No more peanut butter & jelly—schools are banning nuts in school lunches. Here are 15 nut-free recipes for snacks and lunches your kids will devour.
Asian Chicken Noodle Salad
This pasta salad is chock full of crunchy vegetables, chunks of chicken and slippery noodles to slurp. It's quick to make and fun for the kids.
4 oz. cooked whole-wheat linguine or spaghetti and rinsed in cold water
1 cooked chicken breast, shredded
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into long matchsticks
1 red bell pepper, seeds and core removed, sliced into thin matchsticks
1/2 cup sliced sugar snap peas
1/4 cup bottled sesame ginger salad dressing
Combine the ingredients in a large bowl, tossing well to combine. Pack with fruit and milk to complete the meal. Makes 2-4 servings, depending on age and appetite.
Extras: Try soba or udon noodles in place of the whole-wheat pasta. Add sliced green onions, minced cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice for adventurous eaters.
Kids can: Measure the ingredients, toss the salad.
Quick Berry Compote with Cottage Cheese
For a child who likes a sweeter lunch, or even as breakfast before school, this calcium and protein-rich meal satisfies without the addition of sugar.
1/4 cup blueberries
1/4 cup raspberries
2 Tbsp. diced blackberries
2 Tbsp. diced strawberries
1/4 cup cottage cheese
Combine the fruit in a medium bowl. Mash some of the fruit into a thick pulp, leaving the rest in bite-sized pieces. Serve over cottage cheese, with a nut-free granola bar and fruit-vegetable juice blend to drink. Serves 1.
Extras: Send along a little container of flax seeds (high in Omega-3 fatty acids) and wheat germ (high in essential nutrients) to sprinkle.
Kids can: Measure and mash the fruit.
Broccoli Chicken Brown Rice Salad
With orange juice in the dressing and dried cranberries, this salad pairs child-friendly flavors with parent-pleasing broccoli and brown rice. Hearty and full of textures, you'll want to pack some for your lunch, too.
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup small broccoli florets, cooked tender crisp
1 cooked chicken breast, cut into small chunks
1/4 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp. orange juice
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
In a large bowl, toss together the rice, broccoli, chicken and cranberries. Pour the canola oil and orange juice in, season with salt and ground black pepper. Serve with unsweetened applesauce and milk. Makes enough for 4-6 servings, depending on age and appetite.
Extras: Use a brown rice and wild rice blend for extra texture. Use 2 Tbsp. raisins for the same amount of dried cranberries for a sweet-tart mix. You can also substitute 1/4 cup of bottled dressing instead of making your own.
Kids can: Measure the ingredients, stir the salad.
Carrot Salad Sandwich
This unexpected sandwich filling is great for incorporating leftovers. The crunch of carrots in a sour-sweet dressing contrast nicely with the rich cream cheese.
2 slices whole grain bread
1 tablespoon cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup Grated-Carrot Salad
Divide the cream cheese between the two slices of bread, spreading thinly to the edges. Spoon the salad evenly onto one slice of bread and place the second over to cover. Pack with fruit, baked snack mix and a yogurt drink. Serves 1-2, depending on age and appetite.
Extras: Grate some cucumber into the salad for color and juicy crunch.
Kids can: Help spread the cream cheese, assemble sandwiches.
Crunchy Chickpea Salad
Make this salad the night before to give the vegetables the chance to soak up the dressing — they get crisp as they pickle slightly in the vinegar. The bright colors make the veggies extra enticing.
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 cups mixed raw vegetables, cut into small dice, here we used red, orange and yellow peppers, cucumber, zucchini and summer squash
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup bottled vinaigrette
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, toss well and refrigerate overnight. Serve with pita chips, fruit and a yogurt drink.
Extras: Add in some flaked, cooked boneless salmon filet for protein and Omega-3s. Cooked leftover vegetables (asparagus, peas, broccoli) can also be included. Experiment with different dressings to suit your family's taste and the vegetables used. Instead of plain pita chips, make these Parmesan ones instead.
Kids can: Measure the ingredients, toss the salad.
