Nut-free Lunch Ideas
Krystyn Parks, MS, RD
Krystyn here! My son just started preschool a few weeks ago (where did my baby go?). One of the biggest changes to our life is that I need to start packing a lunch. Not just any foods will do. I needed some nut-free lunch ideas and I’m happy to share how I made that happen!
We do not have any nut allergies in our house, so we have relied heavily on nuts for protein and fat. My son could eat peanut butter by the spoonful (who can blame him?). So in addition to having to plan out his lunch ahead of time, I also have to make sure I’m giving him balanced meals without using my peanut butter crutch! Nut-free lunch? Here we go.
Try the Bento Box
I have found that using the bento-style lunch box is super helpful! It allows me to offer a variety of items, but only need to clean 1 box. It’s also easier for my son since he only has 1 thing to open. The teachers at his school do help him open things, but there are many kids in his class and if he needed several items opened, he may not have time to eat them all. This also lets him see what all his options are for his meal and puts him in control of what he eats (I’m all about division of responsibility, or what we at Fooblie call be the boss-ish, even when others are caring for him).
Think about protein
It’s important to make sure that there is some protein/fat in his lunch box everyday, otherwise he comes home super hungry. My favorite easy way to pack a nut-free lunch is to utilize leftovers. One of my faves is lentil bruschetta. It’s generally served cold anyway. Next, the cheese has fat and protein while the lentils provide fiber and protein. I also put in there a variety of fruits and tomatoes (his favorite vegetable right now). He’s not a huge fan of raspberries, but I put it in the box anyway! It counts as an exposure, and sometimes kids will eat foods they normally wouldn’t when they are with their peers.
Packing should fit your reality
I love to bake. I know that’s not the case for everyone, but I use it as a stress-reliever. I try to bake a batch of muffins every week. I will leave some out, but I freeze the rest. I can pull out a muffin the day before and let it thaw overnight so that it’s ready to go by the time my little guy eats lunch. This particular muffin is jam packed full of veggies, but didn’t have much protein so I added some cheese to his lunch to help balance it out. I will often use peanut butter in the muffins to help add protein and fat, but I can’t do that for his nut-free lunch.
You want nut-free lunch ideas? Here I have substituted sunflower butter, but apparently it reacts with baking soda and turns the muffins green! This has definitely been a learning experience for me!
We love sunflower butter
One of the simplest solutions has been to just substitute sunflower butter for peanut butter in sandwiches (this is an affiliate link). My son is currently obsessed with sandwiches and could probably eat one everyday. I don’t serve him a sandwich everyday, because I think it’s super important to have variety. Also, if he gets sick of sandwiches, I will lose one super easy option.
Here’s a tip: you can make the sandwiches ahead of time and freeze them! Put the sunflower butter on both slices of bread and the jam/jelly in the middle to keep the sandwich from getting soggy. Pull out the sandwich the day before and it will still be cold but not frozen in your child’s lunch!
I also put candy in my child’s lunch. I don’t serve it everyday. I don’t serve it because he asks. This time I was eating some candy corn while packing his lunch and thought he might like to try it. The idea is to serve it with the rest of the meal so that the “treat” is not on a pedestal. Yes, he ate the candy, but he also ate his whole sandwich, all the tomatoes, and most of the grapes (he’s not a big blackberry fan). I still consider this a balanced meal and a mom-approved nut-free lunch!
Vitamin C + Iron = Easy
Did you know that bell pepper is an excellent source of vitamin C? People generally think of citrus fruits, but there are so many foods that contain vitamin C. Why am I bringing this up? Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron from plant sources (like these chickpeas and lentils). Iron is a nutrient many kids don’t get enough of, so I like to make sure that I include some iron-containing foods in most meals. When I serve plant-sources, I also try to make sure that there’s vitamin C too!
Want more nut-free lunch and other tips from Coach Krystyn?
Thanks Coach Krystyn! This is some great inspiration on how to do nut-free lunch! You can make an appointment with Coach Krystyn. Krystyn and all our Fooblie coaches are here to help you take on feeding your kids with confidence. You’ve got this!