25 Super Easy Gluten-Free Lunchbox Ideas that DON’T include Ants-On-A-Log :)

When Back-To-School ads start up, some moms start planning out outfits, and some start sorting out school supplies. In our house, this mom’s brain goes straight to the box ~ the LUNCHBOX! I am constantly considering how to send interesting foods to school with my kiddos, lunches that will make them SO excited about eating lunch that they will forget all about what the majority of their classmates are sitting down to {less than ideal school lunches of empty calories, lacking nutritional value, and a lot of allergens that we must avoid}. 

I put together 25 quick and easy ideas this morning. I hope these can inspire you to get creative with your lunch box options as you send your students off to the lunchroom this year.

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1. Apples with Nutbutter or Seedbutter: Sliced apples can be soaked in lemon water, or in water with a drop of lemon or lime essential oil (food grade & organic preferably). Pair this with a small container of almond butter or, our favorite is Cashew Butter. There are a few companies that even offer small single serving pouches that are great to pack in a lunch box. For all-natural varieties, try Justin’s or Barney Butter. If you want an organic, raw variety and are willing to spend a little extra money, look for the Artisana brand.
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2. Gluten Free Pretzels and Mustard for dipping
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3. Mama Chia Pouches, or your own homemade chia pudding.
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4. Spring Rolls. I love to make these rice paper spring rolls. I can fit ALL sorts of raw veggies into them. I like to quickly blend some frozen mango, a little lemon or lime juice, and a little avocado oil to make a quick dipping sauce, too!  The rice paper can be found at most grocery stores on the ethnic isle. Give yourself some practice time, but I know you will be able to roll a spring roll in no time!
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5. Ham or Prosciutto wrapped pears or apples. Yummy!
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6. Lunchmeat Pinwheels. Roll with cheese, or, if you are dairy free, you can use hummus and veggies and roll them up into your favorite nitrite free lunch meat. Serve as is, or slice into little bite-sized pinwheels.

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7. Gluten Free Bread (toasted optional) or Organic Rice Cakes topped with Nut or Seed Butter. We like to vary these. Sometimes we top with fruit and almost always our mix of cinnamon and organic granulated coconut sugar.
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8. Bento pressed rice. These are just fun and cute and kids love them! You can find some fun bento molds and cutters on amazon.
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9. Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps – Perfect for leftover chicken. I use homemade mayo or even hummus as a dressing and send in lettuce wraps.

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10. Gluten-Free Tortilla Wraps – Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Tortillas work well here at our house. There are also potato tortillas, corn tortillas, or venture out and make your own, like these cauliflower pita wraps!
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11. Yogurt & Berries
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12. Meatballs – We do meatballs in our thermos often! You can send them just alone, or put some rice, quinoa, or mashed potatoes in the bottom. Kids love a hot meal at lunch.
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13. Fresh Fruit and/or Nuts – Need I say More?
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14. Gluten Free Pasta Salad – I like to use a organic brown rice pasta, like Tinkyada brand or Jovial brand. Great for leftover pasta, you can dress with a vinaigrette, like one of our favorites by Annie’s Naturals called Papaya Poppy-Seed, or you can use a high-quality or homemade mayo, or even hummus. Be sure to add lots of fresh veggies. Olives are a favorite here, too!
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15. Organic Rice Crackers sandwiched with nutbutter or seed butter
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16. Yogurt with Granola – We are Dairy, Soy, and one of us is Coconut Free, so this Almond-Milk based yogurt by So Delicious is a great option for us!
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17. Hard Boiled Eggs : serve them any way you like them. We do them plain, we do them deviled, and we do them “Greek”, with the yolk removed and replaced with hummus! You can even replace the yolk with guacamole, although I find that avocados don’t always last well all the way until lunchtime, so we save our avocado-eating for home where we can serve them up fresh. 🙂

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18. Veggies & Hummus – we love the individual size organic hummus from Costco. They are really friendly on the budget, too. Serve with any raw veggies you like! My kids really like sweet peppers, blanched green beans, carrots, even black olives!
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19. Gluten Free Garlic Bread Sticks with Pizza Dip – This can be as simple as taking your favorite brand of GF bread  {or your homemade cauliflower pita), rubbing it with butter or coconut oil, sprinkling with garlic, and toasting. Cut into strips, & serve with a side of Organic Pizza or Pasta Sauce. If you really want to get fancy, wrap the bread sticks with nitrite free lunch meat or pepperoni, too!
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20. Oatmeal in a thermos – who says you can’t send breakfast for lunch?! My daughter loves oatmeal, ANY time of day! { Or really porridge of any kind }. We do a thermos of oatmeal sometimes, and then I send a small container of dairy-free milk and some great healthy toppings for her to create her own lunch masterpiece with.

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21. Nitrite Free Pepperoni or Salami
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22. Skewered Chicken & Pineapple – another great way to use leftover chicken!
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23. Thermos of leftovers – I could create another 25-log list on JUST the leftovers I have sent in a thermos to school! I love a good crock pot meal that leaves enough leftovers for the next school day! Meatloaf, soups, stews, roasts, pulled pork, mashed sweet potatoes with coconut sugar and pecans, sauerkraut and hot dogs, beans, beanie weenies… ANYTHING!
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24. This kind of goes along with the previous, but there are lots of store-bought soups that go great in your thermos as well. One of my daughter’s favorites is Pacific Foods’ Lentil Soup. For gluten-free options, check the labels and try to avoid anything with a rue or with regular pasta. For dairy free, be sure you check the bottom of the ingredients list for the words CONTAINS: MILK or check highlighted ingredients inside the list.
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25. Tomato and Mozzarella Skewers – For some reason, anything skewered become more appealing to kids! This is one of my son’s favorite combinations. We look for organic, preferably raw mozzarella when we can find it. For my dairy-free kiddo, we just do veggies and leave off the cheese. We love raw cauliflower in our house.
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Best of luck getting your little ones off to a healthy school-lunch start this school year! Share you successful lunch box stories with us! And share your ideas if you have them, too! I would love to hear the healthy ways you are navigating the lunchroom!  ~Happy Lunchboxing~

Gluten-Free Eggplant Primavera Pasta Dinner {Gluten-Free, Vegan}

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One of the staples in my gluten-free kitchen, from the very beginning of my gluten-free days until now, is brown rice pasta. In the beginning, I used pastas quite often, not every day, but nearly. They were easy and were a gluten free meal that everyone in the house would eat and not complain about – which meant ONE meal for me to cook. That was always more appealing to me – the less work for me part. And the bonus was the happy faces part, for sure.

Adding to those positives, I began to get very creative in my “sneaky chef” ways with pasta sauces. We were on some supplements fro a while that I could easily hide into sauces for my non-pill-swallowing daughter. I could juice greens or carrots and stir them into the sauce after it cooled down a bit, adding a burst of phytonutrients into the kid’s bodies {this was super appealing to me!}. I could roast garlic and other veggies and blend them in my Vitamix with no complaints from the crowd. 

Now, years later, my kids’ taste buds have become more acclimated to larger textures and more complex flavors, so I have a lot of fun coming up with combinations for topping our Organic Brown Rice pasta on pasta night, and it always feels like a treat since we eat far fewer pasta meals than we used to. Hope you enjoy tonight’s primavera recipe!

Gluten-Free Eggplant Primavera

1 small-medium organic eggplant, medium dice
6 organic Roma tomatoes, small dice
1/4 – 1/2 organic onion, fine dice
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped?
Sliced green and black olives, I used 6 of each
1/2-1 cup fresh chopped organic basil
3-4 tablespoons organic olive oil
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Organic Brown Rice Spaghetti or Angel Hair Pasta {my favorite two brands are Tinkyada and Jovial}

Start boiling your water for the pasta.

As you bring your water to a boil, prepare your sauce by first chopping all of your fresh, organic produce. Heat the oil  over medium high heat in the largest skillet you have. Add the onions, garlic, eggplant and salt and pepper to the pan. Brown the eggplant a bit, stirring everything as you sauté.

Check your pasta water and go ahead and drop your pasta in if you have a rolling boil.

Once the eggplant has cooked down a bit in your skillet, and the onion and garlic have softened, add in your tomatoes and olives. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes on medium heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the basil at the end and toss everything together.

Strain the pasta once it is cooked to your liking. Serve the chunky primavera sauce over your pasta, add another pinch of your fresh basil, and enjoy!  Easy Peasy Gluten Freesy!  {And the perfect meal for any meatless Monday}.

Happy Pasta Night, Canaries!
~Kendra