Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The GF Lunch Box

One of the hardest thing about being a coeliac is your extremely limited options for lunch and snacks. I didn't find out until I was an adult that I was a coeliac, but for parents of kids with the disease I feel for you! As a teacher I know that kids compare what is in their mates lunchbox and often if it looks different some kids can be rather nasty. The worse thing is, the ones who are best at this are very sneaky and try and look like the innocent party all the time! But we teachers are on the prowl for these kids, protecting the mental sanity of all children.

A gluten free lunchbox is really not that hard to pack and I'm going to show you how to do it, relatively fuss free, without looking so bizarre and different to everyone else's lunch! I'm even including a lovely healthy snack for recess (morning tea)!

But first, parents I know your kids can be hard and you are very busy but breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Any experienced teacher can walk into a classroom in the morning and pick the children who havent eaten breakfast, they are tired, can't concentrate, won't participate in class discussion or activites and sometimes fall asleep! Find a healthy cereal, not sugar filled cereals and yes you can find GF varieties! They give children a sugar high, then they come crashing down! Most schools have breakfast clubs that for a gold coin donation or some schools it's free, children get cereal, toast, fresh fruit, milk and juice or water. This is a fantastic facility and provides no real excuses for the child not having breakfast! Now if you run a busy schedule and breakfast is hard to get your child to eat, then breakfast club might be for you. If your child is GF you can always purchase their favourite cereal (museli, rice porridge etc) and a loaf of GF bread and leave it at the school, where breakfast club things are stored! Even if it's a once off it saves your child eating unhealthy things for breakfast, or not eating anything at all! Speak to your child's teacher and if they aren't sure the deputy or principal, most schools will be fine with this!

Recess is often hard for GF children, as everyone else doesn't have things they can't eat! But it isn't that hard; mammee make some great rice based snacks for kids which all kids eat, there are more rice based snacks coming on the market, seasme snacks, sultanas and sultanas with apricots come in lunch box snack sized options (check out the health food aisle for more options). The best and healthiest food is one not brought but made at homee by you (preferably from fresh not packet ingredients), its all about time, involve your children in the cooking and cleaning up process, it teachers them many things! You can make healthy muffins (see my banana muffin recipe), museli cookies ( the recipe I will put up tomorrow), And don't forget fruit and vegetables! The recommended serving suggestion is 2 pieces of fruit n 5 vegetables daily! Often our meals don't include all those veggies, so include some in your child's lunch box. Some chopped carrot, cucumber, fresh fruit salad, fruit etc, the list goes on! These are healthy foods which take a short time to prepare! Every class I've taught has had crunch n sip, a morning break where for 5 minutes they sit down on the floor and chat, eating their fruit or veg and drinking water! They are excited about this!

Lunch is the hardest part of a GF lunchbox! The bread isn't that tasty and doesn't make the best sandwiches, you can try it and see if your child likes it! Other options are wraps, but I'm not very impressed by what I've seen. Then there is rice cakes, you can get flavored rice cakes and put the topping, such as ham, cheese and tomato in separate bags and they can put their lunch together in class, I have no doubt they will enjoy this! Also left over rice, or tinned flavored tuna, on rice cakes is another option.

Try and cover the food groups in their lunchbox, add some cheese, a yoghurt, for their dairy and always include at least one piece of fruit! Now as crackers aren't as filling as bread always have some rice crackers, sultanas or their favourite snack! Don't forget water, this is so important! Not cordial (maybe as a weekly treat), have it in a drink bottle they can refill, also put it in the fridge the night before, so it's nice and cold. Buy a soft lunch bag that fits an Ice brick for meats and dairy products!

Now comes the canteen, some are great others sell sweet sugary and salty snacks and sugar filled energy drinks! Some canteens sell GF food, others don't! The school canteen is almost like a right of passage, your child will feel left out if they can't visit the canteen even once a month! I still remember ordering days were Friday and I felt so special, my favourite day! If the canteen doesn't sell gluten free food, make an appointment to see your principal and discuss that GF food should be available for your child! It's on the market and a healthy option!

Most importantly tell your child's teacher of their intolerance or coeliac disease, even provide some information to the teacher about the disease. They need to know, children can swap lunches without realising and the teacher can't be at fault if they aren't informed! Most teachers will be willing to send a note out to other parents, to lessen contimation, also when it's a birthday party and there is cake if the teacher informs you, you can organise a special cake or cookie treat for your child!

So in a nutshell, provide a variety of healthy but filling snacks, alternate lunches, would you like to eat the same thing daily? Put an ice brick in their lunch box or bag. And as soon as you can make an appointment with the class teacher (talking to them in the morning while they have 25-30 kids, is not the best time!), ask for an appointment that suits you both, it could even be a phone call! And if the canteen isn't providing GF options, chat to the principal (they aren't monsters)and will listen to your rational concerns.

Please let me know if this has helped you? I'd love to hear positive and negative food allergy or coeliac stories from school. Is your school helpful and understanding or the opposite?

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The lovely Jennifer from Delicieux is running a comp to win a great vegetarian cookbook, click on the link to enter! goodluck! I hope my readers and myself win!