| | | | | | | |

2 More Weeks of Healthy School Lunches

2 Weeks of Healthy School Lunches – Here are 10 more healthy school lunches your kids will LOVE. (Gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, and vegan options included!) 

Collage of images of gluten-free healthy school lunches for kids in colorful lunch boxes

Can we all just agree this is the most insane school year ever? Usually, back to school time has me vacillating between singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and wishing we had juuuuust a few more days of summer break. This year, we’ve started the year distance learning, so we’re all still finding our footing, but one of the things I really LOVE about the start of school is routines. Both my kids really love the predictability of routine and our most prominent school routine is school lunch packing.

With gluten and dairy intolerances, we pack lunches for every single school day. It’s a regular part of the school routine and it’s been SO GREAT to have both kids big enough to pack their own lunches the last three years. They do most of the packing and help me come up with the ideas for the week.

We have already shared 2 Weeks of Healthy School Lunch Ideas, but now I’m back with two MORE weeks of healthy school lunches to enjoy. All are gluten-free and dairy-free, with some paleo and vegan options tossed in, too!

So whether you’re headed to your school building or your kitchen table for school this year, here are a few yummy lunches to fuel your day…

A NOTE BEFORE YOU BEGIN: My goal isn’t that every single thing be nutritionally “perfect” or that we spend hours crafting intricately shaped cheese flowers to be packed the next day. My goal is easy, relatively healthy, reliable lunches my kids can help pack. (You can see more about our philosophy on school lunches HERE.) Now, let’s get to it! 

Mom packing school lunches at the counter.

FIRST UP: GEAR YOU’LL SEE IN THESE LUNCHES

SHOP OUR PICKS:

OMIE BOX LUNCH BOXES. We’ve owned these for a full year and both kids used them every single school day of the year. We have LOVED them and been so impressed by how well they’ve held up. They’re a bit more of an investment upfront, but after a full year of heavy use, ours still look brand new. They come in PINK, BLUE, PURPLE, GREEN, and YELLOW

  • I like that they come with a removable thermos you can use for hot or cool items, or just to divide things differently. (If you remove the thermos insert, the largest box easily fits a sandwich.)
  • The side compartment also has a movable (or removable) insert you can use to divide that section differently if you need a larger or smaller area to work with. Note: that side divider isn’t airtight, so I put anything liquid or juicy in the top compartment or the thermos area.
  • If you need a more budget-friendly box, we also own and like these Easy Lunchboxes, which Michael takes to work every day (and we used for the kids before they got the Omie Boxes)

SMALL CONTAINERS FOR SAUCES & DIPS. Sometimes a little condiment goes a long way. If you need something to hold ranch dressing, hummus, ketchup, fruit dip, yogurt, or smaller items like trail mix, we like these little boxes. The lids are easy to remove for kids, but they stay put really well, too.

SILICONE MUFFIN LINERS. These little silicone muffin tin liners work great for actual muffins, but we primarily use ours for dividers in the lunchboxes. They can help wrangle trail mix, hold cubes of meat or cheese, nuts or seeds, sliced berries, crackers, granola, etc. They also help keep things from touching (the horror!) if you’ve got a kiddo who hates food touching other food (been there!).

REUSABLE OR BIODEGRADABLE UTENSILS. Last year, I got a set of these inexpensive BPA-free plastic utensils that my kids can easily pack with them. We haven’t lost one yet, but I like knowing that if one accidentally gets forgotten, lost, or thrown away, it’s not expensive to replace. They’re also dishwasher safe, which is a big win. If you need something disposable, these wooden utensils are biodegradable.

Now, for the actual lunches…

Gluten Free Vegan Beans and Rice School Lunch with Sugar Snap Peas, Orange Wedges, and Animal Crackers

1. RICE & BEANS (GLUTEN FREE & VEGAN)

I warm this up in the morning and put it the thermos right before they leave for school. It’s a simple combination of rice and beans (you can jazz it up with a spoonful of salsa if your kids like it!) that feels fun and different paired with some fresh, bright sides.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX:

