Say it isn't so, but it is time to go Back to School, Gluten Free of course.
I know that some of you are already back in school. Here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest we don't jump into the school routine until around Labor Day Weekend.
I am having a really hard time even thinking about going from this:
Yes, there was a week in the middle of the summer when I got a "Mom can we . . ." every time I turned around and I could not keep up with the little puddles of messes that three kids bring to the house, and I just wanted an hour ALONE . . .. But those moments of "how many days until school starts" were far and few between for me this summer and I am finding myself really just wanting one more week of summer!
I love the ages of my kids right now and I think these are truly some of the best years of our lives. My oldest will be a senior this year and my youngest is in fifth grade and despite living with two teenage girls, I cherish our family time.
I am also feeling nostalgic about the fleeing of our little kid era. We don't have little, little kids anymore and my husband and I are not exactly young anymore either. The older my kids get, the faster the summers seem to fly by - I am living the saying by Andy Rooney that "life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes." We are nowhere near the end, but in some ways it seems that an era in my family is passing by and I wish we could hold on to it a little longer.
But alas, the end of summer has arrived and we are gearing ourselves back up for the morning alarm clock, after school sports practices, and late night homework.
I have also been spending time trying to come up with some new and original ideas for my kids' Gluten Free School Lunches.
Unfortunately, our school provides very little GF food that my kids can eat. Therefore, both of my daughters take their lunch to school every day. The following are some tips on making gluten free school lunches as fun, and manageable, as possible.
Gluten Free Lunchbox Ideas
- Buy a Fun and Different Lunchbox.
Buy your child a fun lunchbox that is not like everyone else’s and clearly label it with your child’s name. One year we had the standard issue Target lunchbox that several students had. One day I had to bring an emergency lunch to school because someone else had grabbed her lunchbox by mistake.
Make it fun because they will carry this lunch box everywhere (school, sleep overs, parties). We bought one at the M&M store in NYC that looks like a bag of Peanut M&M’s and my daughter loves it.
When my daughter out grew lunch boxes, we converted to using plastic bags from Target and the grocery store. This made it easy for her to toss the lunch bag after lunch and not need to worry about bringing it home everyday.
- Pack More Food than your Child Needs.
Even though most schools do not permit it, all kids trade food. Remind your child never to eat anyone else's food. Having extra lunch in her bag to share lets her be a part of this lunchtime social exchange. It does not have to be your expensive special GF treats – we often pack a bag of sunflower seeds to pass around on the playground.
Additionally, you never know when a situation could arise where your GF child needs extra food. A spontaneous invite after school for a play date is okay because she will have extra food left over from lunch for snack.
Lastly, it is good to have extra food in the event of an emergency. I feel better knowing my daughter has a little extra food.
- Keep Lunches Fresh.
The hardest part about carrying a sack lunch everyday is keeping it fresh. Who would not get tired of eating the same thing every day? It can be challenging, but rotate some favorite things through the lunch to keep it interesting.
Our lunch ingredients are broken down into six main categories: main entrée, fruit, vegetable, something cold, snack item, and dessert. Sticking to these makes it easier for me (I don't have to think too much before my coffee kicks in) and for my daughter to make her lunch in the morning. She can put in whatever she wants, as long as there is one thing from each category.
- Some Ideas for Gluten Free Lunches.
Warm food always tastes good at lunch. Pack an extra paper towel in the lunch so they can lay it down in the microwave then put their food on top of it. Just leave the paper towel in the microwave when done and pack some wipes to cleanse hands before eating. Some warm food options:
- Thai Kitchen Rice Noodle Soup Just add water and microwave for 3 minutes.
- Glutenfreeda Burrito
- Gluten Free Pizza – this is a kid favorite. Just keep a couple of pieces from dinner the night before, put them on a paper plate in a gallon zip lock bag, the student just needs to remove the paper plate and warm.
- Leftovers from Dinner – if you buy the right thermos, you can eliminate the need to warm it up. My daughter loves tomato soup in her lunch. Or buy a canned soup by Kettle Cuisine.
- Nachos – in the morning I will pack some GF Tostitos with shredded cheese in a microwavable container. My daughter warms it at school to melt the cheese. Pack a little container of GF salsa too.
- Macaroni and Cheese – Make Your Own or buy a frozen one from Glutino’s.
- Ian’s Chicken Nuggets
If a microwave is not available:
- GF bread with butter and cheese – Udi’s bread holds up really well in a lunchbox. I toast it in the morning, add whatever toppings my kids like, and then seal it all up in a Ziploc bag. Use Sunbutter if you cannot use peanuts.
- GF bread with Hormel Natural lunch meat or Boar’s Head deli meat and cheese
- GF bread with Nutella Hazelnut Spread
- We call these the "Luke’s Special" because my son invented it – take a GF corn tortilla, smear with cream cheese and add some shredded cheddar cheese.
- Go Picnic Meals similar to Lunchables but with GF options
- Gluten Free Bagels with Cream Cheese
- Quinoa Salad
Okay pretty obvious, but something different to try:
- Bowl of raspberries, strawberries and blueberries mixed together
- Dole Fruit Bowl of mandarin oranges
- Dried Fruit by Sensible Foods
- Bags of carrots
- Celery sticks
- Cherry tomatoes
- Avocado (the first time she tried an avocado my daughter was hooked on them. Slice in half, remove the pit, and fill the bowl with GF balsamic vinegar)
- Can of V-8 Juice
- Sliced cucumber
- This usually means yogurt for us; Chobani and Stonyfield are certified GF by the Gluten Intolerant Group.
- Sliced cheddar cheese
- Frigo cheese sticks
SNACK ITEM OR BAR:
- Hard Boiled or Deviled Eggs
- Microwave Popcorn
- Wonderful Pistachios are naturally GF.
- Our Favorite Homemade Granola Bars
- Eden Organic Pumpkin Seeds
- Glutino Gluten Free Crackers with slices of cheddar cheese.
Food Should Taste Good A cross between a chip and a cracker, these are my favorite go to snack item. Certified GF.
- Snyder's of Hanover Gluten Free Pretzels. Snyder's has taken the extra step to certify their pretzels are GF. A snack I can count on!
- Fruit Gushers, and Fruit Roll Ups by General Mills
- KIND Bars My GF Teen's favorite snack bar – she loves the Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew bar.
- Kind Peanut Butter Whole Grain Clusters My GF Teen's favorite snack! A protein packed blend of peanuts and natural GF grains.
- Frito lays has an extensive list of gluten free chips that they have "validated through analytical testing that the following products contain less than 20 ppm of gluten." They seem to add more and more chips to the list every few months.
- Halfpops Are just that – partially popped kernels with great flavor. Gluten, trans fat, and preservative free! Love these!
- Whatever gluten free treat I made that week such as 123 Gluten Free Sweet Goodness Pan Bars or King Arthur Chocolate Brownie Mix Makes a delicious chewy and soft brownie that is not gritty at all!
- Make your own Chocolate Brownies
- Udi Muffin My kids love the Double Chocolate Muffins but half of a muffin is more than enough.
- Candy Tree Organic Vines This great gluten free licorice is such a special treat and a favorite snack.
- WOW Wheat and Gluten Free Cookies and Brownies These are the best of the best; large, soft and delicious. Much like you would find at the local bakery. The price reflects the quality of the ingredients - organic ingredients, high quality butter, and cane juice.
Share some of your GF lunchbox ideas in the comments below!