Top Allergy Safe Lunch #11

Top 8 Safe 11

Around here, breakfast for lunch is a huge hit. I like to make a double batch of pancakes and either refrigerate or freeze the extras, depending on when my kids plan to pack them for lunch. The lunchroom is a social place, and because of that, a fun lunch experience (like eating pancakes with mini maple syrup) is something I can get behind. 

This lunch is Top 8 Free, so it has no peanuts, tree nuts, egg, dairy, soy, gluten, fish or shellfish. The pancake recipe is below and though my home is not gluten free or egg free or soy free, these pancakes are the ones we make regularly. Yeah, they're that good. This lunch also features coconut milk yogurt, carrots, dried banana, kiwi, raspberries and a sweet note from me. 

Top 8 Free Pancakes

1 cup oat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut milk yogurt
1/4 cup water
1 flax egg (1 tablespoon of flax meal + 2.5 tablespoons water)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons avocado oil, plus extra for frying (feel free to substitute coconut oil) 
1 teaspoon vanilla
optional: 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients. Combine the dry and wet ingredients. Add the oil to a frying pan on medium high heat. Spoon in the batter to make the pancake size you desire. When the top bubbles a little, flip them. Fry for another minute or two until done. 


Allergy-free birthday parties

When I was growing up, no one had allergies like me. Fish and nuts are common allergens nowadays but decades ago, having anaphylaxis felt as rare and weird as having a third ear. On bad days, kids at school would tease me and say I should live in a bubble -- like John Travolta in this movie. It's funny in retrospect because fish and tree nuts are relatively easy to avoid for me now, but it speaks to how unusual food allergies were in my world. My parents would send a list of the foods that I was allergic to for all of my friends' parents, to make them aware of what I could and couldn't eat when I went to their house to play. It mostly worked. 

allergy friendly birthday parties

When I got a bit older and went to sleepaway camp, I had to choose a friend to eat separately with me every time fish or nuts were served in the dining hall. The social pressure on that was enormous. Some girls fought over who got chosen and others wanted nothing at all to do with me. The other two hundred campers were instructed to wash their hands and brush their teeth after those meals to keep me safe. Over a loud speaker. Twice a week for 8 weeks. Whether or not they all complied, I can't say for sure, but as you can imagine, it was an unwanted spotlight that highlighted the ways that I was different when all I wanted to do was fit in. The world is a tiny place so it shouldn't have surprised me that during my first semester at college, I ran into someone from that camp. But it did. The first thing she said after recognizing my face was "I washed my hands and brushed my teeth for you!" That's how she remembered me. And so it goes for allergic kids, even today when the rate of allergies is so prevalent and supportive communities are everywhere. We're singled out. 

My kids have an increased risk of having food allergies but as of today, only my youngest has allergies. She can't have dairy or berries but neither of those allergies is life-threatening and I'm told she's likely to outgrow them. She's never tried nuts or fish so we're not sure about those. One of her friends, a sweet, smiley darling kid has lots of food allergies - to gluten, chicken eggs, dairy, nuts, and a whole host of other foods including certain fruits and vegetables and black beans. His mom is used to bringing food to birthday parties so that he's safe, as most allergy moms do today, but given my own childhood allergy experiences, I didn't want him to feel singled out at my daughter's birthday party. 

I spent a week testing several recipes for chocolate cake (my daughter's choice) that were free from gluten, nuts, cow dairy and chicken eggs. The first one, made from dates, butter beans, flax meal and cocoa powder was a complete fail. Also it broke my mini Cuisinart. I consulted the child's mom (she's an absolute pro!) and posted on Facebook and Instagram for recipe help. The internet is a wonderful place, and I received great feedback. Ultimately, I made four cakes with three different recipes for the party -- one that was made without flour of any kind and two that were made with gluten free flour. Two of the three were made with duck eggs (which are safe for him) instead of chicken eggs and one of them was made with goat milk in place of cow dairy. One of the cakes was free from both eggs and dairy. 

