Gluten-Free Lunchbox Tips Part 1

Picture 1Hello Gluten-Free Homemaker readers. It is such a pleasure to be guest blogging here today.  I read Linda’s blog almost daily and appreciate all the great information about gluten-free living and eating as well as her kitchen tips series.

Switching to a gluten-free diet, whether because of a Celiac diagnosis or non-Celiac gluten intolerance, entails many changes: scrutinizing labels, reinventing old favorites, reorganizing kitchens and pantries.  All these changes are a lot of work, but I think for many of us, one of the biggest changes is eating out, especially when on-the-go, whether on your lunch break or out on the weekends.  I know before switching to a gluten-free diet, I was very used to not planning where I would be eating, and what I would be eating.  This is no longer the case since discovering I am intolerant to gluten, dairy and chicken eggs and also choosing to avoid refined sugars and a few other foods that do not agree with with me.

One of the things that has really helped me is to pack lunches and snacks.  I often packed my lunch for work before switching to my current diet, but I often would still buy snacks to supplement my lunches.  Now, packing a lunch is totally different – I pack snacks as well as lunches. Another big change for me has been to pack lunchboxes on weekends too – not all the time, but generally whenever I have to be out all day.  It started with packing a few snacks, but eventually I moved to packing a whole lunch even on weekends.  I like not having to worry about reading labels or asking questions, particularly if I am trying to fit lunch into a short time slot.

Picture 2Last September, I started writing a series on my blog called Today’s Lunchbox, and it has received a great response. What was initially a week-long project became month-long, and has now passed its six-month mark.  I mainly write about lunchboxes I bring to work (which generally include a lunch and a couple of snacks) but also weekend lunchboxes and travel lunchboxes.  I have a theory that the key to packing lunchboxes is to make it both easy and interesting.  Here are my tips for packing gluten-free lunchboxes:

Rely on leftovers – I would say about 75% of the time, my lunchboxes are just leftovers from the night before, sometimes repurposed a tiny bit.   I have gone through phases of not wanting to use leftovers, and while it is do-able to make separate things for lunchboxes, there are weeks where I just do not have the time to do that.  Repurposing leftovers helps keep things interesting.  I know some people hate eating leftovers, and my advice to that is to switch up the format of the dish.  My approach to repurposing is to wrap leftovers up in wraps:

Picture 3

Repeat similar but not identical lunchbox staples –  I try to make some sort of hummus or dip at least once or twice a week. They are easy in that the food processor does most of the work, and they can be used to supplement a lunchbox, or be the central component of a lunchbox.  I tend to focus on protein staples for that category because that generally makes them more versatile – hummus or a nut-based dip (or pate) can be used to stuff a collard wrap with vegetables, or as a side to some quinoa, or as a spread in a quesadilla.  My other lunchbox staples include kale chips, lightly steamed kale or other greens, and raw kale salad.  Also, just because something is a staple does not mean it has to be boring or identical week-to-week.  There are infinite ways to make hummus and dips and I often change up steamed or raw kale with a variety of dressings, which take minutes to make in the food processor or a blender.

Be sure to read Lunchbox Tips Part 2.

Valerie blogs at  City|Life|Eats about food, life, work, and living with food allergies and a modified diet. Her lunchboxes and recipes are gluten-freedairy-free and often, but not exclusively, vegan.  You can subscribe to City|Life|Eats via RSS or email or connect with Valerie via Twitter or Facebook.

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  1. says

    This is great! I often struggle packing lunches and just bring bars or shakes. I am looking forward to reading more – heading over to your blog now :)

    • says

      I need a t-shirt that says “Kale is One of my Food Groups” – though after three months of no spinach (the spinach vendor at my farmers’ market takes a break for winter) I am kind of missing it, as I have only had it a couple of times this winter (Spinach from California just does not hold up well).

  2. says

    Love your ideas!! and everything looks so yummy….I think I will try the re-purposing dinners idea – i like that alot!

  3. says

    Valerie, you know I already love your lunchboxes! I especially have taken a cue from you and am starting to wrap collards around various stuffings. I love collards, raw or blanched, for this purpose! Alisa at Alisa Cooks/Go Dairy Free has so many yummy dairy-free “cheeses” in her cookbook (Go Dairy Free) that I love making one of those and spreading it in a wrap!

    • says

      I know those dairy-free cheeses from Alisa’s book. Two other favorites of mine are from Choosing Raw – the Pizza Cheese (cashews with basil and sundried tomatoes) and the Vegan Walnut Cheese (walnuts with tomato paste).

  4. says

    I love the collard wrap idea, they look great. And I am just about to try kale chips. Thanks for the great lunch ideas!

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