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Lunchbox Fun: Inside Out Sandwiches & Homemade “Panera Bread” Tomato Soup

The inspiration for this nifty little concoction came from the Taste of Home Magazine.  I thought this would be a great introduction to the joys of sandwiches for my kiddos, who are meat-sandwich adverse.  I really don’t get it, but they will only eat a nut butter & jelly sandwich.  Deli meats must be cubed (lunchbox kabobs) or made into a roll-up, egg-salad is preferred as a dip for potato chips* (see below), and chicken or tuna salad is…well, those just come back home!

Like a lot of parents, I struggle with sending a nutritious meal (that my kids will actually eat) to school five days a week.  I think the problem with my eldest, is that he’s a flapper jack (I know it can’t be the food, he’ll eat Brussels sprouts like popcorn for Pete’s sake)! 😯  Sam just socializes too much during lunch, so he inevitably runs out of time.  By the time he gets home at 4:30/5pm though; he is STARVING and proceeds to drive me batty while I am trying to prepare dinner!

The Day After Update: So, Sam came home with half of his “inside out” sandwich and 3/4 of everything else…except the gummy bears, he did manage to eat those!  Here is what I came up with: No sweets in his lunch box until he starts eating all of his lunch (for at least a week) AND (this was my brilliant bomb drop): the next time he comes home with a full lunch, I will be making a lunchtime visit to make sure he eats…and I will hug & kiss him IN FRONT OF HIS FRIENDS!  Oh, you should have seen the look on his face, LOL! :mrgreen:

My solution thus far has been to have a variety of healthy snacks sitting out that they can freely munch on while I prepare dinner, like raw veggies with hummus or dill dip and fresh cut fruit.  While I love doing this because they will usually eat whatever vegetable I offer when they are really hungry, I do fret that they are pretty much going the entire school day on whatever it was they had for breakfast (which is why I have to make sure breakfast counts big time)!  My hope is that by making their lunch look fun and interesting, they might be enticed to actually eat it!

The jury is still out on the overall success of the “inside out sandwich” (I just sent them in their lunch for the first time today), but the boys were definitely intrigued this morning (although, I think they were most interested in the “pirate sword” toothpicks I recently purchased at Party City…hey, whatever works)!  😀

To build a gluten-free inside out sandwich for Sam (I made Luke’s casein-free by omitting the cheese), I used Applegate Farms Uncured Ham, Udi’s gluten-free bread trimmed of the crust (the bread wouldn’t “roll” with the crust attached), a thin schmear of low-fat olive oil mayo on each side of the bread, a Sargento Light String Cheese (see Sargento’s gluten-free product list), and a dye-free dill pickle spear.  After I rolled up the sandwich, I pierced it with a fun toothpick and trimmed off each edge, easy peasy!

To finish off this lunch, I added a thermos of leftover homemade Panera Bread Creamy Tomato Soup (which I tweaked to be gluten-free and dairy-free), fresh cut apple slices, a few gluten-free tortilla chips by R.W. Garcia with a ChiChi’s Salsa Snacker for dipping (they are on Hormel Foods Gluten-Free product list), and some Yummy Earth Gummy Bears.

*A Few Gluten-Free Chips:

Michael Season’s is our personal favorite brand of gluten-free potato chips (we like the lightly salted varieties) and cheese puffs (white cheddar is our fave). 

We also enjoy the New York Style Risotto Chips (these also remind me of Sun Chips), and I am on the hunt for the new EatSmart Naturals line by Snyder’s of Hanover.  Check out the EatSmart Naturals gluten-free offerings (just be sure to click on the certified gluten-free link in the left sidebar, not all of the products in this line are gluten-free).

The Food Should Taste Good brand of chips are all certified gluten-free.  Our personal favorite is the Sweet Potato, have you tried these yet?  Yum!

Another favorite of my kids are the Arico Foods Cassava Chips, a great alternative to the potato chip!

The Frito-Lay website has several links to product lists that are suitable* for special diets.  For a shortcut, here are the direct links to the Frito-Lay gluten-free product list and the gluten-free/casein-free product list.

*Important note about Frito-Lay products: while they may not contain gluten and/or casein ingredients (per the above lists), they are not made in a dedicated facility or on dedicated lines (although the lines are cleaned between batches, some residue may get left behind).

