Gluten Free School Lunches

One convenience I’ll never enjoy as a gluten-free mom, is letting my kid buy his lunch from the school cafeteria.  He will forever have to “brown bag” it.  In his preschool, I was able to send dinner leftovers, which his teachers could microwave for him.  But in elementary school, I need to send him meals that will keep well and don’t need to be reheated.  Here is the standard lunch I send with my son to school (along with my own tricks/tips that help make it easier):

  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on Udi’s bread
    • My son likes his sandwiches sans crust, so I cut off the crusts first, and save them to make bread crumbs or bread cubes for stuffing/croutons.
    • If your school is a Nut-Free Zone, use sunflower seed butter instead.
    • For the jelly, try to buy a squeeze bottle to avoid contaminating the jar with crumbs.  Or perfect the “glob drop” technique (Drop globs of jelly onto the bread before you use that knife to spread the jelly out).  Or have a dedicated jar just for gluten-free sandwiches.
    • I actually use an idea inspired by those gluten-full Smucker’s “Uncrustables” freezer sandwiches.  I take a whole loaf of Udi’s bread to make 6 or 7 sandwiches at the beginning of the week, and keep them in the freezer.  Then they’re ready to grab in the mornings as I throw my son’s lunch together.
  • Carrots and dip
    • I’m a carrot stick snob.  I peel and cut up my own carrot sticks from whole carrots.  These just taste SO MUCH better than processed “baby” carrots.  Once, in a pinch, I sent the processed carrots in his school lunch, and my son complained how they didn’t taste very good.
    • I use plain yogurt to make the ranch dip.  Usually I take a 32 oz container of plain yogurt and mix in one package of Hidden Valley Ranch Dips Mix.  This makes a much healthier dip than using the suggested 16 oz of sour cream.  Then I can send in a little portion of dip in something like a 1/2 cup GladWare container.
  • Fresh fruit
    • Apple slices (To prevent browning in the hours before lunch time, I dip slices into a bowl of ice water plus a few splashes of lemon juice.)
    • Grapes
    • Cantaloupe
    • Pineapple chunks
    • Pear
    • Peach
    • Banana
    • Clementine
    • If I’m low on fresh produce, I can send in an applesauce or fruit cup (preferably one packed in JUICE, not syrup!)

I also send in a gluten free SNACK.

Of course there are LOTS of other gluten free LUNCH or SNACK options to do… this is just what works for us.

You may also want to try:

I’d love to hear about your healthy school lunch strategies for keeping your child happily eating gluten free.  Please share with us!

Glutino Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookies

Who doesn’t love Oreo cookies?  These “Oreo” style gluten free cookies from Glutino maybe aren’t so healthy, but as a special treat, they definitely make my son happy :-)  And as far as “imitation” Oreos go, these taste pretty dang close to the original. I actually wish they didn’t taste as good as they do, so I wouldn’t eat so many myself!

Back in our pre-diagnosis days, I hosted a bug-themed party for my son’s 3rd birthday.  One of the games we played was “Put the Spots on the Ladybug” which involved the kids opening Oreo cookies, licking the cream filling, and sticking it to a red poster board with a simple lady bug drawing, like so:

A little bit gross, but lots of fun.  Now that we have an acceptable gluten free alternative, I’m planning to use this game again at my daughter’s upcoming birthday party.

I have also used the Glutino Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookies for making the “Cookies and Cream Cake” from my “The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free” cookbook.  This cake turned out AMAZING and is definitely my new favorite.  It was easy to make look good too, with sprinkled cookie crumbs on top of the frosting (I have a pretty disastrous track record with cake decorating).  Now I just need an occasion to celebrate, so I have an excuse to make this again :-)

FONDUE!! (Kid-friendly and Gluten Free)

I hosted a Book Club / FONDUE Party the other evening, and made two wonderful fondues that just happen to be gluten free and sans alcohol.  Plus, you know how much kids love dipping!

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CHEESE FONDUE (adapted from AllRecipes.com)

  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded (check labels on shredded cheese)
  • 8 oz cheddar jack, shredded
  • 8 oz Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 8 oz Swiss Emmental or Gruyére cheese, shredded
  • 2 TBSP cornstarch
  • dash or two of garlic powder
  • several cranks of fresh ground pepper
  • 1-2 TBSP lemon juice

Mix shredded cheeses together with cornstarch and spices.  Boil about half of the apple cider in a large pot on your stovetop.  Turn down heat and stir in the mixed cheeses.  Add in the rest of the apple cider a little at a time, and add in the lemon juice to help smooth out the cheese.  I had to keep stirring mine for about 10 minutes or so to get it to a smooth consistency.  Transfer the fondue to a small crock pot or fondue pot.  Feel free to play around with the combination of cheeses.  I made a lovely broccoli cheese soup with the leftover fondue the next day.

Suggested dippers:

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CHOCOLATE FONDUE

  • 2 bags milk chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream

Mix together in electric fondue pot over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to melt.  Keep warm to serve.

Suggested dippers:

  • strawberries
  • bananas
  • pineapple
  • grapes
  • apples
  • marshmallows
  • dried apricots
  • gluten free angel food cake
  • gluten free shortbread cookies
  • gluten free chocolate chip cookies

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What’s your favorite way to entertain gluten free?

Carrots & Dip

Pretty simple, but still a favorite snack around our house.  Thanks to a tip from my friend Jane, who blogs over at This Week for Dinner, I prefer to buy whole carrots and peel and cut them into sticks myself.  The flavor of fresh carrots verses those processed “baby carrots” from the grocery store, to me, is worth the extra effort.  Plus, I like to make the carrot sticks more ergonomic in size and shape for small hands to dip.  BONUS: organic carrots are only 89 cents/lb at my local Trader Joe’s.

For the dip, I just mix a lot of plain yogurt with a little bit of ranch dressing (check labels).  Maybe a 3-to-1 or even 5-to-1 ratio.  That way, when my kids go a little crazy and eat a TON of dip (which happens often), it’s OK because it’s really just ranch-flavored yogurt.

Blue Diamond Almond Nut Thins

These are one of my son’s most-requested snacks: Almond Nut Thins from Blue Diamond, or “nut crackers” as he likes to call them.  They come in several varieties — pecan, hazelnut, smokehouse almond, cheddar cheese almond, etc. — but straight-out Almond are our favorite.

Kinnikinnick S’moreables Graham Style Crackers

Since I still feed regular graham crackers to my 1-year-old daughter, my son asked me to find him a gluten free version.  These S’morables Graham Style Crackers by Kinnikinnick Foods were the clear winner.  It also works great to pulverize them with a food processor into graham cracker crumbs  for gluten free pie crusts, cheese cake, etc.  Looks like Kinnikinnick now makes graham style animal cookies too – a la Teddy Grahams – which I look forward to trying out soon.

Snyder’s of Hanover Gluten Free Pretzel Sticks

Another mainstream brand has entered the gluten free market!  This summer Snyder’s of Hanover launched their gluten free pretzel sticks, available at Whole Foods Market.  They taste great, but the BEST part is they only cost $2.99 per bag, instead of over $7 a bag for other “gluten free” brands. Hallelujah!

My son’s review: “Those pretzel sticks are so yummy and will you please buy some more?”