Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Gluten-Free School Lunch Tips and Menu Ideas

School will be back in session in just a few weeks. When it comes to packing lunches, I will be packing Jack's lunch every day, 5 days a week, 20 days a month, for 40 weeks out of the year. That's a lot of lunch packin'! But, I don't complain, as it keeps my boy healthy.

But, you gotta get creative, so it doesn't get boring and your child says, "Do I have to eat that again?"

Below I have some tips to offer you and some gluten-free menu ideas.

3 TIPS: 
  • Lunch doesn't mean having a "sandwich"- anything nutritious that fills your kiddo up until they get home from school will be just fine.
  • Packing a lunch full of iron and protein packed foods, will help provide energy for the afternoon math test.

  • Healthy Foods - Fruit, Cheese, Yogurt, Turkey, Veggies 
  • Milk or Water
  • Pack a little treat - other kids at school will bring all types of treats and even buy ice cream from the cafeteria. The 2 cookies I pack for Jack, are the size of 1 regular 'gluten' cookie.

  • Sugar Drinks 
  • No items that are too hard to open - they need to focus on eating, not trying to open something for 10 minutes
  • Minimal plastic baggies - it really is a waste - find a great plastic container to reuse  


Lunch 1:

(Jack's Favorite lunch)

Hard Boiled egg
Spinach leaves (yes, he eats SPINACH!)
WOW Chocolate Chip Cookie

Lunch 2:

Turkey and Swiss Cheese Roll-ups
Carrot Sticks
String Cheese

Lunch 3: 

PB and Jelly sandwich on your favorite GF bread
Lay's Potato Chips
Pear Slices
Carrot Sticks/Spinach Leaves
Glutino's Chocolate Chip Cookie

Special treat in this one! And extra ketchup packets, save
them for lunch!
Lunch 4:
Perdue Breaded Chicken Tenders  
Carrot Sticks/Spinach Leaves
Cybele's Cookies

Lunch 5:

Pizza Squares - Udi's Pizza Crust or Kinnickinnick Pizza Crust - bake, cut in squares, put in thermos to keep warm.
Mandarin Oranges
Carrots/Spinach Leaves

Here are some products to get you prepared to pack lunches every day! From lunch containers to an individual cupcake holder for parties and more, I got you covered! 

Happy lunch packing! 
Best wishes for a great gluten-free school year!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Dear Teacher, Jack Has Celiac Disease - 504 Plan/Letter

At the beginning of each school year, I meet with Jack's teacher and school counselor/504 coordinator to put into place a 504 plan for the school year. As parents, it's our responsibility to educate our children's teachers and caregivers about celiac disease and the importance of our children avoiding gluten.

I file a 504 plan for the following reasons:

1) My son isn't avoiding gluten          just "because"                                 2) He has an autoimmune disease, 
3) He can become tired and ill if exposed to gluten, 
4) Which can affect his academics if he has to miss school.

Every child is different, every teacher and school is different. It's really what you feel most comfortable with and what you feel needs to be put in place to ensure your child is safe from gluten while at school.

What is a 504 plan?

A 504 plan is designed under law, to ensure that any child with a disability or chronic condition has accommodations put into place in order to achieve academic success and access to the learning environment. (A link is provided at the end of this blog post to explain more on ).

Jack's entering 3rd grade in few weeks and it's that time of year, where this momma gets everything gluten-free ready in preparation for a great school year.  At school registration in a couple of weeks, I will find out who Jack's teacher will be and from that point, I will make every effort to make sure his teacher understands his gluten-free lifestyle and the importance of avoiding gluten at all costs.

The letter below is an opportunity to inform Jack's teacher(s) about celiac disease, avoiding gluten and requests to make accommodating his gluten-free lifestyle easier for everyone.

**NOTE: This is a letter that I created. The information in the letter is what I feel is important to address pertaining to Jack's life. Every child is different, every school is different and every teacher-parent-child relationship is different. Please do what is best for you child and add more information or less. 

