Preparing Peanut Free School Lunches is essential these days, as districts have banned these nuts for the lethal allergic reactions that they provoke
Photo by CC user usdagov on Flickr

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have long been the quintessential feature of school lunches, and for good reason—they are easy to make and packed with protein. Unfortunately, the rate of peanut allergies in the United States has more than tripled in the last twenty years. Due to the potential severity of allergic reactions to peanuts, many schools have placed restrictions on what students can pack for lunch, even going so far as to ban peanuts entirely. If your child is unable to bring peanut butter to school for any reason, then you might find the following peanut free school lunches helpful.

Monday: Mini Taco Bar

Tacos are a fun and nutritious meal, and your children can easily enjoy them at school. All you have to do is pack the following ingredients into individual sandwich bags or food storage containers:

         6-inch tortillas
         Pre-cooked shredded chicken
         Cheese
         Salsa
         Lettuce
         Tomatoes

Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list of possibilities for taco fixings. You can pack whatever ingredients your children will most enjoy. They will love having their own personal taco bars at the lunch table, and you will love knowing that they are getting servings of protein, whole grains, dairy, and vegetables. Don’t forget to throw in some utensils to make assembling the tacos easier!

Tuesday: Turkey and Lettuce Wrap

Wraps are a fun way to package a balanced meal. Start with any type of wrapper, such as a tortilla or some flatbread. To set the tone for flavor, slather on a healthy spread like Just Mayo by hamptoncreek, which comes in classic, chipotle, sriracha, and garlic varieties. In the middle of the wrap, layer pieces of lettuce and deli turkey. Then throw in some tomatoes and cheese, roll the whole thing up, and boom—you’ve got a crunchy lunch. Wraps can easily be adapted to please any kid, and you can even use leftover taco materials for the filling.

Wednesday: Red Beans and Rice

Red beans and rice are a simple meal that you can make Tuesday evening and stretch into several days’ worth of lunches for the whole family. Beans are high in fiber and protein, making them the perfect lunchtime pick-me-up, and rice makes an excellent backdrop for the beans’ bold flavor. Bonus points: The ingredients for this meal are dirt cheap. To make things more interesting, you can add cheese, small condiment packets, meat, or diced tomatoes.

Thursday: California Rolls

When you make the rice for the previous meal, go ahead and make enough for California rolls. California rolls might seem intimidating if you have never made them before, but they are actually quite simple to put together and the results are scrumptious. More points in their favor: they are packed with nutritious ingredients and you can tweak them in numerous ways to meet your children’s tastes. You might want to make them the night before so you do not have to rush through the rolling process at the crack of dawn. Don’t worry, though— they refrigerate like a dream.

Friday: Hummus and Red Pepper Pita

Start the weekend on a fun note by going Mediterranean. Pita pockets are always a hit with the school crowd, and their novel shape makes them easy to stuff with tasty ingredients. For protein power, start with a thick layer of hummus, which you can purchase or make in numerous flavor varieties. Slices of red bell pepper will add a satisfying crunch, a pinch of sweetness, and a mega-dose of vitamin C. If you have an eager eater, you can top the whole thing off with a sprinkle of feta cheese. Opa!

Safe and Satisfied

Fortunately, these are just a few of numerous peanut butter-free lunches that children can bring to school. To get more ideas, you can search the internet, scour your cookbooks, or simply brainstorm a few possibilities on your own. Any lunch is nicely complemented by a piece of fruit, some whole grain chips, and water or milk. Of course, almost all kids love to have a treat at the end of their meals, so just make sure that any dessert you pack does not contain peanuts.

Although it can be frustrating at first to adapt to new meal requirements, it will not be long at all before making peanut-free lunches is second nature to you. Whether it is your children or their schoolmates who have peanut allergies, a little ingenuity and reinvention are more than worth it to make lunchtime safe and fun for everyone.