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Gluten-Free “Lunchables”

I’ve succumbed to the almighty Lunchables.  I STRONGLY dislike those things, and not necessarily because they are one of the most unhealthy “foods” marketed to children, but because my son feels like an “oddball” because he cannot have one!

I love GoPicnic’s Gluten-Free Ready-Eat-Meals (and so does Sam), but he recently confided in me that “they don’t look the same” as Lunchables.  I realize that I could stand my ground and stick to my principles, but then I will have finally crossed over into becoming “my parents.”

Which only makes me think of this:


I decided to compromise with Sam (all the while wondering how I was going to pull this off, being gluten-phobic and all), and let him have this occasional “special treat.”  I was going to make him his very own “GF Lunchables,” label and all.  This is not to replace the preferred GoPicnic “Lunchables-style” gluten-free kids meals, but it is a nice “pick-me-up” when Sam is feeling blue about not being “the same” as his peers.  Sam’s end of the bargain though, is that he has to promise to always talk to me when things like this come up at school.  I want Sam to know that he is not defined by the different foods he has to eat, but I also don’t want to make it a big deal.  From my own experiences growing up, the harder my father fought me on things, the more I was determined to get what I wanted anyway, permission or not!  My hope is that Sam will grow out of this “Lunchables” phase sooner, rather than later, if I just bend a little right now.

So… I “went in.”  I hadn’t been to the grocery store in quite sometime (since Mike does the shopping to save me from myself. I CANNOT get out of the store in under 3 hours, all the different products are a trap for my ADD!), and I was dismayed to see how the yellow boxed Lunchables were sealed up.  I knew there was no way I could unwrap the package, discard contents, “fumigate the gluten,” then refill and reassemble with the slightest hope that the end product would resemble the “real thing.”

Then my eyes landed on the new green boxed Lunchables, which are supposedly more “wholesome.”  This only made me laugh as I read the nutrition label on the back of the Ham and American Cracker Combo.  Check out this article from the Washington Post about the new Lunchables.  Ya know, this is one benefit to being gluten-free.  If celiac disease had not entered our lives, I would probably be like a lot of other parents out there who don’t think to read nutrition labels and get sucked up into the marketing as much as kids do!

Anyhoo, I swallowed my pride and bought a few, this was a self-esteem booster for my son after all.

The green packaged “gluten-y” Lunchables. The label on the green package is easy to slide off without disturbing the “unbroken” label!

If you click on the above picture, a larger view should pop up so hopefully you can read the ingredients better.

A gluten-free mom’s transformation:

Empty Lunchables Top Tray that has gone through the dishwasher a few times (no heat cycle)!

Bottom tray of the Lunchables: the meal comes with a bottled water, a Koolaid packet and a sugar-free Jello cup, with a spoon.

The first day Sam took the Jello in, he didn’t eat it (yea!) so I have been adding healthier alternatives without artificial colorings or artificial sweeteners, like the Mott’s No Sugar Added Natural ApplesauceWhole Foods sells natural flavored applesauce cups too (other stores do too).

The problem with the bottom container is the limited space.  I tried putting other beverages in the container, but it can get crowded very fast!  The Fruit Roll-Up is a version called “Simply Fruit,” all fruit, no artificial colorings and a familiar Fruit Roll-Up package. I found a big box of these at Costco.

Sam also likes the Stretch Island Fruit Co. Fruit Leathers.

The Peter Rabbit Organics “squeezable” Fruit Sauce has been a big hit with Luke.  I found these at Starbucks a few weeks ago, when I bought one of each of their new gluten-free offerings!  I also found them on Amazon, and if you are an Amazon Prime member, you get free shipping! The juice you see is Apple & Eve’s “Fruitables.” The squeezable fruit had to go in the GF “Lunchable” because the Fruitables juice box was a bit too big to also add an applesauce “cup.”

Sam and Luke both love the Fruitables Juice boxes, and quite frankly, so do Mike and I! Check this out:

A 24-pack of Fruitables at Sam’s Club: $8.38, that is only 35¢ per juice box!!

Look at all the fruit AND vegetable juices in each juice box! 😉 I just wish they made an Organic version…

Fruitables Nutrition Labels.

Now for the top tray:

This was the final version I landed on. I have never purchased Lunchables before, so I made a few “mistakes” that Sam gently corrected me on, LOL! 😀

Sam: “There are no pickles in Lunchables, mom.  And the cheese is not in a circle.”


Sam: “Lunchables do not have Snowman wrap, Mom.”

Apparently, I have taught him my perfectionist tendencies all too well. I think it is time for me to work on that! 🙂

We like the Boar’s Head Low-Sodium Turkey and Low-Sodium Ham Deli Meats. Check out this recipe idea for a “100 calorie” snack! Cookie/Biscuit Cutters are very handy for making special shapes.

This is White American Cheese, I also make some SQUARE Orange Cheddar Cheese slices!

LOVE these, they fit perfectly in the Lunchables tray compartment!! Thank you Glutino. 🙂

I used the plain GLAD Press and Seal to seal up the top tray, then slid the label wrap back on!

This picture just reduces me to hysterics. I think I even snorted, I laughed so hard! The look on Sam’s face pretty much mimics the look I had on my face as I reluctantly agreed to make the GF Lunchable! 🙂

This post is linked to the School Breakfasts and Lunches roundup for Friday Foodie Fix over at The W.H.O.L.E. Gang.  Click the link for more great ideas!