Below are links to the recipes. I hope they're useful for you. If so, drop us a line

Gluten Free Wacky Cake

Gluten and Dairy Free Chocolate Roll
allergy friendly birthday cake

Huge App Update and New Food Bundles to Fit Every Lifestyle

Sneak peak from our new Nut Free bundle

Sneak peak from our new Nut Free bundle

When we first launched LaLa Lunchbox back in 2012, our goal was to make school lunches easier for families. Our mission was to get kids engaged in the meal planning process in a long term effort to help raise the next generation of healthy eaters. We sought to make the "what's for lunch" chore easier for parents, to help them save time and money by packing lunch items that they had already shopped for, and that their kids would actually enjoy eating. 

Sneak peak from our new Dairy Free bundle

Sneak peak from our new Dairy Free bundle

We've been overwhelmed by the response in the last four years! To the LaLa Lunchbox users who email us with comments and praise, we thank you tremendously. We could not have come this far without you! To the publications who have posted about us, we are forever grateful. You have helped hundreds of thousands of people find relief in the daily slog of lunch packing. 

Sneak peak from our new Gluten Free bundle

Sneak peak from our new Gluten Free bundle

While we are satisfied with how far we've come, the lunch-packing struggle is far from over. Here's the big news: to celebrate the back to school season, we've made the LaLa Lunchbox app FREE to download (what are you waiting for?)

Sneak peak from our new Vegetarian bundle

Sneak peak from our new Vegetarian bundle

And the even bigger news: in response to the ever-changing landscape around families and food, we have added five dietary-specific food bundles for users to download -- nut free, dairy free, gluten free, vegetarian and kosher. Four of them have been curated by well-known, phenomenal dietitian and blogger Holley Grainger and the kosher bundle has been curated by the ever-amazing kosher blogger and cookbook author Ronnie Fein. Each bundle contains about 25 new ideas to provide lunch packing inspiration for a variety of lifestyles and eating habits. In addition to these dietary-specific bundles, we've also added three new bundles filled with lunch inspiration from drool-worthy creative food geniuses: Aviva Wittenberg, Sylina Lunches and Gina Kirk.

Sneak peak from our new Kosher bundle

Sneak peak from our new Kosher bundle

Sneak peak from the Aviva Wittenberg bundle

Sneak peak from the Aviva Wittenberg bundle

We hope that this new content inspires you and your family to pack interesting, delicious lunches for your kids this year! As always, we welcome your feedback. Please just drop us a line to let us know how it's going. If you'd like, follow along on Instagram, where we post daily pics of school lunches - we're there in the trenches with you! Be sure to tag us (@lalalunchbox) to show off your lunch creations.

Sneak peak from the Sylina Lunches bundle

Sneak peak from the Sylina Lunches bundle

You'll be able to browse the new food bundles on the app and decide whether the content is for you before downloading. We think you'll be pretty excited when you see the wealth of healthy, delicious, kid friendly options. Of course, these new bundles won't replace the food library you already have -- they're designed to add even more amazing content to our already robust selection of foods. If your child attends a nut-free school, if someone in your family has allergies or sensitivities, if you have dietary preferences for any reason whatsoever or if you just want a fresh injection of new lunch inspiration, we've got you covered. Please note: these bundles are available for a separate, one time fee of $2.99, and with about 25 new lunch ideas in each bundle, that amounts to approximately 11 cents per idea. 

Sneak peak from the Gina Kirk bundle

Sneak peak from the Gina Kirk bundle

So listen, back to school can be an overwhelming time for families. And getting back into the school lunch routine can be downright intimidating. We get that, and we're here to ease the pain. After you download LaLa Lunchbox, go ahead and hand over your iPhone or iPad to the kiddos and let them pick out the foods for their lunches. Their choices will become and easy-to-use grocery list for you so you'll stay on top of your lunch game. As Holley says, "inviting children to lend a voice in the food they eat helps to cultivate a healthy relationship with food, fosters a sense of pride and makes kids more likely to eat more food, resulting in less waste and more money saved." We bet that after using LaLa Lunchbox regularly, you'll never open up a smelly, uneaten wasted lunch at the end of the day again, and you'll never sweat over the "what's for lunch" question again. Win-win. 

