Tuesday, August 7, 2012

School/Work Lunch Ideas. GF/Vegan

For us school starts early this year. Last week, actually. As a parent what is an item you may have on your mind?

What to pack for school lunches!  Yep, that's on my mind. Not only for the BK but for the little one as well.

Is it simple to make a vegan lunch for kids? Sure is! How bout gluten free? I'm new to learning about gluten free items so it has been a bit of a challenge. Once I get the hang of it though, easy!

A friend of mine, Jimmy, decided about a year ago to make a big change in his life. As someone who had been struggling with weight for many years he knew he had to do something to lower his weight and improve his health. Cycling alone wasn't doing it. He knew he needed to eat better. Jimmy added ViSalus to his daily regimen. What is ViSalus you ask? It's a 90 day challenge to weight loss and health. Now, the shakes are not vegan. They do contain whey protein. I myself do not drink these shakes but I do promote health and I've seen what this has done for my friend. This is why I'm sharing, especially for my non-vegan readers. :)  In 90 days Jimmy lost 40 lbs and 6.5 inches off his waist. This was a year ago. Now, well let's just say he's rockin' the abs and all that goes with it! He's probably healthier than he's ever been!

He told me a few days ago that he and his family had decided to go gluten free and casein free. To hear this made me smile! Casein, the protein found in milk and cheese as well as processed foods, causes a broad spectrum of adverse affects in the body. His daughter is of school age so who better to help out right? A friend with a school aged child. One who has decided the GF/CF diet is best for not only himself but for his family.

I thought I'd include some ideas for lunches. Not only for the kiddos but for adults who pack a lunch as well.

First of all, gluten free. What is gluten? Gluten is a protein composite found in foods processed with wheat, barley and rye. Now days there are so many gluten free options available. Even restaurants offer gluten free items on their menus.  Bob's Red Mill is a producer of GF products, making baking so much easier! Here's a link to their GF products, here.  During my research I also found a rather comprehensive GF list. Find the link, here.

When I was a kid I generally had a sandwich of sorts in my lunch, an apple or other fruit, and a bag of chips. I also carried a bottle of water or juice. For the little one we send her with almond milk.

Good beverages to pack in a kids lunch:

  • Almond milk (provided you have access to a refrigerator or you can pack with a couple ice packs.)
  • Bottled water is always an excellent choice
  • Coconut Water is very hydrating and a great choice as well
  • Homemade juice (I'm a huge fan of homemade rather than store bought)
  • I'm not a fan of lot's of sugar but seeing as I have a teenager in the house who insists on soda at lunch (something he would just buy on his own anyway) I get him Hansen's Rootbeer. Still sugar but no caffeine and better than the countless overly processed name brands. Luckily the kid loves water and carrot juice too! :)

What I often make for the little one. Juice.
6 carrots
1 apple
1 orange
1 cup spinach
a dash of agave nectar

Juice all the fruit/veggies in a juicer. Mix in the agave once everything is juiced. This makes enough to last her 2-3 days but she's still quite small. Simple juice with great vitamins.

The snack portion of a lunch can be a bit tricking. I know it's easy to buy the processed items from your grocery store but try and avoid that. Or look for items with the least amount of processed items. Your big brands are often full of not so good ingredients.

Snacks for kids lunches and yours:

  • Veggies! Each Sunday, to make things easier, I bag up carrots, celery and snap peas into individual bags. This way they are ready to grab for each school lunch or for each lunch for the hubby. In his bag he likes a large handful of parsley to munch on too. 
  • Edamame! My little one loves shelled edamame. This too can be prepared on Sundays and bagged individually for the week. It's a great source of protein and most kids love it! 
  • Good Ole' Ants on a log. Why not, right? Peanut butter (GF and full of protein) and celery. Who doesn't love celery! Add some sweetness with raisins and it's so tasty, yet so simple.
  • Nuts are great for everyone! A handful a day is a great health benefit. I love raw almonds, cashews, and pumpkin seeds. Trust me if you haven't tried them raw do so, tasty! Again, you can pack these babies up each Sunday as well. 
  • Crackers. I've found some great GF varieties. Almond or pecan nut thins. I found them at my local Sprouts Market. These are heavenly! 
  • Air popped popcorn. Great snack. High in antioxidants

  • Protein bites! I made up some tasty protein bites just for Jimmy and his family. But, I'm going to share the recipe with you all. I call them Jim Bites. A little play on words really because they'd be a great snack before hitting the gym. Great protein source!
  • Chickpeas. These little beans are full of protein as well as fiber. This helps prevent a spike in blood sugar levels! Try Dreena Burtons Jerk Chickpeas or Tamari Roasted Chickpeas. Both are great cold.
Jerk Chickpeas. Great cold too!

