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)  




DIY Pizzas and "no touching raw meat"

It's well documented that my kids voice their opinions when it comes to breakfast and lunch and that it's something that I both encourage and celebrate. But dinner? That's all me. Whatever I want to make (and eat) for dinner is what we're doing. I'm usually pretty confident that each of my kids will enjoy some part of dinner – but frankly with three kids (one of whom can't eat dairy, another who would eat her weight in dairy and pasta every day if she could and a third who basically only eats fruit, yogurt and chicken legs but will sometimes experiment with whatever his big sister is eating), it's near impossible to please everyone all of the time. Fine. Even when I'm past that challenge, dinner needs to be ready quickly. I aim for 30 minutes or less. And it usually has a protein, a vegetable and a fruit. 


After this weekend's kitchen disaster, where embarrassingly I mangled two fingers in a stick blender, I was told by an ER doc not to touch raw meat until the stitches come out next week. You can't be too careful when it comes to potential infection and wounds. I'd be fine with grain and green salads and black beans for days (or weeks!) on end, but I'm not sure the rest of my gang would feel the same. 

So tonight we're making pizzas. I bought whole wheat pizza dough and found these organic (fully cooked) sausages at my local market that my crew can add to their pizzas or have on the side (or not). My kids go bananas for DIY pizza. I cut some corners by buying pre-shredded cheese (I'm feeling a bit squeamish about sharp edged things at the moment) and buying already prepared sauce. We'll pair it with grapes (cut for the baby) and frozen peas (my son prefers these still frozen) and call it a day. It's a win-win, as far as I'm concerned. The prep time is not much more than the time it takes for my kids to roll out the dough and spread their own toppings, and I've followed doctor's orders. 

DIY pizza means you can leave the cheese off part of it, for the dairy-free! 

DIY pizza means you can leave the cheese off part of it, for the dairy-free! 


LaLa Lunchbox Teams Up with Applegate!

We are so excited to feature Applegate on the newest version of LaLa Lunchbox!

Applegate products now available in the LaLa Lunchbox Food Library!

Applegate products now available in the LaLa Lunchbox Food Library!

As a person with life threatening food allergies, I've always been a label reader. My mom is a cookbook author and food writer so food played an enormous part of my childhood. While I would never call myself a picky eater (I have enough restrictions because of my allergies!), I learned early about being picky when it comes to certain ingredients and meat was one of them.  
At some point in my adult life, the food world opened up to me in a whole new, magical way. I became more aware of what grows where, which nutrients help the body and in what way, what's potentially harmful and how to pay attention to my body's signals and pursue the foods that made me feel good. As they say, knowledge is power. I like to know about what I'm eating and now as a mom, I'm deeply invested in what I'm feeding my children. 

Along the way, I made the conscious decision to choose meats that are high quality, organic and humanely raised whenever possible. I believe in sound, safe, hygienic farming practices, respect for animals and the earth. For us, these choices are not a diet or a fad. These are issues that we have prioritized in our family. I reserve no judgement for the choices of others on this matter. But because of the choices that we've made for our family, we have long been fans of Applegate products

Applegate produces delicious, high quality natural and organic meats, sausages and cheeses that are free of antibiotics, artificial ingredients and chemical nitrates. I support this wholeheartedly. This is why I'm so excited to team up with Applegate and feature their meats and cheeses by name in our LaLa Lunchbox Food Library. Now you and your hungry little monsters have Applegate's delicious products available right at your fingertips and they can be easily added to your grocery list!

For those of you who already have LaLa Lunchbox, simply update the app and the items will appear in your Food Library - along with the 12 new adorable LaLa Monsters! For those of you who are new to the LaLa family, welcome! 

String Cheese: Snack? Or Main?

String Cheese is a funny thing. I dont think it was around when I was a kid... at least my mom never had it in our house. But everywhere I look these days, kids are having string cheese. It's funny because cheese doesn't come in logs like this and we don't typically peel back layers of cheese and eat them with our fingers. And yet you can ask some kids about string cheese (referred to lovingly by many as cheese sticks) and they'll voice opinions loudly about the "striped kind" or the "white kind" or the "splotchy kind." 

Some parents hail it as a calcium-rich, non-sugar snack. Some parents consider it part of the "main dish" as an added protein. Some hate it because some brands have a hefty amount of sodium. Some avoid it entirely because all of the packaging is detrimental to the environment. All very good points, if you ask me. 

My daughter loves cheese in all forms and always has. But when it comes to her lunchbox, she's not sure where string cheese belongs. Is it a main protein? Is it a snack? 

What do you think of string cheese?