There are lots of ways to pack a healthy gluten-free school lunch. Start by including your gluten-free child in the weekly menu planning process- this will increase the odds that he or she will actually eat what you pack for them!
Good quality proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats are key to improving your child's diet. These tips and resources will help you plan and pack healthier gluten-free school lunches for your gluten-free child.
Time Required: Varies - Plan ahead to save time!
What You Need
- A list of your child's favorite gluten-free lunch foods
- A lunchbox your child likes - with a thermos and ice packs to keep foods safe!
- Gluten-free deli meats, cheeses, and yogurt
- Good quality, preferably whole grain gluten-free sandwich bread
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Gluten-free left-overs like spaghetti, lasagna, soups and rice dishes
- Freshwater instead of sugary juice boxes and soft drinks
- Gluten-free crackers and corn chips
- Gluten-free condiments including mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup
- Several packable, lidded 4-ounce containers
- Start with a healthy protein
- High-quality gluten-free deli meats
- Gluten-free cheeses and cheese spread
- Chicken and turkey salads
- Left-overs (homemade chicken gluten-free noodle soup, vegetable beef soup, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, lasagna, tacos, fried rice with eggs, etc.)
- Nut butter and jam sandwiches
- Deviled eggs
- Gluten-free yogurt flavored with fresh fruits and honey
- Black bean salsa with gluten free corn chips
- Protein powder smoothies blended with fresh fruit
- Homemade gluten-free protein bars
- Add healthy complex carbohydrates
- Fresh vegetables and fruits (Use in sandwiches, small salads, salsas, kabobs and cut up into small sticks for dipping)
- Make whole grain gluten-free bread, crackers, and muffins (Plan ahead- double recipes and freeze half for convenience!)
- Hummus (a nutritious bean dip)
- Homemade tomato soup
- Pico de Gallo (a delicious fresh fruit salsa)
- Fruit kabobs (Cut fruit into cubes, skewer on a toothpick and marinade in fresh lemonade)
- Grate carrots and mix with cream cheese for a sandwich spread or dip for veggies
- Pack healthy gluten-free pasta dishes like pesto pasta with toasted pine nuts
- Include healthy essential fatty acids
Most American diets contain adequate, if not excessive amounts of omega 6 essential fatty acids. Vegetable oils like soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil and cottonseed oil are rich sources of omega 6 fatty acids. Fish oils and flaxseed are excellent sources of essential omega 3 fatty acids.
- Salmon cream cheese spread for sandwiches or veggie dipping
- Gluten-free focaccia-style flax bread
- Gluten-free apple flax muffins
- Use olive oil to make fresh gluten-free salad dressings (Olive oil is a good source of both omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids)
- Low carbohydrate trail mix
- Send healthier gluten-free sweets
- Rice Krispie bars made from gluten-free brown rice cereal
- Homemade brownies with walnuts
- Blueberry muffins
- Banana bread
- Gluten-free oatmeal cookies with toasted coconut
- Avoid sending sugary juices and soft drinks that add calories without bringing nutritional value to the table! Pack fresh plain water or occasionally send a fresh fruit flavored water like Aqua Fresca from the expert to Mexican Cooking. Cut back on the sugar or use stevia, a natural, herbal sweetener to further reduce sugar content.
- Get your child involved in the process of planning a weekly lunchbox menu. Let them pick out a fun lunchbox that has a thermos and ice pack in it. That way they will look forward to carrying it and it will keep foods at safe temperatures.
- Make sure your child understands the importance of avoiding foods with gluten. Trading lunches with friends are off-limits!
- Avoid the temptation to fill your child's school lunch with packaged sweets and refined carbohydrates. Of course, kids love eating cookies, candy bars, potato chips and drinking sugary fruit juices and soft drinks but these foods lack the nutrients growing children need. Add a small healthy, homemade gluten-free cookie, bar or muffin instead.
- Change things up! Don't send the same foods day after day. Gluten-free kids need variety for a balanced diet. Utilize left-overs like homemade soups, macaroni, and cheese, spaghetti, lasagna, herb-flavored rice dishes and fruit salads. These foods add nutritional value and variety to school lunches. And they break up the monotony of sandwiches!