  • BLACK BEANS AND RICE. I just use leftover cooked rice and canned or pressure cooker black beans. Sometimes, I’ll stir in a bit of cilantro and lime juice or a spoonful of salsa for Sophie. (As pictured)
  • SUGAR SNAP PEAS. Sophie’s just gotten into these. Sugar snap are her favorite, but snow peas also work!
  • ORANGES. Orange slices/wedges or a little Cutie mandarin. So refreshing and light.
  • A SIDE OF GUAC OR SALSA. If you want, you can put in a little container of salsa or guacamole for them to stir in.
  • OR ANIMAL CRACKERS. We used these gluten-free ones that also come in graham and chocolate flavors. (I get them at Sprouts)
Gluten Free, Vegan Cream Cheese and Jam Sandwich School Lunch with Plantain Chips, Kiwi, and Bell Pepper Slices from One Lovely Life

2. CREAM CHEESE & JAM SANDWICH (GLUTEN FREE & VEGAN)

This is THE only actual between-bread sandwich I’ve included in any of my lunch posts! It’s just a little bit different and one of Sophie’s favorites. We use Kite Hill dairy-free almond-based cream cheese and raspberry jam or jelly, but you can certainly mix and match different combinations. (You can also make your own dairy-free cream cheese or use the regular stuff if you tolerate dairy!)

WHAT’S IN THE BOX:

  • CREAM CHEESE & RASPBERRY JAM SANDWICH (we used gluten-free bread)
  • PLANTAIN “CHIPS” like these
  • KIWI. (Try golden kiwi for variety–it’s awesome!)
  • SLICED BELL PEPPERS
Gluten Free, Dairy Free Pancake School Lunch with Berry Sauce, Rice Cakes, Mango, Blueberries, and Chocolate Covered Raisins

3. PANCAKES FOR LUNCH! (GF + PALEO-FRIENDLY)

Breakfast for dinner is one of our favorites, so why not have breakfast for lunch!? Pop in some yummy pancakes (cook them small enough to fit in the thermos if you want them warm), then serve with berry sauce or jam (less messy than syrup!) and some fresh fruit. It makes for a fun, just-a-bit different healthy lunch that’s so fun!

WHAT’S IN THE BOX:

  • PANCAKES. Make your favorite gluten-free pancakes (like these homemade ones or this mix) or regular ones. (Or paleo ones!)
  • BERRY SAUCE. I thaw some fresh strawberries or raspberries and mash them with a drizzle of honey and a bit of water to thin it out & strain the seeds as needed. It makes a yummy dip!
  • BLUEBERRIES AND MANGO. Mix and match whatever fruit sounds good!
  • CHOCOLATE COVERED RAISINS. SUCH a fun treat! Make homemade or pick up some store-bought ones. Sprouts sells some yummy dark chocolate ones!
  • POPCORN CHIPS OR RICE CAKES. Not totally necessary, but a fun addition if your little one craves something crunchy (mine do!). We like these sea salt ones or the cinnamon ones. Learn how to make your own microwave popcorn without additives here.
Gluten Free Vegan School Lunch with Tomato Soup, Gluten Free Croutons, Energy Bites and Cinnamon Apple Chips

4. TOMATO SOUP & CROUTONS (GF + VEGAN + PALEO-FRIENDLY)

Both my kids love tomato soup, and this is a great lunch for the colder months. I warm it up in the morning and tuck it into the thermos for later in the day. Croutons take the place of a sandwich to dip and can be made ahead of time. (I use this method) They’re fun to dip or stir in!

WHAT’S IN THE BOX:

  • TOMATO SOUP. We use this recipe and it’s SO MUCH better than anything store-bought I’ve ever tried. (It also happens to be vegan + paleo.)
  • CROUTONS. I make homemade ones using this method (gluten free!), but store-bought works if you can find them! Or, for a paleo option, swap in some plantain chips or almond flour crackers for dipping.
  • APPLE CHIPS. These are a great change of pace and don’t require any refrigeration. Bare Snacks makes good ones that are unsweetened. The cinnamon ones are my favorite! Apple slices also work well.
  • ENERGY BITES. We pretty much always have a batch of these no bake cookie energy bites on hand.  Our school is peanut-free, so we make them with almond or cashew butter during the school year (sunflower seed butter also works!). These Coconut Lime ones, Lemon Energy Bites, or these Nut-Free Chocolate Cherry ones are other school-safe choices!
Gluten Free Dairy Free School Lunch with Dairy Free Ranch, Fresh Veggies, Popcorn, Strawberries, and Chocolate Covered Almonds

