Easy gluten-free lunch ideas for kids are essential to any busy mom trying to keep her gluten-free kid safe. Though packing a gluten-free lunchbox can be a daunting task.
Thoughts on if your gluten-free child is getting enough nutrition if they will actually eat it, and guilt around packing them “processed” foods can sink in. Here’s the thing, a fed is better than anything else.
However, to make your life easier, below are some easy gluten-free lunch ideas and recipes to inspire you when your packing your kid a gluten-free lunch.
Written by dietetic intern, Devorah Steinberg and revised by Tayler Silfverduk, RDN.
When packing your child a gluten-free lunchbox, if possible, making sure it’s a balanced lunch can help support your kids growth and nutrition.
A balanced lunch will not only support your kids nutrition but also their learning. After all, nothing is more distracting in class than a growling stomach and a balanced gluten-free lunch can help prevent that.
A gluten-free balanced lunch consists of protein, gluten-free grains, vegetables, fruit, and fat. The truth is that it’s really the same as any balanced meal – just using gluten-free grains or a starchy vegetable as your source of carbohydrates.
The protein helps your kid stay full, supports your kids growth, immune system, muscles and more. The key thing here though, is it will help boost the fullness factor of their gluten-free lunch by slowing down digestion. When it comes to protein in your kids lunch, think: meat, cheese, greek yogurt, nuts/seeds, and peanut butter.
The same goes for fat. Fat helps slow digestion thus, making sure you include fat into your kids lunch will also help their lunch keep them full for longer. When it comes to adding fat in your kids lunch think: cheese, peanut butter, nuts/seeds, avocado, and salad dressings and dips.
Lastly, sources of carbs from grains, vegetables and fruit will help fuel your kid’s brain. Remember, glucose (carbs) is your brains preferred energy source. And pairing carbs with carb sources with fats and proteins help give your child a slow release of energy to keep them full and energized in class.
An honorable mention: fiber is essential to a gluten-free diet. It’s found in whole grains, fruit, and vegetables and it can help slow digestion and promote healthy poops (because nothing is more distracting than feeling constipated in class).
When you think of lunch foods, a lot of what’s packed isn’t gluten-free friendly. There’s lots of gluten-based snacks, breads, wraps, and more. Below are some gluten-free lunch foods you might consider for you kids lunch:
If you or your kid are sick of packing gluten-free sandwiches for lunch, there are plenty other lunches you can pack. From tacos, to wraps, to nachos, to baked potatoes, to salads in a jar, to bento boxes, there are so many gluten-free lunch ideas beyond sandwiches.
Picky eaters often don’t like their food mixed together (like salads), cooked together, or even touching each other. Because of this, below are some lunch ideas for picky eaters which ensure no mixing of foods.
Perhaps the best way to pack a lunch for a picky eater is by using Bento-type lunch boxes. You can either purchase a Bento box online, or create your own using small to-go containers, like these. I especially like this specific Bento box since it has five separate sections – one for each food group mentioned above.
Though this is purely anecdotal, I find that picky eaters are more likely to try new foods if they are cut into bite-sized pieces. For this reason, I’ll fill containers with small pieces of cheese, hard-boiled egg, grilled chicken, turkey, etc. for an easy, healthy, and appealing protein option.
Fruit compartments can be filled with berries, clementine wedges, or melon balls. My personal experience with picky eaters is that apple slices are firmly rejected since they often turn brown after a few hours of sitting in a lunch box, but if you find that your picky eater doesn’t mind, apple (or pear) slices are a great option as well.
Since salads and cooked vegetables are a firm NO for most picky eaters, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, and any other sliced raw vegetables are the way to go for an easy vegetable option. I often use hummus, guacamole, or ranch dressing as a dip option to go alongside the vegetables. These hummus cups are a delicious shelf-stable option too.
Soups and stews leftover from dinner the night before are easy and nutritious options for lunch the next day. It’s simple to warm them up in the morning, stick them in a thermos and the food will be the perfect temp for little ones who don’t like piping hot food anyway. Other food ideas that could work well in a thermos:
Packing a gluten-free lunch for your kid can feel overwhelming and it’s possible. Don’t let the mom-guilt get to you, fed is best. And if you have more time, there are some gentle ways to help balance your kid’s meal.