Jim Bites:
½ cup raw almonds
2 tablespoons hemp seeds
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ cup rolled oats
1 cup pitted dates
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup almond butter

1 tablespoon chia seeds (black or white)
1/4 cup raisins
2 Tablespoons dark chocolate chips (vegan)
1 tablespoon agave nectar (optional, see note)
Place almonds, hemp seeds, salt and oats in a food processor. Process, it will become a flour like consistency. Add the dates, vanilla, almond butter and agave nectar. Once this gets crumbly add the chocolate chips, pulse until it starts to ball up and stick to the bland. This may take a couple of minutes. When done, scoop up into small balls and place in refrigerator for an hour. Enjoy.

Fruit! Fruit is a simple addition to your lunch. Berries are an excellent source of antioxidants so those are always a great choice. Grapes, kiwi, bananas, melons, pineapple. It's all great. I like to cut up an orange for the little one and always include grapes. BK loves berries!

Note** I find when I eat these little guys I prefer them to be less sweet which is why the agave nectar is optional. If you want a little more sweet feel free to add this ingredient.

Main course:

  • For the kiddos peanut butter sandwiches seem to be a favorite. There are plenty of GF breads available today too. Trader Joe's have several varieties. Jams and jellies I'm a little concerned about only because the store bought varieties are full of sugar. Making your own though can be quite simple.
  • Eggless salad (again for this you will need a cold pack or access to a refrigerator). Make this into a GF wrap, either with GF tortillas or romaine lettuce. Both are quite tasty!

Eggless Salad:
1 package, 14 oz, extra firm tofu
1 tablespoon Bragg's Liquid Amino Acids
2 stalks celery, minced
1 small carrot, minced
1/2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 tablespoon stone ground mustard
2 tablespoons dill relish
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon yellow curry
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon black salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon vegenaise (vegan mayonnaise)
Pepper, to taste


Wrap the tofu in two paper towels and drain between two plates. Place something heavy on top of the top plate. Drain, 10-15 minutes
Crumble the tofu into a large mixing bowl. Add all other ingredients and mix well. Let sit in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Mix again and add pepper as needed.

  • I'm a huge fan of hummus as is my little one. BK likes jalapeno flavored hummus. Pack some in a container with a baggie of cut up pieces of pita bread (whole wheat or GF). You could also eat the hummus with all the yummy veggies you packed. Great source of protein and fiber.
  • For us grownups salads are always good and easy to pack up. Each Tuesday night (I have so much on my plate Sundays so Tuesday it is) I make a rather large salad. That is our dinner Tuesday night and for the rest of the week we have salads at lunch. Add chickpeas, black olives, hemp seeds, and marinated artichokes to the every day veggies and you've got yourself a meal. Little one's may like this but it really depends on your little one. I pack simple balsamic vinegar as my dressing. Yum!
Oh yes, it's a big ole salad! Trash bowl next to it (the only good idea I got from Rachael Ray!)

  • My little one loves these pouches of pureed veggies (for the little ones for sure). Since she often turns her nose up at the greens I try to serve her this is the best way to get them. They are made by Plum Organics and all they contain is the veggie/fruit ingredients necessary. She LOVES these things! It's not a meal replacer but great to bring along to go with lunch.

Pack variety in your lunch, in the kiddos lunch, and everyone will be happy. Make things easier for yourself by preparing and bagging things only once per week. Don't try and do it each evening. The only things I put together each evening for the little one is her soy yogurt and fruit. Her milk as well. Takes less than five minutes and I'm done packing her lunch. I have containers just for her, labelled with her name to make things even easier.

A great place to get labels that are safe in the dishwasher AND washing machine is NameBubbles. i love this place! I get the daycare package which has several labels in different shapes and sizes. My daughter is nearly 1.5 years old now and I just ordered my second set. They truly last a long time! Wash after wash. I label clothing, containers, bags, jackets, sippy cups, whatever she needs to bring to school. Check them out.

I hope this makes packing lunches a little easier for you all. Let me know what your favorite items to pack are. Would love to add to the list for everyone.

Cheers and happy eating!


  1. Great ideas here Marsha! Popcorn is often overlooked, and really it's very healthy - it's the storebought and microwave varieties that get us into fat/sodium/chemical trouble!! Gluten-free is def more challenging than even just wheat-free, but there are also more products available to us now than even 3 or 4 years ago, like breads, crackers, pastas, and tortillas. It's never been easier (or yummier) to be vegan - or gf!

    1. Thanks, Dreena. Popcorn has always been a staple in my home and when I found out the antioxidants it carries, I was very excited! When I was little even my dog loved popcorn! My BK just told me the other day he doesn't like the microwave stuff much anymore. He likes the stuff I make, the air popped, no chemicals, no butter, popcorn. Yay!