Lunch Box Ideas for Food Allergies

Hummus and pita pair up for a healthy lunch.. Dan Zen/Flickr

Off to school or work with lunch in tow? Packing lunch can be a healthy approach to the mid-day meal, and certainly cost-effective, but beware of falling into a rut. The same old meal components can lead to boredom and poor nutrient variety. Let’s face it--it’s hard to get excited about a sandwich, fruit and cookie for lunch. Everyday.

If you have a food allergy, your lunch options may be even more limited, but they don't have to be.

Once you know how to pack a healthy, nutritious lunch while simultaneously avoiding your food allergens, you will be well on your way to eating nutritiously with less fear of an allergic reaction.

Everyone is individual in their food allergy, including what they can and cannot eat, so you’ll want to tailor your lunch plan to your individual needs. For example, if you have a milk allergy, you’ll avoid all dairy products in your lunch, substituting with high quality alternatives such as soymilk, coconut yogurt, or fortified rice milk.

Below, I’ve pulled together 9 ideas for a healthy, allergy-friendly lunch, good for young and old! You may need to further tailor these ideas to suit your food allergy. Feel free to do so. These ideas follow a general template for packing a healthy lunch which includes the most important food groups: protein, grain, fruit, veggie, and dairy. Add in a petite sweet if you like, or an allergen-free snack, and round out the meal with a beverage such as water.

Greek Pita Sandwich: Sometimes just varying the bread type helps to bring some excitement to the lunch meal. Spread a pita pocket with hummus and add shredded carrots, sugar snap peas and lettuce. Toss in some kalamata olives if you like. Add a side of grapes and soy yogurt.

Chicken Salad: Place a sliced chicken breast atop a bed of lettuce and other chopped vegetables such as tomato, cucumber, sweet peppers and carrots.

Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Add a side of fresh blueberries and a handful of crispy rice crackers.

P B & J Sandwich: Spread a nut-free butter (such as Sunbutter or WOW butter) and jelly on whole wheat bread. Pair with apple slices, flat pretzels, and a small container of rice milk.

Protein Packed Pasta Salad: Toss edamame, cubed ham, tomato and sweet pepper with pasta corkscrews. Dress with a drizzle of fresh lemon juice and olive oil. Serve strawberries and coconut yogurt on the side.

Turkey Wrap: Layer deli turkey slices, avocado, lettuce, cucumber, carrots and dairy-free cheese; roll into a tube and cut in half. Pack clementines and a small bag of potato chips to round out the meal.

Make Your Own “Lunchable”: Cut slices of deli ham and dairy-free cheese (such as Daiya) into small squares and pack into a container with whole wheat crackers. Add a side of red and yellow pepper slices and a petite sweet.

Healthy Hot Dog Lunch: Spread nut-free butter such as Sunbutter or WOW butter onto a hot dog bun.

Lay a peeled banana on top. Include a side of baby carrots and a milk substitute like chocolate soymilk with lunch.

Turkey Pinwheels: Layer deli turkey, thinly sliced pears, and dairy-free cheese on a whole grain tortilla. Roll the tortilla up into a tight roll and slice it into 1-inch pinwheels. Add a small box of chocolate rice milk and a small bag of tortilla chips.

Southwestern Salad in a Jar: Layer the heaviest ingredients first such as beans, corn, avocado, green pepper, salsa, and rice. Then top with cheese or cheese substitute, and chopped lettuce. When you’re ready to eat, shake the jar to mix the ingredients. The salsa can act as the salad dressing or you can add your own.

Tell me, what's your favorite healthy, allergy-friendly lunch to go?

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