5. A “DIPPING BOX” (GF + VEGAN-FRIENDLY, PALEO-FRIENDLY)

Sometimes my kids just want something snack-y or fun. This healthy school lunch is PERFECT for something fun, and it’s still a pretty well-rounded meal. I put some of my homemade ranch dressing in one of these mini containers (pack it with a lid!), then add different dippers–carrots, celery, cucumber, turkey or deli-meat roll-ups, etc. (You can put them in little muffin tin liners if your kids like things separated.) On the side, I add a few other fun snack-y choices and round things out.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX:

  • RANCH DRESSING. I use my favorite homemade kind (it’s dairy-free and easily vegan!), but use what you like!
  • VEGGIES TO DIP. Celery, carrots, cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, cucumber slices, bell peppers, broccoli–whatever!
  • POPCORN. Did you know popcorn is a whole grain? It is! I pop my own in 2 minutes with this method. You can serve it plain, buttered, salted, or flavored. Whatever you like! Or, swap in some cassava chips or almond flour crackers for a paleo option.
  • STRAWBERRIES. They’re always a favorite with my kids and hold up well in a lunchbox.
  • CHOCOLATE COVERED ALMONDS for a fun treat. Target sells these ones without dairy and Trader Joe’s and Sprouts also have options. (Swap chocolate covered raisins for a nut-free option!)
Gluten Free Vegan School Lunch with Dairy Free Yogurt, Berry Sauce, Fresh Berries, Carrot Chips and Granola Bar from One Lovely Life

6. YOGURT WITH BERRY SAUCE (GF + VEGAN + PALEO-FRIENDLY)

My kids love mixing things up themselves, so a little plain or vanilla yogurt with some homemade berry sauce always feels fun to them. I put the yogurt in the thermos compartment, then make a berry sauce for them to swirl in. Fun, delicious, easy! (The perfect healthy school lunch!)

WHAT’S IN THE BOX:

  • PLAIN OR VANILLA YOGURT. We like CoYo & SoDelicious for dairy-free options, but Greek yogurt is great, too!
  • BERRY SAUCE. Thaw some frozen raspberries with a tiny drizzle of honey and a splash of water and give it a rough mash. Or, puree and strain the seeds out with a sieve for a smooth version, as pictured.
  • FRESH BERRIES. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries. Whatever looks good!
  • CARROT CHIPS. These carrot chips are literally just carrots and sea salt!
  • GRANOLA BAR. We like these homemade ones (they’re easy to make nut-free!) or these store-bought ones. Swap in a paleo-approved bar or energy bites for a paleo lunch!
Gluten Free Dairy Free Muffins School Lunch with Pretzels, Trail Mix, and Cherries

7. MUFFIN MANIA (GF + VEGAN-FRIENDLY + PALEO-FRIENDLY)

We’re mega muffin fans over here, so there’s always an option to choose from. Pair it with some fruit and other munchies, and your muffin lover will be a happy camper!

WHAT’S IN THE BOX:

Gluten Free Pizza Pasta School Lunch with Ants on a Log and Applesauce Pouch from One Lovely Life

8. PIZZA PASTA (GF + VEGAN-FRIENDLY)

It’s kind of a bummer to sit next to all your friends in the cafeteria on pizza Friday when you’re a gluten-free, dairy-free kid. Pizza pasta comes to the rescue! I use gluten-free pasta with marinara, then add pizza toppings like diced pepperoni and olives. It feels fun and satisfies the pizza craving all in one go. (I warm it up right before they leave for the day, then pop it in the thermos.)

WHAT’S IN THE BOX:

  • PIZZA PASTA. I use brown rice spiral gluten-free noodles, red sauce (like this), and things like pepperoni and olives. Feel free to add whatever pizza toppings your child likes–pineapple and ham, peppers and sausage, cheese, whatever!
  • AN APPLESAUCE POUCH. Sometimes you need a good grab ‘n’ go option and these applesauce pouches are always a win for my kids. You can also make your own using these reusable pouchesThey’re dishwasher safe and pretty easy to fill!
  • ANTS ON A LOG. Spread nut or seed butter (or even cream cheese!) onto celery sticks and add raisins on top. It’s a classic for a reason!
Gluten Free Vegan Bean Dip School Lunch with Tortilla Chips, Grapes, and Rainbow Baby Carrots from One Lovely Life