Corn and Bean Pockets
You only need four ingredients for these fiber-rich pockets, packed with all the fun of taco night. Toasting the tortillas seals in the cheesy filling, making for a neat and tidy lunch box.
1/4 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup canned corn niblets, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp. grated cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp. tomato salsa
1 10-inch flour tortilla
In a small bowl, combine the beans, corn, cheddar and salsa, stirring to combine. Place filling into the centre of the tortilla. Then roll it up, burrito-style with ends closed, to encase the filling.
Toast, seam side down, in a non-stick pan over medium heat until golden brown. Repeat on other side and refrigerate overnight. Serve with vegetable sticks and Ranch dressing, fruit and a yogurt drink. Serves 1-2, depending on age and appetite.
Extras: You can use 2 Tbsp. of low-fat refried beans instead of the black beans. Try a green tomatillo salsa in place of the tomato and add some chopped cilantro to the filling for extra kick.
Kids can: Mix the filling and roll the tortillas.
Check out Yummy Toddler Lunch Ideas for your little one.
Corny Cornbread Muffins
Grated zucchini (yes, zucchini!) keeps these muffins moist without changing the flavor, in fact, most kids won't even notice it's there unless you tell them. We especially like them baked in mini-muffin tins.
Your favorite boxed cornbread/muffin mix or recipe (one that makes an 9-inch pan or so)
1/2 cup grated fresh zucchini
1/2 cup canned corn, drained
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
Prepare the cornbread following the box instructions. Add the zucchini, corn and cheddar cheese to the dry ingredients before mixing in the wet. Continue on with the recipe as printed, baking accordingly. Serve with bean salad, fruit and a yogurt drink.
Extras: Stir sliced green onion into the muffin mix.
Kids can: Measure the ingredients, stir the batter and help fill the muffin tin.
Rice Cakes with Dried Fruit Sprinkles
Colorful and fun to prepare, this slightly sweet lunch option works for kids who like to play with their food.
2 Tbsp. cream cheese, softened
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 plain rice cake
2-3 Tbsp. mixed dried fruit, cut into small dice
Mix together the cream cheese and cinnamon. Spread over the rice cake, leaving a thin border at the edge. Pack a small container of dried fruit for the child to sprinkle over at lunch. Serve with unsweetened applesauce and milk.
Kids can: Stir together the cream cheese and cinnamon, sprinkle fruit.
Honey Mustard Ham Spiral
Everybody loves ham and cheese, but a dipping sauce of honey and grainy mustard adds a little spice. Toasting the sandwich crisps the tortilla and makes it easier to chew. This works well with leftover chicken or turkey, too.
2 tsp. mild grainy mustard
1 tsp. honey
1 10-inch whole wheat tortilla
2 thin slices provolone, swiss or other cheese that's good for melting
2 slices roasted ham
1. In small container, mix together the mustard and honey. Pack for lunch and set aside.
2. On the tortilla, lay out the two slices of cheese, then the ham on top. Roll, burrito-style, with sides tucked in.
3. In a nonstick pan over medium heat, toast the roll, seam side down, to seal. Repeat with remaining sides until golden all over. Chill overnight. Serve with chopped vegetables, the dipping sauce and juice.
Makes 1-2 servings, depending on age and appetite of child.
Extras: If your kid is more adventurous, pair the roll-up with prepared mango chutney in place of the honey mustard.
Eggs are a universal leveler in our house and often the one thing that everyone can agree upon at mealtime. For breakfast or in a lunch, these frittatas can be packed with whatever leftover cooked vegetables you have on hand.
Nonstick cooking spray
3/4 cup mixed cooked vegetables cut into small dice
2 Tbsp. finely grated cheese
1/4 tsp. salt and ground black pepper to taste
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat a 12-portion mini muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Stir in the cooked vegetables, salt, pepper and cheese. Divide the egg mixture between the portions of the prepared tin and bake for 8-10 minutes or until puffed and just set. Do not cook until dry as they will continue to firm up as they cool. Chill overnight before serving with whole grain crackers, yogurt and a fruit and vegetable juice blend. Makes 12 mini frittatas.
Extras: Add chopped herbs of your choice—chives, parsley, basil and cilantro all work well. Experiment with filling combinations like ham and pea, broccoli and cheddar or bacon and corn.
