NOTICE: This blog is no longer being updated, so medical information may no longer be accurate.

Gluten-Free Happy Meals

I originally posted this last summer, but I thought I would do an update with better pictures.

Last week, I took the boys to see “How To Tame Your Dragon” (a really GREAT movie by the way)! I loved the underlying message of the movie and thought it very appropriate for Sam, who has been struggling this school year to accept the things that make him “different” among his peers. I thought this movie was the perfect representation of the concept that “different” is not synonymous with bad, wrong, unworthy, etc. It was a good self-esteem builder for Sam (as it played out in his language). Click here for a website that Mike found, called Movie Mom. Nell Minow does a good job of breaking down movies to help parents decided if they want to take their child to a particular film.

Sam is 6 and Luke is 2 1/2 and I took both of them. Sam had no problems and didn’t even catch the “breastplate” comment. Luke was only half interested in the movie because I bought him a package of M&M’s (NOTHING trumps chocolate with that child!). Luke did manage to wear the 3-D glasses throughout most of the movie and only commented a couple of times that “the dragons are loud.”

ANYWAY, the reason I brought up the movie is because I treated the boys to a “mama-made” Happy Meal after the movie, complete with the “How To Tame Your Dragon” toy that is currently being offered at McDonald’s. I am catching on to their marketing techniques to children! It is ALL about the packaging and the toy for kids. Well, at least for my 6 and 2 year old!

Well, I can play that game too! 😉

So here is how I do it. Every now and then I go to McDonalds (always at an off time like 3 pm, because this confuses the heck out of the staff! “You want a Happy Meal with no food but all the boxes???” YEP!) I like to buy about 10 at a time so I have enough for Sam and Luke to get 5 each over the course of a few months (it’s a TREAT, not a staple!). With the Happy Meal packaging (including the chicken nugget boxes, french fry sleeves, cups, lids, etc.) and all 10 toys, it costs about $16.00, give or take. I then take the stuff home for assembly and storage (the extras store nicely in a 2 gallon HEFTY Storage Bag).

All the “must-have” components for a “mama-made” gluten-free Happy Meal!

I get it ALL, down to the napkin!

For the fries, I use Ore-Ida’s Extra Crispy Fast Food French Fries (which I bake, not fry). 

For the chicken nuggets, I use Allergy Free Foods Chicken Nuggets, which are not only gluten-free, but they are dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free, soy-free, and tree-nut free too! You can buy these in smaller units at The Gluten Free Mall. I used to buy them on QVC, but they are no longer available there. The Allergy Free Foods Chicken Nuggets are really good “kid style” chicken nuggets, even I love them! They are not cheap though so I use them for special occasions like GF Happy Meals!

I only buy Happy Meals when they are available in the box, because that is what I remember getting growing up. 🙂

Sam has finally weaned off of the “Sweet & Sour” sauce that he liked from his gluten-days and ketchup works just fine now.

Don’t forget the toy!


  1. As always, I love your posts. You speak MY mind, lol. I too go to McDonalds and only buy the "toy" (and drink). My kids do not need the box or food though. I've been talking to them for a while now the differences between McDonald's food and mommas food. You know, I don't believe my McDonalds would even sell me all those components either. They BARELY want to sell me just the toy.

    • Lisa,

      I agree with you on the box! I am currently trying to undo the "need" for the clones that I, in fact, created with my kids!

      Truth be told, when I started making these, it was more for me. I cannot tell you how many times people have remarked that they "feel sorry" for Sam because he would never get to have a McDonald's Happy Meal, etc., etc.

      Knowing that I was Sam's celiac gene contributor, those comments just made me feel bad, and they made my "mommy guilt" even worse. Making Sam his own gluten-free Happy Meal made ME feel better at the time. My personal journey on the road to accepting my diagnosis has been about so much more than the food.

      I am a work in progress no doubt. Just realizing the motivation behind why I do what I do, has involved a couple of years worth of hard work on my part. I am now ready to take it to the next level by showing and teaching my boys HOW to do better, and that includes NOT getting sucked into all the materialistic trappings that I have been falling for my entire life…

  2. tastyeatsathome says

    Congrats to you for making the efforts to make a Happy Meal that won't make your kids sick. I realize that it's a treat for them – as this type of food should be – and I hope that as they grow older, they'll realize how much thanks and credit you deserve for your hard work! You're a good mom!

    • Thanks Alta!

      There are many lessons to be learned on this Happy Meal idea, I think. 🙂

      My hope though is that they take away this: how to "think outside the box" and come up with a solution that works for all involved.

