Monday, November 9, 2015

20+ Easy Lunch Ideas for Work or School

When your child has food allergies and/or dietary restrictions, you pack lunch. Daily. It's just part of the normal routine. 

Some days, we get creative and make (what I call) "silly sandwiches" or sometimes the lunches are completely sandwich free. They don't have to be complicated or artistic, but it is fun to mix it up from the usual.

Lately, life has been busy. I've been traveling a lot for work and due to my health issues I require a lot more sleep than I use to. That's why having an arsenal of easy and quick fix lunch ideas are a necessity. I still want my daughter to be excited for her school lunches, and not feel left out, but keep my sanity intact. I'm sure many of you feel the exact same way!

Here are 20+ inspiring ideas for work or school lunch:

If you're new to our site, welcome! 

A little background - my daughter is gluten free and peanut free. We're in the process of challenging tree nuts and so far have passed almond (woo!) but our school lunches are always kept nut freeI avoid gluten and dairy due to an autoimmune disease. The fella, he eats everything doesn't have any dietary restrictions, but I joke he's my picky eater not Little Miss!

Little Miss likes sandwiches, but she often times only eats half when I pack them. So, I like to add other yummy items like our SunButter Energy Bites to still give her a boost of protein and nutrition to get her through the school day.

Here they're packed with half an Applegate Turkey sandwich on Kinnikinnick gluten/dairy/nut free Multi-Grain Bread, Snikiddy Snacks Eat Your Vegetables chips, carrots, and apple slices in an EasyLunchboxes container.  

One of our other favorites to pack are quesadillas. Here we used Udi's gluten/nut/dairy/soy free tortillas and filled it with ham & cheese. Also packed are apple slices, veggies with dip, and an Enjoy Life Foods Chocolate SunButter bar (gluten & top 8 allergen free) in a Planetbox.

I cannot preach enough how great leftovers are for lunches. It's simple to pack them up while cleaning up dinner the night before and then lunch is ready to go the next day. I did have to heat the core of her thermos the next morning, but that was easy to do while getting breakfasts made for this leftover lunch. 

Here she had homemade meatballs and pasta in her Thermos. I packed carrots and apples on the side in our Steeltainer container.

Another quesadilla idea, but this time made into a "club quesadilla" with turkey & bacon. (Helloooo, bacon!) I also packed her two small cups of berries, cauliflower, Enjoy Life Plentils, and two homemade chocolate covered cookie bites in a Planetbox container. 

Again, lunch doesn't always have to be a sandwich. Enjoy Life Foods has an awesome new line of mixes and flour that are gluten free, top 8 free, and added Probiotics. Little Miss is obsessed with the muffin mix so I have to keep it stocked and made on the regular.

Here she a s muffin with salami & cheese slices, cauliflower, apples, and two Kinnikinnick gluten/dairy/nut free sandwich cookies in an EasyLunchboxes container.

Since I don't eat dairy, I bought the new Follow Your Heart dairy free Provolone Style "cheese" packs to try. Turns out, Little Miss loved them. So, guess who ate them all? ;) 

Here I packed her half a ham & turkey sammie, carrots, watermelon, and homemade white bean pumpkin brownie bites in an Planetbox container.

The brownie bites were adapted from my own recipe - I just subbed the carrot puree for pumpkin and added all-spice & cinnamon. They freeze great so you can pull them out as needed.

This is actually one of my work lunches. I'm a grazer. I like to nibble throughout the day to keep my energy up. Here I packed myself veggies, fruit, a hard boiled egg, and a new SunButter On the Go cup (sold at Target) with gluten free crackers.

 A popular recipe on my site are my gluten free & allergy friendly Mini Corn Dog Muffins. I decided to use the recipe but instead of my mini muffin pan, I baked them in my Wilton "twinkie style" Delectovals pan. They turned out great! Packed here with apples and veggies in an EasyLunchboxes container. 

Again, these are another freezer friendly item for easy lunches. 

Nothing screams fall like pumpkin bread! Thankfully, King Arthur Flour released a new gluten free mix for just that. It's so good! We baked them in mini loaves so I was able to freeze the other loaf for use later. 

We packed the bread with lunch meat roll-ups, apples, and veggies in a Planetbox container. 

Another favorite of Little Miss are Udi's gluten/dairy/nut/soy free muffins. Here she has a lemon muffin cut up in to bites, apples, carrots, ham roll-ups with tiny cheese stick bites. I also gave her a SunButter On the Go cup for dipping her appels and carrots in or for spreading onto her muffin.

Taking a few minutes to dice up some leftover ham with cheese and a cute pick fork is a great change up, as well. She has it packed here with Snikiddy Snack Eat Your Vegetables chips, apples and carrots.

Since we're nut free, we eat a lot of SunButter. It's a delicious alternative spread that is made from sunflower seeds. Great for nut free schools/ classrooms. It's great on sandwiches with a little bit of honey to sweeten it up. 

That's how we packed it here, along with apples, veggie chips, and turkey roll-ups in an EasyLunchboxes container. 

This was a "mom got home from work really late and quick threw a lunch together in the morning" lunch. It happens. Again, why I love stocking my freezer with lunch box friendly items. That's where I pulled this apple pie muffin from. It's made using the Enjoy Life Foods Muffin Mix I mentioned above. She also has packed a hard boiled egg, carrots, banana, and a SunButter On the Go cup. 

Bagels are also a great alternative to a traditional sandwich. Here Little Miss had a gluten free bagel with cream cheese, ham roll-ups, carrots, and apples.

Did I mention how much we love SunButter? Another favorite combo is with Freedom Foods Smudge. It's a highly addictive allergy friendly cocoa spread. I have to drive an hour and a half to buy it, but it's so worth it! I stock up on a few jars when I do. 

I have a lot of lunch boxes. And I tend to neglect some of my great bento boxes and stick to my more practical ones like our EasyLunchboxes and Planetboxes most often. This is part of our Paperchase Bento Box set and a great way to mix up even the containers used to add some fun in a simple lunch. 

Here we packed SunButter energy bites, Applegate ham roll-ups, carrots, and apples.

As I said above, bagels are a great lunch box alternative. We took a gluten free bagel and made a pizza bagel for this lunch. It's packed with our white bean brownie bites, apples, carrots & cabbage with dip in a Planetbox

This is a "sneak peak" lunch - I'm working a grain free chicken bite recipe. It's almost perfected so stay tuned! Here I packed up the bites from the last batch with veggie chips, apples, and two Enjoy Life Foods Snickerdoodle cookies in an EasyLunchboxes container. 

Leftover, leftovers, leftovers. So simple! 
I'm fortunate that Little Miss has access to a microwave at lunch time but those who don't invest in a good thermos to pack up nuggets, sauces, soups, and even leftover sloppy joe, like we packed here. 

I packed her leftovers with bread half slices so she could spread it on after reheating. 

My Little Missy loves salmon salad, tuna salad, and chicken salads in her lunches. Again, a great item to make with leftover chicken that the whole family can enjoy. 

I packed it here with Van's Perfect 10 crackers, carrots, apples, and energy bites in an EasyLunchboxes container. 

Mixing it up and keeping lunch fun isn't just for the kids, it's for the parents and caregivers too!

I can honestly say, the fella wants the same thing in his lunch and it's BORING. For me. I hate packing it. Easy yes, but I have FUN making Little Miss' lunches because I get to be creative and I know she appreciates them. 

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