Healthy Lunchbox Series 2012

Last week we had the honor of being a part of And Love It Too‘s 2012 Healthy Lunchbox series. And Love It Too is a great website devoted to gluten and dairy-free living. This is the second year in a row that the site has devoted a whole month to recipes and tips for how to craft lunches – for kids AND adults – that are delicious and nutritious. In addition to And Love It Too’s own advice, the Healthy Lunchbox series is full of guest posts from gluten and allergy-free experts across the blogosphere. Not only will you find great ideas for lunch, you’ll find a whole list of new allergy-friendly resources to add to your Google Reader!

Here’s a sneak peek of what you’ll find in the Healthy Lunchbox Series.

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Healthy Lunchbox 2012: Tasterie

Back when I was a kid, I practically lived off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It was a school lunch staple for me and many of my friends. I didn’t know it then, but peanut butter is actually a very healthy option for lunch. It’s packed with fiber and protein to help you feel full, and even though it’s high in fat, it’s high in monounsaturated fat – the good kind that helps reduce your cholesterol.

But when I was in school, very few people were concerned about food allergies. Today, the Centers for Disease Control suggests that 4-6% of children have some form of food allergy, and peanuts are one of the most common and deadly childhood allergies. As a result, many schools are completely banning peanut products. The means no PB&J!

So whether or not your child has a peanut allergy, chances are at some point you’ll have to plan lunches that don’t involve peanuts. Don’t worry! There are lots of delicious and healthy peanut butter alternatives.

1. Almond butter/cashew butter/Nutella – An obvious peanut butter substitution is a butter made from other types of nuts. These other butters are also high in fat, and Nutella is high in sugar, so watch portion sizes carefully. Also, beware: kids with peanut allergies aren’t necessarily allergic to other nuts, but they could be.

2. Soy butter or sunflower butter – Like nut butters, you can use soy butter or sunflower butter the same way you would use peanut butter. How about layering SunButter between banana slices to make adorable, bite-size “sandwiches.” You could also dip the banana bites in melted chocolate to make them even tastier – but you didn’t hear that from me. (Use dark chocolate! It’s good for you!)

3. Hummus – I wasn’t always a fan of hummus, but there are so many different brands and recipes out there, I just needed to try a few until I found a favorite. We at Tasterie love Robert Rothschild’s Roasted Eggplant and Pepper Hummus. The best thing about hummus is its versatility. You can spread it or dip it on everything from crackers to veggies. It’s also a great source of protein!

4. Guacamole – One of the few foods that stands up to peanuts when it comes to heart healthy fat is avocado. You could try a corn tortilla with guacamole and homemade salsa. Add a little shredded chicken for protein and a side of fruit and you’ve got a real power-packed meal on your hands!

5. Cream cheese – How is it that a cucumber and cream cheese sandwich with the crusts cut off can be both elegant and perfect kid food? It’s magic! Strawberries and cream cheese are a delicious combo, too. (Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter and turn Valentine’s Day’s lunch into something super special.) Lest you think cream cheese isn’t an option for dairy-free, Tofutti makes a soy-based cream cheese. Or you could try making your own.

There are lots of other spreadable options out there – from tahini to baba ghanoush, to other vegetable purees. Just use your imagination!

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For other great lunch ideas, don’t forget to check out the rest of the Healthy Lunchbox series.

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