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5 Nut-free, Gluten-Free and Vegetarian Ideas for the Lunchbox

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5 simple snacks and school lunch ideas that use fresh fruits and vegetables that are nut-free, gluten-free and vegetarian.


Make Your Own Snack Packs

Instead of buying prepackaged snack packs of crackers and cheese, assemble your own. This snack pack I made has Capra Goat Cheese with Ames Farm Prairie Flowers honey, Deglat dates, yellow melon and square rice crackers.

Yellow melon is a type of watermelon with yellow flesh. The fruit is sweeter than regular watermelon and has a nice honey flavor and pairs perfect with the honey cheese.

Deglat Dates are considered one of the best dates in the world. They are sweet on the outside and chewy on the inside. This is a great new food to try if your kids really love dried fruit.

I was surprised at how much my kids liked the dates. You could also try dried figs or substitute their favorite dried fruit like apples or raisins. If goat cheese has too strong of a flavor for your kids, try whipped cream cheese.

f747453a654335e31652f11170521d579764b39c.jpgSandwich Apples

Sandwich apples give apples a fun spin. When I was making these sandwich apples, my daughter walked in the kitchen and said, "That looks like a cool apple!" For my apple sandwich, I used Kindercrisp apples and sliced them in thirds, spread with mascarpone cheese and dried cherries.

I liked using the Kindercrisp apples because they are from Minnesota and have similar flavors of a Honeycrisp. These apples were also small which are perfect for kids. Also, kinder is in the name and that's pretty perfect for this kinder mom.

Mascarpone is an Italian cream cheese and while most people use it for desserts like Tiramisu, I like to use it as a spread for kids snacks because of the sweet flavor. This is a great alternative to the more tart regular cream cheese.


Fruit Salsa

Regular tomato salsa, is hit or miss in my house but this fruit salsa was a favorite by both kids.

For the salsa, I combined 1.5 cups chopped Mango, 1 cup Concord Grapes, the zest and juice from one lemon, 1 TB spearmint and 1 TB honey (I used the Ames Farm Prairie Flowers honey from Minnesota). Toss all the ingredients together and serve with your favorite chip or cracker. I served mine with wild rice cakes.

Concord grapes smell so good, this is what real grape smells like. The one thing to know about Concord grapes is that they have seeds. I wasn't sure what my kids would think of the seeds and I didn't say anything about it until after they tried it. My son, only three noticed it but seemed to like the crunch. Eating the seeds has health benefits and I told him that it would make his cavity get better, which is not totally true but he seemed to think that was a great thing and then told me he loved the crunch. We do what we need to as moms, right?

a6853a0aa660bbcc9a605cd5b806c727c6943c89.jpgOpen-Faced Pears

Pears, like apples, can get redundant for lunch and snacks. For these open-faced pears, I used Asian Pears, sliced horizontally and used a melon baller to remove any seeds. I spread the pears with a salty cow's milk spreadable cheese from Milton Creamery in Iowa and topped it with currants. This was another dried fruit completely new to my kids, but they were willing to try it because they love dried fruit so much.

I like using Asian Pears for the open-faced sandwiches because they are a firmer pear and hold up to spreads.


Tomato and Mozzarella Kabobs with Lemon Guacamole

Kids love when food is presented in a new way, and they love kabobs. For the kabobs, I used heirloom tomatoes and looked for yellow and purple. I used cheese sticks, which is overly pulled mozzarella. With the kabobs, I made lemon guacamole. My kids love both guacamole and sour lemon flavors so for the guacamole I mashed two avocados with the juice from one lemon, 1 tsp taco seasoning and 1 tsp chopped Lemon Balm.

Get your kids involved in some aspect of the lunch making whether it is picking out the fresh produce, helping assemble or pack and they'll be more inclined to try something new.

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