By Rachel Begun, MS, RD
Backpacks. Check. Pens, pencils and notebooks. Check. New jeans and sneakers. Check. Ideas for what to make for lunch. Help!
It’s hard enough coming up with fun and exciting school lunch ideas when they can be supplemented with the options offered at school. It’s that much more difficult for kids with celiac disease (and their parents), as they often have to rely solely on the brown bag.
To get you and your kids through the school year, here are ideas for delicious and nutritious gluten free lunches.
Kids love breakfast for lunch. These nutritious ideas can be made the night before, keep fresh in an insulated lunch box and pair well with cut fruit and yogurt:
- A wedge of frittata
- Baked oatmeal (made with certified gluten-free oats)
- Gluten-free whole grain breakfast bar
Make Your Own Tacos
Tacos are great, because kids love eating foods with their hands and they can select their favorite toppings. Choose between 100% corn soft tortillas or hard shells. Offer the filling options, such as shredded grilled chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and sliced avocados, in different sections of a bento box (see below) and the tacos or tortillas on the side for kids to assemble. Alternative filling options can include ground beef, ground soy meat and beans. Double-check ingredient labels to ensure the products you choose are gluten-free.
We’ve all been given the advice to work smart, not hard. This applies to school lunches. When planning weeknight dinners, think about what can also hold well for school lunches later in the week. Good examples are gluten-free pasta dishes (keep sauces separate), stir fries, stews and chilis.
To spice up the old standby, peanut butter and jelly, lay a gluten-free tortilla down, spread on the peanut butter and jelly, roll up the tortilla so that it is long and cylindrical, and cut on the diagonal to create what looks like a sushi roll. Variations on PB&J include peanut butter and banana slices or raisins, black bean spread with avocado slices, or hummus with pepper. For schools that don’t allow peanut butter, sunflower butter is a very similar alternative your kids will love.
The Bento Box
The bento box lunch is all the rage these days, and for good reason. It allows for variety and imagination, and kids love being able to mix and match different options. Some ideas for filling bento box sections with foods that go together and provide good nutrition include:
- Peanut butter (or sunflower butter) and raisins; celery sticks; apple slices
- Yogurt; cut fruit and/or berries; gluten-free granola
- Hummus; veggie sticks; gluten-free crackers
- Corn tortilla chips; guacamole; beans; salsa
And don’t forget presentation. Kids eat with their eyes and enjoy food that is attractively prepared. When you are out shopping with for new clothes and school supplies, invest in a fun lunch box, thermos, bento box and plastic ware to mix it up and offer fresh options throughout the year. Your kids’ tummies will thank you, and so will the environment.
Rachel Begun, MS, RD, is a food and nutrition communicator. She provides education, communications and consulting services to health organizations and the food industry. She also educates the public via speaking opportunities, online activities and writing for publications, including her own blog, The Gluten Free RD. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest via her website at www.rachelbegun.com.