The trick here is to find foods that offer a similar nutrient profile to nuts. Foods that are high in fibre, healthy fats, complex carbs and protein. Essentially, foods that are macronutrient balanced. Bonus points for including foods that have important minerals like zinc, calcium and magnesium. Double bonus points if you can make foods and snacks that are delicious. Because, well, we’re feeding kids here. It doesn’t matter how healthy a lunchbox food is, it needs to be something they want to eat. So here are a few ideas to keep kids happy, and healthy - without the nuts.
Nut-free Lunchbox Ideas for Kids
These recipes are loaded with all the things growing kids need. Feel free to customise them as you like. Each recipe is delicious and very versatile. And of course, they’re completely nut-free.
These little bliss balls are perfect for the lunchbox and will soon become a firm favourite for the whole family. Get the kids involved to make it ahead for the upcoming week. For some extra chocolatey goodness, swap carob for cacao powder. Or experiment with tahini instead of sunflower seeds for some variation in flavour and nutrients.
- 1 cup Medjool dates
- ⅓ cup desiccated coconut
- ⅓ cup sunflower seeds
- 1 ½ tbsp. Carob powder
- 1 tsp. Vanilla bean paste
- 2 tbsp. Coconut oil
- Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until just combined.
- Roll the mixture into golf-ball-sized bites and press together. (Wet hands if needed in between rolls)
- Place chocolate bombs into a container and refrigerate until firm or freeze for 1 month.
Carrot & Corn Fritters
For a savoury snack that’s ideal for school, kindy or anytime, get into the kitchen and make these moreish fritters. They take a bit more time to make, but can be done big-batch style and really satisfy hungry tummies. Optional to add mint or swap for coriander, parsley or omit entirely if you want. This recipe makes the most of quinoa and sesame seeds which are both very underrated ingredients. Quinoa is loaded with protein and sesame seeds are great sources of calcium and zinc.
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 corn cob
- 1 small bunch of mint or other leafy herbs
- 2 eggs
- 3 tbsp. Coconut flour
- ⅓ cup quinoa flakes
- ⅓ cup sesame seeds
- Steam the diced carrot until tender and set aside.
- While the carrots are cooking, cut the kernels from the corn cob.
- Place the herb leaves, cooked carrot and corn into a food processor and pulse until just combined.
- Place the mixture in a large bowl and mix in the coconut flour.
- On a separate plate, combine the quinoa flakes and sesame seeds. Mould the carrot mixture into fritters and coat them in the quinoa-sesame crumb.
- Heat a frypan on medium heat. Add olive oil and fry each fritter until just golden. (Sesame seeds can burn so make sure the pan’s not too hot).
- Keep in the fridge for 3 days or freeze for up to a month.
Nut-free Blueberry & Muesli Slice
This recipe is so delicious and has all the hallmarks of your favourite muesli bar, without the added sugar and of course, no nuts! It’s got wholesome spelt flour and dried fruit, which have B vitamins and antioxidants to support growing brains and bodies. It’s ideal for school using tahini or sunflower butter. However, during school holidays or for other non-school events, using natural peanut butter is simply delicious.
- 1 cup rolled oats
- ½ cup wholemeal spelt flour
- ½ cup organic raisins or sultanas
- ½ cup dried blueberries (or dried cranberries)
- ¼ cup cacao nibs or chocolate chips
- ½ cup sesame seeds
- ½ cup pepitas
- ½ cup shredded coconut
- 125g butter or ¾ cup coconut oil
- ½ cup brown rice malt syrup or maple syrup
- 2 tbsp. Tahini or sunflower butter
- Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
- Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
- In a small saucepan over low heat, melt together the tahini, coconut oil or butter and syrup until glossy and combined.
- Stir the warm mixture into the dry ingredients and combine well.
- Line a slice tin with baking paper and tip in the mixture. Use wet hands to pat down into each corner, ensuring everything is even.
- Bake for 20-25 mins or until the slice is a golden brown colour.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before removing and slicing into squares.
- Store in an airtight container for a week or freeze for a month.
(Recipe adapted from Gina Rose Nutrition)
How To Spot a Nut Allergy In Kids
Allergenic foods can cause both a rapid or slow onset of symptoms in kids. It’s a good idea to know how to identify if a child is having an allergic response to foods.
Foods like gluten and dairy typically tend to cause delayed allergic or intolerance responses. Symptoms can arise within the same day or within a few days of ingestion. These can include digestive upset, abdominal discomfort, bloating and fatigue.
However, a nut allergy usually presents quickly, with some potentially life-threatening symptoms. These include skin irritation, restricted breathing and puffiness around the eyes and mouth. Commonly, these occur within minutes or certainly the same few hours of ingestion.
If you have any doubts about whether your child has a food allergy or intolerance, it’s always best to consult a health provider for advice.
Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. (2021). Allergy Prevention, How to Introduce Solids. https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergy-prevention/ascia-how-to-introduce-solid-foods-to-babies
Ferraro, V., Zanconato, S., & Carraro, S. (2019). Timing of Food Introduction and the Risk of Food Allergy. Nutrients, 11(5), 1131. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11051131
Mustafa, S. S., Vadamalai, K., Bingemann, T., Mortezavi, M., Aranez, V., & Ramsey, A. (2020). Real-world tree nut consumption in peanut-allergic individuals. Annals of allergy, asthma & immunology : official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, 124(3), 277–282. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anai.2019.11.027