Homemade Pizza Bites
Think of these as Chicago-style deep-dish on a small scale. Cutting the zucchini wafer-thin allows it to cook quickly, turning it sweet and soft. Using crushed tomatoes instead of prepared pizza sauce cuts down on unnecessary salt.
9 mini (3-inch) tart shells, defrosted according to manufacturer's instruction if frozen
18 slices turkey pepperoni
18 slices zucchini
1/4 cup crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange the tart shells on a baking sheet and tuck in a slice of pepperoni, then zucchini, pepperoni then zucchini again. Top each with about a tablespoon of sauce and a sprinkling of cheese. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked and the cheese is golden. Cool, then refrigerate overnight. Pop out of tins if desired, then pack a few with fresh vegetables and a yogurt drink. Makes 12 mini-pizzas.
Extras: Add some grated Parmesan and experiment with toppings.
Pulled Chicken Sandwich
Barbecue sauce is a favorite with lots of kids, and this smoky sandwich is sure to be one too.
1/3 cup shredded skinless cooked chicken
1-1/2 Tbsp. barbecue sauce
A few drops apple cider vinegar or water
1 small whole wheat roll
1/3 cup coleslaw (try a vinegar-based one to keep it light)
In a small bowl, toss the chicken with half of the barbecue sauce and a few drops of vinegar or water to thin it out. Pile the meat onto a small roll and spoon over the remaining barbecue sauce. Top with the coleslaw. Serve with small pickle spears, fruit and milk. Serves 1-2 depending on the age and appetite of the child.
Kids can: Mix the filling, help assemble the sandwich.
Rice paper wrappers may be new to your kid's diet, but she'll love rolling the filling up herself. They're a breeze to make and completely customizable.
2 rice paper wrappers
1/3 cup shredded, cooked skinless chicken
1/3 cup shredded cabbage or iceberg lettuce
1/3 cup carrots peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
Rehydrate the rice paper wrappers according to the instructions on the package. Lay a small pile of chicken horizontally across the centre of the wrapper, then top with the cabbage and carrot. Roll up, egg roll style (there are often instructions on the package), and chill. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Serve with a small container of your favorite Asian dressing, or some low-sodium soy sauce seasoned with a few drops of lime juice. Fruit and milk complete the meal. Makes 2.
Extras: Sliced cucumber, avocado and seafood can all be used as fillings. Add some grated ginger and garlic to the soy sauce for dipping.
Kids can: Help form the rolls.
Kids with heartier appetites will love this filling combo.
1 tsp. honey mustard
1 tsp. barbecue sauce
1 10-inch whole wheat tortilla
2 slices low-fat Havarti or other mild melting cheese
2 slices roast beef
1/3 cup roasted mixed peppers
Stir together the honey mustard and barbecue sauce, then spread over one third of the tortilla. Over the other two thirds, arrange the cheese, then the beef, then the peppers on top. Roll burrito-style with sides tucked in, to seal.
In a nonstick pan over medium heat, toast the roll seam side down to seal. Repeat with remaining sides until golden all over. Chill overnight. Serve with salad, fruit and milk. Makes 1-2 servings, depending on age and appetite of child.
Kids can: Arrange the ingredients, help roll up the sandwich.
Sundried Tomato Pasta
Pasta salad doesn't always mean mayonnaise. Sun-dried tomato dressing accentuates the sweetness of the vegetables without being heavy. This dish will give your kid an energy boost for recess.
2 cups cooked whole-wheat macaroni
1 cup broccoli, cooked tender-crisp
1 cooked skinless chicken breast, cut into small chunks
1/2 cup thinly sliced roasted peppers
4 small bocconcini (mini-mozzarella balls), cut into small dice
1/3 cup sundried tomato dressing
Toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl and leave to marinate overnight. Serve with fruit and milk. Makes 4-6 servings, depending on the age and appetite of the child.
Extras: Play around with both raw and cooked vegetables to tailor the salad to your family's taste.
Kids can: Add the ingredients, toss the salad.
Tara O'Brady is mom to two boys. She blogs at Seven Spoons.