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Easy tips for packing tasty gluten-free school lunches

Making sure your child is sticking to a gluten-free diet doesn’t have to be overwhelming as more gluten-free products become available every day.

BACK-TO-SCHOOL shopping and planning can be exciting, but parents of kids with gluten allergies face a unique challenge: plan healthy, savory, colorful, kid-friendly lunches that are full of love and not full of wheat, barley or rye.

Making sure your child is sticking to a gluten-free diet doesn’t have to be overwhelming as more gluten-free products become available every day.

Long gone are the days of combing the Web to find gluten-free retailers or spending your entire paycheck at specialty stores. The food your child needs is appearing in regular grocery stores. Follow these easy guidelines to stress-free healthy lunches that are gluten-free.

1. The meat of it

Your standard kid lunch has old-fashioned classics like a turkey sandwich or peanut butter and jelly. Thanks to gluten-free bread, you can now pack a sandwich that will hold together without gluten. Just remember that gluten-free bread does not survive in the pantry. Be sure to at least keep it in the refrigerator. Better yet, keep your loaf in the freezer, and take out slices the night before and it will be perfectly soft and ready for spreading in the morning.

Another great option is corn tortilla quesadillas. Take mini corn tortillas and fill them with chicken or beef, finely chopped veggies or salsa, and cheese. Vegan cheese is a great substitute. Microwave for a minute and then wrap in foil. For colder days, what is better than mom’s chicken soup? If you don’t have time to make it, ready-made gluten-free chicken noodle soup is a smart alternative.

2. The veggie challenge 

Fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free.  Getting kids to eat them can be tricky.  Some kids will eat anything if it is dipped in the right sauce. Gluten-free kids don’t have the luxury of using everyone else’s ranch dressing, so look for non-dairy mayo as a base that can be seasoned to their liking.

3. The crunch

Today, snack companies are making gluten-free snacks that are tasty and have great crunch. Snyder’s of Hanover recently created certified Gluten-free Pretzel Sticks that are low in fat and available in an easy-to-pack 100-calorie size. Look for them along with the 100-calorie packs of Eatsmart Naturals Veggie Crisps, which are also certified gluten-free. Learn more at www.snydersofhanover.com and www.eatsmartnaturals.com.

4. The drink 

Healthy and flavorful drink alternatives include mint-flavored water; fruit-infused waters and organic milk. Many individual organic milks come in 2 percent, strawberry, vanilla and chocolate flavors. Look in your supermarket for a selection of fruit infused water, or you can also make your own and fill environmentally-friendly reusable bottles.

5. Sweets for the sweet

Having a special dessert for a gluten-free child is no problem. Rice crispy treats are a staple in the gluten-free world. Whipping up a batch of rice crispy treats isn’t too time consuming, but even the most organized of super moms needs a back-up plan. Look for brown rice crispy treats in your local grocery store. They are made with brown rice and cane sugar. Switch it up with gluten-free shortbread cookies sweetened with agave syrup. If put it a reusable container, they will not crumble before they hit the lunch yard.

6. The plan 

Living gluten-free requires planning no matter what the meal, so you are probably already an expert. If you keep these lunches in mind while shopping, and set aside an hour on Sunday nights, you will be organized and set up for success each week. More importantly, your child will not get “glutened” at lunchtime and you will rest easy. It’s important to recognize that being gluten-free can be a challenge for a child. It’s alienating and can bring unwanted attention. An inspirational quote, happy faces, inside jokes or even a little incentive will surely remind your special student that eating healthy and gluten-free is a gift and not a curse. (ARAContent) ■

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