On the search for creative gluten-free lunch ideas for kids? I have you covered! I've found that no matter what age our gluten-free child is, we'll always stress about them safely eating meals, avoiding cross contamination (no Jimmy, Suzie doesn't want to share your cookie), and never, ever feeling different or left out. I've put together my top ten gluten-free lunches everyone (including this gluten-free mom) will love!
1) Peanut Butter & Jelly Gluten-Free Pancake Sandwich
Remember how I mentioned in my gluten-free breakfast for kids post to make some extra pancakes? Now it's time to put those pancakes to use! Gluten-free bread has come a long way, but it still is hard to find the perfect bread that is still soft by lunchtime. I came up with the idea to substitute gluten-free pancakes for bread and it works like a charm. In addition to peanut butter and jelly, our daughter loves peanut butter and honey or peanut butter and Nutella. The options are endless. Even better, you don't have to cut those pesky crusts off.
2) Individual Gluten-Free Cereal Cups with a Side of Fruit
Several brands now offer individual gluten-free cereal cups (you can find them in your grocery store's cereal aisle or convenience store's grab n' go section). Pack a side of fresh berries and all your kiddo will need is to get a carton of milk and a spoon from the cafeteria. If you don't want to spend the money on individual cups, I've also used BPA-free locking cereal bowls. Just be sure the kids remember to take the bowl out as soon as they get home and rinse it out. No one wants a science project growing in their lunchbox...
3) Lunch Meat Roll-ups with Gluten-Free Brown Rice Tortillas
Roll-ups are super easy to make and customizable based on your kid's favorite lunch meat. All of Boar's Head meats, cheese, hummus, and condiments are gluten-free. Black Bear clearly labels their products with a gluten-free logo. When in doubt, check the manufacture's website or ask your deli person to see the product label. Use brown rice tortillas (I usually get mine from Trader Joe's), coconut wraps (many on the KETO diet are using these), or corn tortillas to wrap up your lunch meat, veggie, and/or cheese combination. Keep full size or slice into bite sized rounds.
4) Homemade Nacho & Cheese "Lunchables"
Bento boxes are perfect for build your own lunches such as these homemade nacho and cheese gluten-free lunchables. Use gluten-free corn tortilla chips and shredded cheese as the main "ingredient" and then let your kid go wild with other toppings. Be sure to add a spoon to their lunch so they can scoop the toppings on to the tortilla chips.
5) Hearty Soup & Gluten-Free Crackers
Even as an adult, when I think of Thermoses (Thermi?!), I think of them filled with hot coffee. However, the Thermos has come a long way! It's amazing what you can send into school and know that your son or daughter will have a hot meal at lunchtime. There's a wide variety of gluten-free soups on the market. Progresso carries over twenty gluten-free soup flavors including Southwest Style Black Bean & Vegetable. Amy's Organic carries several gluten-free soups as well. Add some gluten-free crackers for your kiddo to dip in their soup or eat on the side. Schar Gluten-Free Table Crackers taste very similar to saltines. Blue Diamond has several gluten-free crackers including Cheddar Cheese Almond Nut Thins.
Important Gluten-Free Soup Info: While you would think tomato soup would be naturally gluten-free, 99% of the mainstream tomato soups include wheat. Be very careful when you are buying soup -- as with any other product, always read those labels! It's so easy to pick up a can of Beef & Barley instead of Beef & Rice. If you're looking for gluten-free tomato soup (that's my go-to soup when I'm feeling under the weather), check out Trader Joe's, Amy's Organic, and Walmart's Great Value.
6) Gluten-Free Waffle Dippers
This can either be a gluten-free breakfast or gluten-free lunch idea. If I have time, I use one of my favorite kitchen tools - my Cuisinart Waffle Maker and make a batch of waffles using a gluten-free flour blend. If I'm pressed for time, I'll grab frozen gluten-free waffles from either Trader Joe's, my local food store (they carry Eggo's Gluten-Free Waffles as well as Van's), toast them up, and slice them into "sticks". In my research, I also found a Waffle Dipper Pan (holy crap - my life is complete!). Send dippers in with a small container of maple syrup.
