Packing a gluten-free lunch can be daunting sometimes, and even downright frustrating. Believe me, I do it on almost a daily basis. Although I don't have kids of my own, I can only imagine the difficulties faced when preparing a lunch for a gluten-free child. To alleviate some of this stress, I decided to compile some of my favorite GF snacks and lunch ideas, as well as those ideas that I have found around the interwebs. You'll be able to send your kiddo(s) off to school without the pressure, or feed yourself at work. :)
Some tips for lunches:
- Always make sure to remind your GF kids to not share food with friends or trade lunch items. This can have disastrous consequences.
- Invest in a reusable lunch box. This will help make lunchtime fun for you or your kids. I bought myself a nice thermal lunch tote (pictured above) from www.thirtyonegifts.com, but you can find good ones virtually anywhere.
- Ask your kids what they would like to see in their lunches. Maybe there's a "trendy" food item that they want, and by accommodating some requests (by finding a GF alternative or making it from scratch) you can eliminate the risk of food trades occurring.
There are a few things to have on hand for quick and easy lunches. You can buy these in bulk and keep them in the freezer or pantry.
- GF Bread: I recommend Udi's or Schar for taste and texture.
- Jelly, peanut butter (Sunbutter or Barney Butter if you can't have nuts), Nutella
- Jif To-Go Peanut Butter (I love these things, they're single serving and great to top on waffles, bread, and to dip apples, celery, or whatever in)
- Lunch meats: mix it up with ham, turkey, roast beef, etc
- Crackers (Glutino has a good selection), you can easily pair these with cuts of lunch meat or sliced cheese for a Lunchable-like meal
- Cereal bars (for a mid-morning or afternoon snack), I recommend Enjoy Life, they have a great selection including fruit, chocolate, salty, etc.
- Udi's bagels, topped with cream cheese, used instead of sandwhich bread, topped with Hormel pepperoni and some mozzarella cheese
- Sliced apples, sprinkle with some lemon juice to avoid browning
- Packaged fruit cups
- Grape or cherry tomatoes
- Celery (can dip in peanut butter or ranch dressing)
- Banana (can dip in peanut butter)
- Sliced cucumbers
- Ranch, Italian dressing, hummus (check labels or make from scratch), Jif To-Go peanut butter, Nutella, honey mustard, honey, salsa
- Enjoy Life, Kind, Lara, etc. cereal bars
- Glutino Crackers, paired with cheese, cream cheese, peanut butter
- Yogurt & Granola (Udi's), can also be a meal
- Tortilla chips & salsa
- Snack Pack or Jell-O pudding and jello cups (most are GF)
- Glutino Pretzels (plain or yogurt-covered)
- Udi's muffins or make mini-muffins from scratch (perfect if you have over-ripe bananas to use) and both can be frozen and thawed to last several weeks
- Potato chips (most Frito Lay products are GF, check the website and/or label first)
- String cheese or cheese cubes
- Homemade trail mix (M&Ms, Chex Cereals, nuts, seeds, pretzels, dried fruits, etc)
- Snack-sized or fun-sized candies (for a list of GF candy:)
- Thai Kitchen box meals (find in the world foods aisle at your grocery store, make sure to read the label)
- Tasty Bite meals
- Leftovers (casseroles, spaghetti/lasagna, burgers, soups, tacos, sloppy joes, etc)
- Hotdogs (most Oscar Meyer are GF)
- Soup (Progresso has several GF, follow the link to find the list)
- Annie's single-serving Mac & Cheese
My go-to lunch is always leftovers. Even though I cook for just my husband and myself, I always prepare recipes for 6-8 people so I can have a couple days of leftovers. Since I usually love what I make, I don't mind eating the same thing for a few days, and I can always freeze it for a couple weeks as well. Casseroles and soups are great for this. I purchased some Pyrex glass 1-cup and 2-cup containers so I can easily grab them out of the fridge and throw them in the dishwasher at night. Also, glass holds up much better than plastic, so I don't have to keep replacing my containers or worry about BPA.
The biggest tip I can offer is to make sure you change things up often. You don't want to get bored with your lunch or get into a "food slump". Find creative ways to pair different foods, and pack different snacks each day. Leftovers help keep things interesting as well. Working with your child(ren) to create and pack lunches can help keep things fun and interesting.
This is by no means an all-inclusive list, it's just a good place to start if you're new to the GF life or need some fresh ideas. That said, if you have any other ideas or go-to, please share them below, I would love to hear them!