Back-to-School: Gluten-Free Style

The new school year is upon us and having a child that has to eat gluten-free makes it all a little more stressful.  Fortunately over the past couple of years, things have become a little easier. 

Jon is entering into 8th grade, his last year in middle school.  How did I get old enough to have a child that is almost in high school?  The nice thing about this age is that there is not the worry of class parties with gluten-filled goodies from home being brought in to be shared.  Every once in a while, they will have a food party of sorts and I will send something in for Jon.  I usually ask him what he prefers.  Sometimes it is just a snack like yogurt or a Think Thin bar.  He doesn’t always have to have the equivalent of what the rest of the kids are having….that doesn’t seem to bother him. 

Even though Jon is well versed on the gluten-free diet and is old enough to explain to his teachers that he can’t eat gluten, I still send out an email at the beginning of the year so that they are all aware.  I not only do this so that they know that he can’t eat certain things if they have them in class, but so that they understand that if he is sick due to a potential incident with gluten, they don’t give him any trouble.  You can find an example of the letter/email that I send here and please feel free to use it and modify it to fit your needs.  Gluten Intolerance Group is another site that has all kinds of publications that may be useful this time of the year. 

Now, onto the fun stuff.  School lunch.  Jon is not the only child in his school with Celiac Disease.  Last year there were 7 or 8 and at least 1 staff member that I was aware of.  Because of this, the cafeteria staff is somewhat aware of the needs of the needs of those on a gluten-free diet.  I have not felt comfortable enough yet to give this route a try, though now that Jon is older, I may let him try it out this year.  I will meet with the head of the cafeteria & base my decision on his/her knowledge & explanation of how they plan to accommodate his needs. 

Packed lunches.  This is what we have been doing for the past few years that Jon has been on the gluten-free diet.  There are several different things that Jon will take for lunch.  Whenever I mention a sandwich, we are using Pamela’s Gluten -free bread mix that I make weekly. 

  • PB & J (I toast the bread, let it cool, then spread each piece with PB and put the jelly on top.  This helps keep the bread from getting soggy from the jelly).
  • Turkey or Ham & cheese
  • Mac & Cheese in the thermos
  • Spaghetti & meat sauce in the thermos
  • Deli roll-ups (roll up cheese in deli meat..could use cream cheese, though Jon doesn’t like it)
  • Pepperoni & cheese (Hormel regular & turkey says “GF” on the package)

Side items

  • yogurt (Yopliat custard style Light says “GF” on the side)
  • chips (we do Lay’s Stax or Lay’s Potato Chips)
  • Blue corn chips & salsa
  • applesauce (I do natural w/ added cinnamon)
  • fresh cut fruit (whatever is in season, though Jon is picky)


  • GF Cookies
  • GF brownies

Other ideas

  • Salads w/ a protein (grilled chicken, steak, salmon, tuna)
  • tuna salad w/ GF crackers
  • Carrots & celery w/PB or AB
  • Cream cheese w/ celery
  • dried fruit
  • fresh fruit
  • Lara Bars, Pure Bars, Kind Bars, Think Thin Bars
  • Greek yogurt + fruit + dried cereal or GF granola
  • Cheese & GF Crackers
  • GF Pasta or quinoa salad (add beans like chickpeas or black beans for protein)
  • Apples or other fruit with PB or AB
  • hard boiled eggs
  • nuts or trail mix
  • fruit leather (Trader Joe’s has a great 100% fruit, no sugar added variety)

There are countless options out there, you just have to get a little creative.  For more fun ideas, visit this site for 30 more school lunch ideas.  They aren’t all GF, but they can be modified to fit your needs. 

Jon does buy milk or yogurt from the cafeteria and as I mentioned above, I hope to be able to give him a little more freedom this year and hope I can get the cooperation from the cafeteria staff. 

I hope that this was helpful to you.  I wish everyone a safe & happy 2009 – 2010 school year!

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