I’ve talked a bit about transitioning Jafta to a GFDF diet to help with his sensory processing disorder. We are still finding this diet to be hugely beneficial, and I thought I would share some tips for packing GFDF lunches. I;’m hoping the suggestions I offer below can be useful for kids on regular diets as well.
Learning to pack for school lunches was the biggest learning curve in terms of transitioning to a GFDF diet, mainly because I had always relied on The Sandwich as the main event in packing. It took a shift in thinking to learn to pack GFDF. The good news is that it now seems really easy. The bad news is that it takes a bit of prior planning. Pre-packaged foods are not conducive to GFDF diets. In my opinion, gluten-free breads and tortillas typically only taste good when freshly warmed or toasted, and Jafta wasn’t really interested in a sandwich on bread that tastes like cardboard. (Who can blame him?) So I began relying on leftovers or entrees that I made on the weekend, that I packed in a thermos. I’ll give some ideas below, but first I’ll share the equipment I use. For me, having the right equipment has helped me develop a framework for each lunch.
For my kids, this involves a thermos (or a re-suable sandwich box if I’m sending a sandwich for my kids who aren’t GFDF), a dual-sided container for fruits and veggies, a soft, flexible lunch box that can stretch a bit to accommodate the thermos, and a refillable water bottle. I like this system because it also alleviates the waste that is often involved in packed lunches. I can usually pack a lunch that is free of ziplocs with these items.
I also try to stick to the following formula to try to round-out each meal. (For some, a lunch formula might sound oppressive, but for me having this structure makes the task of four lunches a little less overwhelming). Each day, I try to pack:
1 protein + 1 starch + 1 veggie + 1 fruit
Obviously, a sandwich or a wrap is an easy way to achieve the protein and starch for kids who aren’t GFDF, but here are some ideas of what we typically send with Jafta:
As I mentioned, this does take a little planning. I typically try to have some rice and beans in the fridge at all times (you can read my easy overnight recipe for beans and rice here). On Monday evenings, we usually make quinoa pasta shells with ground turkey – a meal all of my kids love – and then have leftovers on hand to send with lunches for the rest of the week. If I haven’t planned ahead, warming up some canned chili or gluten-free chicken nuggets can work in a pinch, and the thermos usually keeps them warm until lunchtime. Another favorite for Jafta is a shepherd's pie that I make in a casserole dish with sweet potatoes, ground turkey, and peas. This is another easy one to scoop into the thermos.
For the veggies and fruit, I usually do something simple like carrots and a GoGo squeeZ applesauce pouch. (GoGo squeeZ has generously sponsored this post, but I would have included them regardless because we really do use them weekly in the kids’ lunches. Jafta is a huge fan of their new, tart Apple Cherry flavor. And so am I.) An easy packaged veggie is the Sea's Gift Seaweed Snack packs. My boys love these.
How about you? What do you usually pack for lunches? Any tips for healthy options that require less planning ahead?
This post was sponsored by GoGo squeeZ. You can check out how to get involved in GoGo squeeZ’s “Pass the Play” campaign, with the goal of bringing the joy of play to those who need it most across the country, at www.PassthePlay.com