Healthy homemade nut-free lunch options for school-age kids

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Frances Moore
Perfect for carrying all your awesome homemade lunches in! Photo by jeffisageek, used under Creative Commons license.

My son's school has gone completely "nut free." This is understandable, considering so many children have nut allergies nowadays. With our own allergies within our family, I myself have become more label conscious. More and more I am finding myself becoming frustrated trying to decipher the ingredient list. What is tricalcium phosphate? Why do we need 100 different names for sugar? Are the additives increasing the caloric value? All of these questions have led to my new "back to basics" attitude when it comes to my son's school lunches this year. I'm limiting as much prepackaged items as possible and increasing my own homemade items — with spectacular results.

While this takes a bit more thought and effort, it's all in the planning — and well worth it. I plan out what I want to make for the week, make my grocery list, do the shopping and do all my prep work, cooking and baking on Sunday. More often than not I have little hands assisting me in the kitchen, or going through my cookbooks and magazines for ideas.

I have made homemade greek yogurt, which I have turned into our own version of fruit at the bottom yogurt cups (by adding homemade jams) and fruit parfaits by layering fresh fruit and yogurt in basic jam jars. My son loves to eat his yogurt with granola, so I made my own nut-free version which I send in a little container for him to add at lunch. I also adapted the recipe to make granola bars. We've made my own biscuits (zucchini & cheddar, and strawberry & black pepper), scones (strawberry, cherry, and cranberry) and breads (zucchini, orange, apple, and banana). Homemade iced tea is a big hit, and a healthier alternative to Kool-Aid, or sugary juice boxes.

Here are just a few of the quick and easy recipes I use for healthy lunch options for my son. Although, I've been known to pack the same goodies in my lunch as well!

Zucchini and Cheddar Biscuits

Makes approximately 15 biscuits, depending on size

  • 1 cup zucchini (green or yellow), shredded (1 med sized zucchini)
  • 1 ½ tsps salt, divided
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 ½ cups of flour (regular or whole wheat both work well)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 cup milk
  • A few sprays of your favorite non-stick spray
  • Parchment paper/foil (this can be avoided, it just makes for easier clean up)
  1. Wash the zucchini, and then shred it using a cheese grater.
  2. In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt). Add the cubed butter and break it up with your hands until the butter is the size of peas. Work quickly, as you do not want the butter to become warm.
  3. Add the zucchini and cheddar mixing until thoroughly distributed. Then add the milk working the batter to a consistency you like.
  4. Using two tablespoons drop the batter into biscuits onto baking sheet that has been sprayed with the non-stick cooking spray and lined with parchment paper/foil .
  5. Bake at 425 degrees F for 12-15 minutes, or until edges are a golden brown.

Oatmeal Banana Bread

  • 1 cup quick-cook rolled oats
  • ¾ cup all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ cups mashed bananas (approximately 3)
  • ½ vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • ½ cup dried cherries (or another fruit)
  • ½ cup chocolate chips (You could also do a full cup of chocolate chips or dried fruit — the possibilities are endless!)
  • A few sprays of your favorite non-stick spray
  • Parchment paper/foil (this can be avoided, it just makes for easier clean up)
  1. In a large bowl, combine rolled oats, both flours, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda.
  2. In a second bowl, mash the bananas. Then whisk in the egg, oil and vanilla. Pour over dry ingredients. Once combined, stir in cherries and chocolate chips. Stir until evenly distributed.
  3. Pour into a parchment paper-lined pan.
  4. Bake at 350 F, until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Approximately 1 hour.

Homemade Greek Yogurt

  • 1 quart/32 ounces of full fat cow's milk (pasteurized)
  • 2 tablespoons of either previously homemade yogurt or plain unflavored yogurt with active cultures
  • 2 tablespoons of full fat milk (Full fat sheep's milk would also work)
  • 2 clean dry dish towels
  1. Start with all ingredients at room temperature.
  2. Heat milk to the boiling point, and pour into a non-metal container.
  3. Allow milk to cool until lukewarm. A skin will form.
  4. Mix the 2 tablespoons of yogurt (homemade or store bought) with the 2 tablespoons of milk. Then add to the lukewarm milk mixture. You want to carefully pour down the side as not to disturb any of the skin that may have formed on the surface.
  5. Cover with a clean dish towel and place on another towel, and leave in a warm, dry place for 8-12 hours until the yogurt thickens. I wouldn't advise any longer than 12 hours as the longer the yogurt coagulates the more sour it will taste.
  6. Carefully drain any excess liquid. This is easily achieved by using cheesecloth.
  7. Ensure refrigeration for at least four hours prior to use. Yogurt is best used if eaten within five days.
  1. My wife bought a yogurt maker, moderately priced (I think it was ~$50?), but worth every cent! She no longer possesses a gall bladder, so can't tolerate a lot of dairy based fat (which she saves for cheese), so she makes fat free Greek yogurt. It sits in the yogurt maker for 24 hours and it's thick and creamy and amazing!! 😀

    It came with these tiny glass jars, but we quickly discovered that we could use any container we wanted (there was a height restriction because of the lid). Yay for homemade yogurt! And I second that with adding homemade jam! 😀

    • I agree! I lovely yogurt maker! I had the hardest time finding a warm place to keep the yogurt. Now my yogurt is a consistent taste. I like to add a little local honey for a little sweetness and to ward off allergies!

      You can keep the drippings from the yogurt to water plants with!

  2. Awesome recipes!

    As for lunches, I make a big pot of veggie soup and my husband makes a tub of homemade hummus on Sunday. These are alternated during the week depending on what I want to eat. I add some crackers or bread and fresh fruit/veggies on the side to make a full lunch.

  3. Yum! My son's school is also nut free. I cheated and switched out the peanut butter for sunflower seed butter or soy nut butter. He eats both happily. I also bought a little container for him to bring milk and I just bought him a thermos so he can have warm soup when the weather gets cooler. The zucchini biscuits look awesome!

  4. Thank you very much for sharing theses ideas, we are going to try all 3 of them as they all sound so amasing!! Our little girl rather likes homemade courgette (we're from the UK – courgettes are zucchinis) bread and she's a big fan of cheese and biscuits….so the courgette and cheese biscuits are sure to be a hit. One question, when you say a stick of butter how much is that exactly?

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