Friday, August 10, 2012

The Milk-Allergic, Soy-Allergic School Lunch

Well, it's that time of year, folks. The time when our kids start coming home with full lunch boxes, and when asked why they didn't eat their lunch, are heard to mumble one of the following:

"I just wasn't hungry." 
"My lunch is stupid." 
"I hate sandwiches."

Yeah, yeah, just EAT it, you little -

Deep breath.

Since it's only August, I thought I would post another labor of love for all you moms out there who are dreading the next nine months: the comprehensive "What You Can Feed Your Milk-Allergic Child For Lunch" list. Ready?


Most commercial deli meat (Sarah Lee, Applegate Farms, Boar's Head) is milk free. If they won't eat it on bread, roll it up by itself and wrap in foil.

Try different deli meats! My son loves prosciutto (Trader Joe's has the cheapest), salami (watch the "lactic acid starter culture", though), AmyLu sausages and even bacon (I think Target has the nitrate-free kind).

Swanson chicken in the can. Mix with mayonnaise and send with crackers. If your kid is adventurous, add a teaspoon of curry powder and golden raisins, grapes and/or chopped coconut.

Beans. You can buy these right in the can and serve them whole, or make a cute little bean salad. If you go to a restaurant supply store, you can get plastic dressing take-out cups - they work very well for packing beans in lunches. Let some other parent who doesn't have to DEAL WITH FRICKING FOOD ALLERGIES save the environmental world.

Fish. Really! Salmon comes smoked in the deli case at most stores. (Again, we get ours from Trader Joe's because this stuff is pricey and they have the best and cheapest option.)

You can also make your child fish sticks in the morning, wrap them in foil and put them in a Thermos to stay warm until lunch. (I'm pretty sure we've used Van de Kamp's, but be careful because most contain caseinates.) Add Tater Tots in a toaster oven and it only takes 15 minutes.

Sushi? We never went there, but sushi is becoming more readily available at higher-end delis these days...

Rotisserie chicken. This is a comfort zone issue, but we have recently had very good luck with our local deli's chickens. Because they're done in a special oven and in big batches, the risk of cross-contamination is low (assuming your deli uses no butter on them). This is the world's most malleable ingredient for lunches! Add canned salsa to shredded chicken and you have tacos. Add tomato sauce and it can go over noodles. Mix with salad dressing and it's excellent in a pita.

Tyson chicken. Some of the ready-to-eat chicken strips are milk-free -- warm them in the toaster oven in the morning, wrap in foil and they're perfect for lunch.

Milk-free tuna. It used to be hard to find, but I think even some of the national brands have dropped casein in tuna now.

Soup. Yes, it is possible to find ready-to-eat soups! Trader Joe's has two types in the box that we use. Wofgang Puck free-range chicken soup is also milk/soy free. Remember, too, that most kids are perfectly happy with safe chicken broth (Pacific, Kitchen Basics) and whatever leftover protein and starch you have lying around (rice, noodles)

Trader Joe's chicken taquitos. We love you, TJs!

Weird Stuff To Try

Weird stuff works through about 7th grade, after which point the kid typically notices that it's weird and refuses to eat it. Get the most out of these elementary years, mom!

Polenta. Polenta is ground up corn meal. It comes in a tube -- at our grocery, it's actually in the vegetable section with the herbs that come in tubes and jars. It can be fried in oil and then wrapped in foil to stay warm. (It's also an excellent source of extra fat for too-skinny kids, which is how we first discovered it.)

Dolmades. These are grape leaves stuffed with rice. We use the Roland brand that comes in a can, but I think most of these are basically just leaves...and rice. Again, they come packed in oil, so it's a nice additive for kids who are too skinny. 

Olive Tapanade. This comes in the olives section of the store, usually on the top shelf. There are all different kinds: some are just olives, but others have other vegetables as well. It's excellent on little crispy crackers or thin-sliced bread. 

Canned baby corn. These are kid-friendly and bite-sized...what's not to like?

Rice cakes. You don't have to go with the "paste" flavor -- many now come flavored with cinnamon, apple or other options.

Salads. It's never too early to start a kid on salads! Plus, salads don't have to be lettuce: start with glass noodles or rice, plus salad dressing, and add in anything else your kid will eat. La Choy chinese noodles or homemade croutons (make when your bread gets stale and store in the freezer) are an excellent addition if they are not fans of lettuce. 

Amy's roasted vegetable pizza. It's good! Plus, one pizza makes a couple lunches. 

Stovetop Stuffing. Why not? Better than going hungry.

