Whether you're sending your kids to physical school or they're spending more time at home this school year, every parent will be tasked to create healthy meals for lunch . We all know that quesadillas and veggies with dip only go so far without kids revolting for more options. We hear you, mama. But how can we make lunch a bit more exciting and healthy? And if your child has nut allergies (or your being considerate of other kids allergies) you'll want to explore nut-free options to keep everyone safe.
"Whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables are nutrient dense so finding ways to integrate them into a daily diet is important," says nutrition and scientist Dr. Samara Sterling. "They are also versatile ingredients that can be used in a variety of recipes or to round out a meal."
Sterling also says it's vital to eat a variety of types and colors of produce in order to get a mix of different nutrients. No single fruit or vegetable provides all of the nutrients a body needs. Dried or canned beans, such as lentils, chickpeas or kidney beans, also deliver protein and fiber without using nuts.
Here are 7 nut-free lunch ideas the entire family will devour:
1. Lasagna roll-ups
Total time: 25 minutes
- Kosher salt
- 8 lasagna noodles
- olive oil, for tossing noodles
- 1 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta
- 3 tbsp grated Parmesan
- 5 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, finely chopped
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn
- 24 pepperoni slices, optional
- 1 cup marinara sauce, for serving
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. You may want to cook an extra noodle or two in case they rip. Drain and toss with some oil. Drape the noodles over the edge of the pot, without overlapping, to cool.
- Meanwhile, mix the ricotta, Parmesan, tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in a medium bowl.
- Lay out the noodles and evenly divide the ricotta mixture on the noodles, spreading it from end to end of each noodle. Top each with about a few pieces of basil and 3 pepperoni slices per roll if using. Roll up and cut each roll in half to make 16 cylinders. Pack 4 pieces, ruffle-side up, in each lunch container and refrigerate. Pack 1/4 cup of marinara sauce in a separate container with each serving.
Recipe and photo by Food Network
2. One pot bacon broccoli mac + cheese
Total time: 45 minutes
- 1/2 lb frozen broccoli florets
- 4 oz bacon
- 8 oz medium cheddar
- 1/2 lb pasta
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp hot sauce
- 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Prepare the ingredients before beginning because the process goes quickly once it's begun. Thaw the broccoli florets and chop them into small bite-sized pieces. Slice the bacon into small pieces. Shred the cheddar cheese.
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions (boil 7-10 minutes, or until al dente). Drain the pasta in a colander and set it aside.
- Return the pot to the stove, add the bacon, and cook over medium to medium-low heat until the bacon is brown and crispy (about 5 minutes). Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon from the pot, leaving the grease behind.
- Add the evaporated milk, smoked paprika, Dijon, hot sauce, and salt to the pot with the bacon grease. Stir to combine and allow it to heat through (it should heat quickly as the pot will be very hot from cooking the bacon).
- Once the evaporated milk is hot, turn the heat to low and begin whisking in the shredded cheddar, one handful at a time, waiting until the cheese is fully melted before adding the next handful. Once all of the cheese has been melted into the sauce, taste the cheese sauce and adjust the salt or hot sauce if desired. If the sauce becomes too thick, simply stir in one to two tablespoons of the remaining evaporated milk in the can.
- Return the cooked pasta, crispy bacon (crumble into smaller pieces if desired), and chopped broccoli to the pot with the cheese sauce. Stir to combine. Serve immediately.
Recipe and photo by Budget Bytes
3. Sweet potato hummus chicken wraps
Total time: 20 minutes
- 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
- 1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas
- 1/3 cup plain protein powder
- 3 tbs tahini
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 whole-grain bread wraps
- 4 cups baby greens or arugula
- 1 1/2 cups sliced cooked chicken
- 2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
- 1 cup sliced roasted red pepper
- Steam or boil sweet potato until very tender. Let cool.
- Place cooked sweet potato, chickpeas, protein powder, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, paprika, cumin, and salt in food processor or blender, and blend until smooth.
- Spread hummus on wraps, and place an equal amount of greens, chicken, carrot, and roasted red pepper on the bottom third of each wrap. Roll wraps tightly, tucking in sides as you roll. Slice on bias.
Recipe and photo by Better Nutrition
4. Ham + cheese waffles
Total time: 25 minutes
- 1 3/4 cups flour
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 3 large egg whites
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 3/4 cup soda water
- Non-stick vegetable oil spray
- 1 cup thinly-cut strips of ham
- 3/4 cup shredded sharp white cheddar
- Maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Heat waffle iron until very hot. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and kosher salt in a large bowl.
- Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites in a medium bowl until medium-soft peaks form. Whisk egg yolks, melted butter, buttermilk, and soda water in a medium bowl; gradually whisk into dry ingredients. Fold in egg whites.
- Coat waffle iron with non-stick vegetable oil spray. Pour batter onto iron, spreading it into corners (amount of batter needed will vary according to machine).
- Scatter 1 rounded Tbsp. ham and 1 tbsp. white cheddar over each waffle. Cook until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer to a baking sheet; keep waffles warm in oven between batches. Serve with butter and warm maple syrup.
Recipe and photo by Bon Appetit
5. Mini quiches with peas + bacon
Serves: 7 (one mini quiche each)
Total time: 30 minutes
- 6 slices bacon
- 5 eggs
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 3 ounces shredded Gruyere cheese
- 1 round refrigerated pie dough (half of a 14-ounce package)
- Nonstick cooking spray
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Add the bacon to a medium skillet, turn the heat to medium high and cook until browned and crispy on both sides, about 7 minutes. Drain on paper towels, then dice. Set aside.
- To a medium bowl, add the eggs, heavy cream, paprika, cayenne, Dijon and some salt and pepper; whisk to combine. Add the bacon, peas and Gruyere; fold to combine. Set aside.
- Unroll the pie dough and cut out 7 rounds using a 3-inch round cookie cutter. (If necessary, roll out the scraps and cut out more rounds.) Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray. Press each dough round into a muffin tin cup, crimping the edges.
- Divide the egg mixture between the 7 pie dough cups. Bake until just set, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.
Recipe and photo by Gathered in the Kitchen
6. Salami + provolone pasta salad
Total time: 25 minutes
- 3 cups uncooked cellentani pasta or elbow macaroni
- 1 medium sweet red pepper, chopped
- 4 oz provolone cheese, cubed
- 4 oz hard salami, cubed
- 1/3 cup prepared Italian salad dressing
- Optional: Additional Italian salad dressing and minced fresh basil
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine pepper, cheese and salami.
- Drain pasta and rinse in cold water. Add to pepper mixture. Drizzle with 1/3 cup dressing and toss to coat. Refrigerate, covered, at least 1 hour. If desired, stir in additional dressing to moisten and sprinkle with basil before serving.
Recipe and photo by Taste of Home
7. Fruit kabobs with cream cheese dip
Total time: 15 minutes
- 6 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- 12 fresh strawberries, trimmed
- 12 green grapes
- 12 fresh pineapple cubes (1 inch)
1. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, sour cream and extract until smooth. Refrigerate until serving. On wooden skewers, alternately thread strawberries, grapes and pineapple. Serve with dip.
Recipe and photo by Taste of Home
Pack your lunches in these adorable lunchboxes:
This durable, lunch box is great for little and big ones—and yes, even you mama.
Great for snacks on-the go, this lunch box is made of sustainable bamboo fiber that can withstand the biggest drops.
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