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Gluten and Allergen Free School Lunch and Snack Ideas (Plus, Information on 504 Plans and Downloadable Teacher Letters)

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As a mom to two children with multiple dietary restrictions, I can think of few things more mind numbing than coming up with creative and healthy boxed lunches (that my kids will eat) 5 days a week, so I thought I would begin a list of links to recipes that I make for my kids’ lunchboxes as well as several links to some great resources that just might make this daily activity a little less stress-inducing for all of us.

But first, here are a few tips that have been REALLY helpful for me:

Plan Ahead!

Planning ahead definitely makes lunchbox preparation significantly easier.  Not only does it remove the daily panic of figuring out what to include, it also makes grocery shopping a money-saving cinch (assuming you stick to “the list” which is usually my downfall).

Write down a daily menu for the week ahead.  The menu can include fresh fruit and veggies, freshly prepared foods and my favorite time-saver: leftovers from dinner the night before.  I have two Thermos Stainless King Food Jars and they do a great job keeping homemade soup and leftovers hot (or at least very warm) until lunchtime.  The jars also come with a handy stainless steel spoon that fits in the lid.

Get Your Kids Involved!

Allow your children to have a say in what goes into their lunchbox (from a mom-approved list of healthy options of course).  Not only will your kids be more likely to eat it, but if you do it right, you can get them eating all sorts of healthy goodness.  I talk about this more extensively in my post, Tips for Getting Your Kids to Embrace Whole Foods…seriously, go check it out, all my tips are “Sam and Luke Tested!” 😀

Make it Visually Stimulating!

Presentation really does go a long way, remember getting a black mushy banana or those brown apple slices in your lunch box as a kid?  Yeah, can you say, “where’s the trash?”

Fresh, beautiful food is much more likely to be eaten than off-colored and lifeless produce.  When I make apple, pear and peach slices for my kiddos, I soak them in a corn-free citric acid solution before I bag ’em up (it doesn’t leave a “sour” taste like lemon juice can).  For this I use NOW Foods 100% Pure Citric Acid Powder which is free of: yeast, wheat, gluten, corn, soy, milk, egg, chemical additives or excipients.

Apple Soaking Solution: mix 1 tsp. Citric Acid with 1 quart of cool water.  Add fruit slices and allow to soak for at least 5 minutes (do not rinse).


A nutritionally balanced lunchbox should include one or more items from the following food groups:


Many parents struggle to get their kids to eat their fruits and vegetables every day (myself included) and I have found that by presenting the foods in different ways, it keeps their interest up.

Consider presenting fruits in different ways: as sliced fruits (fruit dips make a tasty treat too, my boys love this vegan pumpkin dip I made last year), make fruit kabobs using fun cupcake picks as the skewer (you can see an example of this in my post on Lunchbox Kabobs), homemade gelatin (and gelatin-free) fruit cups, fruit salad and homemade no-sugar added sauces (applesauce, pear sauce, etc.).  If you have a young child, try sticking a corn-on-the-cob holder on each side of a whole apple…my boys love that (well, Luke does, Sam was mortified when I did it last year when he was in first grade, LOL!).

Cherries, Grapes, Kiwi, Oranges and Fresh Pineapple Sticks are also favorites of my boys.


I don’t know about your kids, but mine are much more likely to eat raw vegetables versus cooked.  Cut up a bunch of raw veggies on Sunday nights, that way it is easy to grab a few to throw in their lunchboxes with various healthy dippers: hummus, Baba Ghanoush, homemade dairy-free ranch dressing (I have a new nut-free and much easier recipe to share next week), dill dip (I’m close to cracking the dairy-free case on this recipe too, so keep an eye out for that recipe).

Storage Tip: Store carrot and celery sticks in a container of water in the fridge, this will prevent the unappealing white spots from forming on the carrots and the celery from turning brown.


Foods with protein are great for staving off those hunger pains and they work in unison with carbs which provide energy and help to boost concentration, memory and attention span.  Protein foods not only work great as sandwich fillings, but they’re also handy as salad toppings (cubed chicken or sunflower seeds are two ideas and this Dairy-Free Creamy Greek Salad Dressing is quite tasty, as is this *awesome* recipe for French Dressing), toss some some chicken or beef into homemade soups, add chicken or shrimp to spring rolls, nut butters spread on gluten-free bread, bagels or even pancakes to make a filling sandwich (my kiddos really like Udi’s GF bagels topped with peanut butter and banana slices and I make my own cane sugar-free jams and jellies using Carol’s recipes for blueberry jam and strawberry jam over at Simply…Gluten Free.  Carol’s method also works well with blackberries and raspberries).