  3. I love your blog, I had the exact same problem with my first born wanting all the same foods and hot lunch as her peers it was a struggle for two years we would cry over it ,seems silly but fitting in is so important to the little guys, anyway instead of the daily fights we moved her to a school where they did not offer hot lunch and the school is full of like minded parents also many have food allergies so we do not have any food problems any more:-) my next two children grew up in this food safe enviroment so they do not even know any different they do not even have a clue about Fast food they thinks it's all called burgerbell, I would like people to know that changing the eviroment your kids are in can change your lives:-)

    • Ashley,

      You are definitely correct about "fitting in." I think it is easy for a parent to forget what it is like to be that age.

      As a 36 year old, I KNOW that it shouldn't matter how a food "looks," and yes it does seem silly, but that does not change the fact that it is a very big deal for some kids. I have chosen to compromise with Sam (mom's food, McDonald's packaging), while he is working through these issues rather than demand ideological purity from him at an age when he cannot remotely begin to understand that the world is not always black and white, but many many shades of gray.

      I believe that issues like these fall into the gray area. Rather than present them as black or white and run the risk that as a teenager, Sam will feel the only choice for him as he goes through his "rebellion" is to choose the exact opposite of what I have tried to teach him. My feeling is that I can fight a small battle today or lose the war tomorrow.

      I understand how difficult these decisions are and how we torture ourselves to come up with the right solution. Every family's situation is different and I believe that it is critical for us to support each other in the decisions we all struggle to make. Keep up the good work! 😉

  4. I need to watch King Corn, I LOVE Supersize Me and Food, Inc. You are so funny, this is awesome. The lengths that you go to for those kids!! I hope they realize how lucky they are when they grow up!

  5. Jackie Barton says

    You are an amazing Mother and a godsend to all parents with children who have Celiacs.

    • Jackie,

      What a kind thing to say, thank you! That is my hope by posting these little ideas of mine. I think they are good not only for children with celiac disease or with food allergies, but parents of children without dietary restrictions could also do this, not only to save money, but to put healthier alternatives, like baked chicken nuggets and fries (or something different altogether!) in the packaging. That's all that really matters to most young kiddos anyway, and McDonald's (as well as other fast food companies), know that, because that is what they emphasize on TV ads!

      One of the best things I have done recently is turn off the TV more often, just so my boys aren't fed these ideas on a continual basis! I still have to help Sam when he is with his friends and classmates, but when he is at home we just talk about his feelings and bigger issues like being okay and happy with who he is. He will get there, but in the meantime, building his self-confidence is my main objective. 🙂

    • Tamara Zacher says

      I could not agree more. Thank you! I often read your posts and think… SHE'S MY HERO!!!!!

  6. Brilliant idea. Why is it that kids will readily accept anything that comes in McDonald's packaging? I'll have to try that sometime for my 3 g-free kiddos.

  7. I just stumbled upon your blog and I can only say one thing, AMAZING!!!! You are simply amazing!! What a great mother you are, I can't wait to follow your journey as I start my own GF journey along with my husband and 2 children, ages 5 & 2 yo! Thank you so much for the inspiration!!

  8. This is such a cool idea. I didn't know you could just buy the box, etc., without the food. I can do this and make a vegan version. ^_^

  9. Dianabebe37 says

    OMG you are such a good mother.  Heart warming to read.  Well done and keep up the great work.  Thank you for your tips.  I just found out I am allergic to soy, wheat, dairy, garlic and a slew of other things.  Great advice.  🙂

  10. Ecastroreale says

    Genius! I love it!

  11. StevenBee'sMommy says

    I have a beautiful 3 year old that is gluten free, egg free, dairy free, and nut free.  I have always wondered how I would handle it when he got older… including my boys is imperitive to me!  (My other child is also anaphylatic to eggs,… so parties birthday cakes are big deals at this age for him.)  This is just an absolute brilliant idea!!!  I was in tears reading this. Thank you so much for this gift on how to help them fit right in & not feel diffferent!!! 

  12. Thank you! Thank you for your blog all of it! we just found out that my oldest daughter (8) is gluten intolerant. My sister is as well so she has helped a lot but I am a mom that researches like crazy when I need to understand and feel comfortable about something. It’s just my way of adjusting or dealing with things. Your blog has been beyound helpful. Anywho, it just hit me yesterday that we would have to tell my daughter that the traditional “Daddy daughters date night” would have to change. You see about once a month daddy take my 4 kids out for the afternoon and does some kind of fun activity and then they bring home McD’s for dinner. On those days I get the afternoon to myself while they are all out having fun with just daddy. The kids love it because he spoils them all afternoon and then they get a treat for dinner. I wasn’t sure how she was going to handle the news. Now I don’t have to upset her, you can’t imagine how much this means to me!! Ok maybe you can, because we always want to make our kids happy and healthy. She is a very picky eater and she has taken this new change of gluten free in someways hard but I am trying like crazy to offer her foods she would normally ask for. I found your site by looking for gf gold fish crackers her favorite after school snack. When I showed her I found it she gave me a huge hug and started to cry. That was two days ago since then I have taken any free time I have to read more on your blog I can’t thank you enough.


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