This year summer flew by, as it often does I guess. I can't believe Asher going into second grade this week. Thankfully we still have a little bit of time before Easton will start preschool! Between school supply shopping and making the most of the last days of summer, it's also time to start thinking about school lunches. Sending gluten-free or grain-free lunches with your kids to school can be a bit more intimidating then packing traditional PB&J's. Though if Asher liked sandwiches more, you can bet that Blender Bread Almond Butter Sandwiches would be on the menu! I've rounded up some classic and new paleo and gluten-free lunch box ideas to get you started for the year.
Get Your Kids Involved
One tip I have is to let your kids get involved. When they have ownership of what is being packed, the lunchbox is less likely to be returned from school half full. I sit down with Asher and give him some options to choose from and we end up with a list of 5 or so options from each of the categories below – proteins, fruits & veggies, and snacks & sweets. He's a pretty simple eater and doesn't mind having the same thing in his lunch over and over again, so I tend to stick with what I know he likes, and try new items on him at dinner or over the weekend. I also like to keep his lunch fairly simple at his age because, unfortunately, the kids have recess after lunch so most of them rush through eating so they can get more time playing. When he brings home food, it's usually because he says he doesn't have time to eat it, rather than that he didn't like it!
I'll admit, my lunchbox ideas for you below are not pinterest worthy or overly exciting, but they're real life! They also may not be as appealing or look like enough food for an older child or an adult, but you can fill yours with double the amount of food I give him, and use my ideas as a starting point! I also give you some ideas from other bloggers below that may work better for your family.
Invest in Good Containers
I've found that having the proper containers makes a world of a difference when packing healthy lunches for my family.
The Planet Box (see in the pictures below) is stainless steel, and has bento box compartments that are perfect for packing lunches. It's a bit of an investment but we've been using Asher's for two years already and plan to have it for many more to come! Find it here! When I send cold food, I put the entire box in the fridge to chill it over night and put a frozen ice pack inside when I send it to school.
The Foogo Thermos's are great for packing hot lunch and leftovers to school. I fill it with boiling water for 5 minutes, then dump it out before adding the food to keep it extra warm. Sending last night's chili or lasagna, and knowing your children can have a warm lunch as the days start to get chillier has never been easier with these thermoses. They're also easy for the kids to open and close! Find them here!
Asher First and Last Day of 1st Grade!
Packing lunches doesn't have to be complicated. I've found the secrets for for lunchbox success are utilizing family leftovers and prepping a few things at the beginning of the week. Whether that's making a batch of your kiddos favorite roasted veggies and spacing them out throughout the week, or pre-chopping veggie sticks and doing the same thing, it makes mornings so much easier. You can see me prep some of my favorites in the video below.
Last year I posted a few of Asher's lunches on Instagram with the hastag #AAGLunches. Check it out here if you have Instagram. See a few of our go-to's below. Scroll to the bottom for a list of proteins, fruits and veggies, and snacks and sweets we love for lunch boxes.
Oftentimes I'll send Asher with leftover hamburgers with Paleo Ketchup for dipping if we have leftovers from the night before. Also seen here is Homemade Fruit Leather, grapes and carrot sticks. For a treat, a nut-free real deal 2.0 chocolate chip cookie from Meals Made Simple, page 280, because Asher's school is nut-free! Take a shortcut by buying organic ketchup in the store.
Sometimes we pack gluten-free lettuce wrapped tacos. I used a leftover rotisserie chicken and added a teaspoon of the taco seasoning from my Meals Made Simple cookbook for quick tacos. Asher just likes his with meat and rice, but you could add avocado, grilled veggies or some cheese if your kids tolerate it. I put in a Nut-Free Zucchini Muffin from the blog here, Homemade Fruit Leather, fruits and veggies. Find a video I did showing you how to make the Fruit Leather here!
In the mornings I'll grab some Meatballs out of the freezer – they defrost by lunch and Asher likes them cold or room temperature dipped in marinara. You could also heat them up and put them in the thermos if you wanted to! Also featured are seaweed snacks (recipe for those coming soon!), and little lego shaped fruit-juice jello jigglers from Against all Grain, page 214 with fruits and veggies!
Pesto Chicken Meatballs have become a favorite of ours around here. The recipe will be in my next book, out next Fall!
Little meatballs are so great to defrost throughout the morning and you can keep your freezer stocked. Those are rice crackers, but Simple Mills also has some great Grain-Free options. That is a homemade fruit roll up in there as well.
Be sure to see my post on how to make your berries last longer in the fridge! See the post here.
