Healthy Gluten-Free School Lunches - dummies

By Margaret Clough, Danna Korn

Part of Living Gluten-Free For Dummies Cheat Sheet (Australia/New Zealand Edition)

Coming up with ideas for healthy, easy and interesting gluten-free lunches for kids on a gluten-free diet can be challenging. You want to provide healthy, wholesome food, but not have your child feel deprived because the choices are somewhat limited.

When preparing a gluten-free school lunch remember the following.

  • Prepare the gluten-free lunch first, use a separate chopping board, or wipe down the board after preparing gluten-containing sandwiches.

  • Hunt around for the bread your child prefers. If you slice the bread and freeze it with the slices vertical it is easier to separate them as you need them.

  • Some parents prefer to prepare sandwiches while the bread is still frozen. The bread thaws in the lunchbox.

  • Most gluten-free bread becomes dry and crumbly after a few days, so freeze most of the loaf and refresh slices quickly in the microwave before spreading with fillings.

  • Small gluten-free bread rolls are a great alternative if you can find them. They refresh really well in the microwave.

  • If you’re chopping fillings such as vegetables, salad and chicken, keep the pieces very small because they’ll be less likely to break up the bread. Slightly moist fillings are good, but tomato makes the sandwich too soggy.

  • Wraps can be useful, but they may be dry unless you can include some moist filling like mayonnaise or cottage cheese. Try toasting them in a toaster oven or sandwich press after filling and rolling up, then slicing into segments.

  • Leftovers are often popular. Cook a little extra during the evening meal and store in plastic tubs or even in an ‘Aladdin’ meal warmer the next day. Pasta, stir fries, curry and frittata are great in cold weather. Some children prefer them cold.

  • Fruit and dairy (or calcium-rich alternatives) should be an essential element in any lunch box.

  • Gluten-free treats are fine as long as you keep the portions small and remember that they are ‘sometimes’ treats.

Here are some ideas for gluten-free food to include in your child’s lunchbox.

  • Crispbreads or rice/corn cakes (remember they aren’t as filling as bread).

  • Soup in a thermos.

  • Salad in a tub with crispbread.

  • Crackers with cheese.

  • Individual dip packs, such as chive and cheese, and hummous, with crackers, crispbread or vege sticks.

  • Chickpea chips.

  • Home-made muffins (sweet or savoury), slices, or biscuits.

  • Muesli or health food bars, but be warned — many are loaded with sugar. Some good health food bars are available. Many contain nut products, which may be unacceptable at your school. Popcorn bars are usually nut free.

  • Tubs of fruit, yoghurt or custard.

  • Creamed rice in a can.

  • Fruit nuggets. However, fresh fruit is far better as it contains fibre.

  • Milk poppa (UHT), which can be frozen to keep the lunchbox cool.