Another fun idea is to pre-make several gluten-free “sandwich puzzles,” (Canyon Bakehouse breads are perfect for this because the bread slices are large enough to fit most cookie cutters and the San Juan 7-Grain bread has a nice dark color that contrasts well with their Mountain White bread), throw them in individual sandwich bags and store them in the freezer until you need one (a gluten-free “uncrustable” if you will).

Stuff some celery with nut butter and top with raisins to make ants-on-a-log (or use cranberries for “ladybugs-on-a-log”), toss in a little container of nut or seed butter for apple dipping.

Deli Meat Rollups are also popular with my boys (we use Applegate Farms deli meats which are gluten and casein-free, and I simply roll the meat up…no bread).

Most protein boosters:

Grain-Free Almond Crackers (I use one chia egg and my kids absolutely LOVE these!)

Homemade Beef Jerky

Roasted Nuts (I roast my own using these simple instructions, and if you’ve never tried Marcona Almonds, you’re missing out on something special (unless of course, you’re dealing with a tree-nut allergy).  I totally agree with Shauna Ahern when she said, Marcona almonds — pop them in your mouth and crunch down on that creamy saltiness. Your disappointment at not being able to eat that hamburger bun will simply slide away.

A few of the foods/recipes my kiddos like:

Homemade Coconut Milk Yogurt

Slowcooker Beans n’ Weenies: I make a few substitutions to accommodate my boys additional food allergies: I use my homemade Barbeque  Sauce and Wellshire Farms Cocktail Franks (according to the website, Wellshire Farms Cocktail Franks are gluten-free, dairy/casein-free, corn-free, nut-free and soy-free, and eggs are not listed on the ingredient list)

Primal Chicken Nuggets: I omit the cheese and sesame seeds for my kids

Homemade Sloppy Joes (add the Sloppy Joe mixture to a thermos and allow your child to “build their own sandwich” at school on a Canyon Bakehouse Gluten-Free Bun)

Build-Your-Own-Taco-Bar (my kids love Bearitos Blue Corn Taco Shells. I will pre-cook a couple taco shells and send them with a thermos of taco seasoned ground beef or shredded chicken and separate containers of shredded lettuce, tomatoes and salsa so they can build their own tacos at school.  The Taco Proper Taco Holders are PERFECT for helping little hands build tacos!)  **I use this recipe for homemade taco seasoning, only I use arrowroot instead of cornstarch (so I can make a taco salad for myself since I’m allergic to corn) and after I mix up the ingredients, I give it a whirl in my blender so it makes a fine powder and then I store it in a glass mason jar in my pantry, super easy, cheap and I know it’s safe.

Leftover Chicken Drumsticks

Mayo-Free Chicken Salad

Mayo-Free Tuna Salad

Mediterranean Tuna Antipasta Salad

Cucumber Chickpea Salad

Creamy Cucumber Salad

Soothing Lettuce Wraps, P.F. Changs Style (with ideas for Corn-Free and Soy-Free Substitutions)

Spaghetti and Healthy Egg-Free Meatballs

Homemade “Panera Bread” Tomato Soup

Homemade Vegetable Soup

*I will continue to update this list as I come across new ideas and recipes that my kids actually like.

Have a child who’s new to the gluten-free lifestyle and having a hard time adjusting?  Try these copycat ideas for an emotional pick-me-up (or what I call, “Gluten-Free Transition Maneuvers”):

Gluten-Free Lunchables

Gluten-Free Pizza Lunchables

Gluten-Free Happy Meals

Gluten-Free “Boxed” Mac and Cheese

Gluten-Free Spaghetti O’s

Gluten-Free Goldfish Crackers (I just received permission to share the rice flour version of this recipe and I will make them with Daiya Vegan Cheese and do a photo tutortial on how to make them in an upcoming blog post). 😀

Gluten-Free Chex Mix

Jumping Through the Pringles Loophole (I definitely recommend sticking with the plain Lay’s Stax should you decide to deploy this “gluten-free transition maneuver,” the flavored chips are LOADED with chemical ingredients).

Special Treats

There are those inevitable days at school when a special treat is in order, whether it be for a classmate’s birthday or classroom holiday parties (or in the case of my kids’ school, Friday Fun Snacks where the kids make unhealthy snacks…I really wish their teachers would seize the opportunity to show the kids how to make fun snacks with healthy food!).

