Peanut-free Lunches and Snacks

kids eating lunch at school

Looking for peanut-free lunches and snacks to pack for school? Take a look at our ideas below. If your child has a peanut allergy, follow our tips to help teach your child about their allergy, how to keep the school allergy-safe, and how to avoid cross-contamination.

Peanut Free Ideas For the Lunchbox

Ask your school about its allergy policy so you know what foods you need to avoid sending to school. Aim to include all the foods in  in Canada’s Food Guide for a balanced lunch. A balanced lunch includes vegetable and fruit, whole grain and protein foods.  Ask your child to pick their top five favourite lunch meals and then rotate them through the week. Be sure to read the labels on all pre-packaged foods you purchase each time.
Here are some ideas to get you started:

Sandwiches and Wraps

  • Mini whole wheat pitas stuffed with shredded lean meat, grated cheese and shredded carrot, an apple, and water.

  • Whole wheat tortilla wrap with romaine lettuce and hummus; red pepper strips and milk. 

  • Cheese sandwich on whole grain bread; baby carrots with dip, and unsweetened applesauce. 

  • Bagel with canned salmon or tuna; sliced orange sections, and milk.


  • Pasta salad with strips of grilled chicken, green peppers and corn kernels.

  • Whole grain spaghetti and meatballs; a pear and milk. 

  • Beans and rice; yogurt and grapes. 

  • Homemade chili with a small whole wheat bun; sliced kiwi, and fortified soy beverage.  

  • Beef and vegetable stir fry with noodles; canned peaches packed in water.

Fun finger foods

  • Whole grain bread sticks, hummus dip, berries and a yogurt tube.

  • Homemade banana muffin, a peeled hard boiled egg, a cheese string, grapes and water.

  • Tuna salad on crackers; cantaloupe wedges and milk. 

  • Baked chicken drumstick, raisin bread cut in squares, cheese cubes, cucumber rounds and a smoothie.

Check out this article on packing balanced school lunches for more ideas!  

Healthy peanut free snacks for recess and treats for school parties

It is recommended that you use the 3 check rule when purchasing pre-packaged foods:

  1. Read the label before you purchase the product in the store.

  2. Read it again once when you are putting it away at home.

  3. Read it a third time before you serve/prepare it for the allergic individual.

These foods generally do not contain peanuts or peanut products. Always read food labels to be sure.

  • Fresh fruit, fruit cups like applesauce

  • Dried fruit (raisins, dried apricots, dried cranberries), 100% fruit leathers 

  • Fresh veggies 

  • Milk and fortified plant-based beverage 

  • Plain low fat cheese 

  • Low sodium pretzels 

  • Plain popcorn 

  • Whole grain crackers  

  • Whole grain breakfast cereals

  • Yogurt

  • Fruit juice popsicles

  • Homemade muffins or baked goods made without peanuts or peanut oil. Try these Fruity Tutti Muffins.

Foods to avoid that contain peanuts

Avoid packing or using these foods because they contain or may contain peanuts. Note: this is not a complete list!

  • Baking mixes 

  • Bulk foods (there are no ingredients lists, and peanut cross-contamination can easily happen) 

  • Chili con carne (peanut butter may be used to thicken the chili) 

  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed plant protein (used in vegetarian meat substitutes) 

  • Foods made with peanut sauce or Szechuan sauce 

  • Granola or cereal bars with peanuts or peanut butter

  • Peanut butter 

  • Peanut oil 

  • Potato chips (some may be made with peanut oil) 

  • Salad dressings that just list “oil” (it may be made with peanut oil)

Always read labels every time you go shopping since recipes and product information may change. Canadian guidelines require that peanut-containing products are clearly labelled. The ingredient list will say “contains: peanut” if it contains this ingredient. If a product does not contain peanuts, but there is a risk of the food having come into contact with peanut (cross-contamination), you will see “may contain peanut” listed at the end of the ingredient list. You should also avoid these foods. If you’re not sure whether a food may contain peanuts, always call the food manufacturer. If you don’t recognize a food ingredient or if there is no ingredient list, don’t eat it.

Find a list of foods that commonly contain peanuts here.
Be informed. Sign up for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) free email “Food Recalls and Allergy Alerts” notification service.

Teach your child about peanut allergies

Explain some of the symptoms and what they may feel when they are experiencing a reaction to peanuts. See our article What Do I Need to Know About Peanut Allergies for a list of symptoms as well as how children might describe these symptoms.

  • Ask your child not to trade/share their food with anyone or eat other kids’ food.

  • Teach your child how to read food labels and ingredients on packages.

  • Make sure your child knows whom to ask for help if they have a reaction.  Teach them to speak up so they can make others aware of their allergies.

  • Make sure they wear MedicAlert identification and carry an epinephrine auto injector (i.e., EpiPen or Twinject) with them at all times.

How to avoid cross-contamination at home and when eating out

Cross-contamination happens when a food comes in contact with peanuts or peanut products. For example, if you cut your peanut butter sandwich on a cutting board, and then use the same cutting board to cut an apple for your child’s lunch. It is possible that the apple and cutting board will contain traces of peanut protein.
At home, carefully wash utensils that have touched peanut products before using them again with other foods. Use a different dish cloth to wash utensils that have touched peanuts and peanut products.

How can a dietitian help?

Does your child have a peanut allergy? Are you having trouble finding nourishing lunches your child can bring to school? A dietitian can suggest school lunches that are not only peanut-free, but that meet your child’s unique preferences and nutrient needs. Connect with a dietitian today!

Bottom line

There are many nutritious peanut-free options to pack for school lunches and snacks. When you have a peanut allergy or are preparing food for someone with a peanut allergy, be allergy safe. Always read food labels, avoid cross-contamination and be careful when dining out. If you aren’t sure about whether a food contains peanuts, don’t eat it.

You may also be interested in:

What Do I Need to Know About Peanut Allergies?
What is the Difference Between a Food Allergy and Intolerance?
Top 5 Reasons to See a Dietitian?
This article was written and reviewed by dietitians from Dietitians of Canada. The advice in this article is intended as general information and should not replace advice given by your dietitian or healthcare provider.

Last Update – January 15, 2023

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