8 Tips for Packing Awesome Gluten-Free Lunches

by Maggie on September 2, 2014


Make sure you subscribe to my newsletter to get your copy of 10 Easy Recipes For The Gluten-Free Beginner.

Packing a lunch for your kids can be one of the biggest challenges of the school year. And it doesn’t get any easier if you have gluten, dairy, or egg allergies to consider.

I’ve been packing gluten-free lunches for 3 years and I still find it to be something that requires thought, planning, creativity, and lots of patience.

The other tricky part to packing gluten-free lunches, is packing lunches the night before can result in crumbly gluten-free wraps and sandwiches. Thus, I am usually spending too much time in the kitchen in the morning and we end up rushing off to school to beat the bell!

However, I’m aiming to turn over a new leaf this year. My goals for this year’s gluten-free lunches are:

1. Pack as much as I can the night before;
2. Make sure their lunches are as healthy as reasonably possible;
3. Aim for 80% of their lunch to be eaten at school;
4. Let go of #3 a little and realize kids have a gazillion distractions at school and a small window of time to eat.

As a nutritionist, I truly believe that as lunch-packers we need to provide nutrition that will fuel learning. So what do our kids need to be better learners? They need exactly what their growing bodies need – a diet high in fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins and whole gluten-free grains (if tolerable) – in other words a well balanced real food diet.

Eight tips for packing awesome (and healthy) gluten-free lunches.

1. Load up the lunchbox with your child’s favourite fruits and veggies. Don’t forget to add their favourite dip too. Check out the Dirty Dozen to see which fruits and veggies you should be buying organic.

2. Bring your son/daughter to the health food store or grocery store with you and let them pick some lunch items. Remember, it’s all about balance. Once in a while I will buy some gluten-free processed foods (ie Animal Crackers) for a lunchbox treat.

3. Buy one or two packaged items that you know your kids will like. This is a big one for Callum. He says everyone else’s lunch is store-bought foods (which kinda makes me cringe) and he wishes he had packaged foods in his lunch. Applesauce, gluten-free granola bars , or dairy-free yogurt are good options here.

4. Get a good cookie recipe, one that the entire class will like too – I like to make sure my school-bound baked goodies are nutrient dense and nut-free (see my recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies using pumpkin seed flour).

5. Make sure the treats, baked goods, and snacks you do send to school are nutrient-dense. Baking with grain-free flours and high protein gluten-free grains will help to balance out the sugar rush and make for better learning (and less tummy aches). I like to use unrefined sugars in my baking too.

6. Incorporate their favorite leftovers into lunches at least once a week. I send a thermos to school with leftover soup, curry, pasta, or rice bowls. If your kids are meat eaters, like mine, make your meats at home so you can skip (or at least limit) the deli meats, which are heavily processed and contain unnecessary ingredients.

7. Skip the juice boxes and send water or smoothies. There’s no nutritional value in juice boxes and our kids simply do not need them. Try Lexie’s flavored water or coconut water if your kids raise a stink about this. Sugars in juice boxes actually take nutrients from our kids and do not provide the kind of hydration they need.

8. Bookend the day by making sure your kids eat a healthy and well-balanced breakfast, after school snack, and dinner. Some kids are just too picky to eat well at school. If that’s your kiddo, breakfast is KEY!

Back-To-School Recipe Round-Ups with Lots of Recipe and Lunchbox Ideas:

Back-To-School Recipe Ideas (Nut-Free & Gluten-Free):

Gluten-Free Falafel Bites from She Let Them Eat Cake

Savory Eats

8 Tips for Packing Awesome #Gfree Lunches from She Let Them Eat Cake.Com @maggiesavage

Cookies, Bars and Treats

8 Tips for Packing Awesome Gluten-Free Lunches from She Let Them Eat Cake.Com

Muffins and Quick Breads

Packing a healthy lunch is essential for learning. There’s no way we can expect our kids to learn on a diet of processed foods, drink boxes, and sugary treats. Even if it takes all year to make this change, I know it’s worth it.

So what do you pack in a healthy gluten-free lunchbox?

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Lexie September 2, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Maggie, MAGGIE … oh how I miss thee! Great post. I was just fretting about school lunches and needed more inspiration. Thanks! And thank you for the mention. xoLexie


Maggie September 3, 2014 at 1:55 pm

I miss you too Lexie! Sooooo happy to get a little note from you 🙂 I hope you and your boys are well. xo


Ricki September 2, 2014 at 5:29 pm

Great roundup, Maggie! And these are, of course, great for those of us who are just going to work every day, too, right? 😀 Thanks for linking to my collard wraps and peanut-free PB cookies! xo


Maggie September 3, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Thanks Ricki. I bet your lunches are awesome!


