Getting a diagnosis of Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance for your child is tough. We, as parents, scramble to change our child’s diet immediately and that is even tougher, depending on the age of the child. Of course the change starts at home, but the place where our children spend the most time aside from home is school. In my previous article I talked about how to navigate school cafeterias. In this post I am going to focus on packing a nutritious gluten-free lunch.
One of the most difficult items to pack for a gluten-free lunch is a sandwich. This is difficult because most gluten-free bread does not travel well, must be toasted & just plain doesn’t taste good cold. After a lot of trial & error, we have come up with a couple different options that work for us. Jon really likes Pamela’s Gluten-Free Bread. This bread comes in a mix that can be found at Amazon or some grocery stores. I store this bread in the refrigerator and then toast before making a sandwich. I let the bread cool after toasting and then make the sandwich. PB & J works well, as does deli meat & cheese. Jon also likes Udi’s Gluten-Free Bread. Udi’s does not have to be refrigerated nor does it have to be toasted. Udi’s can be found in some grocery stores around the country or can be purchased on their website.
Once the sandwich has been figured out, the rest is much easier. Here are some things that Jon likes to eat in his lunch:
- chips (Lay’s Stax say “gluten-free” on the side)
- Blue corn chips & salsa
- applesauce (natural w/ added cinnamon)
- fresh cut fruit (whatever is in season, though Jon is picky)
- cold pizza & Italian dressing to dip
- yogurt (Yopliat custard style Light says “gluten-free” on the side)
If sandwiches aren’t your child’s cup of tea, there are plenty of other ideas:
- 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 (Blue Diamond or Glutino are good)
- GF Pasta or quinoa salad (add beans like chickpeas or black beans for protein)
- Apples or other fruit with peanut butter or almond butter
- hard boiled eggs
- nuts or trail mix
- fruit leather (Trader Joe’s has a great 100% fruit, no sugar added variety)
- GF Mac & Cheese in the thermos
- Spaghetti & meat sauce in the thermos
- Deli roll-ups (roll up cheese or cream cheese in deli meat)
- Pepperoni & cheese (Hormel regular & turkey says “GF” on the package)
Desserts are the best part of lunch, right? There are so many options for desserts. Jon likes Jell-O brand pudding cups. There are many varieties to choose from. Gluten-free baked goods – cookies, brownies, and muffins are all good ideas. Occasionally I will pack a small piece of gluten-free candy in place of a baked good or pudding.
Have your child become a part of packing his or her lunch. Giving them some control over the choices & process makes them feel empowered. I have found with Jon being in middle school, that he doesn’t want to be embarrassed in front of his friends. Letting him make some of the choices ensures that he won’t feel that way.