Q: Katherine – I am after some lunch tips for a 7-year-old girl who has just been put on a dairy-free diet. She loves yogurt and cheese, so I’m not sure what to do. Do you have any dairy-free lunch box ideas?
A: Alisa – There are ample dairy-free substitutes available on the market for both yogurt and cheese. So Delicious is the expert in coconut-based yogurt with sweetened, unsweetened, and various flavor options. Silk whips up indulgent, higher protein soy-based yogurts and delicious almond-based yogurts. In terms of cheese alternatives, Daiya is the most allergy-friendly and they now have single-serve cheese sticks. But Follow Your Heart slices & mini single-serve cuts have dazzled us, and Go Veggie now offers vegan “cream cheese” singles. Since these products can be a scary investment at first, we have cheese alternative product reviews and yogurt product reviews to give you an unbiased taste preview.
However, dairy alternatives may not meet your little one’s expectations at first. Sometimes switching straight from a dairy product to a dairy-free substitute for that product might be a bit too “different” for young or sensitive taste buds. Taking a full “dairy break” can remove a little of that taste memory, so that she can later enjoy these other products in their own right. You can certainly leap into the world of dairy alternatives if you wish, but also consider venturing out into some other kid-friendly foods. Below are numerous dairy-free lunch box resources, recipes and ideas to help!
Go Dairy Free for Back to School
Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook is my largest compilation of tips, snacks, and recipes for kids and lunch boxes. Within you will find sections entitled, “Kids: Back to School & Celebrations” and “Snack Time,” plus recommendations for quick meals and snacks, grocery shopping guides, and numerous health tips (calcium and protein anyone?). And of course, there are the recipes.
Just a few of the dairy-free lunch box ready recipes in Go Dairy Free include (clockwise from top left) Chewy Granola Bars (easy and versatile), Maple Bran Muffins (one of my favorite pack-along breakfasts), Cashew Creme Cheeze (great for spreading on bagels), and Fudge Brownie Cookies (a special dairy-free lunch box treat). All of these are not only dairy-free, but also made without eggs and peanuts for those peanut-free school zones.
Our Favorite Dairy-Free Lunch Box Recipes Online
These are some delicious dairy-free lunch box ready recipes that have been very popular with moms.
Sweet Treats & Snacks
- Super-Friendly Trail Mix Bars (pictured below)
- Easy DIY Candy Bars
- Dirt Pudding Cups
- Super Banana Oat Bars
- Amazing Apple Fries
- Peanut Butter Protein Balls
- Dairy-Free Yogurt Cheese
- Bavarian Pretzel Bites with Honey Mustard Dip
- Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Bars
- Strawberry Smash Muffins
- Vanilla Chia Pudding
- Healthy Cookie Dough Bites
- Slow Cooker Tomato Queso Dip
- Chocolate Truffle Snacks
- Butternut Banana Mini Muffins
- Healthy Hummus Pinwheels (pictured below)
- Power Muffins
- Healthy Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies
- Plain Old Tots
- Blackberry Oat Muffins
- Grape Salad
- Lunchbox Cookies
- Healthier Ramen with Fresh Veggies
- Mild Curry Chicken Nuggets
- Apple English Muffin Rounds
- Pepperoni Rolls
- Apple Treasure Chests or Kabobs
- Ranch Pasta Salad
- Tarragon Chicken Salad Sandwiches
- Baked Falafel Pitas (pictured below)
- Freezable Pizza Pockets
- Plant-Based Pasta Salad
- Tahoe Crunch Sandwiches
- Hawaiian Pizza Pasta
- Salmon Salad Sandwiches
- Veggie Frittata Bites
- Gnocchi in Tomato Basil Cream Sauce
- Ten-Minute Tuna Couscous
- Superfast Tuna Edamame Salad
- Pizza Focaccia Bread
- Luis’s Empanadas
- Meatloaf Muffins (pictured below)
- Butternut Mac ‘n Peas
- Deli Spirals with Rainbow Bento
- Chipotle BLTA Sandwiches
I want to be positive but these recipes are too carb heavy! My daughter has weight issues and sugar makes her off-the-charts hungry! I’m adapting the pasta to high protein and adding more fat. Still thank you even 1-2 ideas makes a difference
Such a great series of ideas and suggestions and I’m sure it would be so handy for anyone packing lunches! Thanks for sharing!
I love these ideas for healthy school lunches 🙂
Great ideas! I just recently started having to pack lunches for my toddler, and while she does not have allergies, having Celiac Disease has made me more aware of the nutritional needs of others. I try to keep her lunches as allergy friendly as possible, and these ideas will help!
Thanks for this haul of dairy-free lunchbox ideas. Now can you come over and make them all 🙂 The falafel is calling my name.
Haha, as long as we can sit around gabbing and eating the leftovers 🙂
Some of these will definitely be making an appearance in my lunch box!
LOVE this post. I’ve been getting lots of questions about how to go dairy free because I think it feels daunting. This is a great how to ease in to it guide!
Fantastic! There really are plenty of options!
Follow Your Heart has the best dairy free cheese! It really does taste like traditional!! I have yet to try Kite Hill because I can’t find it anywhere by me (gotta get to a Whole Foods soon!). And I love subbing avocado or hummus in place of cheese in most things too – works wonderfully! Great options here, Alisa!
Indeed, avocado and hummus kick the pants off of cheese in my book! I can find Kite Hill locally, but it’s quite pricey!
how do you keep the avocado from browning?
It depends on what you are making. But in general, if the avocado is added fresh in the morning, I’ve not had issues with browning by lunch.
I love all of these ideas. This is such a great resource for those of us who can’t eat dairy but can get stuck in a rut of eating the same thing every day for lunch! What a great idea to share some recipes that are also peanut and egg free in case there are allergies in the child’s classroom! I have so many recipes to peruse now I can’t decide where to begin!
So happy I can help Laura!
Oh and I forgot to mention, Asian food is a life saver, as long as she’s not allergic to soy! We eat a lot of sushi, noodles, wonton soups, and stir fries for dinners then eat the leftovers for lunch the next day 🙂
I definitely recommend avoiding the “dairy alternatives.” Some are hard to “swallow” in comparison to the wonderful dairy your child might be used to. Some other snack ideas for protein are: hard boiled eggs or egg salad sandwiches, Grimms deli meats (dairy free), if allowed we like almond butter snacks such as ants on a log (celery, almond butter and raisins). We also like dried fruit snacks like apricots and raisins. We use a lot of mayonnaise in replacement of butter on bread and in recipes for tuna casserole where they ask for sour cream, etc. I’ve been off dairy for 20 years (allergies), so its possible, but challenging. Also a surviving tip for us with our dairy free kids is to either bring a snack along to meals out, social gatherings, or eat beforehand so they won’t die when they just eat fries, or soup for dinner. Good luck!
I have recently found out my 7 year old needs to go dairy free and gluten free so here goes a life changing experience please help. Thanks much
Hi Victoria, there is a wealth of information out there – and don’t worry, it can be challenging at first but gets easier! Start with these three pages on GDF: