Brown-Bag Lunches for Kids With Food Allergies


Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

If your school-age child has food allergies, you know that preparing safe lunches that are also enticing can be a challenge. That’s why we created this menu of lunchroom suggestions that addresses the seven food allergies kids are most likely to have and makes the grade from a nutritional—and taste—perspective.

Remember to always read labels carefully to make sure the ingredients in these lunch suggestions are safe for your child to eat. Formulations and cross-contamination safety measures can vary by company and product.

Peanut Allergy: Can’t Do PB&J?

Try a peanut-free nutty spread like sunflower-seed butter. Spread whole-wheat bread with the butter (made in a nut-free facility) and banana slices. Pack with an extra container of the butter with celery sticks and apple slices for dipping.

Or something different:
• Make your own parfait. 
Send a single-serving container of Greek yogurt with individual bags of your child’s favorite whole-grain cereal and blueberries. Pack with a bag of carrot sticks.

• Soup and crackers. Pack an insulated container filled with chicken noodle soup and send along a bag of whole-wheat crackers and a container of cubed cantaloupe.

Tree Nut Allergy: Can’t Do Store-Bought Granola?

Try a nut-free make-it-yourself yogurt mix, like trail mix. Combine these ingredients in a bag: raisins, whole-grain cereal, and roasted edamame. Pack with a container of yogurt, sliced strawberries, and handful of raw string beans.

Or something different:
• Make your own pizza.
In individual containers, pack two or three mini whole-grain pitas, tomato sauce, and shredded mozzarella cheese. Pack with red-pepper slices and sliced kiwifruit.

• Mini waffle-wiches. Prepare four mini whole-grain waffles according to package instructions. Spread two with sunflower-seed butter (produced in a nut-free facility) and raspberry preserves. Top each with another waffle. Pack with baby carrots and a banana. 

Dairy Allergy: Can’t Do String Cheese?

Try a dairy-free finger food like guac dippers. Send a single-serving pack of guacamole with individual bags of sliced red pepper and jicama, black beans, and baked tortilla chips.

Or something different:
• Overnight chocolate oats.
The night before, mix ¾ cup rolled oats, 1 cup chocolate almond milk, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, and ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract in a thermos. Refrigerate until morning. Pack with a squeeze pack of almond butter and raspberries for your child to drizzle on top.

• Almond butter wrap. Spread a whole-wheat tortilla or lavash with almond butter, apple butter, and coconut, then roll up. Pack with cherry tomatoes and raspberries.  

Egg Allergy: Can’t Do Hard-Boiled Eggs?

Try an egg-free picnic-style lunch with hummus dippers. Send an individual container of hummus packed with bags of carrot and cucumber slices, whole-wheat pita triangles, and dried figs.

Or something different:
• Cool quesadilla.
Top a whole-wheat flour tortilla with shredded Monterey jack cheese and melt in a skillet or panini press. Then fold in half and cut into triangles. Pack with a container of salsa and an orange.

• Turkey and apple sandwich. Make it by smearing whole-wheat bread with a little Brie cheese and adding freshly cooked turkey breast (not the deli meat variety) and thin Fuji apple slices. Top with mustard or apple butter. Pack with baby carrots and a side of ranch dressing.  

Fish/Shellfish Allergy: Can’t Do Tuna Salad on White?

Try a fish-free tuna stand-in like “chickpea of the sea.” Stuff a whole-grain pita with chickpea “tuna salad.” Mash chickpeas slightly with a fork (they should mostly retain their round shape), then mix with mayo, chopped celery, and salt and pepper to taste. Pack with sugar snap peas and a pear.

Or something different:
• All-in-one.
Using individual containers or zip-top bags, pack small slices of Swiss cheese and fresh-cooked roast beef or turkey breast, whole-grain crackers, and cucumber slices. Pack with red grapes.

• Tomato and mozzarella mix. Mix cherry tomatoes with small balls of mozzarella cheese, then toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Pack with whole-grain crackers and clementines.  

Wheat Allergy: Can’t Do Bread?

Try carrot cake oatmeal. In a thermos, mix cooked oatmeal with shredded carrot, cinnamon, vanilla extract, milk, and walnuts if desired. Pack with string cheese and an apple. 

Or something different:
• Make it yourself tacos.
In individual containers, pack two small corn tortillas (double-check that they’re wheat-free), black beans, guacamole, salsa, and shredded cheddar cheese. Pack with a peach.

• “I can eat it” pasta salad. Toss cooked bean pasta (check the ingredients list to make sure it has no wheat flour) with chopped carrots, bell peppers, leftover chicken breast, and olive oil and red-wine vinegar. Pack with grapes.

Soy Allergy: Can’t Do Soy Butter?

Try a soy-free spread like tahini and honey. Mix tahini (sesame-seed spread) with honey, spread on whole-wheat bread as you would peanut butter, and top with thin apple slices (a crunchy apple, such as Gala, works best) and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Pack with carrot and celery sticks.

Or something different:
• Maple chia Pudding. 
The night before, whisk together 3 tablespoons chia seeds, 3⁄4 cup low-fat or nonfat milk, ¼ of a very ripe banana, mashed, and 1 teaspoon maple syrup in a thermos. Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, stir in 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, if desired. Pack with an apple and a string cheese.

• Pasta butterflies. Toss cooked bowtie pasta with chopped baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella or feta cheese cubes, olive oil, and red-wine vinegar. Pack with blueberries.  

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Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2019, Consumer Reports, Inc.



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