If your kids need to avoid gluten, don't despair! Here are 15 nutritionist-approved gluten-free recipes for kids with lunch box options they'll love (and adults will too!).
Q : I have a 10-year-old daughter who was diagnosed with celiac disease earlier this year, and a 6-year-old son who has experienced dramatic improvements in behavior problems (diagnosed as ADHD) since I put him on a gluten-free diet a year ago. I know how to put gluten-free meat on some gluten-free bread, but I'd like to transition my kids off of these processed products. Can you offer any suggestions?-Ann L., Las Vegas
A: Making healthy, gluten-free school lunches that your kids will like is completely possible. You just need to get creative by filling the lunch boxes with at least a few different, colorful, easy-to-eat foods. Include some protein, vegetables, healthy fats, and fruit. Prepare the boxes to look as tempting as possible, cut vegetables in interesting shapes, and pack them with gluten-free dips. (Studies have found that children are more likely to eat their vegetables with a dip.)
Get in the habit of making more food than you need when you prepare dinners such as soup, chili, or beef stew. Reheat the leftovers a day or two later and put them in a Thermos to give your kids a hot meal. It makes a nice change of pace from a bento box.
Also encourage your children to get involved in packing their own lunches. If they have a say in selecting items from your kitchen, they're more likely to eat and enjoy them-and their lunches may even become the envy of their schoolmates!
Though packing healthy lunches may seem like extra work, it really isn't once you get into the habit-and kids like them so much better! Here are 15 easy ideas to get you started.
Gluten Free Recipes for Kids' Lunches
Hard-boiled egg; Applegate organic hot dog mini-kabobs; celery sticks spread with nut butter and raisins; and chopped nectarines sprinkled with
- Roasted turkey slices in a romaine lettuce boat with gluten-free mustard for dipping; carrot strips; sugar snap peas; toasted pecan halves; and fresh halved strawberries mixed with a few Enjoy Life chocolate mini chips.
Chicken salad (made with roasted chicken breast meat, celery, onions, and Primal Kitchen Mayo); Julian Bakery Paleo Thin or Jilz Gluten-Free almond flour crackers; oven-baked sweet potato fries sprinkled with
cinnamon; and grapes.
- Small Italian meatballs with sundried tomatoes, garlic, and oregano; organic, gluten-free blue corn chips with salsa; carrot strips; and orange wedges.
- Chilled boiled shrimp with Mama Jess Organic Garden Ketchup; jicama sticks; kid-friendly Apple Coleslaw (made with shredded cabbage, carrot, cored and chopped apple, a few raisins, Primal Kitchen Mayo, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice); and 2 Hail Merry Pure Vanilla Merry Bites macaroons.
- Spinach salad topped with chicken breast cubes, shredded carrots, and cucumber half-moons, with homemade mango-avocado oil dressing; and pistachios and toasted, slivered almonds.
- Cold mini-pizza made on Food for Life Gluten-Free English Muffins; ranch-style kale chips; and a small banana.
- Chilled broiled steak cubes; small side of Greek potato salad (made with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, organic potatoes, green onions, and parsley); red bell pepper strips; and fresh cherries.
- Tuna salad (made with gluten-free tuna such as SafeCatch, celery, onions, and Primal Kitchen Mayo); Edward & Sons Brown Rice Snaps; peeled cucumber rounds; and a clementine.
- Turkey strips and mozzarella cheese strips; Mary's Gone Crackers Minis graham-style crackers; a small organic apple and celery sticks with almond butter for dipping.
- Loaded Baked Potato -add your favorite toppings to a baked potato, wrap in foil, and slide it into a Thermos.
- Crock-Pot Chili with a side of watermelon wedges.
- Homemade Chicken Soup; almond-flour crackers with hummus; and berries.
- Old-Fashioned Beef Stew and a cherry fruit leather
- Chicken and veggie stir-fry and a side of pineapple tidbits
Pack It Up
To pack creative lunches, you'll need more than the traditional brown bag. Look for reusable containers that have divided sections (such as Lunchbots stainless steel food containers or YumBox BPA-free bento boxes); small containers (with lids) to hold condiments and dips; utensils; insulated bags with ice packs to keep foods cold; and Thermoses to keep foods hot.
Could Gluten Be a Problem for Your Kids?
Reactions to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, can trigger a range of symptoms and illnesses in children who have celiac disease (an autoimmune condition in the gut) or nonceliac gluten sensitivity (a reaction to gluten that isn't an autoimmune condition). The following symptoms might indicate that your child is adversely reacting to gluten:
- Uncomfortable or sore tummy
- Bloating and gas
- Gastric reflux or heartburn
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Weakness, lack of energy,or feeling exhausted
- Chronic iron deficiency
- "Growing pains"
- Dermatitis, eczema, or itchy or bad skin
- Depressed, moody, or grumpy
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Slow growth
- Headaches or migraines
- Poor sleep
- Hyperactive or cranky
- Mental health issues
If your child is experiencing symptoms, it's a good idea to have him or her tested for celiac disease. If the tests are positive, completely removing gluten from your child's diet is a must! If the tests come out negative, try removing gluten from your child's diet for a time to see if his or her symptoms improve.
Written by Melissa Diane Smith for Better Nutrition and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.