Back-to-school season means the return to packing school lunches. For families who have children with food allergies, taking time to prepare a meal is essential to keeping your kids well-fed and safe.
To make lunch preparation a fun activity rather than a chore, get the kids involved with easy-to-make, allergy-friendly recipes and ideas that they can (eventually) learn to pack themselves. It’s a great way for the whole family to connect.
Children often grow bored with sandwiches day in and day out. Also, allergy-friendly or gluten-free bread can get costly. That’s why these simple and creative bread-free ideas are perfect to add to your lunch box lineup.
Taco Pasta Salad
I’m all about using leftovers for lunches, so this is a great option for that cooked chicken sitting in your fridge. You can also make this on the weekends and pack the pasta leftovers for lunches during the week. It’s full of protein, fiber and flavor.
Method: Cook 2 cups of dry gluten-free or allergy-friendly pasta per directions. Drain and let cool.
– In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, 1 15-ounce can of black beans (drained and rinsed), 1 lb of cooked, diced chicken, 1 cup of salsa, 1/2 cup of dairy-free sour cream, 1/2 cup of allergy-friendly “mayo,” 1/2 cup of cooked corn kernels and 1 tablespoon of taco seasoning.
– Mix until well combined. Serve chilled.
Lunch on a Stick
Think of it as a deconstructed sandwich, minus the bread and on a stick!
Your kids will think this is a fun lunch option and by using a cake pop stick rather than a skewer, they’ll also be much safer to enjoy at school.
Method: Cut vegetables, like cucumber slices, into fun shapes and “skewer” onto the pop stick. Alternate between lunch meat slices and grape tomatoes or other preferred ingredients. These won’t “stick” around for long, because your kiddos are sure to gobble them up!
Chicken Salad Apple ‘Sandwiches’
This appetizing lunch is a great way to use leftover grilled or rotisserie chicken.
Method: First, make your preferred chicken salad recipe, using allergy-safe “mayo.”
– Slice the apple into horizontal slices. Using a mini cookie cutter, core the center of the slices. Spread the chicken salad onto bottom slice, then “sandwich” together.
Mom Tip: My daughter isn’t a fan of the taste of lemon juice, so I soak apple slices in apple juice for a few minutes, then lightly pat dry with a paper towel to prevent browning.
Banana-Blueberry Protein Muffins
Muffins are an outstanding lunch-box option. They’re easy to grab-and-go, plus you can bake them ahead and freeze them for future snacks. This recipe blends together quickly in your food processor and bakes in just 20-25 minutes.
Method: First, preheat oven to 325° F. Line a muffin tin with liners or cooking spray.
– In the food processor with the chopping blade, blend together 3 very ripe bananas, 2 1/4 cups of certified gluten-free oats, 1/4 cup of ground flax meal, 1 cup of dairy-free yogurt or apple sauce, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
– Mix in processor until well combined and oats are slightly ground. Stir in 1 cup of blueberries by hand. Distribute mixture evenly among 12 muffin tins, approximately 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!
For more great allergy-friendly lunch-box ideas, visit Keeleymcguire.com.