A few years ago, I went to my first preschool orientation. Before that, the kids were in daycare and lunches were provided. Now, I had the task of packing lunches. I quickly learned on of the first rules was that the preschool was and is completely nut-free. We are blessed that it wasn’t something we had thought of before, but it made me realize just how many lunch items contain nuts.
I had to rethink my lunch planning game. I’ve shared some of our favorite easy to pack lunches for preschooler and toddlers, but we are always looking for variety, ease and most importantly, being aware of serving sizes since my oldest two girls pack their own lunches. I headed to our local BJs and with the help of the girls, picked up some great additions to their lunches that would allow them to be nut-free at preschool, or sit with their friends that have nut allergies (and many other allergies) at the elementary school.
For our little ones that lunch at home, (okay, really for me), I picked up some some Perdue Simply Smart Gluten-Free Chicken Tenders. These also make great “entrees” in a lunch. So I can cook a couple and then the girls can put them in their lunches in the morning.
It can be hard enough to find lunchbox fillers you and your kids agree on when your child doesn’t have food allergies and sensitivities. When they do or their friends do, or the school has rules, it can be even harder. BJ’s is working hard to simplify their allergy labeling so we can grab snacks in bulk for lunches.
A tried and true favorite is fruit. The girls go through so many bananas, clementines, strawberries, blueberries and apples. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of the precut apples, but there were more apples eaten in one week with those in the house, so it’s a win.
Milk like Horizon Lowfat Milk that is shelf stable is actually a great add-on because it gets them drinking milk and it has protein which we sometimes struggle with getting enough of. I let the girls get a tub of Wellsley Farms Animal Crackers and they devoured them. It’s a good way to help them understand label reading and servings without getting the individual bags of everything.
Another great protein source is Stonyfield YoKids Squeeze. We freeze these overnight and the kids grab them in the morning. By the time they get to lunch time, they are thawed and ready to enjoy. My younger two girls like to eat them as a frozen treat for their after school snacks.
In the cracker and crunch category, we picked up some individual Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Cheese Crackers, Pirates Booty, and some Harvest Stone Organic Original Brown Rice, Sesame and Flax Crackers (these are so good. I am reluctant to let them enjoy them in their lunches because I don’t want to share).
I did cave a little and let them get JELL-O Chocolate Pudding, but they must have a piece of fruit (in addition to other fruit) to counteract it and they don’t get to eat it every day.
After putting these in lunches for just over two weeks, everything was a big hit. They’ve been reasonable with packing it in lunches and for school snacks and I’m happy knowing they are eating safe foods at school for their friends.
What is your favorite nut-free add-on for school lunches?