School Lunch: Keeping it simple.

School lunches are a challenge for many parents.  Especially those who find themselves attending a school that enforces mandatory exclusions to protect other children from allergens.  If you are not used to avoiding certain foods, it’s even more difficult to pack a lunch without them.

One of the most common questions I get when I tell people what all Elena is allergic to is, “What do you feed her?”  In fact, that’s the question I had in my own head when I first got her diagnosis.  We started with the basics and had a lot of fun with it.  We do a lot of “cutting board” dinners in the summer.  I just go to the cutting board and prep all kinds of produce and sometimes bread.  It’s simple, quick, healthy, and I don’t have to heat up the oven or stove at all.  We do this a lot using muffin tins, ice cube trays, or other sectioned containers.  The girls love it.


One of our muffin tin lunches last summer. I can’t believe how little the girls looked.

The lunches I pack for school are very similar to this.  I love doing it this way because I can just throw in whatever we have in the fridge.  She likes the variety and she rarely has the exact same lunch twice.  I always give her a juice box and usually a fruit puree pouch, which we call “smoothies”, or “moosies” if you’re Olivia.  Here are some of Elena’s actual lunches she has taken to school.   You won’t believe how simple it really is to pack an allergy friendly meal.


This is a Hummus dipper lunch. Get a single serving pouch of safe hummus, or spoon some into a small container. Then all you have to do is give some crackers, veggies, or other dippers. Of course, our usual “smoothie” and juice box are here as well.


Bento style lunch. Fruits, veggies, craisins, and pasta in this one. Anything goes.


Pasta salad with veggies and mixed fruit. Yes, the pasta is heart shaped. I usually just use bowties or penne.


Here we have edamame, berries, crackers, tomatoes, and turkey jerky bites. Ok, so it’s not ALL healthy. The tomatoes are in a silicone cupcake baking cup. I use them as dividers a lot.


Obviously, this one was from Valentine’s Day. Cucumbers, red peppers, and a sandwich. I don’t remember what kind of sandwich this was, but probably either turkey or sunbutter and jelly.

I also always try to throw in a special napkin.  I get character napkins from the party section at Target or use the extra party napkins from various celebrations.  She really likes having a colorful napkin, since we don’t typically use those at home.  Elena also has a very special way of reminding me to send a fork.  I owe a big apology to her teachers for those days I forget.  I know it doesn’t slow her down one bit…


8 thoughts on “School Lunch: Keeping it simple.

  1. Thanks so much for the tips. We will be going to a peanut free school next year and I’m embarrassed to admit, but a peanut butter sandwich is always the first request for any school lunch. It’s just so easy that we end up doing it all the time. I like that you show easy and HEALTHY ways to meet the needs of every child in the class. This benefits everyone. Caroline would love having a lunch like this. Could you post where you got the divided containers? I love the silicone cup divider. Genius.

      • Yes, I will re-post in August. I’m always keeping my eyes open for divided containers at Target or WalMart. The yellow one is the Dr. Sears Nibble Tray, which I got on Amazon. The purple one was actually given to us by Elena’s PK directer because she noticed that Elena used that type a lot. Most containers will work with the silicone cupcake dividers, though. You can just put four un a square or round container. Sunbutter is allowed in most schools, but I know it’s not for everyone. Here is the link for the nibble tray…

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  3. Pingback: NO this, NO that…What CAN you send to school for lunch? | allergenmenumom

  4. I am a grown up- non mommy with severe food allergies (Casein, All Dairy, Tomatoes, and an instant anaphylaxis reaction to bananas.) Someone sent me your blog link when I was taken to task by a mom at work (I’m a youth pastor) for not eating what the kids were eating for dinner. I often struggle to find things to eat and your blog has given me some fantastic dairy free options. I am proud to tell you that the older your daughter with allergies will get, the more she will help to deflect some of the negativism about food allergies. When I was diagnosed at age 11, it became a talking point about why I couldn’t just go to town on a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Because I know treats are hard to find, the So Delicious brand has a dairy free, gluten free, wheat free coconut milk ice cream with rice flour cookie dough pieces, and while I’m probably sure you’ve found and tested that out, I figured I’d offer it as a suggestion. It’s fantastic. I am SO grateful to have been steered to your site, where I can find a lot of great info!

    • Oh my goodness, that sounds fabulous. I haven’t tried it yet, but you can rest assured that I will be finding it. My daughter doesn’t do coconut, but I do. I’m off dairy for our dairy allergic 8 month old, so this sounds perfect for me. I LOVE the So Delicious coconut milk coffee creamer. Also, I’m so glad to hear that it will get easier as she gets older. I often wonder how the struggles will change for her as she gets older and takes more and more responsibility for managing her own allergies. Have you been able to try out the YoDish app yet (available on iPhone or iPad? My husband and I are creating it and trying to improve it all the time so it will make some of the struggles easier. It’s completely free, so if you get a chance, we would love for you to add some of your favorite restaurant dishes and let us know what you think. Also, when you set up your profile, if you have dietary restrictions that are not included in the list to choose from, just send me a message and we can add them. As for the criticism you have received for not eating the same things as the kids…I hope people will realize more and more that so many people have different dietary needs and it’s just not reasonable to expect a group of people to all eat the same things. Thanks so much for the message. I enjoyed reading it and I’m glad to know you’re enjoying the blog.

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