Just in case this is helpful to anyone: my personal guideline is to limit how often we consume Frito-Lay chips due to the risk of cross-contamination (I apply this rule to ALL processed/packaged foods that are not certified gluten-free, regardless of the brand).  I try to reserve products like these for when there isn’t a safer option available (as an “atypical” celiac, I am painfully aware that just because one might not experience any obvious symptoms when exposed to gluten, does not mean an immune response is not occurring anyway). The best any of us can do is try and reduce our risk whenever possible. 😀

What is your favorite gluten-free chip?


  1. You're so creative Heidi!! My husband would LOVE a lunch like that using string cheese! Too cute!! 🙂 I hope school is going well for the kiddos!

    • Hi Carrie!

      Wish I could take the credit, but all I'm good for is reading A LOT of magazines and spreading information, LOL! 😉

      Yes, you must make Michael an "inside out" sandwich, even my Michael got a kick out of taking one to work, hehe.

      School is going great except for getting my kids to eat their lunch! I am starting to wonder if it's the giant water bottle that Sam has to take to school each day (they keep them on their desks). While I think it's a great idea, I think the water might be filling him up too much?? I suppose if you're going to have a problem though, this is a good one to have!

      • Michelle Olejar says

        My pediatrician limits my children's water intake for that very reason. Water is healthy to be drinking, but too much of it will make a child too full to eat. You may want to check with your pediatrician to see how he feels on it or get a specific amount.

        I love the inside out sandwich but my boy won't eat any mixed foods…so I am still putting it all separate 🙁 It is after a crime if foods touch each other and absolutely no sauces or dips allowed! Love your ideas!

        • Michelle,

          Thanks for the heads up on the water! I had been sending a huge water bottle every day, but now I send one half the size. Hopefully, he is not just refilling it, I think I will send his teach an email!

          My nephews are like your son, nothing can touch! It tickles me, if I could only spend a day inside their little heads to see what thy are thinking, LOL!


  2. I love the inside out sandwich idea as well as the pirate sword toothpicks. I really struggle with finding veggies my kids will eat at school. So far just TJs seaweed squares and cherry tomatoes. But maybe if I try the "cool" toothpicks it would work.

  3. Aahhhh, I wish I was still packing lunches. Oh wait, no I don't. =)

    But if I was, I'd be trying your lunch bucket tips! I have 4 kids who always brought their lunches, so I definitely made my share of "lunchbox fun." You appear to have it down, Heidi. You're a good mom and this looks like a great idea!



    • Melissa, You should get in touch with your "former school lunch packing self" and share some of the lunches you used to pack for your kiddos. I bet they were not only super nutritious, but yummy too! 😀


  4. Heidi, I love your term for Sam….Flapper Jack! I could have written the same information about Conner. He is such a chatterbox at lunchtime that he just plain runs out of time to eat! His complaint to me is that they do not give him enough time. My response, "Ummm… yes dear, they do. You just have to make some better use of it." Oye!

    But, tomorrow, I am officially making an inside out sandwich! LOVE that idea!! Will let you know how it goes over. Btw, I hope you update your post tonight to let us know how your kiddos liked theirs..



    • Okay, I updated my post, LOL!

      YesI It's always "the teacher's fault" with Sam too, she "doesn't give him enough time!" Uh, I don't think so, no teacher blaming allowed; it didn't work for me with my parents and it ain't gonna work for him!

      I asked Sam what do they do right after lunch and he said "recess," so my response? Good, you can be late to recess while you finish your lunch! Hehe, I've become my parents!!!



  5. That's what Max has for lunch. Only his is right side out. Ham sandwich on Udi's bread with organic mayo and mustard. (How a 2 y.o likes mustard, I'll never know. I couldn't eat it until I was 12.) And sting cheese on the side. He loves his string cheese.

    I remember Sun Chips. Can't eat those, can we? I haven't looked. Are they even around? I once worked for an airline cargo warehouse. We were right next door to the food service and they would bring us boxes of sun chips that were too old to serve on the planes. I got so overloaded that thought of Sun chips still makes me ill. 😛

    As far as Frito Lay, I don't know. When I first went gluten-free, I would eat the baked chips b/c it was about all I could find on campus. (Went back to college late.) Every time my fingers would dry up and get painful. (My reaction that I always get if I get even a tiny amount of gluten.) So, I just stopped altogether. Stick with the gluten-free dedicated facility. Or, make my own. That's on my list of things to try.

    Thanks so much for picking me, Heidi. Or thanks to Random Number Generator. I've been looking at the site. Oh, my! I think I'm going to have to get stuff when we are going to visit my husband younger brothers. They are teenagers. I'm afraid to have so much sweet goodness in the house. Scarf! Gone in a second.