  1. What a great mom this boy has! Not only that, but more than once since I had to go gluten-free, I've wished I could grab a 'lunchables' for myself while on my lunch break! Too bad I don't live closer to you! 🙂

  2. You are amazing! That is so creative. You bring tears to my eyes – the things you do for your babe! Honestly, you're an amazing woman and you're making the path for other moms so much easier. Thank you.

    • Maggie,

      Thank you! Mom's get the job done! 🙂 I really do hope that some of my "adventures" help to show other mom's a few tricks here and there, to help make a food restrictive life a little bit easier. I've ordered some of the Daiya Vegan Cheese Shreds to sample, so I am hoping to figure out a good gluten-free/dairy-free "Lunchable" option too. Do you have a favorite GF and egg-free cracker you recommend?

  3. Pat,

    Thank you! Have you tried GoPicnic's gluten-free ready-to-eat meals?

    • I will be looking for some soon. One bad thing about living in the beautiful "wilderness" between Cleveland and Pittsburgh is that shopping for specialty foods requires a lot of driving, so I make not-so-frequent shopping trips to the "good" stores. Making things from scratch is usually easier than going to buy it.

  4. What an amazing & caring mom to go through all this work! This almost made me cry the attention to detail you put into it. Wow.

  5. Krysten,

    I do believe it has become an obsession, I think I see some therapy in my future. 🙂 LOL!

  6. I seriously think that you should get the GF mom of the year award for going through all of the trouble to make a super awesome lunch like this! Great instructions on how to make your own too!

  7. What an awesome idea. Thank you for taking the labors to figure this out for the rest us. you rock.

  8. You are SO awesome!!!! I can't even imagine what my Mom would've been like if I'd had to go gluten free when I was a kid. She does not deal well with this stuff. It's entirely up to me to make sure that I have safe foods to eat when I'm at her house, including holidays. She does ask once in a while if I can have this or that, and will make modifications to foods if I pressure her to but otherwise, I'm on my own. She gets overwhelmed quite easily.

    Anyway, you ROCK!! What a great thing to do for Sam and I'm sure he appreciates it so much.

  9. Jen,

    My mom is the exact same way, she get very overwhelmed at the mere idea of us coming to dinner, whether its cooking a safe meal or when I show up carrying too many crock-pots (Thanksgiving)! I suppose that plays a big part in why I do what I do. Sam is my son and I want him to always feel like he's wanted instead of being a burden, like I often do. 🙂

  10. Jody Schirtzinger says

    I'm completely new to this whole "gluten free" thing AND the whole "internet" thing. I don't know how to blog and am not even sure I'm writting to you the way I'm supposed to. I love that you made lunchables for your son and you have awsome looking "gold fish" which right now, is my 7-year old daughers biggest concern….she wants goldfish crackers. I can't find your recipe. Can you please help me figure out how to make them, send the link or the recipe?
    I'm loving all the things you do to keep life "normal" and am hoping to become really good at this too.

    God Bless!!

  11. For years I have been doing the same thing with left over lunchable containers for years so that my son will not feel left out especially when they go on field trips and request these as opposed to sack lunches. I used to use the brown rice wafers for crackers but those did not get eaten and starting substituting with corn tortillas. Since those Glutino crackers are available at our local Whole Foods those are now the crackers of choice. What I like about making his own lunchable is the fact that they are way healthier than the store bought ones and I am able to give him a more variety when it comes to the lunch meats and cheeses.

  12. I wish I had found your blog sooner. I don't even know how I did tonight but I found this utterly charming. I am impressed with your understanding of his need to fit in and I am excited to get more Albuquerque resources.

    Thank you so very much for the work that goes into your blog and a peak at good parenting. I am not a parent myself but I think you are on the far end of greatness at least from what your blog shows!

  13. I can relate to Sam here. :p When I was in 3rd and 4th grade, my mom would send me home cooked Filipino inspired foods. So it was a sort of goulash with rice every day. It was actually delicious, but I LONGED to be able to eat lunchables (vegetarian though I was, the idea of cheese + crackers for lunch seemed more appealing than home-cooked food, oddly…)

    Sometimes I would even 'swap' lunches with people to have those icky cheese & crackers.

  14. You are seriously amazing! I have been looking over your website for the last hour and I am so impressed by everything you do! My boys have been GF/CF/Dye-Free for 4 years now and I do everything I can to make sure they don't feel "left-out." You have given me so many ideas and I cannot WAIT to do them myself! Thank you!!


  16. Thank you so much for posting this. I am trying to figure out how to send lunch with my oldest that doesn't require heating up. So this is great! Thank you!

  17. You are an awesome Mom! I am going to keep this in mind when my kids are school age, I am all ready worrying about them feeling left out:)

  18. This is so beautiful on so many levels! I love the concept, but most of all I love the display of absolute LOVE you have for your child that you would go through all of this to make him happy!! Brings happy tears to my eyes! I guess that’s just what mommies do! :>) God Bless you!

  19. What an inspiration! My 8-year-old son starts school next week and I was looking online for some gluten free lunch ideas. Thank you, thank you, thank you! It has been such a roller coaster ride of emotions…one minute I’m so happy that eating gluten free is making him healthier and the next minute (or month) I’m sad when he can’t partake in a gluten festivus–mom brining in cupcakes or dunkin donuts–at school! And don’t get me started on my in-laws who just don’t get it. Anyhow, thank you so much!


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