Allergy Friendly School Lunch Foods

Allergy Friendly School Lunch Foods

Some of us deal with food allergies on a daily basis. Others who may not have a family member with a food allergy may still have to follow certain guidelines if, for instance, your child goes to a school with a nut-free campus. Knowing how to make a school lunch (which can translate into other meals and snacks, if needed), that avoids some of the most common allergy-causing foods is great to have in your repertoire.

Some of the most common foods that cause food allergy are nuts, eggs, dairy, and gluten. So if you are trying to pack your child’s lunch while omitting one or more of these, where do you start?

  • Read the food labels of anything you put into the meal. Know which ingredients indicate that the food allergens you are avoiding are included in the food.
  • Pick your protein.
    • For a nut allergy, which nuts do you need to avoid? Check with your doctor (or with the school if you are observing a nut free campus). Can you have almond butter, cashew butter, or pumpkin seed butter? Other alternatives are chicken, cheese and bean quesadillas; hard-cooked egg; hummus, spinach and feta wrap; and egg, chicken, or tuna salad.
    • For an egg allergy, enjoy nut butters; mixed nuts; hummus; chicken, cheese, and bean quesadillas; or egg free chicken or tuna salad.
    • For a dairy allergy, enjoy any of the suggestions above (using dairy free cheese if you choose to use cheese) and also these suggestions.
    • And for a gluten allergy, avoid all sources of gluten while enjoying several of the above suggestions. Substitute lettuce as a wrap, use cucumber as the “bread” for a hummus sandwich, pre-make and freeze gluten-free pancakes and waffles to use as the “bread” for your nut butter or grilled cheese.
  • Add your fruits and vegetables. When we are making our lunches for school, I have found that the kids get excited when I set up a “buffet” of fruits and vegetables for them to pick from to add to their lunch containers. For instance, I have put out carrot sticks, red bell pepper sticks, and cooked broccoli this week, and they can choose to mix it up, stick with one type of veggie for the day, or even add hummus to the lunch to use as a dip. Fruits and vegetables that have had nothing added to them (i.e. cheese sauce, bread crumbs, etc.) should fit into the diets of those with the most common food allergies. And having fruits and vegetables at lunch helps your child reach the MyPlate recommendation of having half of your plate filled with fruits and vegetables.
  • Add a whole grain. 100% whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta (used in pasta salad to also deliver fresh vegetables), or whole grain crackers add fiber to your meal. Need to be gluten free? Try popcorn, quinoa salad, and others.
  • Lastly, add a beverage. Water is easy to send in a lunchbox, as are boxes of milk or milk alternatives. Water will hydrate your child, and as a bonus, it’s a safe option for most people. If you are choosing milk or milk alternatives, stay away from those with added sugar.
  • And maybe a dessert. Dessert can be whatever you make it. As in, it doesn’t have to be store bought cookies or candy. It can be a whole grain fruit and smoothie veggie muffin, which is delicious, sweet and healthy. Or you could include a few dairy free dark chocolate morsels. Another safe and healthy idea is using a fruit salad as a sweet treat.

Following these steps give will give your child a lunch that is healthy and safe to eat.

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