ideas for quick gluten-free dairy-free school lunches

I’ve talked a bit about transitioning Jafta to a GFDF diet to help with his sensory processing disorder.  We are still finding this diet to be hugely beneficial, and I thought I would share some tips for packing gluten-free, dairy-free school lunches. A couple months ago, I shared some of the foods we typically send in lunches.  Most of them involved leftovers or foods that required preparation the day before. Today, I’m sharing ideas for quick school lunches that you can assemble in the morning.

quick gfdf gluten-free dairy-free school lunch ideas
1. A turkey sandwich on gluten-free bread is always an easy fix, along with some sweet snap peas and a handful of blueberries.
2. My kids like breakfast burritos for lunch.  A couple scrambled eggs in a corn tortilla, along with some pico de gallo for veggies, makes a filling meal. I usually send this with an easy fruit, like strawberries.
3. Hummus is another great protein option. I like to send a small container along with foods that are great for dipping, like gluten-free crackers, carrots, and jicama.
4. Dr. Praeger’s has a great gluten-free veggie burger that can be taken out of the freezer and popped in the microwave in the morning. I usually send this on a gluten-free bun with whatever fruit I have on hand.
5. No matter how low my pantry stock is getting, I almost always have refried beans and corn tortillas on hand.  This can make an easy, dairy-free “quesadilla”, rounded out with a fruit and veggie like broccoli and grapes.
Do you usually assemble lunches the night before, or in the morning?  What are some of your quick-fix school lunches?

Thanks to GLAD for sponsoring this post. Learn how to make your kids’ summer daze into school days by clicking here to find Mom Made recipes and tips from GLAD.

gluten-free, dairy-free packed lunches

I’ve talked a bit about transitioning Jafta to a GFDF diet to help with his sensory processing disorder.  We are still finding this diet to be hugely beneficial, and I thought I would share some tips for packing GFDF lunches.  I;’m hoping the suggestions I offer below can be useful for kids on regular diets as well. Learning to pack for school lunches was the biggest learning curve in terms of transitioning to a GFDF diet, mainly because I had always relied on The Sandwich as the main event in packing.  It took a shift in thinking to learn to pack GFDF.  The good news is that it now seems really easy.  The bad news is that it takes a bit of prior planning.  Pre-packaged foods are not conducive to GFDF diets.  In my opinion, gluten-free breads and tortillas typically only taste good when freshly warmed or toasted, and Jafta wasn’t really interested in a sandwich on bread that tastes like cardboard.  (Who can blame him?)  So I began relying on leftovers or entrees that I made on the weekend, that I packed in a thermos.  I’ll give some ideas below, but first I’ll share the equipment I use. For me, having the right equipment has helped me develop a framework for each lunch.   For my kids, this involves a thermos (or a re-suable sandwich box if I’m sending a sandwich for my kids who aren’t GFDF), a dual-sided container for fruits and veggies, a soft, flexible lunch box that can stretch a bit to accommodate the thermos, and a refillable water bottle.  I like this system because it also alleviates the waste that is often involved in packed lunches.  I can usually pack a lunch that is free of ziplocs with these items. no-waste packed lunches_thumb[5] I also try to stick to the following formula to try to round-out each meal.  (For some, a lunch formula might sound oppressive, but for me having this structure makes the task of four lunches a little less overwhelming). Each day, I try to pack: 1 protein + 1 starch + 1 veggie + 1 fruit Obviously, a sandwich or a wrap is an easy way to achieve the protein and starch for kids who aren’t GFDF, but here are some ideas of what we typically send with Jafta: gfdf gluten-free dairy-free packed lunch ideas As I mentioned, this does take a little planning.  I typically try to have some rice and beans in the fridge at all times (you can read my easy overnight recipe for beans and rice here).  On Monday evenings, we usually make quinoa pasta shells with ground turkey – a meal all of my kids love – and then have leftovers on hand to send with lunches for the rest of the week.  If I haven’t planned ahead, warming up some canned chili or gluten-free chicken nuggets can work in a pinch, and the thermos usually keeps them warm until lunchtime.  Another favorite for Jafta is a shepherd’s pie that I make in a casserole dish with sweet potatoes, ground turkey, and peas.  This is another easy one to scoop into the thermos. For the veggies and fruit, I usually do something simple like carrots and a GoGo squeeZ applesauce pouch.  (GoGo squeeZ has generously sponsored this post, but I would have included them regardless because we really do use them weekly in the kids’ lunches.  Jafta is a huge fan of their new, tart Apple Cherry flavor.  And so am I.)  An easy packaged veggie is the Sea’s Gift Seaweed Snack packs. My boys love these. How about you? What do you usually pack for lunches?  Any tips for healthy options that require less planning ahead? This post was sponsored by GoGo squeeZ.  You can check out how to get involved in GoGo squeeZ’s “Pass the Play” campaign, with the goal of bringing the joy of play to those who need it most across the country, at

how to make crispy kale chips (a gluten-free, dairy-free recipe for healthy, crunchy snacks)

