Gluten-Free Lunch Box Ideas


For ten years I was the only person in my family who had to eat gluten free.  While I do prepare gluten-free dinners that the whole family eats, I don’t always prepare gluten-free breakfasts or lunches.  I always thought it would be difficult to pack a lunch for a child who has to eat gluten free.

I home school my kids so I figured it would be a little easier if one of my kids did require a gluten-free diet.  But no, ten years went by with my kids doing just fine.  Then last fall, when my oldest was starting his second year of college, he developed a gluten sensitivity.  He happens to live at home and commute to college, so guess what?  I now have to think about packing gluten-free lunches for him.

He’s not a particularly big kid, but he does eat quite a bit, and since he car pools to schools, some days he’s there for many hours.  That means packing plenty of food.  Of course, he is old enough to pack his own lunch, and often does, but I need to have options available for him.

Some of the ideas below are foods my son takes to school.  Others he’s not particularly fond of, but your child might be.  If you need to pack a gluten-free lunch for a child or even yourself, I hope you find one or two new ideas here.

Please note:  I am not going into the gluten-free status of all these options.  You can read my series on reading labels  to learn more about determining if a food is gluten free.  Still Getting Gluten is another series which might be helpful.

Sandwiches – These are standard lunch box fare, but when it comes to being gluten free, making sandwiches is a bit more complicated.  Many breads don’t hold up well, become dry, or are simply too expensive.

What I do is make my own gluten-free hamburger buns from scratch.  One batch makes ten buns.  I keep several out and freezer the rest.  I find this recipe makes a nice soft bread and it much easier to make than a loaf.  The recipe is naturally dairy free for anyone who needs that.

I also keep a couple of loaves of Udi’s or Rudi’s bread in the freezer for those occasions when I’m out of buns and don’t have time to make more right away.

Fruit & Vegetables – Remember, fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten free.  They are a great healthy option for everybody.  Vegetables such as carrots, celery, zucchini and cucumbers can be cut into sticks.  Fruit can be washed and peeled or sliced so it is ready to eat.

Salads aren’t great for a young child, but older kids might like them.  You can add protein to the salad such as chicken, ham, tuna, cheese, nuts or seeds.

Protein – My son likes to have a sandwich for a late morning lunch and then have a high protein snack in the afternoon.  Some ideas include:

granola bars

Carbohydrates – You can skip the sandwich idea all together and combine a protein with a carbohydrate other than bread for your lunch box.  Here are a few ideas (all would need to be gluten-free, of course):

Leftovers – This option is more feasible for adults who have access to a microwave at work.  My husband takes gluten-free dinner leftovers to work for lunch, and he doesn’t have to eat gluten-free.  Some children, depending of their school situation, might also be able to heat leftovers.

Soup – We don’t do this much, but soup can be kept hot in a thermos and taken to school.  There are such varieties of soups, especially if you are making them yourself.  Plus, you can put vegetables, proteins, and whole grains all into one food.  Wolfgang puck has several gluten-free organic soups and Pacific Foods has a number of gluten-free soups.  Here is a link to gluten-free soups at Amazon.  I’m not sure of cross contamination risks on all these soups.  Please check that before buying.

This post is part of a roundup of lunch box posts coordinated by Lynn of Lynn’s Recipe Adventures.  The following lunch box posts are not gluten free, but you’re sure to find some naturally gluten free ideas as well as other foods that can be adapted.  Stop by and tell these ladies I sent you.

Amy from Amy’s Finer Things
Amy from Mom’s Toolbox
Liz from Hoosier Homemade
Lynn from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures
Shannon from For The Mommas
Toni from The Happy Housewife

In additon, Amy of Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free did a Gluten-Free Lunch Round Up this week. Check out all the great gluten-free links in her post.

question markI’m sure there are more great ideas out there.  What do you pack for a gluten-free lunch?

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  1. says

    Great list! We love hard boiled eggs and gluten free muffins for lunches on the go. And my kids actually do not mind salads which is nice. I need to check out the list of gluten free soups at Amazon. Those can be very hard to find, so thanks for linking to it.

  2. Lacy says

    Hi! Thanks for all these ideas. Both my kids are gluten sensitive, so I pack their lunches and snacks for school every day. It always helps to have some fresh inspiration.

    I don’t know if your son would like this, but one of our household favorites is a “sandwich” made with lettuce leaves wrapped around some sort of meat (chicken, turkey, and ham are our go-to choices). That comes from my pre-dx days when I knew I felt better on the South Beach diet but couldn’t for the life of me figure out why.

    Love your website!

    • says

      Thanks, Lacy. I know a lot of people make lettuce wraps and I forgot to mention that in my post. I haven’t suggested it to my son. I have the feeling he would like it okay, but not get filled up enough without the bread. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Kurly says

    Thanks for the great ideas! As a newly GF adult who is taking some college classes Ineed to pack some lunches/dinners and have no access to a microwave… I tried Mac and cheese GF of course and the texture was horrific! I have also found for a good lunch celery sticks with peanut butter, and then throw pretzels or pop corners (amazing if you haven’t tried them yet! My face flavor is kettle or cheddar) on the side! But still looking for other ideas. I did tAke shrimp cocktail also one day, but my neighbors in the room didn’t appreciate it too much!

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