Please feel free to email us with comments, questions or feedback - our customers are our number one priority! Best of luck with back to school!  - Gillian 

You may also like:
Best 4 lunch packing tips
Top 5 Reasons to Involve Your Kids in Meal Planning
5 Strategies to Get More Veggies in that Lunchbox

Guide to Safe, Nut-Free Lunches

The school year is winding down, but all kids still need to eat lunch every day. Thanks to the strict nut-free guidelines at my son's preschool (soon to be my daughter's preschool!), I've learned about a ton of products that are both nut-free and produced in a facility that does not process nuts. As a nut-allergic person, it is incredibly comforting to be in a school that takes this seriously. Thankfully, my son doesn't seem to have any food allergies but because of me and as a family, we're hyper aware of those who do. As we approach a new lunch packing season, for families with kids headed to day camp, I wanted to repost this guide to help those who need to pack nut-free lunches for whatever reason. 

Below you'll find a guide to safe, nut-free lunches, largely based on a great, detailed list that I received from my son's school. A note about safe, nut free lunches: fresh, whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables are always a great inclusion into any lunch. And always nut free! If you have product recommendations to add to this list, please add them to the comments below so that others can benefit too. Happy summer! 

Safe, Nut-Free Lunch #1

Safe, Nut-Free Lunch #1

Safe, Nut-Free Lunch #1

Cheese and crackers is always a fun lunch for kids, especially if you add variety with a couple of different cheeses and crackers. 

Here are some crackers that are produced in a facility that does not process nuts:
* Kavli Crispbread - 5 grain
* Back to Nature - Harvest Whole Wheats
* Carr's Whole Wheat Crackers
* Mary's Gone Crackers Original

Hummus produced in a nut-free facility:
* Sabra Hummus
* Tribe Hummus

Want to make your own? Try these:
* Hummus
* Black Bean Dip
* Carrot White Bean Dip

Pretzels made in a facility that does not process nuts:
* Happy Herbert's Pretzels
* Unique Pretzels
* Annie's Pretzel Bunnies


 Safe, Nut-Free Lunch #2

Safe, Nut-Free Lunch #2

Safe, Nut-Free Lunch #2

My kids love lunch on a stick. We like to use tongue depressors for our fruit and cheese kebabs.

Yogurts processed in a nut-free facility include:
* Stonyfield Farm yogurt
* So Delicious Vanilla coconut yogurt (dairy free)
* Chobani yogurt
* Fage yogurt

For popcorn kernels to pop at home (we're huge fans!) you can use Arrowhead Mills Organic Popcorn Kernels (also gluten free). 




Safe, Nut-Free Lunch #3 

Safe, Nut-Free Lunch #3

Safe, Nut-Free Lunch #3

We are big fans of sunbutter. It's not hard to make your own at home, as long as you can find sunflower seeds that are packaged in a nut-free facility and not roasted in peanut oil.  My son loves it either with jam or banana slices. You can pack sunbutter as a sandwich or a roll up (made with a tortilla). Sunbutter Sunflower Seed Spread is processed in a nut-free environment and is also gluten free. Cascadian Farm makes Spreadable Fruit, which is made in a nut-free facility. 