Dear Teacher,

This letter is to inform you that our son Jack has celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that when gluten is ingested, it wrecks havoc on his body. For the past 7 years, Jack has been living a gluten-free lifestyle. Gluten-free living for celiacs, is like insulin for diabetics. It’s what keeps Jack healthy.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Gluten is found in a wide variety of foods - from cookies, breads, pastas, cereals, candy, snack foods and more. Because celiac disease is not an allergy, Jack WILL NOT be in immediate danger, BUT if he ingests gluten due to cross contamination or accidentally eats something that contains gluten, he will likely experience stomach discomfort/pain, as well as fatigue, diarrhea and headache.

With Jack only being 9 yrs. old, we are still learning the signs and symptoms of accidental gluten exposure. We just need to make sure that Jack avoids gluten at all costs.

With all that said, I want Jack to have a great school year and I have no doubt, you do as well. I want to just share a few things with you that will help you in the classroom and the information that you provide me, will help me prepare for upcoming school events:

  • First, Cross Contamination - From gluten crumbs, to art supplies/crafts, and Playdoh (which contains wheat) - it is important to be aware of Jack's surroundings and work surface. For Playdoh, I would like to provide some Crayola Model Magic which is gluten-free and some of his own tools/cutters to keep separate from the others. With cross contamination, please be aware of wheat products in the classroom and I encourage a lot of hand washing! (Last year, Jack would come home from school with filthy hands).
  • Restroom Breaks - Jack needs to be excused to use the restroom on a “as needed” basis. Jack may have an urgency to go and when he says he needs to go, he needs to be excused...no holding it, when it comes to celiac disease. And sometimes, he may be in the restroom a little longer than most - that’s just how Jack’s system works.
  • Birthdays - Please let me know how you plan to celebrate birthdays - whether once a month or if children will be allowed to bring in cupcakes on their birthdays. This will allow me to prepare accordingly and have something for Jack on the days that special treats are brought in. If children are allowed to bring in treats on their actual birthday, could you please provide a list of birthdays for me?
  • Special celebrations - Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, pizza parties, etc. - let’s make sure to communicate - I’ll always provide something for Jack. I also like to make gluten- free cookies and cupcakes for the whole class when it comes to celebrations.
  • Field Trips - Please provide information in advance of any field trips: What activities will be taking place (crafts, etc.) and if special treats will be had, so I can provide something gluten-free if needed.

Lastly, if you ever have any questions about Jack’s diet or have a question about eating a certain food, please don’t hesitate to call me. (Provide Phone Number)

If you would like to know more about Jack’s story and celiac disease, please visit

Thank you so much for working with me to make Jack’s school year gluten-free friendly! 


Jack’s Mom

I hope this letter helps you on your way to great school year. For more information on 504 plans, visit celiac.org for detailed information. 


Here's to a great GLUTEN-FREE school year!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Back to School with Gluten-Free & More Magazine

The store shelves are starting to fill with notepads, backpacks, lunch bags and more! And while these are all necessities, there's one very important necessity that we as parents must put in place for our gluten-free child's safety at school.                                                                                               In this month's issue of Gluten Free & More magazine, there's an excellent article called "Safe in School" and it's a step by step article on conducting a 504 plan for your child.                                                                                                             The article even features a "sample letter" from yours truly!! I'm excited to be a contributor to this article, as I feel preparing a 504 plan is vital to your child's health as well as his/her education.                                                         

504 plans are put into place to ensure that your child's gluten-free lifestyle is accommodated and it doesn't affect his/her academic success. The letter I wrote to Jack's teacher included everything from "what celiac disease is" to "cross contamination" and please inform in advance of upcoming birthdays and celebrations.                                                                                                         Each school year, I will meet with Jack's teacher and school counselor to make sure his new teacher understands his autoimmune disease and any accommodations that I request.    

I also want his teacher to know that he/she can ALWAYS call me or email me with any questions. I'd rather they ask than not ask! Remember, there's no such thing as a stupid question, especially when it comes to your child's well-being. Better safe, than sorry.

This Gluten Free & More Aug/Sept issue not only has everything you need to know about a 504 plan, but it also has great back to school tips, as well as tons or great recipes, kids gadgets and more.

Formerly Living Without magazine, Gluten Free & More magazine was the first gluten-free mag I subscribed to almost 7 years ago. I love receiving my magazine every couple of months and knowing there's some great information inside! 

Click HERE to SUBSCRIBE and/or find out more about Gluten Free & More magazine. You can subscribe to have digital access only or both magazine and digital access!