Gluten and Allergen Free Candy Lists from Sure Foods Living (Alison updates the list each year in time for Halloween and I give a copy of the lists to my boys’ teachers at the beginning of every school year)

Gluten-Free, Dairy-free, Egg-Free, Refined Sugar-Free Chocolate Cake (you can see these, as well as the link to the recipe I use for Dairy-Free Buttercream Icing in my post on Dye-Free Batman Cupcakes).  I keep a batch of these cupcakes in my freezer (already frosted) for impromptu birthday parties at school and send one in a Cup-A-Cake Single Cupcake Carrier.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free “Hostess” Cupcakes

Gluten-Free Powdered Donuts (also egg-free) and Gluten-Free Glazed Donuts (my kids’ school does a couple donut breakfasts each year, so these are what I make for my boys)

Knee-Slappin’ Good Blueberry Muffins (corn-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, refined sugar-free and xanthan/guar gum-free)

Gluten-Free “Nilla Wafers” (Dairy-Free)

Gluten-Free Sugar Cookies (this is a good recipe to use for Halloween, Christmas and Valentine Cookies)

Biscochitos (Gluten-free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free)

“Tollhouse” Chocolate Chip Cookies (gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free)

Marshmallows (corn-free, dairy-free and egg-free)

Chewy Caramels (dairy-free)

Dairy-Free Buckeyes

Commercial Gluten-Free Products

I shared many of the commercial gluten-free products we like in this post but here are a few more kid-friendly products I occasionally add to my boys’ lunchboxes:

GoGo Squeeze Applesauce

So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt

Amande Almond Milk Yogurt

Pirate Original Tings (these are kinda like dairy-free and dye-free Cheetos)

Snikiddy Original Baked Fries

 Stretch Island Fruit Leather and Frutabu

Sharkies Fruit Chews

Annie’s Homegrown Gluten Free Bunny Cookies

Annie’s Homegrown Fruit Snacks

Get more kid-friendly gluten and allergen free lunchbox and snack ideas from my fellow bloggers:

Printable List of 50+ Allergy Friendly Lunchbox Ideas from Cook IT Allergy Free

Sending Your Gluten Free Kid Back to School by Wendy Kaho of Celiacs in the House (for

Back-To-School with Jules E-Book from Jules Gluten-Free Jules (Jules is offering my readers a coupon code to get her book for FREE until August 26, 2011!  Use the coupon code: 2011BTSebook [case sensitive] upon checkout).

Healthy (and Food Allergen Friendly) Snack Options for Kids from Sure Foods Living

Gluten-Free Quick Snack Ideas (downloadable PDF) from NFCA

Free E-Book Filled with Back-To-School Dairy-Free Recipes from Go Dairy Free (there are many vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, peanut-free, and soy-free recipes included for those with additional dietary concerns).

Ideas for Packing a Health School Lunch and Recipe Roundup: Ideas for Packing a Healthy School Lunch from Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen

Easy Kids Lunchboxes and Easy Gluten Free Living Kids Lunchbox Ideas from G-Free Mom

Resources and Tips for Gluten Free College Students from Celiacs in the House

Great Gluten-Free and Food Allergy Resources

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness is near and dear to my heart and they have been one of the most important resources for me over the past 6 years.  NFCA will be hosting a very important (and FREE) webinar on Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 9pm EST/6pm PST called “Importance of School Nurse Education and How-To Strategies for Parents of Gluten Free Kids” (click here to register and join me for this hour of vital information).

Topics to be covered:

  • The 504 Plan and its impact on the child’s rights in the school environment
  • Why it is important for school nurses to be educated on celiac disease and the gluten-free diet, including their role in the classroom environment.
  • Provide a list of school support staff and their appropriate roles in accommodating a celiac child’s needs.
  • Share strategies on how parents can maneuver the school with their gluten-free child.
  • Offer tips and suggestions on how parents can create a safe and healthy gluten-free school environment, including recipes and common challenges in the classroom’s social setting such as lunch and snack time, birthday parties and field trips.

Printable Guides from NFCA (you can check out the full list here):

504 Roadmap

Letter to Educators

Physician’s Letter

Celiacs and College: Tips for Parents and Prospective Students

Navigating the Gluten-Free Diet at College

Be sure to check out NFCA’s Kids Central for some gluten-free games, guides and the Kids Cental newsletter!

The Allergy Kids Foundation is a phenomenal website founded by Robyn O’Brien (a.k.a. the “Erin Brockovich” of food allergies).  I highly recommend exploring the Allergy Kids Foundation website and checking out Robyn’s book, The Unhealthy Truth: One Mother’s Shocking Investigation into the Dangers of America’s Food Supply– and What Every Family Can Do to Protect Itself (I absolutely LOVE this book!).

If your child has IgE Food Allergies, I recommend reading What You Can Do In the School and downloading the following letters and guides from The Allergy Kids Foundation:

Informational Letter for Your School’s Teachers

Informational Letter for Your School’s Principal

Information Letter for Other Parents

AllergyKids Safe@School: Back-to-School Guide for Parents

Caring for Kids at Risk of Anaphylaxis: A Guide for Teachers and Staff

Lastly, in case you missed my printable list of gluten and allergen free art supplies, you can check that out here.

