GFCF Back to School Lunch Menu Ideas


My son is on a GFCF diet. He also has to avoid corn, oats, soy, yeast, onions, oranges, blueberries, tuna and canola oil.

Two years ago when we began this journey I had no idea where to begin. There are forms of gluten, corn and/or canola oil in practically every processed or pre-packaged item in the store, including specialty foods on the GFCF aisle at Whole Foods…  I am no Julia Child. I don’t like to cook and I usually avoid all recipes that require more than five ingredients and those that require much peeling or chopping. I especially avoid recipes containing ingredients that I’ve never heard of. To this day I couldn’t tell you for sure what a shallot is.

Slowly but surely I’m learning. I can identify a leek now and know that it is in the onion family. I know how to make “mashed potatoes” out of a cauliflower. We bought a juicer, have attempted several varieties of soups and vegetable juices, and have actually enjoyed them. Unfortunately I am a carnivore. I cannot remove all meat from my diet, so “juicing” exclusively is not practical for our family . I am anemic and  the boy’s menu is limited enough as it is… So at this point we are just trying to go a little more moderate on the animal protein and add more fruits, legumes and vegetables to our diet, including lentils, buckwheat and quinoa which are also high in protein. PS: Two years ago I had never even heard of quinoa… And now I can tell you that buckwheat does not contain wheat and that it is actually a fruit. Go figure…

Anyway, school starts in a couple weeks. I’ve been homeschooling the boy for the past year so I haven’t really had to give much thought to packing a school lunch. I needed to come up with something that would be easy enough for him to eat without much assistance and favorable enough that it wouldn’t require much bribery or prodding to get him to eat it. Also something that he would eat cold or something that wouldn’t require reheating at the school, (ie. something we could send in his thermos).

You also have to take other people’s allergies into consideration. I’ve run into several schools that maintain a “peanut-free” campus. So then it wasn’t as simple as sending a regular old peanut butter and jelly sandwich on gluten-free bread. I’ve had to get creative…

Most of the time I’ve found it easiest to just make an extra portion of GF spaghetti or whatever “casserole” we have for dinner and send it to school in his thermos for lunch the next day. He’s had a LOT of spaghetti and shepherd’s pie for lunch AND dinner over the past couple of years… So I’m always on the lookout for new ideas. As his sensory issues have decreased, his tolerance for certain foods have increased, and I’ve learned more techniques for modifying certain recipes. There also seem to be more allergy-free products coming onto the market as society seems to be leaning toward a more organic and preservative-free diet. Bisquick has an allergy-free version, Betty Crocker has gluten-free instant potatoes, Thai Kitchen has some really good and easy to prepare rice noodles that we use for spaghetti or pad thai and my son loves Chex rice cereal which is good for a cajun style Chex mix and to crush and use as “bread crumbs” to make Shake ‘n Bake chicken or to bulk up a meat loaf with an egg, some hot sauce and Chachere’s cajun seasoning. Most of the time I make the meatloaf in individual meatball form which I call “Schweaty Balls”. It’s a reference to the “SNL” Alec Baldwin skit as well as to the fact that the hot sauce can make you sweat… The benefit to doing it this way is that I can top his with a GFCF catsup. I prefer Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce on mine… I have yet to find a BBQ sauce that doesn’t contain high-fructose corn syrup or corn starch. On that note, while it’s nearly impossible to find, Hain Pure Foods makes a Safflower mayonaise that doesn’t contain any canola or soy. Excellent for sandwiches as well as for making a chicken, egg or tuna* salad (*if you don’t have mercury issues).

I think I could probably write a book… While there are lots of GFCF recipes out there, it’s been much more difficult to find recipes that don’t substitute corn, soy, canola or other things we need to avoid. So today I made myself a reference list of ideas and recipes that can be modified that I’ve found online or elsewhere.

Here are some of the ideas I’ve come up with: 

Lump crab cakes (using Glutino cracker crumbs or crushed rice cereal), sausage souffle (with GF bread), mini quiche, egg salad, chicken salad (Hain Pure Food Safflower mayo), chili (Williams chili powder), white chicken chili, spaghetti (with Thai Kitchen thin rice noodles), mini meatloaves (made in a cupcake tin, you can sneak all sorts of pureed veggies or fruit in meatloaf or meatballs) shepherd’s pie and chicken pot pie (with GF Bisquick). 

I like to use Chebe brand GF pizza crust (yeast-free) with pizza sauce, Hormel canadian bacon or pepperoni and Daiya brand dairy and soy-free mozzarella cheese. Sometimes I skip the pizza crust and make it on slices of Rudi’s gluten-free bread instead. We also make “pita pockets” with the all-purpose Chebe bread and fill with hummus or GFCF refried beans. We also like to make sandwiches using homemade waffles filled with nut butter (almond butter is good if you’re avoiding peanuts), apple butter or Simply Fruit (apricot is our favorite).

Then there’s the old stand-bys; GFCF chicken nuggets or fish sticks. Dr. Praegers is our favorite. They also make a GF sweet potato pancake. Some of these contain canola which for our son, works as a neurotoxin, but we only use these “convenience” foods when we’re in a pinch and make sure we follow up with probiotics and  oral antifungals. Other ideas would be hash browns, tater tots, sweet potato sticks, fried okra or green beans (using rice flour to coat).

My son still has significant oral sensitivities but has finally reached a point that he will eat bananas, grapes (halved to reduce choking hazard), canned pear slices and fruit cocktail (in natural 100% juice) without putting up too much of a fight. Raisins, dried apricots or cranberries, cashews, unsweetened applesauce (or other pureed fruit) may also be good to send for snacks.

I don’t know anyone with food issues as severe as ours, but I hope this list of ideas will help a family who is as lost as I was when we found out our son had more sensitivities than to just gluten and casein.

What GFCF lunch menu items do you suggest?

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  1. I’m a big fan of the gluten free ghram crackers by the grainless baker. Ever since thy removed the grbanzo beans. I’ve had great results after realizing an extreme diet for my issues at 35.

  2. I loved reading your article specially because my son is allergic to almost everything yours is, and a some other ingredients as well. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen trying to concoct different menus for my son, and to make his meals fun. One of his favorites is “fried rice”, which is white jasmine rice, with carrot strips, zucchini, organic eggs and organic canadian bacon. All ingredients are thrown into a skillet and tossed over olive oil. No soy sauce of course, but it is delicious. Hope it helps.   

  3. Thanks for the great lunch box ideas.  My son has gluten, dairy and egg allergy but I also try to avoid soy as much as I can as well.  Would it be alright if I linked your post on my blog?

    Some of our lunchbox ideas are:ham roll-ups with a snap pea in the middletuna & GFEF glutino table crackerssunbutter with apples and sprinkle of cinnamon sugar on top for dessert

  4. We have very severe allergies here as well so was happy to see your post….Personally I can’t have:
    All nuts
    The above are my severe allergies…I have more foods that are more like sensitivities..
    My daughter can’t have: Dairy, wheat, gluten, watermelon, pineapple, coconut, all nuts And my son can’t have: Dairy, wheat, gluten, sugar, yeast, watermelon, peanuts My youngest can’t have: Dairy
    I feel your pain and understand how difficult it can be

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