If you’re anything like me, the thought of your kids going back to school makes you both excited and dreadful at the same time. While I’m jumping for joy that school starts again in the next couple weeks, I’m also dreading some of the things that go along with that…like early wake-up times, car line, and (dun dun dun) packing lunches. And if the task of coming up with interesting lunches your child will actually eat and enjoy wasn’t taxing enough, if you have an allergy child in the family it can be extra challenging.
One of my three children has food allergies including milk, eggs and peanuts/treenuts (excluding coconut). In the beginning I was mostly making him his own meals while I continued to cook normally for my other two that do not have any allergies. Over time I was able to find products that were not only allergy-friendly, but that my other children enjoyed as well. This has made cooking and preparing food for my family so much easier because 1) I’m only buying and preparing one “set” of groceries and 2) I am not worried about my allergy child accidentally eating something off one of his siblings plates that he is allergic to.
- Sandwiches (we use sprouted wheat bread, no particular brand but I ALWAYS check labels just to make sure):
- Sunbutter (with or without jelly) – comes in creamy or crunchy – this is also great for peanut-free schools!
- Lunchmeat (turkey and/or ham) and vegan mayo (we use Just Mayo) – you could also add vegan cheese (Chao brand is our favorite) and any toppings your kiddos like (mine love pickles)
- Hummus – I will pack them either pretzels, pita chips or veggie straws to dip. Sabra also makes these awesome pre-packaged hummus kits (with hummus and pretzels or pita chips) which are great if you’re in a hurry or, let’s be honest, just looking for something easy!
- Leftovers – This is really convenient and I actually do this a lot! If your kiddos are weirdos like mine, they’ll eat their food cold. If not, a thermos really comes in handy. You just heat the food in the morning and put it in the thermos before you leave. They work best in lunch boxes that have separate compartments, like a top and a bottom, so you can keep the warm thermos away from any ice packs and cold items.
- Pasta – my kids love noodles with “red” sauce and noodles with “clear” sauce aka Kraft Italian Dressing – I switch up the type of pasta and that apparently keeps it interesting. Vegan mac n “cheese” is also an option (Annie’s brand makes a boxed one)
- Chicken Nuggets – my kids are suckers for some dino nuggets (we buy the Yummy brand from Sam’s) and they will eat them cold, but you could also heat them and put them in a thermos. (Or if your child is in preschool they probably have a microwave)
- Hot dogs/kielbasa – same as above, but I cut it in half and wrap it in foil before putting it in the thermos
- Rice & beans (my kids love yellow rice with black beans)
- Oranges (halos/cuties are the best because they’re easy for kids to peel)
- Applesauce and/or some type of fruit pouch (beware of yogurt ingredients in some of these)
- Cucumber Slices
- Grape Tomatoes
- Carrot Sticks
- Yogurt (we use Silk or So Delicious Brands)
- Graham Crackers (or Teddy Grahams/Scooby Snacks)
- Chips (Mariquitas Plantain, Terra Sweet Potato, and Cape Cod BBQ are some of our favs)
- Veggie Straws (or Veggie Chips – they make mickey shaped ones my kids love)
- Original Chex Mix
- Nature’s Bakery Fig or Honey & Oat Bars
- Quaker Oats Bakery Squares (Strawberry or Apple)
- Cascadian Farm (Vanilla Chip)
- Enjoy Life Chewy Bars
- Clif Kid Z Bar (Iced Oatmeal Cookie, Chocolate Brownie, Chocolate Chip, or S’mores)
- Annie’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Back to Nature Classic Creme Cookies
- Back to Natue Chocolate Chunk Cookies
- Enjoy Life Soft Baked or Crunchy Cookies
- Quaker Apple Cinnamon Rice Crisps
- Water (you can freeze the night before and it will double as an ice pack but should still be defrosted enough by lunch or recess time)
- Juice Boxes/Pouches
- Milk Alternatives (Silk or So Delicious brands)
For the most part, I pack the same lunches for all of my kids using food products I have found that cater to my child’s allergies. I always pack a main dish, a fruit, a vegetable, an applesauce/yogurt alternative, a drink, a couple snacks and a “treat”. I use items from these categories and just rotate them to create different lunch combos for each day and each week. If you have an allergy child, or even if you don’t, these lunches can work for you. Or at least give you some ideas that hopefully help you in your lunch packing adventures!
**Disclaimer: Every child and every allergy is different. The products in this post are suggestions that work for my child’s specific allergies but I can not guarantee they will work for yours. Please always read labels thoroughly and use your own mom judgment before giving your child a new foods!**