As many of you know, the girls recently started a new preschool (which they love so far!) and since they stay for the lunch program, I have to send them in with a packed meal three days per week. The lunches need to be nut-free and must not require refrigeration or need to be heated. Since the girls don’t eat dairy or gluten, I was a bit worried about what to prepare for them.
After doing some research, I realized that with the proper equipment and a little bit of planning, the lunches were totally doable. Today I want to share some suggestions that you might find helpful if you are preparing gluten-free and dairy-free school lunches. These ideas would work for kids on regular diets, too!
To begin, I bought insulated lunch bags that were large enough to store the girls’ containers and utensils. The bags are durable, simple to clean, and fold flat for storage. They also have a velcro top that’s easy for toddlers to open. The material is lead-free, bpa-free, and phthalate-free.
I also purchased a couple of stainless steel thermoses for food storage. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love these! They have a wide mouth that’s easy to fill and eat out of. And they hold 10 ounces of food which is the perfect portion size for my kids. They can keep food hot or cold for several hours.
Finally, these lunch BLOX kits from Rubbermaid are great for holding sandwiches, but they work for just about anything. They have dividers inside to keep food separated if your kids don’t want items to touch, like mine.
I try not to use Ziploc baggies to cut down on waste, so I usually put small items in these little cubes. I have a lot leftover from when I use to prepare and store baby food for the girls.
At first, the most daunting part for me was trying to figure out what to make. Having a list of ideas to choose from can take the guesswork out of what to prepare. I always include a protein and starch along with fruits and veggies. Generally, the girls eat the same thing as one another, but there are a few items that I know Maddie won’t eat (avocados, peas, etc.) so I will only include a little bit in her lunch (I still offer!).
Here are some examples of the lunches I have prepared for the girls so far. Most days they return with empty containers or a small amount of leftovers (good sign!). So far I’ve really enjoyed preparing their meals because it has encouraged me to be a bit more creative with what I make them each day.
The meals listed below require a little bit of planning, but they can all be prepared the night before to make things easier in the morning. We usually have either rice or noodles in the fridge so it doesn’t take me long to whip something up. The fruits and veggies can all be washed and chopped in the evening and sometimes I will use frozen fruit since my kids like to eat it that way, too.
Gluten free + dairy free packed school lunches
- beans and rice
- carrots and cucumber sticks
- sliced strawberries
- plantain chips and sunflower seed butter
- turkey chili (you can find the recipe here) + beans
- avocado slices
- snap peas + hummus
- sunflower seed butter and jelly on gluten-free bread
- carrot sticks + olives
- apples + blueberries
- buttered rice noodles + peas
- applesauce pouch
- mini box of raisins
- turkey sandwich on gluten-free bread
- carrots, cucumbers, and broccoli
- plantain chips
- clementine slices
There you have it! Hopefully I have offered a few ideas or helpful suggestions. What do you pack for lunches?