Peanut-Free Lunch Ideas


By Kyrie Collins, Macaroni Kid Publisher for Highlands Ranch-Parker-Castle Rock, CO October 22, 2013
For reasons that aren't entirely clear, peanut allergies seem to be on the rise, both in frequency and severity. As a result, many schools have instituted peanut-free food policies. Parents have relied for decades on the old standby of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. What else can fill the lunchbox and provide enough protein to get kids through the day? Our awesome readers gave us a whole host of ideas.

Remember that meats, cheeses, and eggs should be kept at 40รขโ€žโ€ฐ or below so use insulated lunch boxes and ice packs on top of and underneath the container holding these items. Refrigerate and pack as many other cold foods as possible, even things that don't require refrigeration, like applesauce cups. The more cold items you have in the lunchbox, the longer it will stay at an ideal temperature.

1.) If tree nuts are permitted, use almond butter or cashew butter as a peanut butter replacement. If tree nuts aren't allowed either, try a nut alternative like sunflower butter or WOWBUTTER (soy). Or, give spreadable cream cheese and jelly sandwiches a whirl.

2.) Hummus makes a complete protein because it combines legumes (chickpeas) with nuts and seeds (tahini). Choose from a wide variety of store brands and flavors or make your own ... it's easier than you might think! Spread some onto a whole-grain tortilla and roll it up, or pack some crackers and fresh veggies for dipping.

3.) Combine black beans (drained), brown rice (cooked), mild salsa, and shredded cheese. Roll up in a whole-grain tortilla, folding in all sides to make a burrito, or serve with tortilla chips.

4.) Chobani Champions Greek Yogurt Tubes have 5 grams of protein with no artificial colors, sweeteners, or preservatives. Store them in your freezer and pack them in the lunchbox in the morning. They'll be thawed but still cold by lunchtime.

5.) Frozen grilled or breaded fully-cooked chicken strips will also be thawed and ready to eat by lunchtime.

6.) For a freezer-to-lunchbox sandwich, spread a little flavored cream cheese or butter on the inside of a whole-wheat hot dog bun or sandwich roll. Add some deli-sliced ham. Wrap the sandwich in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and store in the freezer.

7.) Cook and slice brats or sausage (preferably nitrate-free). Skewer them with cubes of cheese and fruit like pineapple chunks or whole berries.

8.) Fill a pita pocket with lunchmeat and cheese. It will be easy for little hands to hold.

9.) This recipe for Cheesy Chicken Rollups is a recently discovered lunchbox favorite and has veggies, dairy, protein, and whole grain!

10.) Cottage cheese with fresh fruit or a little bit of preserves stirred into it is high in protein. I've heard there are even people who like the taste of plain cottage cheese! I don't know any, but I've heard they are out there somewhere.

11.) Decorated hard-boiled eggs aren't just for Easter! Use food coloring in water to dye them year round and serve them with crackers, baby carrots, and fruit. What kid wouldn't get excited to find purple and yellow eggs for lunch? Show your child how to roll the egg on the table to crack the shell and make them easier to peel. Or crack the egg (but don't peel) before you dye them to make Crackled Eggs. Peel them in the morning before packing the lunch.

12.) Let the drink fulfill the protein part of the lunch. An 8-ounce Horizon Organic Lowfat Milk Box has 8 grams of protein, is shelf-stable, and now has 32mg DHA Omega-3. It is available in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, or plain (but only the chocolate and vanilla have the added DHA Omega-3). Fill the rest of the lunchbox with finger foods and a treat.

13.) Soup is perfect for the cold winter months! Make some for dinner and then send the leftovers to school. Foogo makes a leak-proof, BPA-free, 10-ounce thermos that promises to keep food warm for up to five hours. We haven't tried it yet (it hasn't been cold enough) but it looks promising from the customer reviews.