Maybe your life would have been easier if your kid didn’t have allergies and could eat a peanut butter sandwich and yogurt for lunch every single day. Maybe it would have been easier if you married your high school boyfriend, or studied law like your mother told you to. Or maybe not. Life is good, right? And your child is amazing, and wonderful. Law school and high-school boyfriends, be damned!
We suggest learning how to love the creative possibilities in the moment before packing up that lunchbox — and we offer, below, a round-up of allergy-friendly school lunch ideas with links to delicious recipes to help you on your way.
1. Arm yourself with facts
In addition to discovering and understanding your child’s prime allergen(s), you’ll have to remember that offending ingredients are sometimes present in very unexpected places. Dairy may be in processed meats, for instance. Egg proteins are sometimes found in egg substitutes! No kidding. Always read the labels. Try easy substitutions like almond milk instead of 1% and coconut flour instead of wheat flour.
2. Be honest with your kids
Focus on what your child can eat, instead of faking what they can’t. Forget any foods that come with quotation marks: “peanut” butter or “egg” salad sandwiches, for example. Kids resent being tricked. Instead break free of lunch kit conventions with inside-out recipes like these giant shell pasta noodles stuffed with chicken and vegetables, or a chicken breast filled with grated carrot and grapes.
3. Save your leftovers
Purchase a high-quality insulated container in fun colours for leftovers from supper. They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but this is nearly work-free. Your supper is already allergen-appropriate and kid-tested, right? Just chuck it in a little thermos and you’re done. Take that, sandwich artists! These warming soups and pastas would also make a class-y thermos lunch.
4. Dream big
Imagine that popular fast food your kid could never eat, and figure out a way to make it. They’ll appreciate the extra effort! These nut-, dairy-, egg-, red meat- and shellfish-free corn dogs from Allergic Kid blog will catch eyes in the classroom. Yum!
5. Go designer
There’s something about sharing lunch ideas—especially allergen-free—that has some mums and dads going bananas over presentation. Not to say you’ll want to carve carrots into roses every morning…but that space provided by the absent sandwich does make a tempting blank canvas, doesn’t it?