About week three into the new school year, all parents start to face the same problem…what to pack their kids for lunch that is appealing, nutritious and DIFFERENT. Parents of gluten-free children have it that much harder. Here are five fabulous gluten-free lunch ideas that both you and your kids will love.
Your kids will love these gluten-free lunches because while not common for school lunch they are familiar foods and many of them require assembly. You will love them because they are made from natural ingredients and don’t rely on highly-processed gluten-free alternatives.
But before you start digging into these school lunch ideas, it’s a good idea to invest in a lunch box that is fun for your kids and functional for you. Lunch boxes on the market these days are insulated, have multiple compartments to keep foods separated and come with reusable containers that are easy to re-stack and bring home. A good place to start is www.lunchboxes.com.
Chili and Rice
Heat up a portion of homemade chili (1 to 1/2 cups) and put into a thermos to keep it warm until lunchtime. In a separate container, add 1 cup of brown rice. Provide instructions on a napkin to pour the hot chili over the rice and eat together. A fresh piece of locally-grown seasonally-available fruit is a perfect complement to this meal.
If you don’t have time to make your own chili, purchase a gluten-free version from the supermarket. I highly recommend Kettle Cuisine’s Black Angus Beef Chili. It is all-natural made only from the ingredients you would use at home and contains no artificial ingredients, preservatives or fillers. (Disclosure: I do consulting work for Kettle Cuisine, but was not paid nor asked to incorporate this mention into this article. It was of my own professional opinion).
Guac, Salsa and Corn Tortilla Chips
While I don’t consider them a “health” food, corn tortilla chips in moderation and proper portion size are a great food for gluten-free kids, as the corn is whole grain. Pack a dollop of fresh-made guacamole (see recipe below) into one container, a portion of salsa into another container and the corn tortilla chips into another. Your kids will have a blast dipping away.
1 whole avocado
Small handful of fresh cilantro, de-stemmed and diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 of medium onion, minced
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Sea salt (smoke-flavored is a great option)
1/2 small tomato, diced (optional)
Mash the avocado with the cilantro, garlic and onion. Sprinkle in lime juice and sea salt and mix delicately with a spoon, so as to keep it slightly chunky and not completely smooth. Add the tomatoes in last.
Banana Slices and Almond Butter on Rice Cakes
I recommend rice cakes for two reasons. They are crunchy and wont’ get soggy from the almond butter. They are made from whole grain rice, whereas gluten-free breads (even the best) contain lots of starch fillers. Put two tablespoons of almond butter into a container. Take one banana and make small round slices. Put these into the same container as the almond butter. Pack the rice cakes separately and let your kids spread the almond butter/banana slices on as they please. Great with an apple or orange on the side.
Who said you can’t use a thermos to keep food other than soup warm? Now you get my drift. Pack taco meat into a thermos to keep it warm. Pack taco toppings into another container to keep them cold, such as shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and shredded cheese. Pack soft corn tortillas into another container. Add a plastic fork and let your kids have fun making their tacos however they like them.
Pasta is another easy way to give your kids a warm lunch option. Pack cooked pasta into a container (big enough so the sauce can then be added). Store a warmed pasta sauce in a thermos and instruct your child to pour the sauce of the pasta into the pasta container.