Oh the lunch box conundrum……all the rules. Listen, I understand nut allergies are brutal and going nut free is so easy to do. But it’s still hard when you have a kid with a dairy allergy and schools send you a list of state regulations about how many servings of what kind of food need to go in the lunch box. And I’m pretty sure steam might have been coming out of my ears when I saw that pop tarts were a suggested fruit. This was not the school saying this, but the great state I was living in at the time. So, what do you do? You learn to be creative. I bought a few divided containers and made my own lunchables. I listed out the required categories and then made my own list of what worked for us.
How do I make lunchboxes easy to throw together, dairy free, nut free, reasonably healthy and that require no microwaving? I’ve broken down some of my favorite options (both the ones I make and the brands I found at the store for super busy mornings. I am not an affiliate of any of these companies and have not been paid to write any of this).
Dairy Free subs: in place of regular cheese slices, we like the Chao cheese slices. I’ve even seen these at Walmart, so added bonus. For cheese cubes, my kiddo likes the Daiya blocks cut into cubes. The Tofutti dairy free cream cheese also works well as a sub for regular cream cheese. I like to blend some jam in them when I use this on bagels. For a more savory taste, I’ll use garlic and onion powder with some fresh herbs. It’s best to let this sit overnight so the flavors blend together nicely.
- Energy bites
- Deconstructed sandwiches: Sounds fancy and “top chef-y” but it’s really just my “I’m too lazy to put a sandwich together” or my “kiddo is whining about no sandwiches today but all I have in the fridge right now are sandwich things” lunch option. Roll up deli meat with cheese or cut some cheese into cubes and chop up (or tear up depending on how quickly you need to get out the door) deli meat.
- Sandwiches: sunbutter and jelly sandwiches, ham with cheese, turkey with cheese, chickpea salad sandwiches (really just hummus with different things added to jazz it up a bit. I’d put these on sandwich thins, in a pita pocket or on a tortilla), veggie cream cheese with roasted veggies (put the veggies in a separate container and add to sandwich thins with cream cheese when you are ready to eat).
- Breakfast cookies
- Granola bars/Breakfast bars (hard to find nut free and dairy free so I make these). The linked site recommends store brands and recipes to make your own. This is a great resource.
- Muffins: To make these muffins, you only need a blender and a muffin tin. Here’s to not making a giant baking mess in the kitchen.
- Hard boiled eggs are a good choice.
- Apple slices
- Mango slices
- Dried fruit
- Banana chips
- Applesauce cups
- Chocolate zucchini muffins
- Blueberry carrot muffins
- Zucchini chips: I’ve made these and they are delish. They are actually crispy!
- Pretzels, pretzel chips
- Pita chips
- Trail Mix/Snack Mix: I save these for after school since they often have nuts in them. The linked site has a great graphic that simplifies trail mix recipes greatly.
Drinks: We always sent a juice box with our kiddo’s lunch. We purchased the ones that are fortified with calcium on the advice of a nutritionist since we couldn’t send nut-based milks to school.
Hacks for Snacks: My favorite hacks for carrying snacks in the car.
1. Save your large creamer bottles or even plastic ice cream pints. Wash them out and pack them with snacks. The creamer bottles are especially good because the kiddos can pass them around with less spilling of snacks.
2. Does your kid have a smartphone? No judgment from me, I swear. iPhones and iPads have saved us on so many road trips. Check out this phone holder that has a place for snacks.
3. Need something that holds a tablet and has space for snacks and activities? This organizer looks like it may be the perfect solution.
** I am not an affiliate for Amazon nor for any of the products linked or recommended here.