The best, cheapest, and easiest lunchbox meals are leftovers. During the school week, every dinner I make, I just make one more serving and set it aside and that's what my child takes to school for lunch the following day. Easy peasy! But for the days when that's not an option, we offer helpful hints below.
TIP! If your child has an IEP, you can write in that he/she have access to a microwave every day either in the classroom (you will have to provide this, but they start at $25 at Walmart) or in the school’s cafeteria or teachers’ lounge.
Sure, you can send in sandwiches on GFCFSF bread and carbohydrate-filled GFCFSF snacks like chips and cookies, but those are the easy ones. Here are some healthy options for your kids this school year:
- Carrot sticks and hummus
- Fresh fruit or fruit salad
- Sunflower seed butter (or other seed/nut butter) and apple slices or rice cakes
- GF Crackers and Hummus with Olives
- Use your GFCFSF chicken nugget recipe and send it to school in a thermos
- Cold cut roll-ups, using Food For Life or Rudi's GF tortillas
- Chicken salad and rice cakes (keep chicken salad in a separate container to avoid soggy rice cake)
- Nut and Seed bars
- Guacamole and chips
- Smashed avocado mixed with lemon juice, salt and pepper and vegetable sticks
- Hard boiled eggs
- All-Natural Bars – For shelf-stable convenience, stash a few of these bars for snacks: Larabars, Kit’s Organic Bars, LUNA Bars, and Kind Bars (note that a few flavors of Kind do contain dairy).
- Chips and salsa
- Stuffed Avocados - Cut an avocado in half and scoop out about 2 tablespoons of avocado meat from each half and set aside. Stuff the two halves with your favorite chicken or egg salad.
- Kid Sushi (see recipe below)
- Any soup, stew or chili travels really well in a thermos (I cook these in large batches and freeze in individual servings)
- Cinnamon Roasted nuts
- Beef (bison, turkey, etc) jerky
- Nut putter & GF pretzels
- Nut or seed butter with sliced bananas or pears (toss cut fruit with fresh lemon juice to keep from browning)
- Pasta in a thermos and carrot sticks
- Scrambled eggs with Daiya cheese and hominy or home fries
- Lettuce wraps with chicken/ham salad or fajita meat and veggies
- Cubed food lunch – kids love finger foods so cube up cooked meat, boiled sweet potatoes, melon, and brownie cubes for dessert.
- Granola (see recipe below)
- Rice and beans
- Salad with any toppings your child likes – grilled meats, dried fruits, veggies, avocado, nuts, etc and send a little container of herbed oil or vinaigrette.
- Trail mix (walnuts, almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, toasted pumpkin seeds, unsulfured dried fruits, a little bit of GFCFSF chocolate chips, etc, whatever your child likes!) I make a big batch and put in single serving bags to grab and go.
- Bacon-wrapped meatloaf cupcakes
- Kale chips
- Chicken wings
- Meatballs (you can hide anything in a meatball!)
- Quinoa with black beans and tomatoes (quinoa can also be used as a hot breakfast cereal with fruit and cinnamon)
- Frittata (see recipe below)
- Homemade fruit roll ups (a la the Healing Foods cookbook)
Time Saver Tip! There are many days when I look up and it’s 5:30 p.m. and I haven’t considered dinner yet, so on the weekends I make big pots of things like chili, stews, or soups and freeze them in individual containers. Then when I need them, I pop a serving into a pot and reheat, or for a school lunch, I heat it in the morning and pour it into a thermos.
TIP! Being creative is the easiest way to get your kids to eat healthy foods. Pick a theme for the day: round day, star day, yellow day, etc., where all the foods are of the same theme. Or simply cut food into visually appealing shapes like cubes or balls, put them on a stick (kids will eat anything on a stick!), hide veggies in a roll-up, julienne, or use cookie cutters of their favorite things. The kids will gobble up their lunches since they are interesting and fun.
Fabulous TACA Mom Chelsi shares her great lunch box pics!
Zach's "Kid Sushi"
Ingredients: Seaweed sheets (or Nori)
Grilled meat (Shredded chicken, GF/CF Turkey/Beef Sausage, lunch meat would even work)
Scrambled Eggs, cooked as flat as possible
Brown/White Rice (medium grain is nice and sticky)
Tools: A bamboo "sushi roller" can be cheaply bought at any Asian market and most grocery stores
- Step One: Make rice
- Step Two: Place a sheet of seaweed on the bamboo roller and thinly spread the finished rice on 2/3 of the sheet
- Step Three: Place meat and egg in a line in the middle of the rice.
- Step Four: Roll it up, then slice into circles.
Add a drink in a stainless steel drink holder and an organic fruit.
* You can julienne carrots and slightly sauté them, or even cooked string beans in with the meat if you want to add veggies (and color!) to your rolls.
5 cups GF rolled oats
2-3 cups of raw almonds or pecan halves (or other nuts)
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds)
¾ cup sesame seeds
½ cup ground flax seed
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
Options: ½ – 1 cup unsweetened coconut, ½ cup dried fruit (add after cooked) – date pieces, cranberries, cherries, apricots, mango (make sure all dried fruits are UNSULFURED!)
¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup agave nectar (or brown rice syrup, honey or maple syrup)
2 Tbsp canola oil
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the wet ingredients together, and then stir into dry ingredients. Stir well to mix thoroughly. Spread the mixture into two baking dishes. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until evenly golden brown. Stir every 10 minutes
to ensure even browning. Stir again when removed from oven to keep it from cooling into a solid mass. The granola will crisp as it cools. If you use fruit, stir it in once the granola is cooled.
Store in the refrigerator in a large zip lock bag or other airtight container.
Makes about 10 cups.
Zach's “Not a bunny” Frittata
Zach won't eat salads because he declared, "I'm not a bunny!!" So we're working on that by sneaking TONS of veggies and meats in my version of a "Frittata". ---Sue B.
Rice pasta (any kind, works best with leftovers)
Eggs (chicken or duck)
Meat (chicken, turkey, morning links, bacon, leftovers are best)
Daiya Cheddar cheese (optional)
Dice all the veggies and meats into 'pea' size pieces and sauté in a skillet with olive oil until done. Add pasta and sautÉ until everything is warm and well mixed.
In a separate bowl, beat all the eggs and pour over the veggie/meat/pasta mixture.
Put heat on low and cover for about 2 minutes. Then flip the frittata over. Cover again and finish cooking for another 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with Daiya cheddar cheese if desired.
TIP! Invest in a good stainless steel Thermos, they last forever and keep foods hot or cold all day! Check out the camping section of your local sporting goods store for larger containers if you have a teenager or big eater. A good lunch-sized one
is about $15.
The TACA website has hundreds of great free recipes, a lot of which will travel well for school lunches but check out these websites too:
TIP! Since juice boxes and pouches are lined with aluminum, which leeches into the juice, invest in an unlined stainless steel bottle, like a Klean Kanteen or such. If you aren't sure of your rights regarding what the school is legally mandated to do for your child's dietary restrictions, please read "An Essential Handout For Teachers & Aides." Happy eating!
Back to recipes DB