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Nut-free lunch ideas that aren’t grilled cheese + chicken nuggets

Kid-approved foods that are easy to make.

nut-free lunch ideas

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

Lasagna roll-ups

Serves: 4

Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 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

Instructions:

  1. 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.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the ricotta, Parmesan, tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in a medium bowl.
  3. 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

broccoli mac + cheese

Serves: 4

Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 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

Instructions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. 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

Sweet potato hummus chicken wraps

Serves: 4

Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
  • 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

Instructions:

  1. Steam or boil sweet potato until very tender. Let cool.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

Serves: 4

Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 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

Instructions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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

Mini quiches

Serves: 7 (one mini quiche each)

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 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

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

Salami + provolone pasta salad

Serves: 8

Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 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

Instructions:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine pepper, cheese and salami.
  2. 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

fruit kabobs with cream cheese dip

Serves: 6

Total time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 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)

Instructions:

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:

EKOBO insulated lunch bag

EKOBO insulated lunch bag

This durable, lunch box is great for little and big ones—and yes, even you mama.

$29

EKOBO square bento lunch box

EKOBO square bento lunch box

Great for snacks on-the go, this lunch box is made of sustainable bamboo fiber that can withstand the biggest drops.

$22

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

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