9. BEAN DIP & CORN CHIPS (GF + VEGAN-FRIENDLY)

This one’s a fun take on a taco box with less mess! You can make this into actual 7 layer dip (beans, sour cream, guac, cheese, salsa, tomatoes, onions, olives, etc.) or you can just do refried beans with cheese or dairy-free cheese (like Daiya), or whatever floats your boat. Then, let your kiddo scoop up the dip with tortilla chips. Add a little fruit and now you’re the fun mom! (Sophie loves this lunch)

WHAT’S IN THE BOX:

  • BEAN DIP. (Refried beans plain or topped with any combination of avocado or guacamole, salsa, sour cream (dairy-free or regular), cheese (dairy-free or regular), tomatoes, olives, lettuce, etc. Can be served warm or cold!
  • TORTILLA CHIPS – for dipping! Swap in grain-free tortilla chips (like Siete brand) for grain-free!
  • GRAPES. Try new colors for a fun change of pace. (Have you ever tried the Cotton Candy grapes? So good!)
  • RAINBOW BABY CARROTS. They taste JUST the same as the orange ones but look so much cooler! I can find these at Sprouts and Trader Joe’s.
Gluten Free, Dairy Free Turkey Wrap Sandwich School Lunch with Purple Potato Chips, Diced Watermelon, and Sliced cucumbers from One Lovely Life

10. WRAP SANDWICHES (GF + PALEO-FRIENDLY)

Sometimes, just tossing your regular sandwich into a tortilla or wrap is enough to keep things interesting! My kids like BLT wraps, turkey wraps, and even peanut butter (or almond butter, etc.) and banana wraps. Mission makes the best gluten-free tortillas we’ve found (they’re the most flexible). Siete is another good brand that’s gluten-free and often grain-free (great for paleo!).

WHAT’S IN THE BOX:

  • A TURKEY WRAP SANDWICH with lettuce, mayo, and tomato.
  • PURPLE POTATO CHIPS. They’re these ones from Jackson’s Honest–cooked in coconut oil.
  • WATERMELON
  • CUCUMBER SLICES
School Lunch Packing Cheat Sheet

get your school lunch planning sheet!

Make lunch packing a breeze with this mix-and-match set of ideas to choose from. Or, use our blank form to come up with your own! Plus, get our list of favorite gluten-free brands + products to make things even easier!

Get The Planning Sheet

MAKE IT EASY ON YOURSELF WITH OUR SCHOOL LUNCH PLANNING SHEET! 

For each of these lunches, we follow a simple formula:

  • Protein + Fruit/Veg + Carbs + Something Fun

It makes packing easy and gives my kids plenty of choices within this balanced framework. We created this FREE SCHOOL LUNCH PLANNING SHEET that can help you come up with ideas that work for your family.

Then, you just keep it somewhere visible and you can mix-and-match your way to endless tasty lunch combinations. In our download, I’ve included an example with lots of ideas filled in as well as a blank one you can use to come up with your own.

Collage of images of gluten-free healthy school lunches for kids in colorful lunch boxes

7 Comments

  1. I too have gluten free girls, but there are nut, soy free too. My youngest is also allergic to eggs. We too pack lunches daily. I have the same Omni boxes as well as the bentgo boxes. I ordered an extra couple of dividers for the Omni boxes so we can make more compartments. If something is just damp like cut strawberries and I want to put it next to something dry like chips I will put a folded bit of paper towel at the bottom of that mini section. If your using the select a size paper towels rip a single piece in half and fold it to fit. I was wondering where do your girls keep thier silverware? I always put the Omni box inside of a lunch bag but a would like to find a way not to do that. I can put their water bottle in the water bottle packet on the side of their backpack. We use the L. L. Bean junior backpack.

  2. I’m so impressed, inspired and grateful for this post! My son was recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease and we are in a funk with lunches so thank you!

    1. Sarah – What a kind, thoughtful comment to get today! Thank you so much. I’m SO glad it was helpful. Sending my best wishes to you and your son!

  3. Thank you so much for this! We were told last week that my son needs to be gluten-free and I am a little overwhelmed with trying to come up with lunch ideas. This is perfect ­čÖé

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.