School starts for my kids in just under three weeks. They didn’t seem have much of a summer, or it went by really fast. It was probably a little of both. Heading back to school on a gluten-free diet can be intimidating, even if you or your child has been following the diet for a while.
How you handle your gluten-free child in school depends a lot on your child’s age.
Meet with your child’s teacher, school nurse and principal to outline the necessary adherence to the gluten-free diet. Make sure to bring a letter outlining all of the details that you wish to include. Some schools are now providing students with gluten-free lunches as well, so make sure to arrange to speak with whomever is in charge of the lunch program and staff to make sure they understand the consequences of cross-contamination. The other challenge with elementary school age children is birthday and class parties. Arrange to be notified in advance if there is a scheduled pizza or birthday party so that you can bring in the appropriate gluten-free version of that food for your child. You may consider keeping some pre-made brownies or cupcakes in the nurse’s freezer if that is an option.
Middle & High School
Kids at the middle and high school age may not want their parents involved in meeting with the school staff to go over their diet. When Jon was in middle school, I still sent in my letter to make sure the teachers and nurse were aware of his condition in case he accidentally ingested gluten. Jon chose to stick with bringing his lunch from home at this age, so there was no need to meet with the cafeteria staff. High school options vary, but often there are choices that he can safely make without much involvement from an outside source. They will often stock yogurt, milk, chips, fresh fruit and salads that he can safely eat.
Many colleges are able to safely feed those needing a gluten-free diet. I was impressed with Miami University of Ohio when Jon visited for hockey camp in the past. For more information on staying gluten-free while going to college, make sure to check out GlutenFreeTravelSite.com, which includes reviews for several colleges.
Below I have listed a bunch of ideas for packed lunches. Check them out:
- PB & J (toasted or untoasted – there are many options now)
- Turkey or Ham & cheese
- Mac & Cheese in the thermos
- Spaghetti & meat sauce in the thermos
- Deli roll-ups (roll up cheese in deli meat..could use cream cheese)
- Pepperoni & cheese (Hormel regular & turkey says “GF” on the package)
- Blue corn chips & salsa
- fresh cut fruit
- GF Cookies
- GF brownies
- Salads w/ a protein (grilled chicken, steak, salmon, tuna)
- tuna salad w/ GF crackers
- Carrots & celery w/peanut butter or almond butter
- Cream cheese w/ celery
- dried fruit
- fresh fruit
- Lara Bars, Pure Bars, Kind Bars, Think Thin Bars
- Greek yogurt + fruit + dried cereal or GF granola
- Cheese & GF Crackers
- GF Pasta or quinoa salad (add beans like chickpeas or black beans for protein)
- Apples or other fruit with PB or AB
- hard boiled eggs
- nuts or trail mix
- fruit leather
Have you had any trouble with your child eating gluten-free at school? What is your favorite gluten-free lunch box lunch?