Allergy-Safe Lunchbox Ideas
Ground Turkey Tacos
Allergy: Fish; Alternative: Ground Turkey Tacos
Fish is a ubiquitous allergy-inducer, thus canned tuna probably shouldn't be a lunchbox go-to. A great replacement is lean ground turkey, which you can stuff into just about anything. Saute it in the skillet with some paprika, garlic, and bell peppers and it makes the perfect taco filling for a festive Mexican bite.
Allergy: Eggs; Alternative: Greek Yogurt
The common chicken salad is filling but can be threatening because of egg allergies. That familiar creamy consistency that comes from mayonnaise can be found in the form of egg-free Greek yogurt. Rich and smooth, the substitute will go undetected by your child and gives them a healthy alternative to mayonnaise.
Tofu Egg Salad
Allergy: Eggs; Alternative: Avocado and Tofu
Make your grandmas classic egg salad just as you normally would, but replace the main ingredient with luscious avocado, to replace the rich yoke, and firm tofu chunks, which will stand in for the egg whites. With a vibrant color and a satisfying texture that could compete with the original, this substitute may just become a classic of its own.
Allergy: Chocolate; Alternative: All-Natural Fruit Pudding Slushie
Whether the allergy is to milk or cocoa, chocolate is a no-go. And one must admit that pudding is not the most healthful snack to stuff in the lunch bag. This fruity slushie replacement has just as much sweet satisfaction, but is free of added sugars and is 100 percent natural. Just freeze what you've whipped up the night before and pack it the day of. By lunchtime, this frozen treat will have melted into perfect slurping slush.
Ham and Cheese Sandwich
Allergy: Wheat; Alternative: Rice Cakes
A sandwich without bread? That's right. Wheat contains the protein gluten, which is essential to classic bread-making, but it also can cause serious stomach upset if sensitive, and it is not missed in this crunchy creation. For a twist on the classic ham and cheese, layer those two between two airy rice cakes and bind them together with a healthy schmear of jam. A little bit sweet, a little bit crispy, and it's a lot of satisfaction between two healthy cakes.
Allergy: Milk; Alternative: Goat Cheese (for a cow's milk allergy) and Soy Cheese (for a milk allergy)
No child should be deprived of the well-liked margherita pie. Skip the overprocessed, pre-packaged lunch options we often see these days and enjoy creating a personal pan pizza for the cows-milk sensitive calves in your keep. Use ready-made dough, and slather tomato sauce and creamy goat cheese on it. Top with basil for an eye-pleasing effect. If your kid is 100 percent lactose intolerant, use soy cheese instead of goat. It melts just as well and they'll never know the difference.
Allergy: Nuts; Alternative: Seeds and Roasted Chickpeas
The downfall of store-bought trail mix is that is usually has at least one variety of nut. So what to do if your kid is allergic? That crispy crunch can be recreated with a variety of seeds and roasted chickpeas, the latter actually a bean that when roasted, has a nutty bite.
Credit: Hemera Technologies
Allergy: Wheat; Alternative: Eggplant
Many kids are allergic to wheat or gluten. Most pasta, an ingredient with endless creative possibilities, unfortunately falls into this category. But here is a clever trick for adapting the comforting classic lasagna. Instead of layering the ricotta cheese and meat sauce between pasta sheets, use long strips of raw eggplant to divide the tiers. They will bake well in the oven and they provide the perfect pasta-like support.
Allergy: Wheat; Alternative: Quinoa Flour
For those with wheat allergies, there are a variety of gluten-free flour options for baking, so there is no reason the smell of baking banana bread should not permeate your kitchen, nor make it into to the lunchbox. Quite simply, quinoa is key for this. A gluten-free whole grain, its flour form is easily found in most health-food stores, and even larger supermarkets with a natural/organic section. I assure you that your banana bread has never been so powerfully packed with protein and nutrients.
Allergy: Milk; Alternative: Orange Juice
Who doesn't love a warm, thick bowl of belly-filling oatmeal? Usually, the child with the milk allergy, as milk is the most common liquid ingredient used to give those oats a little body. But a brilliant dairy substitute comes in the form of fresh OJ, which adds an all-natural sweetness that will keep your kids awake all school-day long. Strange, you think? Try it and you will never turn back.
Allergy: Corn; Alternative: Millet Meal
The Southern comfort of cornbread soothes the soul, but can cause much discomfort for corn-intolerant kids. Lucky for them, using millet meal instead of cornmeal curbs that health threat. The creamy grain is saturated with magnesium and fiber and will keep your bread moist and rich slice by slice just make sure you pack enough for sharing.
Hot Dogs with Ketchup
Allergy: Tomatoes; Alternative: Balsamic Vinegar-Maple Syrup Reduction
If you don't have a tomato allergy, you probably didn't know that it was even possible to be allergic to the ubiquitous fruit. But for all of you parents who sadly have to serve your kids hot dogs sans ketchup know all about it. The allergy is usually attributed to the high levels of the salicylate chemical in those bright red globes. Squeeze this instead: Reduce equal parts balsamic vinegar and water on the stove. Once it has thickened, add half that amount of maple syrup and combine. The viscous glaze still has the tartness and sweetness of ketchup, without the additives. This condiment hits it out of the ballpark.
Credit: Jupiter Images
Allergy: Corn; Alternative: Sorghum
If corn is your enemy, then you have just found your new best friend. Meet sorghum. This gluten-free cereal grain can be used for baking, beer-making, and "corn" popping. Treat the raw seeds exactly as you would corn kernels. Place them over heat in a skillet and let science take care of the rest. Dust it with your kids favorite herbs and spices and this air-popped sorghum snack will win over allergic and non-allergic kids alike just in time for recess.
Allergy: Peanuts; Alternative: Low-Fat Cream Cheese
Sticky, salty peanut butter is an understandably desirable spread for your kids' favorite snacks, but crackers, pretzels, apple slices, and baby carrots will not be disappointed to be dipped in lovely low-fat cream cheese. Make sure you buy the whipped variety for a silky and smooth texture that makes dipping easier. For an extra something special, mix it up with a drizzle of natural honey. With 75 percent less fat and an 100 percent satisfying taste, you can feel confident your child isnt missing a thing.
Forget allergy season sniffles; food allergies are increasingly prevalent among kids, and if you are the parent, you know the often dangerous condition is a year-round concern. The number of affected children younger than 18 has increased to 8 percent from 4 percent in 2009, and the most common adverse immune reactions are to milk, fish, eggs, wheat, and soy, with the harmless-seeming peanut topping the list.
While allergies are an escalating threat to many children, excuse the pun but, there's no reason to go nuts about it. Just because you can't get rid of a food allergy doesn't mean you can't work around one. With back-to-school lunch planning in full swing, many parents are faced with the brain-racking battle of keeping their kids' food creative, flavorful, interesting — and allergy-safe. But don't panic, because we've come up with some fun, alternative options to lunchbox staples, all of which curb specific allergy threats (popular and obscure alike) and keep all of the flavor and nutrition.
Check out the slideshow above for allergy-safe lunchbox ideas.