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Hello, i have not posted here in a while - pnut allergic daughter

What to have for lunch, especially with a picky pickle, can be a challenge, and we are not always our sharpest first thing in the morning!

We have used bento-style lunch boxes for my HS daughter since 2nd grade (prek-1st had safe school lunches). They can be more time intensive than traditional sandwich, fruit, dessert style lunches, but allow great creativity and even whimsy - most kids love food in colorful compartments! The best time to make lunch is as you stash the dinner leftovers. If my daughter really liked the chicken and carrots tonight, I know she will eat them at lunch.

What to pack? The best bet are leftovers that are still tasty cold.
Heres our ""leftoverture"" menu options:

Protein: Sliced/diced meat (deli-style or dinner), beans (can be straight from can), hard cheese
Veggie: Sliced/diced fresh or cooked (& chilled)
Grain: Cooked & Cooled Pasta, Rice, Quinoa. Also breads or crackers.
Fruit: Whole fruit, fruit leather, dried fruit (sunmaid)
Fun: Muffins, granola bars (Vermont Nut Free, Libre Naturals, ...)

Hot Pots
Thermos with heated leftovers or soup - this one must be done in the morning for warm food safety. To start, we heat water to boiling. Pour hot water into the thermos, close lid. As the the thermos ""heats"" we heat the leftovers or soup fast bits (broth + leftovers + dry pasta or cooked pasta/rice). When everything is up to a boil (pasta may still be crunchy), we empty the water (usually my daughter will make tea or oatmeal with water!) and load thermos with lunch.

Use Google or Pinterest to search for more inspiration or try the sites below. Here are two mothers of ""normal"" kids that pack peanut/nut free to support others:


My daughter has had the same ""Laptop Lunchbox"" since 2nd grade (d/w safe & sturdy!), plus we have a collection of divided plastic (BPA free, freezer to microwave safe) containers. Also consider Lunchbots (stainless steel, indestuctible, we have their thermos).

We just bought some colorful silicone cupcake liners, a great ""two-fer!"" They can keep some foods (like croutons or crackers) from getting damp sitting in lettuce and really do make easy out muffins, even the healthy muffins that tend to become one with the paper liners.

Had no problems finding PA DD safe lunches as she is not so picky but also have a very, very picky son who lives peanut-free in support of sister. He would generally not eat a true lunch but rather some decent snacks. His lunch would be as soon as he walked in the door. This was not anything we suggested but something he found works for him.

Sharp cheddar cheese & safe crackers
Yogurt/safe granola
Cut up celery/carrots/colored-peppers/cukes with a safe dressing for dipping
Tyson chicken patty on a bagel or roll
Tyson chicken nuggest in a thermos
Tyson chicken strips in a roll or in the thermos
Soynut butter/Polaner All-Fruit and for a special treat, once or twice a year wed by a smalll thing of marshmellow fluff and he would take SNB/All-fruit and fluff sandwiches (so very yummy!!)
Annies Mac-n-Cheese in a thermos
Bagel with cream cheese
Pretzels/apples to dip in SNB
Low-salt tortilla chips and shredded cheese. School would sell tacos or nachos - he wouldnt even think of eating the liquid cheese (which I totally get as thought of it makes me squirm). I didnt mind this for the occasional lunch because it was better than tacos served by school. Include some veggies or cut-up fruit and it turned into a really no-so-bad lunch
Moms fruit salad speciality - cut up 2 mangos, 1 thick watermelon slice, 4 kiwi, 1/2 cantelope, 1/2 honeydew, blueberries, 1 granny smith apple (unpeeled), 1 gala apple (unpeeled), 2 plums, 1 nectarine, 1/2 pineapple. The trick of the recipe is to cut the fruit into very small chunks - like no larger than an M-n-M (if you made the m-n-m square). Every time we make this for a new occasion where no one has had it before, someone always says, ""Its like getting a burst of fruit flavor in every bite"". It is so common that someone says this that it has become a family joke

A lot of mix and match things. Like with the cheese and crackers, we would also send grapes and/or cut-up apples. Same with the pretzels. We had lunch container that had separate bins in it so that no food touched. Not that he was picky in that regard but the container interested him and sometimes it was easier to get him to eat when the presentation was cool.

I re-read your post and I think was the question was more, ""How do you handle hot lunch at school"". My answer...for elementary school we did not. It was part of her 504 that we would supply her lunch so that it was one less thing for the school to worry about. In return, they agreed to take PBJ off the menu and replaced it with cheese sandwiches. If a child forgot their lunch and didnt pay for hot lunch, they got the cheese sandwich. When she was first going through this, we tried to make her lunches match the schools but she sort of outgrew this need. But, this was important on pizza days. On pizza days, the pizza was brought in from a local pizza shop - one we trust. With numerous talks with with pizza place and the school, pizza was the one lunch we could trust the school providing. And that was a big treat. One more thing - so that she could still go through the lunch line, she bought milk at school and sometimes a sealed yogurt, which made her feel like a big-girl and the same as all the other kids.


My allergic son loves dry breakfast cereal and a cheese stick for lunch; he generally doesnt like sandwiches.

The school lunches will only be as safe as the vendors can make them. Our first school district put down explicit guidelines for vendors, if they did not meet them or thiught the couldnt, the district dropped them.

Our current district has a system linking the menu to the ingredient lists of the items purchased. If my daughter tried to buy something with peanuts or tree nuts, the whole screen goes RED! Problem is that the district doesnt not always use the same vendor for the same item each week, and it is possible for the same item on the menu come from multiple vendors - the system may not be up to date or reflect mutliple vendors! The cafeteria manager told me that is a frustration for her, especially for kids with dairy or wheat allergies.

DD buys factory sealed items from trusted vendors (ex milk, popsicles, and snacks) at school - that is fun. In grade school, when a parent sent something in for the class that was not safe (but not a threat) for her to eat, the cafeteria manager allowed her to come choose something from the cafeteria snack stock that was safe - even if the cafeteria was not open for food service!

This post was very helpful to me as well. My daughter is getting ready to start pre-school and is a very picky eater as well. I am making a list of foods she likes that are easy to pack: yogurt (stick type which freeze nice) and banana Greek and Danactive drinkables; cheese - string, fun shaped or sliced; whole grain Earths best chicken and fish nuggets; chopped Craisins; veggie and fruit squeezy pouches; veggies and dip; my homemade soups that I can freeze ahead of time. I am also going to get a little ""cookie"" cutter for fun shapes of fruit. She loves Sun butter so I will do sandwiches with jelly. I am trying to experiment with some different bread options to see if she will eat them so it gives some more variety also - like Bagel thins, Flat outs, tortilla wraps... I also want to try her on hard boiled eggs - those are the perfect protein and would be a great lunch protein.

I am also going to get a list of what they are serving for hot lunch everyday so that when they are having her favorites (like pizza or nuggets, I have that packed for her also). I do not trust school lunch to provide for her - there are too many variables of things that could go wrong or unchecked. I know that you have that risk anytime you eat out but at least when she eats out, she is with me and I am double checking with staff and then ready to treat her if needed.

What my mom always did was bring a big box of all my favorite snacks and gave them to my teacher at the beginning of the year. That way, during snack time I wouldnt feel left out when the other kids ate something that I couldnt eat. For lunch my mom just always switched it up and I was also able to eat the lunch the school provided.