Keeping lunch boxes varied and nutritionally balanced can be quite a task! And when everything needs to be made without gluten there is an added challenge. But it doesn’t need to be as big a challenge as it seems with the following helpful tips!
Planning and involving the child when making things for the lunch box is a great way to ensure everything is eaten. Lunches provide around one third of a child’s daily nutritional needs, so it is good to include a balance of protein, dairy, good carbohydrates, fruit, and vegetables. Some of the recipes here will include ways of sneaking in extra veg and fruit.
Remember if you are including a food which is new to a child, they will need to taste it several times before liking it so don’t give up if it comes back on the first day!
Most kids love pasta and rice: Cook batch rice or gluten free penne or fusilli (good size pasta pieces for eating in a hurry) on an evening when it is for dinner. Cool the extra pasta/rice thoroughly under cold water, drain it and put into a container and stir through a glug of olive oil. Put lid on and keep it in the fridge. When cooling rice. It must be cooled completely under cold water and strain, keep in the fridge. It must be totally cold right through the rice to avoid the growth of bacteria, which could cause food poisoning. This can be used for the next 3 to 4 days with a combination of the following stirred through.
- Gluten free red pesto and grated cheese with chopped tomatoes
- Grated cheese with chopped grilled rashers (or ham) and sweetcorn
- Cream cheese with chives, leftover cooked broccoli, and cooked chicken
- Tuna, sweetcorn or diced peppers and gluten free mayonnaise or Greek yogurt.
- Leftover roasted vegetables, crumbled feta cheese.
Each day the combination can be put in a small, lidded container and a spoon added to the lunchbox.
Protein is so important for growing kids – try some of the following simple ideas to get some protein in your child’s diet:
- Poultry: Cook plain (or ones seasoned with Cajun spices for the more adventurous child) chicken breasts and have them with any lunch or dinner. Or stir-fry strips of turkey breast in olive oil, lemon and thyme (or any combination your child likes).
- Beef: Thin strips of lean steak like striploin could also be stir-fried with black pepper. These can be cooled and stored in the fridge for 3 days, to use with pasta or salad or for sandwiches. This type of option is less high in salt than processed meats
- Eggs can be hard boiled and stored in the fridge in the shell until needed. Peel and mix with chopped scallions and gluten free mayonnaise or simply cut in wedges and put into a small, lidded box for lunch.
Even if you are not used to baking the following savoury muffins are easy and children will enjoy making them. Make a batch of twelve and freeze them wrapped individually, take one out of freezer the night before for next day. You can vary the cheeses and the veg in the recipe.
Cheese and bacon muffins (make 12)
Prep time 15 mins.
Cooking time 20 mins
- 6 bacon rashers bacon grilled and chopped (or use cooked ham or diced chorizo)
- 8 free range eggs
- 8 tablespoons full-fat live yoghurt
- 8 tablespoons coconut flour
- 3oz/75g of grated mature Cheddar
- 4 scallions chopped finely
- A handful of baby spinach leaves cut finely
- ¼ teaspoon gluten free baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon of smoked paprika
- Pinch black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 170C Fan/Gas mark 6. Put muffin papers into a 12-hole muffin tray
2. Beat the eggs and the yoghurt together in a large bowl until combined then stir in the remaining ingredients except the spinach and scallions, mix well and finally fold in the scallions and spinach
3. Divide the muffin batter equally among the cases in the prepared muffin tin, the mixture should be around three-quarters of the way up the sides.
4. Bake for 18-20 minutes, check they are cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre of the muffins and it should come out clean.
Other combinations for these muffins that work well
• Feta cheese, tomato, and spinach
• Carrot, cheddar, and ham
• Tuna, cheese, and chive
• Cooked salmon, cheese, and spinach
Courgette and vegetable pizza ( 6 portions)
This can be made, cooled, and sliced, to pop into lunch boxes. Great served hot or cold.
Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time :30/35 mins
- 2 large courgettes grated
- eggs 3
- vegetable oil
- 2oz/60g of gluten free oats or flour
- 1 tablespoon of chopped flat parsley
- Cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoons of tomato puree or passata
- 250g of combination of chopped peppers, tomatoes, cooked broccoli, sliced mushrooms (or any vegetable topping of your choice)
- 70 g of Edam cheese, grated
- Place grated courgette in a colander and allow to drain for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 180°C and brush a non-stick a baking dish with a little vegetable oil.
- Beat eggs and vegetable oil together in a large bowl, add flour or oats and mix well
- Add the drained courgette, chopped parsley and black pepper, and mix.
- Spread the mixture in a baking dish and bake for 10-15 minutes until the base is set and firm
- Remove from oven, spread with tomato paste or passata
- Place prepared vegetables on top and finish with Edam cheese.
- Return to the oven and bake at 180°C for about 25 minutes. 9. Remove from oven, cool and slice into squares.
Another handy pizza for lunchboxes can be made using mini gluten free pitta breads, use the basic tomato sauce in this article for the pizza.
- Pitta pizza: Using a gluten free pitta bread, top it with 2 tablespoons of passata or tomato sauce and add baby spinach leaves. Season with salt and pepper, top the spinach with a couple of slices of buffalo mozzarella and grated cheddar and bake in a preheated oven at 180°c for 10 mins. After the passata is on you can add any of your favourite toppings.
Meatballs are a quick and easy recipe to make in a batch. They have many uses for lunch.
Served in gluten free pitta bread, served with salad, or added to gluten free pasta for a cold pasta salad.
- Beef and pork mince 350 g (200g of beef 150g of pork)
- 2 medium carrots, finely grated
- 1 clove garlic chopped t a paste
- 1 egg
- 1 cup of gluten free wholemeal breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs, (flat parsley, oregano, thyme)
- 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, finely chopped (optional)
- 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
- Heat oven to 225°C.
- Mix all ingredients together and knead until a little bit sticky.
- Roll into bite sized balls and place on baking parchment on roasting tray or on a non-stick roasting tray
- Roast in oven for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through and browned.
- Remove from oven and serve hot or allow to cool on the tray.
Basic Tomato Sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 6 cloves garlic cut in half
- ¼ tsp of dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon of tomato puree
- 2 x 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp Salt, Coarse ground black pepper
- Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, cook the onions for 5 minutes until soft
- Add the oregano, garlic, and tomato paste, cook while stirring for 3 minutes.
- Add tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes, stir in the salt pepper and sugar
This sauce is perfect - basil or fresh oregano can be added. The sauce goes well with chicken, fish, or meat. It works particularly well with the addition of gluten free chorizo. I love to serve it with baked monkfish, cod, or hake. It can also be used for pizza.
Creamy hummus is always popular with children but do you know how easy and cost effective it is to make? One tin with the following recipe will make enough for at least three days! Simply chop carrot sticks, strips of pepper or include gluten free crackers or some corn tortilla chips for lunches!
Hummus (serves 6)
Prep time: 10 mins
- 1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained
- 1 clove garlic peeled
- 1 tablespoon of light tahini (see note below)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Good pinch of ground cumin (or smoked paprika)
- Good pinch of cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of water
- 1 tablespoon of Marigold Engevita nutritional yeast (optional)
- Blend everything in a food processor until smooth, if it is very thick add a little more water.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge. It is a good idea if you can, to divide it into small tubs which will fit into lunch boxes, then it is ready to pack for mornings
*Tahini is traditionally made of sesame seeds, lemon and olive oil, garlic and water. Some shop bought brands may have a thickener added which may include gluten. Please check label