Dealing with a celiac diet? Kids tired of the same old same old? Consider these GF options and gluten free school lunch ideas to create healthy kid meals.
Finding gluten free school lunch items isn’t hard – but maintaining variety and helping kids on a celiac diet to find acceptable substitutes for mainstream foods can be a challenge. For kids with celiac disease or gluten intolerance it’s often not about whether the food tastes good – it’s about fitting in with peers. How can parents find good GF options that meet kids’ nutrition but also create healthy kid meals? Learn some tricks and tips for gluten free school lunches.
Healthy Kid Meals And Gluten Free Lunch
The following foods are always gluten free, and make for excellent GF options in a gluten free lunch:
- Fruits. Strawberries, grapes, bananas, melon, oranges – any fruit is gluten free.
- Vegetables. Baby carrots, celery, red pepper strips, cauliflower or pickles are all GF and easy to pack in a kid’s lunch bag.
- Unprocessed meats. Chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, pork – all are GF.
- Unprocessed dairy. Simple cheeses, yogurt that does not have additives, plain cottage cheese, and eggs are all good gluten free school lunch ideas as well.
From this simple list, then, a variety of very easy gf meals emerge, such as:
- Yogurt, fruit, vegetable
- Cheese cubes, grilled chicken strips, fruit, vegetable
- Hard-boiled egg, fruit, vegetable
But most kids will get bored in two weeks with this rotation, so what else can parents add to gluten free lunches?
Packed Lunch Ideas For A Celiac Diet
Sandwiches have been the bane of most gluten free diets for years. Healthy kid meals often include simple sandwiches, but trying to make something on GF bread has been difficult, as most gluten free breads are dry or crumbly. New brands such as Udi’s and Kinnikinnick make sandwiches easier for those following a GF diet.
Now, add in some GF peanut butter, sunflower butter, or almond butter. Throw in some Applegate Farms processed lunch meats (roast beef, ham, smoked turkey, bologna), all of which is GF (and says so on the label) and you can make:
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
- Meat and cheese sandwiches
- Grilled cheese sandwiches (add a thermos of tomato soup!)
and so many more sandwich combinations. Udi’s and Kinnikinnick breads can be purchased at Whole Foods and other health food stores, or ordered directly from their respective websites. If you think all GF breads are the same, think again – these two (especially Udi’s) take gluten free bread to a whole new level. GF kids will appreciate looking “normal” again at lunch time, eating sandwiches that look exactly like their classmates’ fare.
Healthy School Lunches And Gluten Free Snacks
Finding safe snacks for a celiac diet is all about going for the least-processed option:
- Plain potato chips. Brands such as Lays and Cape Cod potato chips are gluten free. With snack foods, simpler is better. Stay away from flavored snacks, and always watch labels.
- Glutino pretzels. Have a kid who loves pretzels? Glutino makes the only decent-tasting, gluten free pretzels on the market. Dole them out carefully, though – at nearly $7 per 16-ounce bag, these aren’t a GF snack to hand out lightly.
- Hot-air popped popcorn. Make some and spray with a GF olive oil spray, like Pam or Trader Joe’s house brand. Sprinkle on salt and GF seasonings. Store in zippered snack bags and send it off in the kids’ lunch bags.
- Nuts. Cashews, peanuts, Brazil nuts, almonds – or even honey-roasted versions – add some protein and variety to a wheat free diet.
- Rice cakes. Check any flavored rice cake for gluten. Quaker and Whole Foods make mini rice cakes, perfect for dipping into GF hummus.
- Glutino crackers. Glutino makes crackers that are the closest to “regular” crackers – something like a dry version of a Ritz cracker. Make peanut butter cracker sandwiches for a snack or as a main part of the gluten free lunch.
Finally, if you’re in a pinch, a protein bar will help round out any gluten free school lunch. Which brands are safe GF options for packed school lunch?
- Think Thin
- Raw Revolution
Always check labels in case ingredients or formulas change, though. Look out for other packed lunch ideas, as new products are rolled out every day for people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Online and print promotions, educational mailing lists, and food manufacturer samples at stores are great ways to learn about new gluten free school lunch ideas – and to help kids’ nutrition as they gain more variety in health kid meals.