My oldest is going into Pre-K this year and it will be his first time taking lunch to school. As a self-proclaimed health-foodie, this is an exciting time. I love being challenged to create fun, yet nutritious lunch ideas. Armed with my newly purchased bento box (Lunchbots), I was excited to get started. However, as August rolled around, my daily scrolls of fellow gluten-free bloggers, Pinterest, news outlets, and various social media postings became scoured with articles about “Stress-free Lunch Ideas”, “How to Make Lunch Easier”, “100 Not Boring Lunch Ideas”, etc. What I thought would be a fun endeavor was now looking like a stressful, tedious chore. Am I missing something?
Maybe you are thinking – “oh, her son is a good eater and willingly eats whatever is put in front of him” or “she has no problem spending all night in the kitchen creating a lunch masterpiece, complete with dinosaur shaped vegetables”. Let me set the record straight. First, my son is gluten-free and one of the pickiest eaters I know (see “Food My Son Won’t Eat” below). Also, the last thing I want to do after the kids go to bed, is make lunch. That is valuable “me” time or “me and my shows” time!
I am guessing that I’m not alone out there. All parents want to create fun, healthy lunches for their kids, but somewhere along the way it’s easy to run out of steam, especially being limited by a gluten allergy. My goal is to share some of my son’s lunches with you for 2 reasons. First, maybe your kids don’t like the same things, but there’s a chance you may see something interesting that makes lunchtime more nutritious, more fun, or just plain easier. I am no expert, but I am relentless. I am constantly searching for better recipes and better products, while keeping it simple. Second, this is a way to keep me on my toes. I don’t want my son’s lunch preparation to become a dreaded task. This is a job that should be fun and I am determined to keep it that way!
My plan for this school year is to make healthy lunches for my son that he helps create, while retaining the “fun” factor. I also want to keep it simple and put the lunch together in the morning, quickly and easily.
Every kid’s food preferences are uniquely based on neither facts, nor logic. Sometimes food rejection is based purely on one single bad taste experience or it can be based on just a visual perception or prediction on how it will taste. Cue frustration. Before I get started, I thought it would be helpful to share a list of foods my son will and will not eat. This list will probably make you feel better about your own kid’s eating habits.
Foods My Son Won’t Eat
- Most fruit (with the exception of apples and watermelon on a rare occasion)
- Fruit leather, jam/jelly, or any granola bar/muffin/cookie with dried fruit
- Pasta (I know, this is ridiculous)
- Cheese (unless it comes via pizza or cream cheese)
- Tomatoes, including sauce (unless it comes on pizza)
- Deli meat (with the exception of salami or peperoni)
- Rice or quinoa with anything in it (he only eats it plain)
- Sandwiches (unless it has nut butter)
- Pancakes (though he will eat waffles)
- Soup or stews
- Corn on the cob or kernels
- Chicken fingers or any meat breaded
- Meat with any kind of sauce
- Fish (ok, most kids are in this category)
Do you feel bad for me yet?
Foods My Son Will Eat
- Vegetables – mostly raw and plain (lettuce, spinach, kale, peppers, carrots, broccoli, asparagus)
- Smoothies (this is where I sneak in fruit)
- Nuts and seeds (including nut butters and raw)
- Coconut oil (he can eat it by the spoonful)
- Breads, crackers, muffins, chips (bought and homemade)
- Steak, chicken, burger, hotdog, bacon (always plain)
- Lobster and calamari (????)
- Gluten-free – I am really lucky that he doesn’t care that he’s gluten-free and he doesn’t fret that gluten-free food may look or taste different. He hasn’t stressed about being “different” at school or otherwise. For that, I am grateful. I know this can be a huge factor in other families with food allergies.
So, this is the world I live in. Maybe you are thinking about how lucky you are that your child eats a better variety of food or maybe you are cursing me for the fact that my son will gladly eat a handful of kale. Either way, let’s make school lunches less stressful and try to focus on how it can be a great opportunity to involve our kids in their meals and to be creative.
Here is my first lunchbox post:
- Apple slices – I dipped them in a 10% lemon juice water bath.
- Baby spinach – Before any jealousy occurs, reread the list of food my son won’t eat.
- Plantain chips – If you haven’t tried these, please do. They are delicious. I really like the versions made by Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. They taste like a denser potato chip. Just like bananas, plantains provide a good dose of potassium.
- Homemade brownie – I am a big fan of the blog by Karina of Gluten-Free Goddess®. She has awesome gluten-free recipes for baked goods. I like this brownie recipe because it uses coconut oil instead of butter and it is starch-free. The only flours used are sorghum flour and almond meal. Recipe link
- Uncured Genoa Salami (Always nitrite/nitrate-free and with minimal ingredients. I like Applegate brand which is gluten and casein-free)