    • Tia,

      That is so funny, my 3 y.o. LOVES mustard (and hates Ketchup)! Sam was always the opposite, he'd put ketchup on everything, including grapes, but he still won't touch mustard. Funny how different they are.

      Sun Chips are definitely off limits. I have heard so many stories like yours from people who experience reactions after eating Frito-Lay products (except the Lay's Stax, I heard they are made on a dedicated line?), that it does concern me a great bit. I have a seriously delayed reaction, the last time I fell of the GF diet (intentionally…I was a big cheater up until 2 years ago), it took 7 WEEKS of eating gluten every day before my DH broke out (my internal alarm system needs to take some communication courses)!

      The sad thing for me though, is that today, I am paying the piper with ongoing medical issues that never seem to stop. It's one of the things where you say, "if I only knew then, what I know now…I NEVER would have cheated." So that is why I personally stick with the products that come from dedicated facilities and/or are certified gluten-free. I also rarely eat out, maybe 20 times a year (which includes includes vacation time).

      Enjoy your goodies!


  6. I *love* Risotto Chips. They feed my risotto obsession.

    Also, you are the best Mom ever! I love your Lunchtime threat. Did it work? You should give parenting classes, too!

    xoxo, Todd

    • Todd, you should have seen the look on Sam's face when I told him what I would do, LOL! 😀 It worked for a couple of days, but he's back to not eating again…I don't get it! Mike and I were talking and from what we remember, we were always famished at lunch when we were kids!

      I think I am going to following through on my threat this week…I think one visit should do the trick (and I'm sure he's just thinking , "nah, she won't really do it."

      Oh yes "she" will! 😉


  7. Great idea and LOVE that pirate swoard toothpick 🙂

  8. My son's been getting inside out sandwiches, too. If you can call it that. He likes me to use Schar breadsticks and wrap them with slices of ham. It works at home. Unfortunately, by the time he unpacks it for lunch at school, he says the breadsticks are soggy. I'll have to try the bread and see how that works for him. Maybe the ham is too wet?

    • Heather,

      I LOVE the Schar breadsticks!! I never even thought to use those to wrap deli meat around, I will be trying that this weekend!

      I bet the ham is too wet…what about sending in the ham and breadstick separately, then he could do a "build your own" type of thing?? I did that today for Sam, only with tacos. I sent in everything separate so he could have a "build your own taco bar" type of thing, he loved it (it made him feel "in control"). 😉

  9. Hi,

    My family is now GF due to my kids (7 and 3) diagnosis of CD 6 months ago. I was curious what you thought of Trader Joe's GF food list. While no gluten ingredients are added they are not processed on a dedicated line. If it were me I could try the product and see if I had symptoms. Because its my children, they cannot/ do not always tell me if they have symptoms. Would appreciate your comments.

    thanks, sony

    • Hi Sony,

      Well, that is a good question. My answer however, is probably not going to be very helpful to you. I have atypical CD and do not experience any obvious symptoms when I "get glutened." In fact, the last time I cheated on the diet over two years ago, it took 7 weeks of eating gluten 3 meals a day before my DH broke out, and there were no GI issues whatsoever (which is why I cheated for so long, I didn't "feel sick," so, I had a difficult time accepting that I was actually quite sick)!

      I will say that over the years, as I have gained more knowledge and personal insight of celiac, I have become much more strict in the food choices I make for myself and my family. I rarely buy processed foods that are not certified gluten-free, as I have learned the hard way that just because I don't get physically ill when I unintentionally eat gluten, doesn't mean that I am not experiencing a serious immune reaction regardless (I already have 3 autoimmune diseases, so my risk of developing more is quite high if I am not super careful). I try to reduce my personal risk at all times by asking myself, "Is there are safer alternative that I would be better off purchasing?"

      I'm so sorry I couldn't answer your question more specifically!


  10. Even though I don't think those adorable sword sticks would be fully appreciated in his case, I know my hubby will love inside-out sandwiches! He'll probably even like them with GF bread, even though he doesn't need that part of my diet. He'd probably also chow down on every variation — especially bread sticks — except maybe the pickle. I've been making meat-and-cheese rolls for him, but haven't thought to put some bread inside that. Great idea!

    My kids were easy to make lunches for, but making something healthy enough and also satisfying enough to keep my husband away from the vending machines is the bigger challenge!

    Thanks for your inspiration, Heidi! Not just the recipes, but also the attitude!