Back-to-School: A Week of Wheat-Free Alternatives for Lunch

Sandwiches are often a go-to lunch option - unless you have to avoid wheat or gluten. Wheat-free does not have to mean the end of tasty lunches.  It just means you have to get a little more creative.  Try our wheat- and gluten-free twists on traditional lunches!

5-Wheat-Free-Lunch-Box-alternatives2

Monday: Hearty salads like Rainbow Scoops or Chicken Sink Salad - these naturally gluten-free options are yummy alternatives to pasta salad.

Pack with celery and carrot sticks, fruit gummies and milk or milk alternative.

Tuesday: Lunchables-style stackables - cut out pieces of deli meats or pepperoni and cheese with a cutter to match the size of your favorite gluten-free crackers. Use small dishes or silicone baking cups to hold each item.
lunchable-gluten-free-600

Pack with snow peas, gluten-free granola and milk or milk alternative.

Wednesday: Sandwich on Wheat- and Gluten-Free Bread - not all gluten-free breads will hold up in a lunch box, but some planning can help:

  • Toast the bread - gluten-free bread does much better when toasted.  But sure to let it cool before filling and packing so it doesn't get soggy from condensation.
  • Avoid "wet" fillings - deli meats and cheese are better options than egg salad or hummus.  You can pack wet fillings or things like tomatoes separately.  Add just before eating.
  • Pack condiments separately - send individual packs of mustard or mayo to add just before eating.
  • Still can't find a bread that works?  Try an un-sandwich by using a lettuce wrap.

Pack with a pickle spear, cinnamon and sugar apple slices and milk or milk alternative.

Thursday: Taco-dilla with salsa or guacamole - spread refried beans on a soft corn tortilla.  Top with taco meat and cheese.  Toast in a dry pan until the tortilla is crispy.  Cool before cutting and packing.

taco-dilla

Pack with celery sticks, fruit leather and milk or milk alternative.

Friday: Pizza muffins with tomato dipping sauce - add diced pepperoni and shredded mozzarella-style cheese to your favorite gluten-free biscuit recipe.  Gently pat out dough, cut out and bake.  Cool completely before packing.  Add a container of pizza sauce for dipping.

gluten-free-pizza-muffin-with-salad

Pack with a green salad, mixed fruit salad and milk or milk alternative.

Still Need More Ideas?

Check out our Allergy-Friendly School Lunch Box Ideas.  Need ideas other than wheat-free?

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Yup. For instance, I am all about environmental safety and recycling and such, but for two years when I had small children, was a single mom and had no dishwasher, I bought an obscene amount of paper plates and cups, rather than having to face a huge mound of festering dishes that I simply could not face. Do I think it was the healthiest and most ecologically-sound option? Nope. Would I recommend it to another mom going through the same thing? Absolutely.

 

Regarding processed meats, I actually have a kid who can eat meat but not nuts, and for a long time was allergic to dairy also. When I found a safe salami and lunchmeat ham, I danced a jig in the store. Food allergies can be so limiting, and (again) as a single mom, I usually don't have the money to pay for high-quality meats, nor the time to spend cooking them all the time. My kiddo looks forward to having something new in her lunchbox.

 

Lastly, most places I shop nowadays (Stop and Shop, Aldis, etc...) have nitrate-free options for things like hot dogs, salami, and lunch meat, and especially at Aldis, you can get them for around the same amount as the less-healthy options. My kiddo also has a wheat allergy, plus she had a corn allergy for years. Brands like Applegate Farms had a nice selection of very healthy, nitrate/corn/gluten-free lunchmeat options.

 

 

Hugs Helen - our life experiences and personal medical history can also effect our priorities.  We all do what we feel is right and just hope we've done due diligence and made the best choice.

 

Please check out our forums (here is our GI disorders forum) and recipes collection. If you see a recipe that looks promising, we can usually help to find substitutes and "healthier" versions of things. We are here to support you where ever you are along your journey.

Hugs Helen~. I can certainly understand the cancer concern as my husband is a lung cancer survivor. We also balance 4 kids (1 of whom is autistic with many developmental delays), food allergies, etc. I don't worry overly much re things like junk food, lunch meat etc. My kids all eat fruit and veggies, whole wheat stuff, things like salmon, etc. For my peace of mind, I have to pick and choose my battles.

Anyway, do check out our resources, forums, etc.

Steph - that's a good point - about prioritising health issues (food allergies over cancer risk). I still am uneasy of introducing another health risk into my son's life, however.  My son has 8 food allergies that we know of so far including wheat and potatoes, EoE plus environmental and I have several food involving severe anaphylactic responses to soy and shellfish and all seafood and many environmental allergies as well we both have autoimmune issues.  I will look at the Safe Eats collection.   I have childhood cancer on my mind as two good friends have had their children die from cancer.

Helen, what allergies are you managing?  I will state up front that the immediate tasks of avoiding our many allergens and filling my 4 kids' bellies 3+ x/day while educating them and running a household, plus manging a tight budget and maintaining my sanity, are always going to get priority over strict adherence to best practices for cancer avoidance.  The perfect can be the enemy of the good, sometimes.  Parenting kids with food allergies is a daily dip in the puddle of stress.  I think we can cut ourselves some slack, don't you?

 

We're sorry that you are finding the lunch alternatives unhealthy. We try to appeal to a wide range of parents and realize that everyone needs to make decisions based on their family's needs including prep time and cost. With that in mind, healthy often translates to "safe" foods. There are healthier versions - low fat, low sodium, uncured meats. 

We all have to do what is best for our own families. For instance, my son is allergic to various foods that other kids take for routinely might take for lunch (eggs, dairy) as well as peanuts, tree nuts - and the sesame and mustard allergy rules out most forms of sausage, salami, and other kinds of lunch meat, unless it is a special brand (read: pricey). 

 

For a child with few protein options who can't have it, they often want it.

 

It doesn't mean I would let him eat it every day even if he could; we like to provide options so that people can make their own decisions.

Also check out our Safe Eats collection for more ideas.

I disagree with idea that a twice weekly consumption of pepperoni or salami for a child is "moderate".  Find me a pediatric oncologist who would recommend such a diet. And look at the American and Canadian Cancer societies for nutritional advice  - both advise to avoid these foods.

As always, read labels to ensure the food is safe for your allergy set. Yes, some of these do include processed lunch meat. While not the healthiest, it is a good protein source and everything in moderation. These lunches are paired with veggies and fruit, so a good balance overall imo.

Some simple ideas but I am confused as why you are suggesting parents give their kids processed lunch meats, pepperoni, etc.  These processed meats often contain wheat as filler and are filled with carcinogenic nitrates.  Even if you find a wheat free pepperoni or lunch meat, they are still full of unhealthy levels of sodium and fat. I can't believe a health professional is actually pushing lunch meat as a healthy lunch!

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