In case you don’t already know, I really enjoy using the Planet Box Rover lunchbox (reusable stainless steel). The 5 compartments, in my humble opinion, makes packing a lunch pretty easy. I like to think of the sections as the “main course” area, then 2 containers of produce, and 1 container of a simple snack or prepackaged snack. The very small compartment in the center makes a great holder for a little treat.
Today I’m going to share some lunch packing tips, then we’ll take a look at some tasty gluten free, top 9 allergy free lunch box ideas.
Eat Seasonal & Shop Your Farmer’s Market
For some of you reading, nutrition is a chief concern in your life right now. It’s perfectly normal to be concerned, especially if you’ve had to eliminate whole food groups based on the diagnosis.
Ensuring that you and your child are eating a range of colours will help build gut health and deliver a range of nutrition to your bodies.
One of the easiest ways to get a range of colour into lunchboxes is to shop your local farmer’s market. You can purchase quality seasonal produce, and will probably save some money as well. If possible, take your kiddo with you so they can experience the market, and be exposed to many options.
I used to take the kids to the grocery store and farmer’s market and they were each allowed to purchase one new item (from produce section) that they wanted to try. Looking back, it was one of the best things I ever did, as they all wanted to try what the others had picked and each week they were happy to try new foods/meals.
Pack Foods You/Your Kids Love
When packing a lunch, don’t torture yourself or your child. If you hate broccoli, don’t pack it. Additionally, now is not the time to experiment. Should you choose to send something new, make it a (very) small amount. For some kids, you’ll need to put it in a small container (silicone mini cupcake liners are great containers), as they don’t want something new touching their safe/enjoyed food.
Lunch should be foods that you know your kid will enjoy AND eat, since we need them well fueled to keep learning and growing.
An app you might find helpful is called La La Lunchbox (free on iOS). As the parent, you put in the foods, and then your child packs their lunch in the app. When kids get to choose, they’re more likely to eat the meal. This is also a great way to teach meal planning, thinking ahead, and start building some kitchen independence.
Use Novelty Items
If you look at the top middle image, you’ll see a little giraffee food pick. This is an example of a novelty item. Some kids are super excited to have items like these in their lunch and it makes them more likely to dig in.
You can also use mini cookie cutters like the middle bottom image. The cute little dairy free cheese penguin is a real joy for me.
Make Good Use of Your Freezer
Want to know something really cool? Several of the lunches in the photo above are freezer friendly. The mains on the top row can all be frozen and used as needed.
Other foods you can batch cook and freeze include muffins, waffles, pancakes, chili, and pizza. I like to freeze them in individual containers, then thaw one for lunch overnight in the fridge. With waffles, pancakes, and muffins, you don’t even need to thaw them overnight. The free-from recipes on RAISE for those items allow you to place them into a lunchbox frozen and by lunch time, they’re ready to eat and enjoy.
Note: other recipes that contain ingredients such as milk or egg cannot be treated the same as the free-from recipes I share.
For those who can’t do shared equipment, please make sure you’re batch cooking. Having to cook 80%+ of food at home can burn anyone out, and I don’t want that to happen to you.
Know How Much Time Your Child Needs
Some school lunch times are shorter than we’d like them to be. If you have a young child that takes 5 minutes to peel their orange, but they only have 20 minutes to eat, you should pre-peel the orange.
If you’re new to school (Kindergarten or transitioning from homeschooling), practice eating lunch at home before school starts. Pack the lunch in the box you’ll be sending and have a little picnic together to practice. If you find your child wants to talk your ear off and hardly eat anything, now’s the time to teach them how to focus on lunch first, then have a good chit chat.
Many people get rid of these precious childhood memories. Welp, there’s another awesome use for them. Baby and toddler utensils are a great size for lunchboxes, including the Planet Box that’s pictured.
Let’s Take a Look at the Photo & Expand on The Ideas
Photoed are six delicious lunch ideas, and if you’d like some of the recipes, they’re available in the downloads section of the website.
Vegan Chili – Easy to make, packed with flavour, freezer friendly. For those who don’t enjoy too many beans, you can also make a meat-based chili recipe and use that instead.
Chicken & Waffles – The kids LOVE this one! To get the baby waffles, use a Dash 2″ mini waffle maker. Both the chicken meatballs and the waffles are freezer friendly.
Roasted Veggie Fried Rice – An easy take on fried rice. You can rotate through different fried rice recipes you love to keep lunches interesting. Some fried rice recipes will be freezer friendly. If you don’t have time for the full fried rice experience, make a deliciously seasoned rice and add cooked frozen veg to it.
Beef & Bean Dip – You can swap the beef for other proteins such as bison, turkey, or pork. This is a fun build-your-own type of meal where kids can have cute little tacos at lunch. Alternatively, swap the tortilla for chips.
Charcuterie Lunch (AKA Homemade Lunchable) – These are a joy to make and so many kids will love eating them. If you have a free-from kiddo who wants to have their own lunchable, really hype up this lunch box concept to them so they know they’ll have something just like the other kids. Don’t forget to send a juice box!
Vegan Potato Salad – I like to make this the night before (or even a day or two in advance) so it’s served cold. You can add in additional items such as bell pepper and onion to your potato salad.
Need More Lunch Ideas?
If free-from lunch is something you’re struggling with, check out these additional resources.