More and more families are grappling with the need to pack allergy-friendly lunches, either because one of their own has been diagnosed with a food allergy or because their kids’ school or daycare is a designated allergen-free zone. Either way, I know it can be a major challenge. It’s hard to come up with a ton of allergy-friendly lunch ideas each year—even when you’re used to feeding an allergen-free kid. Which is why we tend to fall back on the same ones over and over.
I’ve come up with 7 allergy-friendly school lunch ideas that you can rely on all year long, whether you make them just as I have, or you use them as jumping off points then add your own inspiration. Because, hey, even small adjustments can keep things interesting for your kids.
After all, it’s a loooong school year.
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I’ve organized the lunch ideas below by allergen, but there are a couple of very important things to keep in mind:
First, remember that it’s easy to substitute. If your child is dairy-free, for example, you can easily pack a whole-grain bagel with dairy-free cream cheese instead of traditional. So check out all of the ideas, regardless of the category.
Second, and most importantly, if your child has a severe allergy or the rules at your school include a ban on foods that are not certified nut-free—which means that the food is both nut-free and processed on a nut-free production line—then check your labels very, very carefully. Some Made In Nature products, for example, may contain coconut or may be processed on a line that also processes coconut. And when you check the Udi’s product labels, you’ll see they are all certified gluten-free with most (though not all) produced in a dedicated nut-free facility.
Allergy-free lunch ideas
without milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, gluten, or soy
Chopped Greek Salad
I know what some of you are thinking: Salad? For my kid’s lunch? The answer is yes! Many kids’ aversion to salad has to do with the leafy greens, but a chopped salad does away with them and can include foods your kids love. For example, use whichever cut-up raw veggies they normally like to eat and toss with some oil and vinegar or a favorite dressing. My kids love tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, so I combine them to make the Chopped Greek Salad here.
I add olives for a salty bite; you can also add rinsed, canned chickpeas for extra protein.
To accompany the salad, I pack Made In Nature Organic Dried Apricots, because I like keeping with the Mediterranean vibe—and my kids love them. They are super sweet, soft and chewy, with nothing added. What a relief to find dried fruit snacks without any added sugar!
And of course, fresh fruit goes with any balanced lunch. My kids don’t mind me packing both fresh fruit and dried apricots since the apricots are more like a dessert or treat to them anyway.
Apple and Sunflower Seed Butter Sandwich with Granola
I’m a fan of great gluten-free breads like the ones made by Udi’s, but sometimes I like to think beyond the sandwich to change things up. So here I used sliced apples instead of bread and paired it with sunflower seed butter and Udi’s Gluten Free Au Natural Granola* for a healthy lunch that can help fuel any kid’s afternoon.
I always pack this fun sandwich alternative with more fruit and veggies, of course, and sometimes even throw in a few Made In Nature Organic Deglet Noor Dates for a super sweet finish. (Although I have a feeling my kids smoosh them into their sandwiches.) It’s a great lunch idea that feels like a treat, and yet it hardly has any added sugar.
* Though nut-free, be aware that Udi’s Gluten Free Au Natural Granola is manufactured on the same line that processes tree nuts
Allergy-free lunch ideas
without eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, gluten, or soy
Apple, Cheddar, and Ham Wraps
This is another way to think beyond the sandwich that my kids love. With these Apple, Cheddar, and Ham Wraps, you’re making something creative but easy out of standard lunch box ingredients, and I happen to think that’s pretty genius. Just slice apples into wedges, place half of some sliced cheese (or a half of a cheese stick) next to it, then wrap them together with a piece of deli ham or turkey.
I pair this lunch with Made In Nature Organic Superberry Fruit Fusion, which have fast become one of my standard lunch box pantry items because, convenience! These one-ounce packets come in a five-pack and sometimes I really appreciate that shortcut on busy mornings.
Plus, when I’m not including them in my kids’ lunch boxes, I toss them into their backpacks for an after-school bus snack.
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Allergy-free lunch ideas
without milk, tree nuts, peanuts, gluten, or soy
Veggie Egg Bites
Unless your child is allergic to them, eggs are one of the best ways to pack whole protein in a way that’s safe for schools. While I love packing hard boiled eggs in school lunch because they are so easy to keep on hand in the fridge, sometimes I change things up by making these Vegetable Egg Bites. They’re basically little omelettes—but way easier to make.
All you have to do to whip these up is whisk four eggs with milk of any kind, depending on which allergies are of concern. If your child can eat anything at all and this is to accommodate an allergen-free lunchroom, then regular milk is just fine. However if your child is allergic to milk, nuts, and soy, then use rice milk, which you probably already have on hand.
Add salt, pepper, and a bunch of chopped veggies—I use peppers and spinach—and divide evenly in a mini-muffin tray. Bake at 350 for about 15-18 minutes and you’ve got several days worth of lunches ready to go.
I pack these Egg Bites in my kids’ bentos with raw veggies, a handful of Made In Nature Organic Dried Mango, and some guacamole. Then be sure to slip an ice pack in there to keep it all cold.
I always assumed that my kids would dip the veggies in the guac, but it turns out they were inspired by a mango guacamole that I make sometimes—and so they’ve been using the dried mango like chips. Yum!
Breakfast for Lunch
Breakfast for lunch is a classic for us. In fact, my kids have asked that I make it once a week, and with options like this particular combo—an Udi’s Gluten Free Blueberry Muffin, hard boiled egg, fresh fruit, and veggies—I can feel good about it. The egg provides protein and the muffin gives some heft. With 21 grams of sugar total in the muffin, though, I often serve just half of it, which is plenty for young kids anyway.
And by the way, we’re not a gluten-free family and my boys totally love these muffins; so don’t think that they’re just for gluten-free families or for when you’re hosting a gluten-free friend. They really are that good.
Toast Points and Turkey Roll-Ups
When it comes to school lunch, presentation is key to keeping things interesting. (Well, for me at least.) Since kids love assembling stuff themselves, I like to pack some plain roasted turkey and toast points instead of making the sandwich myself. And by the way, it’s way more fun when you attempt to say “toast points” to your kids with a bad British accent like I do.
With Udi’s Gluten Free White Sandwich Bread, this is a super simple gluten-free lunch to put together. Just toast a couple of fluffy slices of bread and call it a day. Or do as I have been doing, and drizzle the toast with olive oil and sprinkle on some black pepper before packing it. This makes the bread extra delicious when they pile their turkey meat on top at lunch time, and there are no messy condiments on the side required.
Allergy-free lunch ideas
without tree nuts, peanuts, gluten, or soy
Bagel with Cream Cheese
Udi’s Whole Grain Bagels mean that a kid staple, a good old fashioned bagel with cream cheese, is possible even if you’re packing a gluten-free lunch. Your kids are getting some whole grains, protein, and fiber in there, too, which beats a traditional bagel.
I like to top them with veggie cream cheese to give lunch an extra boost of goodness. And of course, if you prefer, you can make this milk-free instead of soy-free by swapping in non-dairy cream cheese.
If your school allows sesame seeds, also consider hummus as another healthful alternative to cream cheese.
I pair this classic NYC lunch (and, yes, it’s indeed a classic when you live here like I do) with a classic snack: either a helping of nothing-added Organic Dried Apples from Made in Nature, or their Organic Apple Cinnamon Fruit Fusion that my kids are in love with. The extra sweet flavor comes from spices, not sugar, which makes this mama happy.