How to pack a healthy lunch with food allergies in mind

Suggestions from Kim Kirchherr, MS, RD, LDN, CDE (@KimKirchherr)

(Adapted from:

Whether or not your child has allergies, check with the school to see if there are any restrictions to what can be packed

Work with your doctor and dietitian to be sure you have the proper diagnosis and know what choices to make for that diagnosis

If your child has food allergies, here are some steps to keep in mind:

  • Tell the school
  • Have a plan for classroom, cafeteria, field trips, after school, on the bus
  • Provide written information on instructions and medications plus emergency contact information
  • Educate your child on what they can eat and what they need to avoid as well as reviewing symptoms, when to ask an adult for help, and how to read food labels/ingredient lists

Adapted from: Accessed 8.25.13

For general balanced lunch packing:

Have the proper equipment readily available - thermal lunch bag, reusable containers, ice pack, appropriate cutlery

Build a balanced meal – try including at least 3 out of 5 food groups (fruits, vegetables, low fat or fat free dairy, lean protein, whole grains)

Read labels and ingredient lists to make sure you pick the best options for whole family

Pick recipes with some similar ingredients for the week to use up all that you buy

Pack items that kids can assemble themselves at school

Enlist the kids to help make their own! Great teachable moment to review food choices and do an ingredient list review

Black Bean Quesadillas, recipe from

Taco Salad, recipe from

Corn & Black Bean Salsa

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: n/a
Amount: 20 servings

2 cups organic frozen sweet corn, thawed, drained
1 (15 ounce) can organic black beans, rinsed, drained
2 medium tomatoes, seeded, diced
½ cup organic tomato sauce
¼ cup minced green onions
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon chili powder
- organic tortilla chips

1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Cover and refrigerate several hours to blend flavors.
3. Serve with tortilla chips.
Copyright © 2008, SUPERVALU, Inc. All rights reserved.

Allergic reactions can include:

  • Hives
  • Flushed skin or rash
  • Tingling or itchy sensation in the mouth
  • Face, tongue, or lip swelling
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps • Coughing or wheezing
  • Dizziness and/or lightheadedness
  • Swelling of the throat and vocal cords
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of consciousness Accessed 8.25.13

For more information about balanced food choices:

Food allergies:

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