Gluten-Free Lunch for Kids (or Adults!)

September is my favourite month of the year.

The weather turns a little cooler, leaves start to change colour and my birthday wraps up the end of the month.

Not everyone feels the same way about September.  For children in Ontario it's a scary time.

Back to school.

Miss U's classroom

Yes, that time is here and you need to be prepared. 

If your child requires a gluten-free diet it may seem like a daunting task to prepare a safe yet appetizing meal for your child.  With the temptation of yummy gluteny cookies, pizza and cupcakes galore, it can also be a difficult time for your little one.

If you live in Ontario, lunch time at your child's school likely means peanut-free and nut-free meals also.  That means my all-time favourite lunch staple - PB&J - is off limits.

Remember that lunch is very important for learning.  In order to have a nutritious lunch, try to incorporate something from different food groups, as noted in Canada's Food Guide

  •   Fruits and Vegetables
  •   Grain Products
  •   Milk and Alternatives
  •   Meat and Alternatives 
There is more to a gluten-free life than rice cakes. (Bleh!)

Suggestions for gluten-free, peanut-free and nut-free school lunches
List compiled by Jax at Gluten-Free Ontario

- MAIN -
Leftovers in a Thermos
  •   Chili
  •   GF spaghetti
  •   Risotto
  •   Soup
  •   Stew
  •   GF macaroni and cheese
  •   Rice and beans
GF Macaroni and Cheese with Edamame and Mushrooms

Sandwiches, bagels and wraps
Many gluten-free brands are out there now that hold up pretty well.  Experiment and find one that your child likes.

  •   Jam
  •   Cream cheese and cucumber, sliced apple, strawberries or jam
  •   Apple butter with sliced apple
  •   Tuna salad and tomato
  •   Egg salad
  •   Deli meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato
  •   Chicken
  •   Be creative!
GF rice wrap with tortilla chips and grapes


  •   Green salad with cheese chunks, chicken, dried fruit, tofu and/or whatever veggies you have on hand (If you choose to use GF croutons, keep them separate so they don't get soggy.  Also keep dressing separate to prevent the lettuce from getting soggy.)
  •   Chickpea salad
  •   Potato salad
  •   Macaroni salad - GF pasta of course
  •   Quinoa salad - excellent source of protein and fiber
GF Chickpea Salad

Rice paper wraps
  •   filled with GF vermicelli rice noodle, mango, veggies, chicken and/or tofu.  Keep cold.
Ham and cheese rollups

Cold Pizza

Babybel cheese
Sliced veggies and hummus or dip - carrots, green peppers, cucumbers
Fruit salad - homemade or a fruit cup
Dried fruit - raisins, cranberries, apricots
Fruit leather - SunRype is all GF!
Fresh fruit - banana, pear, apple, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, clementine, sliced orange... the possibilities are endless

Tortilla chips and salsa
Cereal - Chex cereal makes a great snack!
GF crackers and cheese
Hard boiled egg

(If you feel it's necessary)
Muffin - homemade or storebought
GF animal cookies - Kinnikinnick and Mi-Del are popular brands
Jello cup
Pudding cup
Homemade crispy rice bars - use Nature's Path Crispy Rice or Envirokidz Koala Crisps for a chocolatey treat

(Regular Kellogg's Rice Krispies are NOT gluten-free since they have barley malt in them.  Kellogg's now makes a GF version of their Rice Krispies but it is not available in Canada)

- TIPS -

If you are looking for gluten-free deli meats, check out May Family Farms and Buddig - both brands specify gluten-free on the labels.

Renee's Gourmet offers a long list of gluten-free dressing for your salad or for dipping veggies.

Summer Fresh also offers a wide range of hummus and other dips labelled gluten-free on the package.  Many products are also vegetarian and lactose-free.

Have your child pick the colour/style of his or her lunch box and invest in some reusable plastic or stainless steel containers for sandwiches, juice and other snacks.  This will save you money in the long run and cuts out needless waste.

Ask your child what other kids are eating for lunch and try to come up with gluten-free versions. 

If you need to keep a lunch cold, stick a juice box in the freezer overnight to pack next to the cold portion.  The juice box will thaw by lunch time and help to keep the food cold.

If including juice for a drink, look for a real juice to include instead of a "drink" disguised as juice - many are just fruit-flavoured sugar-filled water.

Remember to ask the teacher for a list with each student's birthday so you can send a special treat for your child.  Ask the teacher if he or she can keep a gluten-free treat on hand (that you supply) for other events that come up.

Do you have other gluten-free, peanut-free and nut-free lunch ideas?

Let's hear 'em!


  1. What kind of GF wraps do you use? One brand I found fell apart. I tried making some and they were too hard.

  2. Great post! Some of your back to school lunch ideas will be my new go to meals for work.

    Glad to see the blog up and running. Im looking forward to following it. =)

  3. Wonderful list. I am just going to add, when choosing a lunch box or bag make sure your child can eat out of it (it acts like a place mat protecting your child`s food from the other kid`s lunches. This is especially important in situations where your child does not have a dedicated lunch desk.

  4. Tracy - I use Food for Life Brown Rice Wraps. I have purchased them in the past when they have obviously been sitting in the store's freezer too long and they immediately split down the sides when I try to wrap stuff. Now I only buy from the store where I work so I know they are "fresher" (though still frozen) and I have never had problems with them falling apart. There are also teff wraps from La Tortilla Factory.

    Thanks, Gluten Free Doll! And thank you for all your support and sharing my blog.

    You bring up a good point, Anon. I do not have children myself and that's something I hadn't thought of.

  5. As a gf mom of 3 gluten free kids I have some recommendations. I suggests spending the money on stainless steel containers, the plastic ones don't keep the food warm enough. I boil water and pour it in to warm up the steel before I put the warmed food in. Kids often eat the snacks and leave the entree but I still make 'em. My kids are also not dairy tolerant and all snacks have to be peanut free so the pre-packaged gf stuff like rice crispies are a challenge. Fruit, fruit leather, crackers or multigrain chips of some sort, fruit "sauce" like mango-apple, always get in there. Unfortunately, as a busy professional single mom, I don't have much time to cook and don't do a lot of veggies but cucumber slices hold up well and usually get eaten. Happy packing!!

    Shirley Katz-Leon, Ph.D.