We love using leftover roast chicken or even a rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods, it makes for such an easy protein! I give him a dipping sauce like Ketchup, BBQ sauce, or Pesto. Dried mango, carrots, and grapes make great sides.
Some days we'll keep it super simple with cucumber sandwiches with organic deli meat such as Diestel or Applegate. You could have fun and use a shaped cookie cutter for these too.
In the Valentine's Day chapter of Celebrations on page 71, there are ideas for Lunch Box Love for your little ones. These ideas are great year round, with or without the heart cookie cutouts. Using apples for Sunbutter and Jam, or my Grain-Free Wrap Pinwheels are perfect finger foods for going back to school. Rubbing a lemon on the outside of the apple will keep it from getting brown by lunch time.
Ham, Mayonnaise and Tomatoes
Sunbutter and Jam
Ranch, Thinly Sliced Smoked Salmon, Cucumber Slices
Hummus, Turkey Deli Meat, Veggie of Choice
Find Wrap Recipes on These Pages:
Against All Grain, Page 302
Meals Made Simple, Page 262
Celebrations, Page 326
Find a blog version here too as well although they are not quite as sturdy.
Also in Celebrations, on page 72 there is a nut-and egg- free pizza crust. Perfect for packing individual pizzas for lunches, at schools where allergies affect what you're allowed to pack! Either pack them already make or leave the pieces separate and let your kids assemble them at lunch, like the lunchable packs of my past!
Nut Butters and Jam sandwiches with Blender Bread are a great staple for lunches!
Other Blender Bread Sandwich Ideas:
Egg or Tuna Salad with Paleo Mayonnaise
Nut-Butter, Banana and Honey
Dairy-Free Pesto and Deli Meat or Roast Chicken
My Mini ‘Corn' Dog Muffins from Celebrations, page 143, packed with a side of Paleo Ketchup, can be made ahead and stored in the freezer for 3 Months. Put them in the toaster oven at 350F in the morning for 10 minutes while everyone is eating breakfast and pack them in the lunchbox.
These freezer friendly Homemade Gluten-free Chicken Nuggets are a fan favorite and so great for packed lunches! You can either heat them up in the morning or let them defrost in the lunchbox all morning. Find the recipe on the blog here.
Ranch dressing makes eating your veggies more fun. Whether you're in 1st grade or a mother of 3! Make a batch in the beginning of the week and send it on the side, or inside pinwheel wraps to make packing lunch easy in the morning. Find the recipe in Celebrations.
Check out my FB Live Video on School Lunches and Snacks in this video! See how I prepare at the beginning of the week and answer a lot of questions y'all had about gluten-free lunches.
Check out some of my friends ideas for packing your Planet Box.
Here is a great lunchbox idea from Michelle at Nom Nom Paleo! She does a beautiful Breakfast for Lunch with Prosciutto & Egg Roll-Ups, Mini Cinnamon Apple Scone, and Mixed Fruit Salad!
Check out her Paleo Lunchox roundup here for several more creative lunch ideas!
Lunch Box Ideas
Breakfast Sausage from Against All Grain on Page 32
Applegate Chicken Apple Sausages
Roast Chicken, either homemade or a rotisserie
Grass-fed and Nitrate Free Hot Dogs
Mini Corn Dogs from Celebrations, on Page 143
Apple Sun-butter Sandwiches
Ham Pinwheels with Grain-Free Wraps or use the Ham as the Wrap
Smoked Salmon Pinwheels with Grain-Free Wraps
Blender Bread Sandwiches
Leftover Taco Lettuce Wraps
Personal Pizzas, each of my cookbooks has a recipe! Celebrations is nut-free.
Hard Boiled Eggs
Egg Salad Cucumber Sandwiches with Paleo Mayonnaise
Fruits and Veggies
(see my video above on how to prep veggie and fruits for the week!)
Fruit Skewers with Pineapple, Melon, Kiwi, Strawberries
Frozen Mango, Throw the Chunks in the Box and They Defrost by Lunch
Dried Fruit- Mangoes, Peaches, Figs, Apples, Raisins
Sun-butter Stuffed Dates
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Carrot, Celery and Pepper Slices
Veggie skewers with Cucumbers, Cherry Tomatoes and Peppers
Snacks and Sweets
Granola Recipes from the blog or my books!
Granola Bars with Almond or Sun-butter
Banana Bread from Against All Grain on Page 224
Wholly Guacamole, or make your own with this recipe!
Regular or Beet Hummus
Ants on a Log, with Raisins on Celery or Apple Slices either with Sun-butter or Nut-butter!
While we do our best to make many of our snacks and lunch foods from scratch there are times when reaching for prepared snacks is a must. Here is my list of our go-to's for Paleo snacks.