Milk-Free Bread

It seems to continually come up, so here's the list I know about or have heard about. CHECK EVERYTHING YOURSELF: many of these are from chat board threads.

  • Arnold/Brownberry (some have said these all have milk now)
  • Z-Best (probably Chicago only)
  • Gonnella
  • Bimbo
  • Kid's Choice
  • Target sour dough
  • Breadsmith (however, they do use tree nuts in some stores)
  • Rosen's/Mary Ann rolls (they use sesame)
  • Sara Lee
  • Thomas's muffins
  • Lender's bagels
  • Rhode's frozen bread dough
  • Pillsbury rolls (watch for butter in some)
  • Rudi's
  • Turano
  • Ener-G
  • Oro-Wheat
  • Nature's Own
  • Costco
  • Jewel French bread
  • Country Hearth
  • Pot O' Gold
  • Stroehmann's
  • Today's Temptations
  • Dempster's Smart
  • Meier's Italian
  • Freihofer's Stone Ground 100& Whole Wheat

Emergency Stuff

Cereal. It's o.k. Lots of kids take cereal for lunch. Same with Pop-Tarts

Other ready-to-eat milk-free meals:
OK, so most of these are only nominally food. But, they work in a pinch (assuming they have a microwave at school). 

Sunbutter. If they're sick of sunbutter sandwiches, send it with crackers, apples, Rice Crispies and a spoon, graham crackers, bananas.

Bacon in the box. Oh, and waffles or pancakes. (One of the Van's varieties used to be milk/soy free, but we just freeze extras from Sunday.) Use one of those carry-out plastic containers and you have a place for syrup.

Pillsbury rolls and hot dogs. Roll 'em up -- ready in 10 minutes!

Quaker instant oatmeal. Cream of Wheat. Malt-o-Meal. Hey, it happens!

Mrs. D's hash browns or Ore Ida tater tots/fries. You do need to allow time for them to cook, but it doesn't get easier than that.

Boiled eggs. Do a few at the beginning of the week. They're great for salads and wonderful for that day when the bus is coming and the lunch bag is empty.

Toddler stews. My son cannot have peas, but if your child is good for these, there are several options. Just TAKE THEM OUT OF THE CAN so your kid doesn't see what he's eating. Same with baby food. There are several varieties (like the tropical flavors) that are not easy to find in any other form than baby food. Don't get caught!

Popcorn chicken. Get it?
This mom cracks me up.
Popcorn. There's been a lot of press lately about popcorn and antioxidants. I like to keep it handy in case the school calls Child Services about my lunches. 

Just a final's never too soon to allow your CHILD to pack his or her own lunch. It's the best way to ensure they're going to eat what you send them. We used to write the weekly options on the white board so the kids could think about it in advance. It never worked that well, but maybe you'll be a more organized parent than I was. 

And never forget: no child starves when there's food available. Just do your best. They will eventually start eating. 

P.S. If this doesn't do it for you, there are 31 pages of lunch ideas on my old site.


  1. We are dealing with a few more allergens, but this list is still chock full of good ideas. I need them, I fail at lunch prep.

  2. Good suggestions. However, your attitude that environmental concerns are for non-allergy parents sucks and shows how you earn your bitch stripes. Maybe there are so many food allergies because of what humans have done to the world.

  3. Yes...and no.

    I *do* have environmental concerns. I *don't*, however, believe I'm saving the world by limiting or recycling plastic. Until corporations are held accountable for the full costs of their products, including disposal/reuse, recycling is just a way to make middle class people feel good about themselves. (Much of what's collected ends up in landfill.)

    If my blog were actually about environmental concerns, I would be promoting giving up meat. THAT makes a difference.

    But hey, the column's a two-fer for you. Free allergy advice and you get to feel superior, all at the same time.

    Just tell me you don't buy bottled water.

  4. No, I don't buy bottled water. Mock me if that makes you feel better.��

  5. I don't mind criticism of my ideas when the criticism is focused on *food allergies.* But your criticism in this particular case is petty, peripheral to the concept of the blog and focused on a line that was tongue-in-cheek to start with.

    It's like criticizing Major League Baseball because you think the players destroy too much ivy while catching balls in the outfield.

    1. LOL! I am thoroughly enjoying your blog, wit, and experience/documentation of food allergies in general. My son is 2 and is allergic to milk. I recently started a regimen of probiotics as our allergist discussed a study underway that is trending towards lower rates of food allergy genesis in children. Although it does not study probiotics in children who already suffer from food allergy we can hope that the results from the current study will be intriguing enough to do future studies.


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