The Gluten-free Lunchbox

The kids are back to school everywhere this week and that means the return of the daily lunch and snack grind. When you have a child who needs to be gluten-free, you may feel that your snack and lunch choices are limited.  But not to worry!  Many of the standard lunchbox choices are either gluten-free or available gluten-free. And in this age of allergies, your child is definitely not the only one with eating challenges.

Our gluten-free lunchbox: sandwich, carrot with dip, plums, cheese stick and a Buckwheat Banana muffin.

Be an advocate! Many schools now have allergy plans, to protect those students who are most susceptible to risk. Don’t be insulted if being gluten-free isn’t on the list yet. Remember that you are an advocate for your child and the best way to protect them at school is to increase awareness about living gluten-free.

And remember that just because food is gluten-free, that doesn’t mean it is allergen-free. If your school prohibits nuts in either the classroom or the cafeteria, make sure you don’t send nut-based snacks. Whether you child needs to sit an allergy table in the cafeteria or not, make sure he knows how to keep himself safe. That includes not sharing food and washing hands before and after every meal. And make sure his teachers, school nurse, cafeteria manager, principal and school secretary know, too. Not sure what to say? Ask your doctor for a letter. And check out the Children’s Hospital website for more information about handling celiac at school.

Be prepared! For younger children, sending small pre-packaged foods can eliminate possible confusion at school. And make sure your child has tried the foods at home before you send them – there is nothing worse than a child who comes home hungry because their lunch didn’t taste right! If shared treats are a possible issue, ask your child’s teacher if you can send a letter to other parents about upcoming events. Or arrange to have packaged or frozen snacks at school for your child. Also remind teachers that some art supplies contain gluten — playdoh and pasta necklaces, just to name a few — and see if they can use an alternative.

Let’s eat! What then to send in the gluten-free lunch box? First, make sure that your gluten-free choices are healthy choices. Kids at school need brain food to keep them going: clean proteins, whole-grain carbohydrates and water to keep them hydrated. Think fresh fruit (whole or cut into bite size slices), vegetables with hummus dip and low-fat cheese sticks.

For lunchtime, Udi’s breads hold up well in sandwiches and Applegate Farms lunch meats are gluten-free. Boar’s Head lunch meats are also gluten-free, but make sure that your deli has a dedicated slicing machine to avoid cross-contamination. Another great idea for lunch is reheated leftovers in a thermos. A classic in our gluten-free lunch box is brown rice stir-fried with eggs, tofu and veggies.

Weigh those gluten-free flours!

Muffins also go great in a lunchbox. Buckwheat Banana Muffins are naturally sweet and come together quickly. Buckwheat is misnamed: it isn’t wheat and has no gluten!  What is does have is lots of fiber and B vitamins, both of which are very important for people eating gluten-free diets.


Recipe note: The flour measurements are in grams to help you swap ingredients. Many gluten-free flours have different weights and take up more or less space in a measuring cup (compare an almond to a grain of rice).  Measuring by weight means you will always have the right amount!


Buckwheat Banana Muffins
The misnamed buckwheat is not wheat and does not contain gluten.  It does contain lots of fiber and B vitamins, especially important for those on a gluten-free diet!


  • 180 grams (1 1/4 cups, approximately) buckwheat flour
  • 100 grams (3/4 cup, approximately) gluten-free all-purpose flour mix or whole grain gluten-free mix (I like King Arthur)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 rounded tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 8 ounces/1 cup ripe bananas, mashed (about 3 small)
  • 1/3 cup grape seed oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with the rack adjusted to the middle. Oil or butter 12-muffin tin. Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt into a medium bowl. Add any grainy bits remaining in the sifter to the bowl.

2. In a separate bowl beat together the eggs, honey, buttermilk, bananas, oil and vanilla extract. Whisk in the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Do not beat for too long; a few lumps are fine but make sure there is no flour sitting at the bottom of the bowl.

3. Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, fill muffin cups to the top. Place in the oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned and well risen. Remove from the heat and if the muffins come out of the tins easily, remove from the tins and allow to cool on a rack. If they don’t release easily, allow to cool and then remove from the tins.

Buckwheat Banana Muffins

Notes from Amy:
These keep for a couple of days out of the refrigerator, for a few more days in the refrigerator, and for a few months in the freezer, so eat some now and freeze the rest.

Download recipe now

See you in the schoolyard!

— Amy

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