Due to the rise in food allergies, many schools are going nut-free. So, what do you pack when PB&J is not an option? Here are some delicious and easy nut-free school lunch ideas that kids will love. Plus a recipe for amazing, lunch box friendly veggie-loaded pizza rolls!
Maybe you have a child or family member with a nut allergy. Or perhaps your child’s school has a nut-free food policy to ensure the safety of all students. Either way, when nuts (a healthy and beloved food of many little humans) are no longer an easy option to pack, parents and caregivers can be left scratching their heads over what to pack in those lunches that will not only get eaten, but is healthy AND safe for all.
Can you relate? Are you feeling a little lost in the nut-free lunch box idea area? I have you covered! There are so many healthy, kid-friendly foods you can keep on hand for those lunches that also ensure the safety of those with nut allergies.
Tips-and-tricks for packing a nut-free school lunch your kid will actually eat!
Lunchbox-friendly food ideas are all well and good, but they are only helpful if your child will actually eat them. Nothing is more frustrating to a parent and/or caregiver than a lunchbox coming back untouched or (worse) food being thrown away or wasted.
Through my years of motherhood + being a teacher, I have definitely learned some tips and tricks for packing a lunch that kids will actually hunker down and eat at meal time. Let me share my wisdom….
- Include the children in the packing as much as possible. Not only does this help them gain independence so you can eventually hand off the task of packing their lunch to them, but it also allows your children to have a say in what goes into their lunch boxes. And chances are, if they green lighted a food going into their lunch…they are so much more likely to eat it.
- Offer variety. My daughter has used bento-style lunch containers since she was little. Not only are they handy and reduces the chances of lunch containers getting lost in the great abyss that is the school lost and found, but all the different compartments encourage the packing of lots of different lunchtime options. Sending lots of food choices means that even if your child doesn’t eat one thing in their lunch, they will likely have chowed down on other options.
- Save new foods for home. If your kiddo has never had something before, save it for home so that if they don’t like it…they aren’t left hungry in the middle of the school day! Also, trying new foods at home means you can role model being adventurous with new foods.
- Know that kids’ appetites ebb and flow. They might be going through a growth spurt or maybe they had a super active P.E. class and chowed down their lunch no problem last week. But this week, they seem to be less hungry and lunches are coming back with parts uneaten. This is totally normal! Don’t fret too much if your kiddos appetite varies from one day to the next. Of course, if you see a drastic change in their eating that lasts for a prolonged time, touching base with your child’s pediatrician is always good for peace of mind.
- Know that kids eat differently at school/daycare than at home. Lunch time at school is a child’s opportunity to be social and they may prioritize chatting with their peers over eating the contents of their lunch box. Again, this is totally normal. Aim to have a filling, nutrient dense breakfast and dinner on school days to help balance it out.
- Be aware of choking hazards for kids. Toddlers and young children under 5 might need you to do a little extra prep to lunch boxes to reduce choking risk. Things like grapes and cherry tomatoes need to be halved and carrot sticks might need to be cut very thin for young kids.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way….
Here are some of my go-to nut-free school lunch ideas. Be sure to adjust the different serving sizes to fit your child’s age and personal needs. Also, try to mix-and-match to help offer nutritional variety and reduce food-burnout.
Nut-free school lunch ideas
- Nut-free spreads. We are so lucky. There are so many nut-free spreads on the market these days! Sunflower seed butter, granola butter, hummus, and/or cream cheese are all great fillings for a sandwich that are also free of nuts! I like to use sunflower seed or granola butter with some chia jam for a classic PB&J (minus the PB). Or hummus and cream cheese with sliced turkey and spinach for a savory sandwich.
- Nut-Free Skout Organic bars. I literally always have a stash of these on hand to make nut-free lunch box packing easy….even on hectic mornings. Skout Organic bars are the perfect size for kids, have simple organic ingredients, and oodles of nut-free flavors to pick from. My daughter absolutely loves Skout Organic products and I highly recommend keeping them on hand for lunches, snacks on the go, or as a purse snack for when you find yourself getting the hangries when you are out and about. Skout Organic is offering the Natural Nurturer community 20% off their order when they use code TNN on their site.
