:: Sending Your Child to School Gluten Free

One of the hardest places for gluten free kids to be is school. This will vary greatly from school to school, but it is in this environment where they learn to stand on their own and make good choices about not eating all of the glutinous food offered. It is also here that they confront some of their toughest gluten free challenges. As parents, it is our responsibility to do all we can to make their school day as enjoyable and as safe as possible.

Notifying School Authorities and other Parents about the GF diet.

At the beginning of each school year, send out a letter to the school nurse, the receptionist in the front office, the Head of the School and the teachers.   Also request a copy be placed in the substitute teacher file. It is often the other parents who bring in snacks so email a copy to all of the parents in your child's class. 

Follow this link to a sample SAMPLE LETTER TO TEACHER AND PARENTS.

Classroom Stash of Gluten Free Snacks.  Provide the teacher with an assortment of gluten free snacks for those unexpected situations that will come up. If you have informed the parents and teachers, hopefully you will be prepared for birthday and class parties. But there always seem to be special treats that get brought in that you do not know about. Provide snacks that are durable to withstand whatever may come their way in the classroom. You also want to provide some healthy snacks that can be eaten in case of an emergency.

I have found it easiest to put everything in a gallon zip lock bag that is clearly labeled with your child’s name and “Gluten Free Snacks.” 

Provide a container of kitchen wipes.  I also provide a container of kitchen wipes so that desks can be wiped down after other students eat gluten treats.

Gluten Free School Lunches.

The only thing our school provides that my daughter can have at lunchtime is the milk. Therefore, she takes her lunch to school every day. The following are some tips on making gluten free school lunches as fun, and manageable, as possible.

Buy a Fun and Different Lunchbox.

Buy your child a fun lunchbox that is not like everyone else’s and clearly label it with your child’s name. One year we had the standard issue Target lunchbox that several students had. One day I had to bring an emergency lunch to school because someone else had grabbed her lunchbox by mistake. 

Make it fun because they will carry this lunch box everywhere (school, sleep overs, parties). We bought one at the M&M store in NYC that looks like a bag of Peanut M&M’s and my daughter loves it.

When my daughter out grew lunch boxes, we converted to using plastic bags from Target and the grocery store. This made it easy for her to toss the lunch bag after lunch and not need to worry about bringing it home everyday.

Pack More Food than your Child Needs.

Even though most schools do not permit it, all kids trade food. Remind your child never to eat anyone else’ food. Having extra lunch in her bag to share lets her be a part of this lunchtime social exchange. It does not have to be your expensive special GF treats – we often pack a bag of sunflower seeds to pass around on the playground.

Additionally, you never know when a situation could arise where your GF child needs extra food. A spontaneous invite after school for a play date is okay because she will have extra food left over from lunch for snack.

Lastly, it is good to have extra food in the event of an emergency. I feel better knowing my daughter has a little extra food.

Keep Lunches Fresh.

The hardest part about carrying a sack lunch everyday is keeping it fresh. Who would not get tired of eating the same thing every day? It can be challenging, but rotate some favorite things through the lunch to keep it interesting.

Our lunch ingredients are broken down into six main categories: main entrée, fruit, vegetable, something cold, snack item, and dessert. Sticking to these makes it easier for me (I don't have to think too much before my coffee kicks in) and for my daughter to make her lunch in the morning. She can put in whatever she wants, as long as there is one thing from each category.

Some Ideas for Gluten Free Lunches.


Main Entree:

 

Warm food always taste good at lunch. Pack an extra paper towel in the lunch so they can lay it down in the microwave then put their food on top of it. Just leave the paper towel in the microwave when done and pack some wipes to cleanse hands before eating. Some warm food options:

  • Lundberg Heat & Eat Organic Rice Bowls
  • Thai Kitchen Rice Noodle Soup Just add water and microwave for 3 minutes.
  • Glutenfreeda Burrito
  • Gluten Free Pizza – this is a kid favorite. Just keep a couple of pieces from dinner the night before, put them on a paper plate in a gallon zip lock bag, the student just needs to remove the paper plate and warm.
  • Leftovers from Dinner – if you buy the right thermos, you can eliminate the need to warm it up. My daughter loves tomato soup in her lunch. Or buy a canned soup by Kettle Cuisine.
  • Nachos – in the morning I will pack some GF Tostitos with shredded cheese in a microwavable container. My daughter warms it at school to melt the cheese. Pack a little container of GF salsa too.
  • Macaroni and Cheese – Make Your Own or buy a frozen one from Glutino’s.
  • Ian’s Chicken Nuggets

If a microwave is not available:


Fruit:


Okay pretty obvious, but something different to try:

  • Satsumas
  • Applesauce
  • Bowl of raspberries, strawberries and blueberries mixed together
  • Cantaloupe
  • Dole Fruit Bowl of mandarin oranges
  • Grapes
  • Dried Fruit by Sensible Foods

Vegetables:
 
  • Bags of carrots
  • Pickles
  • Celery sticks
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Avocado (the first time she tried an avocado my daughter was hooked on them. Slice in half, remove the pit, and fill the bowl with GF balsamic vinegar)
  • Can of V-8 Juice
  • Sliced cucumber

Something cold:
 
  • This usually means yogurt for us; Chobani and Stonyfield are certified GF by the Gluten Intolerant Group.
  • Sliced cheddar cheese
  • Frigo cheese sticks

Snack Item or Bar:
 

Dessert:

 

 
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