Packing lunches for kids requires making a gluten-free meal that can survive the morning, doesn’t require a microwave, and, most of all, will actually be eaten.
Just to make it more difficult, kids may be picky or worried about what their friends will think about their gluten-free lunches.
Here are a few tips to pack your gluten-free lunches so that the kids will love ‘em, and you will too.
A Good Lunchbox is Key for Gluten-Free Meals
Every gluten-free kid needs a good lunchbox. The standard box is designed for a sandwich and sides and may not be well-suited for gluten-free meals.
So, choose a box with separate containers with secure lids to hold a variety of foods. Pick up an insulated container for hot foods. Don’t forget space for a water bottle or beverage, unless they carry a water bottle to school already. A company called Laptop Lunches makes the perfect lunchbox just for this purpose. They sell lunchboxes (for kids and adults) consisting of perfectly fitting containers. If you’re packing lunch and taking it with you to work every day (or packing it for someone else), you really have to check these out.
How to Pack Your Gluten-Free Lunch Quickly and Easily
Whether you’re in a hurry or the kids are assembling their own lunches, putting a meal together in minutes is essential. Ideally, lunch should include a source of protein, a whole grain, a fruit and a vegetable. Treats are optional, but certainly appreciated. These lunches are kid-friendly, tasty and will keep your bundle of energy going until it’s time for an afternoon snack.
- Lettuce Wraps: Tuck lean meat, low-fat cheese, or hummus into large lettuce leaves. Top with condiments and veggies and roll. Serve alongside a handful of gluten-free pretzels or baked corn chips, cherry tomatoes and a serving of their favorite fruit.
- Nachos to Go: Pair baked tortilla chips with diced cooked chicken, fat-free refried beans, low-fat cheese and plenty of salsa or chopped tomatoes. Add a container of berries to finish the meal. As an alternative, serve up the same fillings taco-style in a corn tortilla.
- Like a Lunchable: Match a good-quality, whole grain, gluten-free cracker with slices of lean meat and low-fat cheese, ranging from ham and cheddar to turkey pepperoni and mozzarella. Add baby carrots and a favorite dip, plus a piece of fresh fruit to round off an easy and kid-friendly lunch. If you really want to send a Lunchable, check out GoPicnic’s assortment of gluten-free Lunchable-like meals. They’re fantastic!
- Gluten-Free Food Trucks: While this probably isn’t an option for the kids, if you work in a metropolitan area with a food truck that caters to gluten-free, it could be a fabulous option! Check out these gluten-free food trucks that have started to pop up around different cities in the US – and there are definitely more on the way!
Gluten-Free Cooking Isn’t Easy: Make Enough for Leftovers
Planned leftovers can make mornings easy. Increase the quantities when you cook to allow for additional lunches.
Leftover protein, from steak to chicken to beans can be taken to go as part of a tasty lunchbox meal. One-dish meals, including soups, stews and gluten-free pasta dishes, can be packed in an insulated bowl or container, or you can opt for foods that work at room temperature.
Make sure to ask the kids what they prefer. You may be surprised to hear them say that gluten-free mac ‘n’ cheese or leftover chili is just fine cold.