Do you have an idea for gluten free and allergy friendly lunches and/or snacks?  If so, please share your valuable ideas in comment to this post, this really is a team effort (and feel free to link to blog posts)! 😀






  1. You Rock!! Thanks!!

  2. Thanks for the great round-up of ideas.

  3. Heidi, what an amazing comprehensive resource this post is! Will definitely share! Thanks so much for including my cupcake/cake recipe, too. It seems like you are linking to me every single day of late–you're something else, girlie! 😉



    • Thanks Shirley, this post certainly took a while to write but I kept thinking of my husband and how "lost" he gets when I'm out of town, so now he owes me some house cleaning, LOL!

      You're welcome for the link back and I share your posts/recipes because 1) I love you and 2) you have great recipes and information packed posts that are so very helpful…in fact, I've come to view your work as an extension of my own (and I'm thankful that you save me a lot of time and effort with all your hard work!). 😀



  4. This is fantastic! I wrote up an allergy-friendly school/work lunch list back in the spring at the request of a reader. I reposted it this week as school is starting. There is a variety to pick from as my son and husband suffer from a few differing allergies. Check it out and let me know if you have any suggestions!

    • Great ideas you have there, thank you for sharing them! The tuna salad with dried cranberries looks really good! I make frozen PB&Js too, it's kinda like pulling out a homemade gluten-free "Uncrustables," easy, peasy!

  5. Wow Heidi! Unbelievable resource.

  6. Wonderful help, Heidi! I don't even have kids at home these days, but I'm excited about this! So often I pack snacks and lunches for myself when most people would count on finding food "on the way." When my snacks are appealing, I often end up sharing them with my "anti-GF" husband 🙂

  7. You pack more information into a blog post than most books. Everything here is very helpful even for a mom of a teen in HS. I'll be linking to this in my next post.

  8. Heidi, This is such an amazing post. Thank you for once again providing a bright, shining light for all of us who are facing the sometimes daunting task of sending sensitive kiddos (and adults) out into the world!

  9. What a great post! My daughter is only 2 1/2 (she has Celiac Disease), but I will be bookmarking this for her preschool and school lunches when she gets older. Thank you so much!

  10. Rats! I missed this one. I will link to this on Friday. Lots of cool info, as always.



  11. Thanks to a FB link from glutenfreegoddess Karina, I discovered your blog yesterday. Wow. So much info, so many ideas. Nice to see all the links to other sites as well–it feels like a community. The school lunch ideas are exactly what I've been searching for–serendipity strikes! Thank you!

  12. Heidi,

    This couldn't be more timely for us, thank you for posting this! Sean just got diagnosed with PDD/NOS and I have to meet with his school to do a 504 plan. He is now taking gluten-free lunches to school until Dr. Rick tells us otherwise. Getting all of Sean's test results on Friday, fingers crossed! My adrenal results are in too and will get those as well. Hope to chat more soon. xoxo

  13. Heidi,

    I'm childless but newly diagnosed as gluten and lactose intolerant and I can't tell you how happy I am to have found your post. I think I see some "Gluten Free Transition Maneuvers" in my future. Thank you!

  14. only1aurora1997 says

    I love your suggestions but the recipe you use for taco seasoning mix makes me weep for the yumminess your family is missing. The secrent to good tacos is the the seaconing is ALL about the chilli powder and CUMIN. The yummy taco goodness is almost all cumin. That recipe does NOT have enought cumin to even make the tacos taste  Taco-ey.
    For 2 lbs or ground met ( we mix half beff half turkey)
    2TBS chilli powder
    1 tsp onion powder
    1 tsp garlic powder
    1/2 tsp paprika ( optional)
    1/2 tsp frash ground balck pepper
    a dash sea salt
     You will need to add 1/4-1/2 cup of water to the taco mixture after adding seasinings. Thouroughly mix seasonings into meat. The meat will take on a noticible reddish brown hue. add water simmer on low. This allows the seasonings to really permeate the meat.
    I also sometime add banana pepper rings to the meat and seasonings.
    Also you can chop up fresh green onions and fresh cilantro into the meat. yum yum.

  15. only1aurora1997 says

    oh ps ther is never a need to put oregaon in tacos or burritos. It may enhance the flavor of chilli but oregano is so strong it can overpower other flavors. if i can i try to leave it out of recipe, even my italian cooking.

  16. This is a great post. Because of allergies, there are lots of regulations in place about food in the classroom, but it never hurts to schedule time with the teacher before school, but NOT on open house. That way we know exactly what the deal is for the kiddo. A reference sheet is handy, too. We don’t get offended, promise. We want to keep everyone safe and healthy.

  17. Awesome post. I don’t have kids, but I get bored with the same ol packed lunches too. SO nice to have new ideas. Hugs! Cocoa

  18. Hi! Checking out your website, this is the second attempt at allergy free cooking, this time not because of my Igg sensitivities, but for my son’s asthma. Thank you so much for putting together this website and especially this list, it’s amazing! Thank you!