Gluten-Free Back-to-School Lunches, by a Kid, for Kids

Gluten-free and dairy-free lunches have never been easier.

September 10, 2015
brown bag lunches on black background apple
Thinkstock

Lots of kids and grown-ups who pack lunch for school or work could use some fresh ideas of what to make. And if you have food allergies or a specific diet like I do, it helps to find new lunch options that are yummy and healthy.

I'm Max, better known as The Gluten Free Kid. I'm 9 years old, vegetarian, and gluten- and dairy-free. I love to eat, especially anything Mexican or Italian. On my blog, I share recipes, review restaurants and products, and show that you can still be a major foodie even when you have foods you don't eat.

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These school lunches are some of my favorites. They're great for anyone who has gluten or dairy allergies, but also for anyone who eats healthy but still wants lots of flavor. My mom says they're pretty easy to make, too!

gluen-free quesadilla

Kale, Mushroom, and Cheese Quesadillas
These quesadillas are yummy, healthy and quick to make in the morning before school. The mushrooms are juicy, the kale is packed with vitamins, and the melted cheese gives it a really good taste. Corn tortillas are gluten free, and we use organic, non-GMO tortillas. This is also a lunch that's fast to eat with your fingers. This is great so that you don't waste any recess time!

Ingredients:
Grapeseed oil
Corn tortillas
Vegan cheese shreds
Kale (can substitute with spinach as well)
Mushrooms

Directions:
1. Tear kale leaves from the ribs, rinse, and set aside.

2. Rinse mushrooms and slice.

3. In a pan with a small amount of oil, sauté the kale for 2 minutes on medium-high heat and then add mushrooms, and sauté for approximately 1 to 2 minutes, until mushrooms are just slightly browning. Drain liquid from the pan.

4. On a griddle or in a large pan, spread a small amount of oil and put down the first corn tortilla over medium heat. Spread cheese shreds on top of the tortilla and add some of the sautéed mushrooms and kale. Finish by adding another corn tortilla on top. Let cook for a couple of minutes, flip, and cook on the other side until desired level of crispness.

5. Cut into four quarters and place in a lunch box to go!

Tip: You can make extras of these for dinner during the week (just reheat and serve) with a salad on the side

rice and beans gluten-free lunch

Mexican Bean Bowl to Go
I love rice and beans, and I think most kids do, too. When my mom packs that in my lunch box, I am so excited that I look forward to lunch the whole morning while I'm at school. We use brown rice for better nutrition, and you could really use any kind of beans and add in cheese, and you can even add extras like guacamole or salsa on the side.  

Ingredients:
½ cup cooked brown rice
½ cup black beans or pinto beans, cooked
Vegan cheese shreds
Salsa

Directions:
1. If rice and beans are not hot from recent cooking, reheat each of these by adding just a little bit of water to the bottom of each pan.

2. Place half the rice in the bottom of a Thermos.

3. Place half the beans on top of the rice.

4. Sprinkle half the cheese shreds on top of the beans (the heat will melt the cheese by the time lunchtime rolls around)

5. Repeat the rice, beans, cheese layers, and close the Thermos up to keep it all hot.

6. Include a small side of salsa for kids who like that extra flavor!

Tip: Cook brown rice and beans ahead of time in large enough quantities to have leftovers for the next couple of days.

gluten-free sandwich

Hummus, Avocado, and Spinach Sandwich
When my mom is in a rush in the morning or I have to be at school early, she likes to pack a sandwich for my lunch. They are quick and easy to put together. This sandwich is tasty and healthy and has a lot of protein in it, too—which is good to give you energy for sports or other activities at recess or during the day. It's probably also good at keeping your brain activated!

Ingredients:
2 slices gluten-free bread
Hummus
½ small avocado
Small handful of spinach leaves

Directions:
1. Spread one side of the bread with hummus

2. Slice the avocado in half and scoop out half of the avocado and, using the back of a fork, lightly smash down the avocado onto the other slice of bread

3. Layer in spinach leaves on top of the bread with hummus and assemble by placing the avocado bread slice on top.

4. Cut in half and pack it up! Add some crisp carrots or other veggie on the side.

gluten-free pasta with olives broccoli

Pasta with Olives and Broccoli
The pasta with olives and broccoli is really good because you can make it for dinner one night and have leftovers for lunch and just reheat it in the morning before school. Or if you have a lot of kids, a big pot of this can make lunches for everyone at the same time. I am happy when I find this in my lunch box because the broccoli gives me a nice crunchy taste, the pasta is brown rice pasta, which I know is better than white rice pasta, and the olives just make me happy because I love olives more than almost any other food.

Ingredients:
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
½ jar kalamata olives, sliced in half
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 8-ounce package brown rice pasta, preferably penne or farfalle

Directions:
1. Warm olive in oil a frying pan over low heat. Add in broccoli florets and cook approximately 3 minutes, or until tender but still crisp. Add in garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 more minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Take pan off heat and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions.

3. Drain the pasta, add back into the pot, and mix with the broccoli, garlic, and olives. Toss together and drizzle additional olive oil, to taste. 

4. Pack in a Thermos to go!

tofu lettuce wraps gluten-free

Tofu Steak Lettuce Wraps
Sometimes it's fun to have a lunch that you can assemble. Friends are always curious what I'm making with all those ingredients! These tofu steak lettuce wraps are yum-in-my-tum delicious. What I do is take the lettuce and add the tofu steak and wrap the lettuce around it. You can also spread hummus on top of it and add peppers or other veggies, too, and eat it like that.  

Ingredients:
1 16-ounce box organic, extra-firm tofu
Italian Seasoning Mix or spices of your choosing
Oil
Butter lettuce leaves, washed and dried
Hummus
¼ red pepper, sliced

Directions:
1. Drain the water out of the tofu and set the block of tofu on a cutting board. Slice it into even slices about ½-inch thick. Lay the tofu slices on a tea towel to soak up the extra water.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

3. In a glass baking dish or on a rimmed baking sheet, spread oil. Place the tofu slices down, making sure to leave space between each one. Using a brush, spread additional oil on top of each slice.

4. Generously sprinkle your spice mix over each slice of tofu.

5. Bake for 15 minutes, flip, and sprinkle more spice mix on top of each slice, and continue baking until golden brown, about 15 minutes more.  Cool then refrigerate.

6. When preparing lunch to go, get two containers ready. In one container, lay down 3 butter lettuce leaves, each one large enough to wrap a tofu slice. In another divided container, place 3 of the tofu steaks on one side, and on the other, place a small side of hummus and the pepper slices. The hummus and peppers can be eaten separately or added to the tofu lettuce wraps.

Tip: Make the tofu steaks the night before for easy-peasy packing in the morning.