IMG_1022 Last week our neighbor gave us a huge bunch of kale, and Jafta immediately begged me to make some kale chips.  He is in love with this veggie-based savory snack, so I was happy to oblige. March 2012 215 My neighbor’s kale variety is called dinosaur kale.  Personally, I’m more a fan of the curly kale variety . . . I find it less bitter and a bit more sweet.  But for kale chips, any kind will do. IMG_1028 Step one – remove the kale from the stalk. IMG_1030 Step 2: destem the kale.  This step isn’t mandatory – I just prefer the light, crispy texture of the leaf.  To destem, simply cut the large part of the stem out of the middle.  It’s so easy even a child can do it.  Really. IMG_1029 Jafta was so excited to be using a “grown-up” knife for the first time.  He cut and destemmed that entire bunch of kale, stopping occasionally to thank me sincerely for giving him that privilege.  IMG_1027 Once the kale is destemmed and cut into bite-size pieces, you want to wash it well AND THEN DRY IT.  That last step is crucial to avoid soggy kale.  I use a salad spinner and blot the kale with paper towels, and if it’s a warm day I’ll set it in the sun for a half hour to make sure it’s dry. IMG_1025 Once dry, the hard part is over.  Spread a single layer of kale onto a cookie sheet lined with Silpat Non-Stick Silicone If you don’t have Silpat, you can oil the pan or cook on wax paper.  (But really, why don’t you have Silpat?  Such a worthy investment that makes baking so much easier.)  Spray each kale piece lightly with olive oil.  You can use an Oval Oil Sprayer Bottle,.or Pam has an organic olive oil spray found in grocery stores. This should be a very light spray – too much and you risk them being soggy.  Flip, and spray again.  EVER SO LIGHTLY salt the kale.  It will really shrink as it cooks so it’s easy to oversalt.  I prefer using garlic salt.  If you want, you can also sprinkle it with grated parmesan or nutrional yeast. Pop it into an oven preheated to 350.  It’s hard to give an exact time because it depends on the size of the kale pieces, so check at 5 minutes and then every 2 minutes thereafter.  You’ll know it’s done when the kale feels papery to the touch. IMG_1022 Confession: my kids ate that entire stalk of kale chips in one sitting.  They really are that good.  IMG_1023 Just a tip, though.  If you send some to school with your kids, you might want to label the baggie so it’s not mistaken for something illegal. Getting kale chips right can take some trial and error.  If it doesn’t work out the first time, keep trying.  It’s a delicate vegetable and getting the oil and salt and cook time perfectly balanced can take some experience, but it will be worth it for the salty, crunchy, guilt-free taste!

banana almond oatmeal milkshake (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Is it a smoothie?  Or a milkshake?  I’m not quite sure, but this is my go-to breakfast most mornings.  It’s quick and easy, and the oatmeal makes it surprisingly filling.  At just under 200 calories, it’s a great low-fat, vegan breakfast option.

banana oatmeal smoothie

You’re gonna need:

  • 1 Banana
  • 1 Cup Almond Milk
  • 2 TBSP Oatmeal
  • 1 Cup Ice
  • 1 TSP Stevia (optional)

I use unsweetened Almond Breeze and McCann’s, but if you have celiac you will want an oatmeal that is certified gluten-free.  (McCann’s may have traces of gluten, but certifies that it’s under 5%.)


To handle uncooked oatmeal, you’ll need a high-powered blender like the Blendtec or Vitamix,  Otherwise, you can soak the oatmeal overnight to make it softer.



Wanna kick it up a notch?  Add in some peanut butter and cocoa powder for a chocolaty treat.  Beware, though. You may need to make enough to share


smoothie test kitchen: three recipes for easy green smoothies

I’ve been sharing some of the ways we have practically made the move to accommodate a gluten-free, dairy-free (GFDF) diet in our house, and smoothies are a big part of it.  I love smoothies because it is such an easy way to sneak veggies by my kids.  Spinach in the smoothie.  I swear . . . it’s like magic.  They never notice.  It’s also an easy way to get flax seed in.  Because my pickiest eater is not about to eat a fish-oil supplement.  But a sweet, slushie drink?  That she will do. IMG_0574   Last year, a couple of our readers at Mama Manifesto asked us to post some smoothie recipes beyond the typical OJ/strawberry/banana routine. I made my kitchen became a smoothie testing lab, and I’m pulling the results out of the vault.  It’s such an easy way to get picky eaters an extra serving of fruits and veggies. IMG_0223 For most of my smoothies, I start with a base of orange juice, plain kefir, ground flax seeds, and spinach. I tell you, THEY NEVER NOTICE.  The kefir adds a nice tart kick, and is full of healthy probiotics. Plain yogurt works well, too, and almond is a great creamy substitution for dairy allergies. If your kids are used to sweeter smoothies from sweetened yogurt (which is full of sugar), you could try adding some agave nectar. And about that spinach.  Start with a pinch, and increase every day. If the color is an issue, hide the smoothie in a straw-top sports cup.  But if you use dark berries, the green color will be masked. A note about blenders: high-power blenders like the Blendtec or the Vitamix are really pricy, but for the way we eat it has been a really worthy investment.  Our regular blender had a hard time really blending the greens, and left the smoothies a bit chunky.  If you are blending whole foods a couple times a week, springing for a really good blender might be worth it for you. Last year we sprang for the Blendtec and we really do use it multiple times a day. green smoothies Tropical Green Machine (Jafta’s favorite, gluten-free and dairy-free)
1/2 cup frozen mango
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1/2 cup OJ
1/2 cup almond milk
1 cup kale
1 tbsp flax seed
agave to taste

Berry Blast with Spinach (India’s favorite)
1/2 cup frozen mixed berries
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup kefir
1 cup spinach
1 tbsp flax seed
agave to taste Orange Dream (my favorite)
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup OJ
1/2 cup kefir
1 tbsp flax seed
agave to taste If you try the spinach, you will have to let me know how it works out! Any other ideas for superfoods I can slip into a smoothie?