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Why is it that getting inspired to pack your kiddo’s lunch box can be so difficult? There have been many times I have found myself staring blankly at my preschooler’s empty lunch bag, just wondering what in the world to fill it with. How much? How many fruits? How many veggies? Will she even eat it? Will it be enough to keep her satisfied until snack or dinner time? Luckily, I know I am not the only parent who has hit a creative wall when trying to pack my child’s lunch box. As a teacher, parents often tell me how much they dread this task, simply because they have no idea what to include that will entice their child to eat healthy, yet still be lunch box friendly. Not only that, but with food allergies on the rise, many schools no longer allow nut products to be included in packed lunches for the safety of all students. So, classic PB&J is often not a lunch box option.
Are there question marks dancing in your eyes yet? Are you not sure where to start packing your child a balanced, healthy, nut-free lunch box? I thought there might be! To help you out, I’ve created 5 days worth of healthy and nut-free lunch box ideas that will get you inspired, packing without the question marks, and feeling good about what you are sending your child off to school with.
Note: These meals were packed for my 4-year-old daughter. Portions reflect what is appropriate for her age and eating habits. Please adjust portion size to meet your child’s unique needs. Also, all meals are vegetarian, as that is our family’s dietary preference. Meat can easily be incorporated into any of these lunch box ideas to reflect your family’s dietary preferences.
Without further ado…
1. Hummus & spinach sandwich, grape tomatoes, sliced figs, baked sweet potato fries with homemade ketchup
So many things can go inside a sandwich besides peanut butter! Hummus with some added veggies is a household favorite for my family. Another is mashed avocado. If your child is really missing his/her PB&J, try substituting the peanut butter with sunflower seed butter! It is completely nut-free, but has a similar flavor and consistency to peanut butter. Sunflower seed butter can be found at most health food grocery stores or you can make your own!
2. Plain Yogurt with berries and a tsp of maple syrup, sliced rainbow carrots and bell pepper, nut-free granola, and a nectarine
Breakfast for lunch is one of my daughter’s favorite lunch box meals! So easy to throw together and get creative with! Can’t find a store bought granola that is low in sugar and/or nut free? Homemade granola is so easy to make and so much cheaper than buying it commercially made. Here is a recipe that I like!
3. Cubed Cheese, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), avocado, cherry tomatoes, blueberries, and grapes
This is what I call a “snacky lunch.” Lots of little options for my daughter to graze on. These types of lunches are exceptionally good for children who are picky eaters, since they will have lots of healthy options to pick from! I bet you’re wondering how that avocado stays so beautifully green in the lunch box. Try one of these tricks to keep your avocado from oxidizing (browning) in a lunch box!
4. Toast pizza, carrot and cucumber “butterflies” with hummus, and berries
Did you know you can make pizza on a slice of bread? Well, you can! Just toast the bread first. Then add sauce, cheese, and other toppings of choice. Throw into the oven on broil until the cheese melts and that is it! It’s delicious cold (like all pizza is), which makes it perfect for lunch boxes!
5. Leftover whole wheat pasta with peas, apple, hard boiled egg, and raw broccoli
Leftovers are easily my favorite thing to pack in lunch boxes. It’s just so simple to throw what you made for dinner into a thermos and lunch is pretty much packed! The trick to using a thermos is to to fill the thermos up with hot water while you warm up the food. The hot water warms up the metal, keeping the container (and thus your child’s food) warm longer. Once the food is warmed up, dump the water out and pour the heated food in.