Keeping It Fun with Food Allergies

Keeping It Fun with Food Allergies

by Keeley McGuire

I often think we as food allergy parents take things harder than our children do. We worry for them, cry for them, fight for them. There are times I get upset if she’s left out of an event at school, while my daughter just shrugs her shoulders with a smile. She reminds me that I raised her to be resilient and that safety matters first.

It’s the moments when this happens that also remind me why I take the time to make her extra special safe treats for class parties and extra special fun in her lunch box. I never want her to feel left out, so by focusing on the delicious foods she *can* have, and likes, I love being about to show her that “food can be fun with food allergies”!

Here are five easy ways you can incorporate these ideas into your child’s lunches, as well:

  1. Lunch Notes: Sometimes a small gesture like a sticky note with a handwritten note from a parent or even a silly joke card by Lunchbox Love Notes can make all the difference. When your child may be potentially having a bad day, a lunch box smile and knowing that you’re thinking of them can change their entire day.

  2. Cookie Cutters: Let’s say your child only wants nut-free spread sandwiches. All day, every day. No lunch meat, no leftovers, nothing else. That can get boring for them (and as a fellow lunch packer, boring for you too). By using a simple cookie cutter on a sandwich you can transform their typical diagonal cuts into a dinosaur, flower, star, or heart to bring some fun to their food. The same goes for vegetables too – My daughter was more willing and apt to try new foods when they were presented in appealing shapes instead of just an “icky carrot stick”. Check your local craft stores, cake shops, grocers, and online retailers like BentoUSA for great cutters.

  3. Kids in the Kitchen: My daughter loves helping me create yummy recipes and pack her fun lunches. I challenge her to pack it on her own, while keeping in mind her food groups she needs to include (meaning don’t skip the fruit and vegetables just because mom’s not making it). She loves taking ownership of her lunch and then proudly showing her friends what she created.

  4. Try something new: Another great way to incorporate fun and also nutrition is by letting your child select a new fruit or vegetable to try while grocery shopping. I love stopping in the produce section and telling my daughter “okay – which veggie would you like to try this week?” Sometimes she comes back with the craziest thing she can find just to learn more about it, other times she plays it safe with something she knows she’ll enjoy. It’s a great way, again, for your child to take ownership in their foods and feel like they’re choosing options rather than being restricted.

  5. Ain’t nobody got time for that: Look, I get it. There are days when I don’t get home from work until Little Miss’ bedtime, and I don’t even want to think about dinner, let alone a lunch box. And that’s okay. Not every day has to be crazy and over the top. There are days she gets a simple sandwich, chips, applesauce pouch, and if I have enough time to chuck in some carrot sticks…there you go kid! It happens. And that’s okay! But, by trying to carve out a time that works best in your schedule to pack lunch it will become routine and easy. I try to pack all our lunches after dinner. Many times leftovers are incorporated into our foods for the next day, so this helps with clean up. Do what works best for your family!

About the author: Keeley McGuire and her daughter, Little Miss, share their gluten-free & allergy-friendly lunch creations and recipes at