- Veggie-loaded quesadillas. My daughter adores these because cheese makes every veggie a little more exciting. I like to add cooked lentils to the mix for a boost of plant protein, but you can also use sliced deli meat, leftover cooked chicken or ground meat, or omit the meat all together.
- Hard boiled eggs. Simple and classic! If your child enjoys eggs, these are a great way to get a nut-free protein into your kiddos lunch that is also low fuss.
- Snack lunches. A cheese stick, some crackers, some fruit, maybe a little hummus or avocado, and BOOM! A nut-free lunch is packed. Snack lunches naturally offer that variety of choices that children love and can easily be made with whatever you have kicking around. They are easily a favorite of kids and adults!
- Leftovers in a thermos. If your kids loved dinner last night, send the leftovers for lunch in a thermos. I find the best way to keep food warm in a thermos is to heat up the inside of the thermos with extra hot water. Once nice and hot, I dump the water, add the heated food to the thermos, and close it up! Works great. Just make sure your child has the hand strength to open the thermos before sending food in it for lunch!
- Pasta salad and chicken salads. These are meant to be enjoyed cold and a great way to get veggies and protein. Try my Pesto Veggie Pasta Salad or my Veggie-Loaded Spring Chicken Salad. For a vegetarian option, give my Mashed Chickpea salad a go!
- Veggie-Loaded Muffins. You all knew I was going to have to add this one! I love my veggie-loaded muffins for lunch boxes and so do you and your kids! They are easily some of the most popular recipes on my site. If you need a recipe to get started with, I highly recommend my Veggie-Load Pizza Muffins or Veggie-Loaded Chocolate Protein Muffins!
- Breakfast for lunch. Breakfast is a fun meal to have for any meal…so don’t be afraid to make it a lunch box filler. Yogurt & nut-free granola or overnight oats. Waffles with sliced fruit. Pancake sandwiches with a nut-free spread. Have fun with it! Your kid will be dazzled and excited to chow down for sure
- Veggie-Loaded Pizza Rolls. Think cinnamon rolls but pizza style! I love to make a batch of these ahead of time to stock my fridge and freezer with. They make nut-free lunch box packing so much easier!
- Fresh fruit. Classic and simple, but totally worth noting. I love to throw berries, sliced apples with cinnamon, grapes, sliced mango, and/or orange segments into lunches as a healthy nut-free option.
- Sliced veggies + dips. Does your kiddo love bell peppers or carrots? Maybe cucumbers or those cute little grape tomatoes? Those are great options to throw into lunch boxes that are both healthy and nut-free.
Nut-free lunch box ideas: Veggie-Loaded Pizza Rolls
- Muffin tin
- 16 ounces pizza dough store bought or homemade
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 cup finely chopped spinach
- 1/2 cup finally chopped bell pepper
- 1/2 cup grated carrots
- 1/3 cup pepperoni or to taste, omit for vegetarian option
- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese or to taste, divided
- any pizza toppings your family enjoys
- Preheat your oven to 400℉ and line or grease a 12-hole muffin tin.
- Flour a large cutting board or surface and roll out the pizza dough into a 12x 14 rectangle
- Spread sauce over the surface of the rectangle and sprinkle the spinach, carrot, bell peppers and pepperoni (if using) over it in an even layer. Top with 1 cup of cheese.
- Starting at one end, carefully roll the dough into a tight roll.
- Use a serrated knife to cut the roll in to 12 pieces.
- Place each pizza roll into a prepared muffin tin compartment. Sprinkle tops with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.
- Bake for 20-22 minutes or until the dough is golden brown.
- Let cool in pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Enjoy warm or let cool completely before storing in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
The nutritional information is provided as an estimate only and may vary based on the product type, servings and other factors. If you are following a diet, please consult with a professional nutritionist or your doctor. Stay healthy!