If your child has celiac disease, one of the most stressful Back to School tasks is preparing for school lunches. Blogger Julie Terrano of Best Whole Self gives parents easy-to-follow advice about packing gluten-free lunchboxes this school year.
By Julie Terrana of Best Whole Self
Labor Day, cooler nights and football games are right around the corner. And with those comes another familiar event: Back to School.
Some parents consider it the best time of the year, while other parents dread the thought of beginning homework, after-school activities and carpooling all over again. But if you are a parent with a child who has celiac disease, the most stressful task of all is packing a school lunch.
Parents, always remember to give your child S.P.A.C.E. by making lunches that are:
If you have several children and only one is gluten-free, you may run the risk of cross-contact when making their lunches.
Using the same knife to apply peanut butter to their gluten-free sandwich that you used for a non-gluten-free sandwich can make them ill. Using different knives, but cutting on the same cutting board without washing it off before cutting the gluten-free bread can also create cross-contact.
One way to avoid cross-contact while making your child’s gluten-free lunch is to create a drawer that is just for them. Use colored tape to give their utensils flare and have a designated color twist-tie for their bread to match. They can even have their own “Lunch Drawer” with their lunch box or brown paper bag, napkins, utensils, snacks, etc. to ensure the proper safety precautions are taken when preparing their lunch.
What is the best method to transport these lunches?
Sure, plastic baggies are great for sandwiches, but what about containers for veggies, fruit, dips or crackers? My go-to place to find such devices for transporting food is The Container Store. They have all shapes and sizes of containers that hold the smallest of dips to the several-compartment-required lunches. Make sure to get enough to last you at least 5 days and color code them for your gluten-free child to separate them from your other children’s containers.
Not all gluten-free breads are created equal.
Let’s face it, while the gluten-free world has recently become far more palatable, some bread still tastes like cardboard. Not everyone likes the gluten-free versions of bread, pasta, crackers or pizza. So if your child fits into that category, what do you serve them for lunch? A go-to power lunch for me is fresh veggies cut up with some hummus, natural peanut butter or almond butter. It is crunchy, full of healthy fats, satiating and fun to mix and match different spreads with various veggies. You can even pack veggies with hummus and fruit with peanut butter as sweet treat. Kids love choices, so offering several fruits and veggies with two or three spreads will allow them the creativity to make their own favorite combinations.
Who remembers trading something from your lunchbox for something from your friend’s lunchbox?
Your child may not be able to share their lunch with classmates, so it is important to provide them with options that are kid-friendly and as close to what the other children have as possible. One of my favorite brands is Annie’s Homegrown, which has numerous gluten-free options. They have great gluten-free fruit chews, crackers, cookies and more.
There is no contest when packing lunch for your child.
It does not have to be a 4-part meal that includes fruit shaped like animals or anything that involves reheating. Keep it simple, and your child will love it. Gluten-free lunchmeat rolled with cheese and lettuce, an apple and mini bag of almonds is the perfect combination of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats your child needs to power through the rest of the day without feeling hungry or sluggish.
Following these easy steps to create S.P.A.C.E. for your child’s lunch will start the school year off on the right foot and allow your child to be full, satisfied and, most importantly, HEALTHY!
Be your best,
Julie is a Certified Health and Wellness Coach in Philadelphia. She has been a volunteer for Beyond Celiac since 2013. Living with Crohn’s Disease, Julie has had a goal to reach remission since 2009. Despite trying numerous medications, she continued experiencing severe flares that led her to being hospitalized and eventually having surgery. In the summer of 2013, Julie went gluten-free and it changed her life. She has since experienced fewer flares and was able to run a half marathon in November 2013. Julie’s journey adjusting to a gluten-free diet has led her to develop a passion for helping others adapt to a similar lifestyle changes. She shows her clients that living with dietary restrictions does not have to be difficult and teaches them to navigate the obstacles of gluten-free living with ease and grace. Physical and emotional health are the main focal points in working with clients, which has led Julie to committing to her motto, “It is not about being skinny. It’s about being your best whole self.”