What to Pack When Your Kid Can’t Bring Nuts to School
No peanut butter? No problem.
There’s one word that rings in my ears when I hear "back to school." Snacks. My kids practically live for snacks, and for a small thing, snacks have an important job at school: keeping kids’ energy up just enough to focus and learn but, you know, not too much. Teachers don’t need that business. With nuts off the menu in many schools these days, here’s how I fill up my kids’ lunches with snacks.
I have two bins that the kids pick their own snacks from every morning before school: one in the fridge and one in the pantry. The fridge version includes cheese sticks, individual yogurts, fresh apples, plums and whatever else is in season. In the pantry, they’ll find unsweetened applesauce, nitrate-free jerky and some kind of low-sugar granola bar (right now I’m loving Chef’s Cut and Kind Kids, respectably). But when all the stars align and I’m totally on top of my game, we also have some of these ideas on hand too ...
When it comes to planning family dinners, I do have an eye on how to use those leftovers wisely. Whole-Wheat Cheddar Biscuits are a crowd-pleasing side that double as a snack the next day. Taco Tuesday becomes Built-In-Snack Wednesday when you put the leftovers in pie crust for Taco Pop Tarts. Even weekend breakfasts can set you up for snacks later in the week. I always make a double batch of Sheet Pan Pancakes* to enjoy during the week. (*Standing over the stove with a spatula? No thanks!).
One of my secret weapons for getting healthy ingredients into kids is so simple: muffins. Our favorites are Magical Muffins (with five kinds of fruit and veggies baked right in) that come in two flavors: Cinnamon Spice or Double Chocolate. But a close third-place pick is a muffin with its own powers. These Pumpkin Spice Muffins have never, ever met a kid who doesn’t like them. But the options are endless. Ina Garten’s Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins are divine, and her Banana Crunch recipe is legendary. Every one of these muffins can be made in advance and stored in the freezer. My kids grab one from the freezer in the morning knowing that it’ll be thawed out by snack time.
Want the flavor of a muffin in low-maintenance form? You cannot go wrong with a Healthy Apple-Cinnamon Quick Bread, Anne Burrell’s Cranberry-Orange Loaf or Ree Drummond’s incredible Leftover Fruit Bread. Want to save time? This Zucchini-Banana Bread bakes politely in a sheet pan, cutting at least 15 minutes off your oven time with delicious results.
Don’t forget all the things kids can make themselves. The smallest kids in your family can put together their own Custom Cereal Mix, which is really just cereal plus ANYTHING you want to add: pretzels, dried fruit, chocolate chips and so on. Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Pita Crisps require nothing but brushing and sprinkling, which any preschooler will be thrilled to do. And you’ve always got protein balls. After one blitz in a food processor by an adult, the little guys can get in on the rolling action. Our favorite nut-free version is Strawberry-Banana Bliss. But of all the snacks in all the world, you can never ever go wrong with our family favorite: Chocolate Graham Crackers. Especially if they happen to come in Star Wars shapes.