Keeley McGuire is the proud mother of “Little Miss,” her sous chef. Together they love spending time in the kitchen creating, cooking and making fun foods. Keeley views the challenges of working full-time, parenthood and food allergies as an adventure!
Keeley and Little Miss, proof that their goal is to show the world that “food can be fun for kids with food allergies.”
You can follow their journey on her KeeleyMcGuire website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We’re proud she is also an Official SunButter Blogger Ambassador and so happy to share her proven tips for packing nut-free, allergy-friendly school lunches that kids will love! Thanks, Keeley!
A few simple shape cutters, a thoughtful note and well-balanced meal make for simply fun allergy-friendly lunches. Here’s how you can pack allergy friendly school lunches like Keeley!
My daughter started attending school full-time at the age of two. I already knew at that time about her life-threatening food allergy, add on top of that sensory disorders and the normal pickiness that comes with any toddler.
That’s when I started getting creative.
Lunch doesn’t have to be boring
Making it doesn’t have to be a dreaded task, either. My daughter, now almost nine, avoids peanuts, tree nuts, and gluten. I avoid dairy and gluten due to an autoimmune disease. Managing multiple diets can seem tricky, but by focusing on all the “can haves” instead of the “can nots,” we manage to have delicious lunches packed daily without feeling overwhelmed or like we’re missing out.
Here are some of my tried and true lunch packing tips to get you through the school year:
Lunch Containers & Gear: You don’t need to break the bank to get started!
1) Utilize what you already have around the house to use for ecofriendly & waste free lunch packing. Reach for recycled deli meat containers, recycled condiment containers from restaurant leftovers, strawberry clam shells, leftover cupcake liners, even coffee shop stir sticks make great (non-sharp) food picks.
2) There are also great items available from your local dollar stores: Divided lunch containers, cute food picks, cupcake liners and even cookie/ sandwich cutters.
3) Be sure to check “after holiday sales” for clearance items that can be used—food picks, containers, even empty plastic Easter eggs make fun food dividers to pack.
Food Friendly: Packing lunches efficiently
1) Save yourself a morning headache by packing lunches the night before. This will ensure your family gets a well-balanced meal, even though you run out of time the next day while rushing out the door. Once you get into the habit, it will become normal routine.
2) Feel like the evenings are too hectic too? That’s okay – I share on my blog tips for packing lunches for an entire week ahead of time. Spend one Sunday afternoon making lunches for the entire week. See how to pack a week of lunches!
3) Leftovers are your friend. I will purposely make extra so that we can eat it for lunches the next day. Throw an extra chicken breast on the grill, boil extra allergy friendly noodles, etc. Pack lunches while you’re cleaning up dinner to ensure they make it to the lunchbox before anyone else nibbles on them late at night!
4) Bake ahead for easy lunches! The freezer is your friend. Allergy free pancakes, corn dog muffins, gluten free homemade chicken nuggets and more. Make large batches ahead so you can pull them out and heat for lunches. Get some of our favorite bake-ahead recipes.
Eat your veggies. But how?!
One of the items I’m asked the most about is how to get more veggies into lunches… that kids will actually eat! There are only a handful of veggies my own daughter prefers, so to kick up her intake, I often “sneak” them into baked goods and sauces. Get our veggie-loaded Tomato Soup Carrot Spice Muffins recipe.
Sick of sandwiches?
I know. You can only pack so many before you (and the kids) have had enough. We love SunButter for lunch, but don’t limit yourself to using it just on sammies! Try an Apple Butter & SunButter Quesadilla. What about using it as a dip for apples or blueberry waffle sticks:
Keeley’s blueberry waffle-and-SunButter-stick sandwiches are allergy friendly and delicious, made with Van’s Waffles.
Try a DIY Lunchable with crackers and jelly or honey. One of my personal favorites are Applewiches with SunButter and granola!
My best advice: Find a routine that works for you and focus on the items your kids love and can safely enjoy. Then start thinking outside the sandwich for fun ways to pack it for lunches. Lunch shouldn’t be boring, make it fun!