* Happy Herbert's* Unique Pretzels* Annie's Pretzel Bunnies

Breads made in a nut-free facility include: 
* Udi's Whole Wheat Bread
* Rudi's Multigrain Bread

Tortillas made in a nut-free facility include: 
* Rudi's Tortilla Wraps
* Alvarado St. Bread Tortillas

Cheese Sticks packaged in a nut-free facility include:
* Organic Valley Stringles
* Horizon String Cheese

Other nut-free facility lunch options: 

Homemade snacks: 
My favorite nut-free and dairy free granola bars, made with Enjoy Life Foods dairy free chocolate chunks
Oatmeal Banana Bars
Dairy Free Banana Bread made with Earth Balance

Graham crackers: 

* New Morning Organic Cinnamon or Honey Grahams
* Annie's Bunny Grahams
* Mi-del Honey Graham Crackers

* Kashi Cinnamon Harvest or Autumn Wheat
* Cascadian Farm Organic Cinnamon Raisin Granola or Maple Brown Sugar Granola
* Cheerios

Rice Cakes:
* Lundberg Organic Brown Rice Cakes or Organic Caramel Corn Rice Cakes or Cinnamon Rice Cakes

Fruit Snacks:
* Just Tomatoes etc. - Dried Fruits and Veggies (also gluten free)
* Little Ducks Organics - Tiny Fruits (also gluten free)  




Yummy Pasta, Made from Beans!

We're not gluten free in my house (we're nut free and fish free and my littlest one is dairy free, but all of that is another story). As an allergic person, I have an affinity for products that are specifically directed to those with allergies or special food needs, even if they aren't catering to my particular needs. 

When I spoke with the folks at Explore Asian, it was clear that while they set out to create products that were delicious, they are also keenly aware of the needs of those who are gluten free, health conscious, vegan and kosher. I fit into one of those four categories (health conscious) and I can say confidently that these pastas are delish. My kids have added this bean pasta to our LaLa Lunchbox Food Library and now we pack it in our school lunches. I struggle with family dinner sometimes, so this has been a welcome addition. 

The first flavor we tried was the Organic Edamame Spaghetti. My kids are big fans of spinach pasta (affectionately called 'green noodles' in my house) so the color of this was an immediate plus. The kids giggled - how can pasta be made with beans and water? These products are 92% beans and 8% water. I find that amazing. No weird fillers! I was initially a little nervous that the texture would be strange and gummy or rubbery but my concerns were unfounded. While it doesn't taste exactly like pasta made from wheat flour, the mouth feel is pleasant in it's own right. 

Explore Asian Edamame Spaghetti

All three of my kids liked this. I gave it a quick toss with roasted garlic olive oil (see below) and my kids added freshly ground black pepper and voila! Dinner was done. These pastas are loaded with fiber and protein - it's like eating a giant bowl of beans with dinner, but with the ability to twirl on a fork! 

A few nights later, I made the Soybean Spaghetti for dinner with my husband (with plans for leftovers for my two year old). Again, the taste and texture were both satisfying. This time, I made the dish with olive oil, homemade roasted red peppers, sautéed snow peas, steamed green peas and salt. We devoured this. 

Explore Asian Soybean Spaghetti

Explore Asian has other flavors (all organic) including Black Bean pasta, Mung Bean pasta, Adzuki Bean pasta and an Edamame and Mung Bean combination. They also make rice noodles, wheat noodles and noodle soup, but I have not yet tried any of those. 

Have you tried the Explore Asian products? If so, I'd love to hear about how you prepare it! 

Here's the deal with that Roasted Garlic Olive Oil: I roasted several heads of garlic recently and followed this recipe. I then mixed the soft, roasted garlic with olive oil, poured it into an ice tray and froze it. Now whenever I want roasted garlic-flavored olive oil, I just pop out a cube. For pasta dishes, I melt a cube into a sauce pan and give the pasta a quick toss, adding veggies or whatever else might be accompanying the dish. It is typically ready to plate in about 3-4 minutes. 

If you're interested in changing up your dinner game, or adding more variety to your school lunches, check out:
Our 2016 lunch resolutions
Fall/Winter 2016 lunches
Quick Weeknight Meatballs
Our favorite lunchboxes
Easy Spinach Pie

** full disclosure: Explore Asian sent me these pastas to try but I have not been compensated to write this post.