Shirley @ gfe & All Gluten-Free Desserts September 2, 2014 at 10:16 pm

Great post, Maggie! I appreciate that you “kept it real” by sharing what you have to include to make your kids happy with lunches. As you’ve shared, lunch is important and it is amazing how little time the kiddos actually have to eat it. A 20-minute lunch period can easily become 15 minute or less once the kids are settled. You’ve given everyone some really good tips and options. And thanks so much for sharing the gluten-free, nut-free treat roundup post from All Gluten-Free Desserts, the one you inspired me to write!



Maggie September 3, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Thanks so much Shirley! I think it only makes sense to keep it real and I know you feel the same way. I agree, the short lunches are no good! I think it stresses them out and we know that stress while eating is not good for digestion! Thanks for sharing your post! xo


Carol September 3, 2014 at 8:22 am

Awesome recipe roundup and tips Maggie! I too wish kids had more time to eat-we all need a time to eat and enjoy a meal, and that includes kids too. Thanks so much for including me in this list, and I hope the kids have a great first week at school! xoxo


Maggie September 3, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Thanks Carol! So far, so good 🙂


Stephanie September 3, 2014 at 10:03 am

This is a great post!

My kids latest thing is “homemade lunchables” (we are gluten free but not dairy free). I pack Glutino multigrain crackers, slices of organic cheddar cheese, and organic nitrate-free lunchmeat. Then I add a homemade muffin and fresh fruits and veggies. Sometimes some plain greek yogurt with some berries and honey.


Maggie September 3, 2014 at 1:53 pm

I love the lunchables idea! That’s fun for the kiddies.


sandra September 3, 2014 at 11:07 am

Hi does anyone know where I can get a gluten free birthday cake for the 19th September thanks


Maggie September 3, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Hi Sandra – Where are you located? Or are you looking for a recipe?


sandra September 3, 2014 at 2:41 pm

I live in miltonkeynes thanks


Maggie September 4, 2014 at 8:36 am

Sorry Sandra, I’m not familiar with miltonkeynes. I would ask around at local bakeries. I’m finding more and more bakeries are working with gluten-free. I have a good chocolate cake recipe on my site too. Here’s the link. http://www.sheletthemeatcake.com/2012/08/gluten-free-dairy-free-and-egg-free-chocolate-cake/


Alisa September 3, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Awesome post Maggie! Thanks so much for including me – I’ll be pinning away from here!


June johnston September 4, 2014 at 3:20 am

Try Udi’s Sandwich Breads for sandwich lunches. My husband tells me they are great untoasted.


Roslyn Pearce September 16, 2014 at 6:22 am

Hi, some really good ideas, thanks. I find if you toast your GF bread prior to making up sandwiches, they don’t get soggy and it also stops the bread from crumbling. Also,I note that you have banana oat muffins in one of your lists; oats aren’t GF, so I presume your lists are not just for GF people! Keep up the good work. : )


Maggie September 16, 2014 at 8:32 am

Thanks for your note Roslyn! Welcome to She Let Them Eat Cake 🙂
I toast bread for school lunches too. My son is so used to bread toasted, he prefers it that way! Oats are naturally gluten-free, it’s in the growing and processing that they get contaminated with wheat, barley or rye. That’s why I like to specify certified gluten-free oats. My husband has celiac disease and is able to enjoy the certified gf varieties, thankfully. I do know there is a small section of the gluten-free population who can’t even tolerate the certified oats. They usually avoid recipes with oats. I like using quinoa flakes as a sub for oats too.
Thanks again Roslyn.


Donna March 9, 2015 at 10:37 pm

Just letting you know Roslyn Pearce, that I live in Australia but buy Bobs Red Mill Certified Gluten Free Oats from America. They are definitely gluten free as my very sensitive daughter (has a trip to hospital if gluten is ingested) can tolerate them easily with no dramas! So possibly the recipes that state oats are using gluten free oats?! I use them a lot as my daughter can’t have any nuts, sunflower seeds or eggs, as well as gluten so the gluten free oats sometimes add some stickability to cooking.


Maggie March 10, 2015 at 7:27 am

Thank you Roslyn! Certified gluten-free oats are actually gluten-free. Oats can easily be contaminated with gluten because of growing and processing, that’s why certified gluten-free oats are essential!
Have a great day,


Maggie March 10, 2015 at 7:28 am

Thanks so much for your input Donna! That’s great that your daughter can happily eat oats. My husband can too, and he loves them 🙂
Have a great day,


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: