The return to school can be a challenging time for parents and kids alike, particularly when it comes to getting kids to eat their lunch! Children love to play with their food. They also enjoy a rainbow of colors and a variety of textures. With these ideas in mind, you can turn just about any lunch into one they will dig into. Here are some easy ways to offer variety and fun in your child’s lunchbox.
Get creative with pizza crust. Slice an eggplant or zucchini into thin pieces and bake in your toaster oven with your child’s favorite tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings. This is a great way to get more vegetables into their lunch.
Make oodles of noodles. Switch things up with cooked spaghetti squash or spiraled vegetables with the help of a spiralizer kitchen gadget. Add your child’s favorite pasta sauce and voilà! This is another way to pack more veggie punch at lunch.
Be quick with quinoa. Quinoa is an easy addition to salads and soups and makes a wonderful, versatile side dish. It is an excellent substitution for nutrient-lacking white rice. It will fuel your child with complete protein, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus. Boil gluten-free quinoa in the evening, let it cool, and add your child’s favorite finely diced vegetables, herbs, or dried fruits. Store your quinoa in an air-tight container in the fridge overnight.
Add some fun: find food picks. Think about the cute little umbrellas in cocktails. Didn’t you love playing with those as a kid? For children who are old enough, keep cake and cupcake decorations, as well as other food items with child-safe picks. Clean them and insert them into fruit, vegetables, and sandwiches.
Create cookie cutter sandwiches. It is easy to turn a plain sandwich into an irresistible one with a good cookie cutter. Simply make your child’s sandwich and push down on the cutter to cut shapes out. (This idea works best with bread that is not toasted or frozen.)
Boil egg people. Boiled eggs are an eggsellent healthy protein source. After you boil your eggs, make or attach faces, arms, legs, and any accessories you like. For example, use gluten-free pretzels for arms, raisins for eyes, etc.
Fix some fruit kebobs. Cut up your child’s favorite fruit (of various colors) into bite sized pieces and put on a kebob stick. Make sure the ends of the sticks are not sharp.
Try tasty snacks
Create some custom trail mix. Pack a snack your child will love! Write out a list of your child’s favorite bite-sized gluten-free munchies and make a custom trail mix. For example, include healthful foods like dried fruit, banana chips, coconut chips, and tiger nuts (which are not actually nuts—they are part of the tuber vegetable family—and are school safe).
Hatch up homemade granola bars. Another nutrient-dense snack is homemade granola bars. When you make them yourself, you can eliminate white sugar, additives, and preservatives. Add pieces of your child’s favorite dried fruit. If you use oats, make sure they are pure, gluten free, and free of cross-contamination.
Veggies are vital. Do not forget the veggies. Buy in-season, local produce your child loves. Accompany with a small container of homemade Tzatziki dip with Greek yogurt and a little olive oil, lemon juice, chopped garlic, chopped or dried dill, diced cucumber, salt, and pepper.
Add extra crunch. Seaweed snacks (nori) are an excellent replacement for potato chips. They satisfy the need to munch and crunch something salty. Seaweed contains calcium, iodine, folate, magnesium, and B vitamins. When giving these snacks to children, beware of the small toxic packages that are included in each pack to maintain freshness, and remove beforehand.
Dig into this dessert recipe
Gluten-free pastries are a welcome change, especially when they turn out soft and flaky. Try this delightful mini fruit Danish recipe from Schär. Their puff pastry is incredibly versatile for Danishes. Once you know how to fold a Danish, the fillings are endless. Here is one option (raspberry apricot) to start you off.
Gluten-Free Raspberry Apricot Danishes
1/2 package Schär Puff Pastry Dough
1 can apricots, halved
1 jar organic raspberry jam
Powdered sugar (optional)
Allow the Puff Pastry to thaw at room temperature for 3 hours until it yields when poked, but is still cold.
You can also defrost in the microwave on the defrost setting for 5 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Drain the apricots and cut each half in half, until you have nine quarters of apricots.
Unroll one sheet of Puff Pastry and cut into nine equal squares.
Take the first square. Using a sharp knife, cut ¼ inch into the border of the square, the cut only meeting in two corners opposite each other.
Gently fold one corner flap to hug the cut line on the opposite side.
Take the opposite corner and fold it over the border you just made, so it hugs the outside line of the opposite side.
Use water liberally to seal the folds.
Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Repeat the above step with remaining squares.
Drop a teaspoon dollop of raspberry jam in each cavity.
Place a quarter of apricot on top of each raspberry jam dollop.
Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Dust a wee bit of powdered sugar over your baked Danishes and enjoy!
This is just one of several kid-friendly recipes found in the handy and informative Schär “Celiac Disease 101: For Parents & Children” e-book. In addition to tasty recipes, the e-book also contains information about what celiac disease is, hidden sources of gluten, cross contact, gluten-free ingredients, tips for navigating social situations, fun activities for kids, and more. You can download the e-book here for more information.