When health reasons dictated that our family would transition to a gluten free household, I thought our days of eating “tasty” foods were over. I remember what it had been like when my dad was first diagnosed with Celiac disease seven years ago and had to go completely gluten free. It had been really tough finding things that he could eat and enjoy. It was very difficult to find “snacks” and processed foods that were gluten free. (I say processed because clean, whole foods – fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and animal products are naturally gluten free.)
Now parents who don’t want their child to be completely deprived of what the other kids are eating can find gluten free breads, crackers, yogurts, snacks and cookies, and so forth fairly easily. Additionally, the amount of websites dedicated to gluten free eating have exploded, providing thousands of delicious recipes for breads, muffins, cookies, and more.
Most grocery stores now have a decent selection of items marked gluten-free. My sister-in-law (who also has a child with celiac disease) recently introduced me to a handy dandy app called the ShopWell App. This app lets you scan barcodes and then spits out a formulated score (based on your personal health profile) to let you know if you can eat something or whether you should avoid it. And it’s not just for those with gluten issues – anyone that is diabetic, lactose intolerant, or suffers from a variety of other issues can use this app when shopping for processed foods.
Warning: just because it is gluten free does not mean it is healthy.
I still try (and it is hard in this day and age) to keep my kids from eating a bunch of processed food, period. Gluten free doesn’t mean healthy. It just removes the gluten that makes some people very sick. If you don’t have a gluten allergy or celiac disease, there’s really no need to eliminate gluten.
But you should strive for whole, real foods.
Today, however, we are focusing on gluten free!
If you’re concerned your children won’t want to eat a bunch of fresh and whole foods, make their lunch fun. Pinterest is just crawling with ideas for Bento-style lunches (ie, creative ways to make healthy food be FUN!) Here are some tips that I’ve learned along the way to make this process easier.
Tips for preparing fun, healthy, easy gluten free lunches for kids
1. Make it colorful.
Not just the containers you pack the lunch in, but also the variety of foods.
Carrots, sliced red and yellow peppers, cheese blocks, blueberries, cherries… whatever your child likes to eat in the fresh food – cut it up and provide a wide variety.
2. Make it fun.
Use vegetable, cheese, and other shaped cutters to add some fun to their lunches.
For the really hard core:
This can be time consuming, so do several days at once and keep on hand in the fridge.
Tools you might want for creative and fun lunches:
• Bento brand or similar lunch boxes
• Colored silicone cupcake holders
• Stainless steel vegetable cutters to make animals or other shapes of their veggies
• Any other small, colorful containers that are insulated
I love this Planet Box lunchbox too. It makes it really easy to pack healthy lunches.
3. Add variety.
Sneak in something they don’t normally eat. Maybe some broccoli florets or
cucumber medallions. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t eat it. Keep trying. Just make sure the
whole lunch is not things they won’t eat. It should be mostly things you know they will eat, and
one or two new items.
4. Send things that other kids are eating too.
No one likes to be totally different than everyone else. Find (or make) some gluten free chicken nuggets, or send them sandwiches on gluten free
bread, or just buy snacks you know are gluten free that other kids like – yogurt, pudding cups, chips, and so forth.
5. Simply google “Gluten Free Kids Lunches”
You will find endless websites and suggestions. If you are not creative, trust me, there are plenty of moms out there with all kinds of ideas.
My two favorite Gluten Free Kids Lunches:
1. Gluten free chicken nuggets. Tyson and Applegate, along with other brands, now make gluten free chicken nuggets. You can also find some easy homemade gluten free chicken nugget
recipes. I pack nuggets, ketchup, and plenty of their favorite fruits. I like to get veggies in with some “veggie fries” or veggie chips.
2. Sandwiches on gluten free bread. Either homemade or store bought. But the store bought is really bland, so I prefer to make homemade bread. Cheese stick, apple slices, bag of potato chips, and milk money round this one out.
See? Not so tough to send your child with a gluten free lunch. It does take more time and preparation, certainly, especially since many things that you would never expect (like spaghetti sauce) have gluten in them!