information for parents, and a visual delight for foodies of any age.