50 Gluten Dairy Grain Free Lunch Box Ideas How to Pack Lunch on a Special Diet

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Download our handout on GFCF and Grain-Free Lunches

There are a lot of children on special diets. In our Nourishing Hope community the following diets are very helpful for kids with ADHD, Autism, and neurodevelopmental delays…

  • GFCF Diet
  • Paleo Diet
  • Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)
  • GAPS diet

But for parents new to special diets, some of the most common questions I get when I suggest a gluten-free/casein-free or Paleo diet are,

“What is my child going to eat?”

“How do I pack lunch on a special diet?”

One of the challenges of school lunch is that we parents are not there to supervise and make sure/encourage they eat all of their lunch.

Many of you know it can be tricky. They will eat the same meal at home but then when they are at school the might not. On the other hand, if we give them the foods they love that are not as healthy “just to get them to eat” they avoid all of the healthy stuff and only eat the junk.

Being the mother of an elementary school child, I have been experimenting for a couple of years on what’s best to put in my daughter’s lunch box that is healthy and delicious.

And I’ve settled on a strategy that works best for us…

A Paleo lunch box

For example, if I feed my daughter a sandwich sometimes she will eat just the bread and not the meat/protein. If I put crackers or a sweet treat, she may eat them but not the vegetable and protein.

There are a couple ways we handle this, most often I do not make a sandwich (unless it’s a tuna or salmon salad sandwich which she tends to love and eat the protein).

I also avoid including the treats, which requires her to eat the healthy choices available. If I do include a treat, I tell her she needs to eat the meat and vegetable or I won’t serve the treat on the next special occasion.

This combination of nutrition and parenting techniques works well for her.

What I do most often choose from several categories of food (protein, vegetable, fruit) and put a Paleo style lunch together. This way we avoid the bread, starches, and sugars and focus on the healthy food. One note about lunchmeat/deli meat. Always check the ingredients list (or ask the deli manager if you are buying it at the deli counter) as seasonings, brines, marinades, or flavorings can have additives like MSG, gluten, and/or dairy.

Post it on your refrigerator… add your own options and ideas… And get packing!

Julie Matthews is a Certified Nutrition Consultant who received her master’s degree in medical nutrition with distinction from Arizona State University. She is also a published nutrition researcher and has specialized in complex neurological conditions, particularly autism spectrum disorders and ADHD for over 20 years. Julie is the award winning author of Nourishing Hope for Autism, co-author of a study proving the efficacy of nutrition and dietary intervention for autism published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nutrients, and also the founder of BioIndividualNutrition.com. Download her free guide, 12 Nutrition Steps to Better Health, Learning, and Behavior.

References for this article:

  1. Manikam, Ramasamy, and Jay A. Perman. “Pediatric feeding disorders.” Journal of clinical gastroenterology 30, no. 1 (2000): 34-46.
  2. Mayes, Susan Dickerson, and Hana Zickgraf. “Atypical eating behaviors in children and adolescents with autism, ADHD, other disorders, and typical development.” Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders 64 (2019): 76-83.
  3. Levine, A. S., J. E. Morley, B. A. Gosnell, C. J. Billington, and T. J. Bartness. “Opioids and consummatory behavior.” Brain research bulletin 14, no. 6 (1985): 663-672.
  4. Masic, Una, and Martin R. Yeomans. “Does monosodium glutamate interact with macronutrient composition to influence subsequent appetite?.” Physiology & behavior 116 (2013): 23-29.
  5. Goto, Tomoko, Michio Komai, Hitoshi Suzuki, and Yuji Furukawa. “Long-term zinc deficiency decreases taste sensitivity in rats.” The Journal of nutrition 131, no. 2 (2001): 305-310.
  6. DeJesus, J. M., Gelman, S. A., Herold, I., & Lumeng, J. C. (2019). Children eat more food when they prepare it themselves. Appetite, 133, 305-312.
  7. Heim, S., Stang, J., & Ireland, M. (2009). A garden pilot project enhances fruit and vegetable consumption among children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(7), 1220-1226.
  8. Ghanizadeh, A. “Parents reported oral sensory sensitivity processing and food preference in ADHD.” Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing 20, no. 5 (2013): 426-432.

4 Comments

  1. Deli meat basting may have gluten.

    Reply
    • Very true, Shasha! This is something I always mention to my nutrition clients, thanks for pointing out my oversight here. I’ll be sure to add it to the post.

      Reply
  2. My son is ASD, ADHD, & anxious. He has allergies to all tree nuts, peanuts, & all shellfish. He’s allergic to wheat and coconut but not casin. We just found out hat he’s pre-dietbetic. Hess been waking up and eating lots of fruit in the middle of the night. Do you have suggestive for his diet

    Reply
    • Hi Sandy, Terri here, one of the moderators for Nourishing Hope. Specific nutritional recommendations cannot be made through blog comments. Unfortunately Julie is not taking new clients at this time. However, if you are looking for a step-by-step program for education on determining the best nutritional intervention for your child, I highly encourage you to take a look at our program which does have a private FB community and monthly Q&A calls with Julie. https://nourishinghope.com/program

      Reply

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