PS - Check out my Gluten-Free Waffle Bar post for more inspiration!
7) BLT - Lettuce Wrap Style
Lettuce wraps are an awesome alternative to a sandwich with bread. Bacon, lettuce and tomato wraps with a bit of mayo, salt and pepper is crunchy and savory. Be sure to use a toothpick or something to hold the wrap together. Lettuce can be used as a wrap for SO many sandwiches -- hamburger, tacos, you name it. If your kid likes lettuce, you're all set!
8) Gluten-Free Quesadillas with Toppings
Mmmm Mexican food - so delicious! What's fantastic is that a great deal of Mexican food is made from corn and naturally gluten-free. These quesadillas with side containers of salsa and sour cream are a fun lunch meal. Make them the night before and refrigerate.
Warm gluten-free corn tortillas (both sides) in a skillet, use one of the tortillas as a "base" and then add shredded cheese. Depending on your child's tastes, you can add in anything from protein-packed black beans to corn and black olives. Top with second corn tortilla. Let cheese begin to melt and then flip to brown the other side.
9) Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese
As mentioned above, the Thermos can hold a wide range of hot foods. One local mom that I compare news and notes with for all things gluten-free packs a thermos for her son almost daily. He loves super easy out of the box gluten-free mac and cheese. When I make gluten-free family dinners, I serve gluten-free mac and cheese. My gluten eating husband and son can't tell the difference. From gluten-free rice pasta mac and cheese to the latest chickpea version, this is an easy lunch that'll fill kids up.
10) Fruit and Yogurt Parfait with Gluten-Free Granola
I love breakfast parfaits! Sadly, they all have evil gluten-filled granola layered in between the fruit and yogurt. So my daughter and I make our own! With as little as three ingredients, you can easily make and refrigerate a few days' worth of lunches in less than ten minutes. For the base, I use Greek yogurt. However, Greek yogurt does have a stronger almost tarter taste. So choose a yogurt you know your child will eat. Then layer with sliced fruit and gluten-free granola. My daughter is a picky eater, so I'll make up one at home for her to try.
Ways to Make Lunch FUN!
I personally would never want to go back to school. Having to sit still and listen was not my thing. I seriously give teachers and other members of the education community HUGE props. I tried my hand at substitute teaching years ago and lasted about four days. While learning about osmosis might not be the most exciting (sorry to those osmosis super fans out there), lunch can be fun with some of these cool products! I wish I had these in my Scooby Doo lunchbox back in the day!
Bentgo Kids Bento Boxes
These fun and sturdy bento boxes provide five convenient compartments that give you endless combinations to pack your child's lunch! Includes one large size compartment, three mid-size compartments, & one small size compartment.
Unicorn Zoo Lunchie Bag by Skip Hop
Doesn't everyone want to be a unicorn? This super cute insulated and water-resistant soft lunch bag has a roomy main compartment to holds sandwiches, snacks & drinks. An insulated, wipe-clean interior keeps food and drinks cold, plus an inside mesh pocket holds lunch money, an ice pack or utensils.
Yummi Pouch Cloth Snack Bags
Yummi Pouch reusable food pouches make it easy to take healthy blended snacks on the go. They are easy to fill through the top resealable opening and easy to wash — just expand the pouch and place it upside down in the dishwasher.
Squooshi Reusable Food Pouch
Similar to store bought pouches. Easy to fill with a wide bottom opening that allows a direct spoon/pour (no funnels needed). Bottom zipper allows for pouch to be fully opened to air dry. Air can completely dry interior of pouch. Dishwasher safe - rinse after use and place in the top rack.
Salbree Sandwich Cutters
These fun, reusable sandwich and vegetable stamps make lunchtime fun! Food grade plastic & BPA-free. Cutters include a dinosaur, puzzle pieces, dolphins, a heart, animals including elephants, butterfly, and a dog in a dog house.
A word of advice from a mother of a gluten-free, vegetarian, and picky eater, when planning gluten-free menus, it's important to include your child in their meal. I found that my daughter was much more responsive when we went food shopping together and talked about what foods she'd enjoy at lunch time.