If you follow me on social media, then you most definitely have seen pictures of my older son’s school lunches. My older son is not a celiac but he has a pretty strong intolerance to gluten. That combined with his on-going request to avoid hot lunches has made me have to get pretty creative.
From the many, many emails I get about packing school lunches, I think it’s fair to say that packing school lunch, let alone gluten free school lunch, stresses a lot of you out!
But, let’s keep it real – it’s not going away anytime soon. You feel me on this? We are looking at 12 or more years of packing lunch so let’s make it fun!
HOW TO PACK GLUTEN FREE SCHOOL LUNCH
Roll-Ups, “Sushi” and GF Bread:
While there are a few brands of Gluten Free bread that I really like, the truth is that they are ridiculously expensive so I don’t like to rely on them for packing lunch. I probably pack one “sandwich” every other week at this point. Instead, I like to make pinwheels, “sushi” or roll-ups. Basically, you take a larger piece of lunch meat like turkey or ham, lay it out flat, layer pepperoni or salami, maybe a piece of cheese, a squirt of mustard and start rolling. You can put these into the lunchbox as-is, or cut them into “sushi bites” or stuff them into crispy lettuce leaves for roll-ups. I do all of the above because my son loves variety.
Eat the Rainbow:
This is probably my #1 tip. Color. Color. Color. Look at the lunch and think about mixing colors. You know the saying Eat The Rainbow? It’s because the more colorful your food is, the better nutrition it usually has. Sometimes I’ll pull out a variety of veggies or fruits and then decide what to pack based on what color I feel is missing. This also helps keep lunch interesting. Kids love colors. If your child is vegetable adverse, a fun way to get them excited and trying new foods is to incorporate color themes.
- Red: grape tomatoes, red bell peppers, pepperoni, salami, watermelon, strawberries, raspberries, beets, radish, cherries, red apples, red pears, pomegranate and red grapes
- Orange: orange segments, carrots, cantaloupe, cheese, orange bell peppers, kumquats, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, apricots, mangoes, nectarines and peaches
- Green: cucumber, green grapes, avocado, kiwi, green apples, green olives, broccoli, green beans, snap peas, snow peas, green bell peppers, pistachios
- White: coconut, cauliflower, jicama, chicken or turkey breast, macadamia nuts, parsnips, cheese, hard boiled eggs, peeled apples or pears and rice cakes
Cut Fruits and Veggies Into Different Shapes:
This comes back to the whole variety is key comment above. Keep vegetables and fruits interesting by switching up how you slice and dice them.
Ex. Apples: Core and cut into wedges, dice, thinly slice, mash, keep it whole.
What About Treats:
We are not a big dessert and treat household and my son’s school has a “no wrapped candy” policy with a few exceptions around Halloween. However, he is six-years old, likes treats like any other kid and I like to get his buy-in for his lunches. I have found that the more I involve him, the better choices he makes.
One of the lessons we are trying to encourage is eating real food first and saving the treats for last, like a dessert. By letting him pick his “treat”, he is usually way more motivated and excited to eat his lunch and snacks before enjoying it.
Some treats that we include are mini gluten free chocolate chip cookies, Medjool dates, toasted coconut, small pieces of dark chocolate, dye free gummies, gluten free yogurt pretzels and candied nuts of all kinds.
When it comes to snacks, I like to keep it easy. Not too many containers and extra utensils. Things my son can eat relatively quickly, get good fuel from and feel satisfied.
Some of the snacks we rotate through are applesauce pouches, high-quality potato chips (olive oil or avocado oil), organic tortilla chips, organic popcorn, fruit and dried fruit, seaweed packages and school-compliant bars.