08 Aug Allergy Friendly School Lunch Ideas
I have discovered that school lunches are, by far, one of the most stressful challenges of dealing with kids who have food allergies/intolerances. At least for me. I have lost more nights of sleep stressing about what I was going to pack Alex for lunch the next day than from my entire grad school experience. Not only did I have to figure out what the he** I could pack that wasn’t carrot sticks and clumps of grapes (not that there is anything wrong with those), but I also wanted him to feel “normal” and to be able to blend in with other kids and what they had packed for lunch. Yes, yes, as our initial doctor pointed out, Alex could have most fruits and vegetables. Ummm…did he think that was an exciting fact? I mean Alex was underweight and “different” because he couldn’t eat anything other kids could eat; I’m sure a bag full of veggie sticks and fruit as the basis for his lunch would help him blend right in..(cue eye roll…)
Fast forward about a year, in which I aged roughly 10 years. I had compiled a decent list of packable options for him that he actually liked. The list is for the “main lunch” which was always my biggest stress factor. Just adapt each of these basic ideas to your liking or lifestyle. The biggest challenge, as we all know, was the issue of not being able to have bread. Gluten free bread is just something that wasn’t good no matter what brand we tried. It was palatable if toasted, but fell apart at school and Alex quickly just said he didn’t like or want any bread in his lunch. Bagels and English muffins were also “no-go’s” for lunches because the long time from toasting them until lunch, made them “gross” as he said. Bread has changed a lot in the past few years so I might be wrong now as we haven’t re-tried the issue, we just don’t even address it anymore.
The silver lining to all of this is that Alex isn’t a picky eater. Maybe because somewhere in his subconscious he knew that if he was, he would starve to death. So, hopefully some of our usual lunch options will work for you!
MAIN PACKED LUNCH IDEAS
Gluten free pasta salad with grilled chicken, crumbled bacon, Italian dressing (Alex liked as simple as possible; oil, vinegar, salt and pepper)
Gluten free waffles or pancakes with seed butter and honey. Sometimes I add a scoop of cocoa powder to the seed butter and then layer sliced bananas.
*Chili (allergy friendly) with corn chips to scoop.
*Potato chip coated chicken strips (see recipe below)
Chicken salad with vegan mayonnaise and rice crackers (or your favorite) to scoop.
Hamburgers with lettuce wrap.
Leftover taco meat and salad (corn, beans, cheese if you can have it etc…)
Homemade Lunchables: Crackers with hummus, lunch meat and cheese if you can have cheese.
Pesto. I use this alot, either in pasta, or chicken salad or instead of mayo for the “lunchables”. Check out our nut-free, dairy-free Avocado Spinach Pesto here!
*Corn Dog Muffin bites – Just make your favorite cornbread recipe, spoon it into greased muffin tins, then shove in a chunk of your favorite hotdog or sausage and bake until golden and cooked through! GREAT for lunch or just a portable treat.
(I haven’t tried this recipe by www.flavorpalooza.com but have been meaning to so let me know if you do! Top 8 Free Cornbread)
*These lunches are his FAVORITES.
POTATO CHIP CHICKEN NUGGETS/STRIPS – These quickly became a household favorite rather than just something for Alex. My other kids loved these so much that they asked for extras which I always do so there is some for lunch if we have them for dinner. And I found myself yelling at my husband to “save some for the kids” because he would shovel huge quantities onto his own plate. BEWARE: you can go through a TON of chicken making this.
We never had potato chips in our house before, but as Alex got skinnier and skinnier, I decided I had to pick my battles and at that moment, getting fat and food into him was more important than my disdain of junk food.
Take plain potato chips and use your hands or a rolling pin to crush them. I have also put them into a food processor using the “pulse” button, if I’m making a lot for my family. Then I just throw in whatever seasonings I want. Nutritional yeast, garlic powder, sometimes smoked paprika, whatever I’m in the mood for. Pour into a big ziplock bag or into a big bowl.
Then I take chicken and cut it into either nuggets (big chunks) or strips. Pour olive oil or avocado oil all over ( he needed healthy fat), and drop chicken pieces into the crushed, seasoned potato chips.
“Squeeze” the chip topping all over the chicken, really pressing to get it completely covered in coating. Because you don’t have the typical egg wash, it’s not as easy so keep trying.
Place coated pieces on a cooking sheet lined with foil and then back at 350 until a little browned and cooked through!
These are great cut up on a salad, eaten plain or great in a gluten free sandwich or wrap!