OK In Health - Gluten Free Goodness

What Do I Make For a Gluten-Free Lunch? - February 2022

Making adult-friendly gluten free lunches

By Cathy Lauer

Two men having a Gluten Free business lunch at an outside cafe

Ok, we’ve got some good ideas now on how to make breakfast gluten free, let’s look at lunch. Lunch for some is brought to work or school in a bag and often there is nowhere to heat anything up. For others it might be a business lunch at a restaurant or in a boardroom with a catered lunch that likely does not include anything gluten free. Others skip lunch altogether and grab a quick coffee and donut mid afternoon to tide them over until dinner. How do you make the transition to gluten free keeping in mind the varying lunch styles and everyday situations you may be faced with?

If you are in the bagged lunch category most of the week, you might want to check out my  article “The Dreaded School Lunch” in the OK in Health eMagazine archives. It has some great suggestions for making kid friendly school lunches, some that can even be adapted for adult tastes. Gone are the days of rice cakes and peanut butter as your only options for a packed gluten free lunch.

If you are a bag lunch adult, here are some suggestions for making a grown-up packed lunch. Since you are the person who is going to be packing and eating the lunch it is unlikely that you routinely pack things you don’t like. Since you already know what you like to eat make a list of those things in the basic food group categories; fruit, vegetables, protein, starch and snack. I know snack isn’t a food group but most people like to pack themselves a treat so why not make a list of those as well. Remember this is a gluten free list so if you put bread, crackers, pretzels or muffins on the list they have to be gluten free. This may require you learning to make your own or testing out a few store bought varieties until you find gluten free items you are happy to put on the list. If there is a gluten free bakery in your area talk to them and see what kind of ready made lunch items they have. You want to be sure that if you spend the money on gluten free things for your lunch you will actually eat them. There is no health benefit to packing a gluten free lunch that you throw away. Also the longer you are away from gluten the worse your reaction to it will be when you do eat it so be sure you like what you pack. It will save you from cheating and making yourself sick.

Now that you have made your list, choose one or two things from each category. The result will be a balanced lunch of things you enjoy eating. As you find new fruits or vegetables that you like add them to your list. Do the same with the other categories as well. There are always new gluten free products coming on the market and some of them are very tasty and even healthy. The more choices you give yourself the less bored you will be with your lunch. If you want to take the process one step further plan your lunches for the week.

This may sound like more work to some but really it is no different than filling out yours and your kids activities and business meetings in your daily planner. I usually suggest that on Saturday or Sunday you figure out how many bagged lunches you need to make for yourself for that week and jot down the choices from your list on each day. It may sound crazy but imagine how much easier it will be in the morning to just look at your planner, put those items in your lunch bag and you’re ready to go. Of course, this will require you to be sure that you have a selection of things from your list in the cupboard or fridge.

If you are a big lunch eater or prefer something hot for lunch you may want to try packing a hot food thermos. If you are fortunate enough to have access to a fridge and microwave at your workplace you may want to purchase a single serving microwave safe dish. Pack it with leftovers from dinner the night before and you will have everyone in the lunch room wishing they were as organized as you. If you are more of a salad for lunch person, pack an undressed salad in a serving sized bowl with an airtight lid. If you don’t have access to a fridge place a cold gel pack on top of the bowl to keep your salad crisp until lunch time. Pack the dressing in a separate container and pour on the salad before eating. Potato, rice or macaroni salads are fine dressed before packing just be sure to place a cold gel pack with it in your lunch bag to keep it foodsafe.

For those of you who have the pleasure of eating lunch at home the possibilities are endless! Venture outside the “sandwiches are for lunch” box and see how creative you can be. Make yourself a quick vegetable stir-fry with oriental rice noodles that just need soaking in boiling water while you stir-fry the vegetables. Make yourself a quick gluten free pizza using a prebaked gluten free crust. Why not make yourself a fresh fruit salad with nuts or cheese. Being gluten free doesn’t mean you can’t be creative or have tasty nutritious meals.

If having people over for lunch is your specialty there is no reason why you cannot treat your guests to a gluten free lunch that they will rave about. Many people don’t want a heavy lunch anyway so a fruit and vegetable tray, a variety of good cheeses and gluten free sliced meats, an assortment of gluten free crackers or whole grain chips and lunch is served. Wow them with a flourless chocolate cake for dessert and they will all leave happy. It’s all about letting go of the idea that “there is nothing to eat without wheat” and freeing yourself to try something different.

If going out for lunch is your thing then be sure to check out www.theceliacscene.com for places to eat in your town or city. Many restaurants nowadays are aware of what it means to be gluten free and many have separate menus or can modify their regular menu. It is a good idea to check with your server, many of whom are very knowledgeable and want to do their best to make your experience a pleasant one, to be sure the chef can prepare what you need.

Becoming gluten free is really not as scary as it may feel when you first find out you have to leave wheat behind. Your meals can be equally as nutritious and the variety can be endless. With so many food companies adding gluten free lines to their product line-ups and gluten free companies making gluten free products now that actually taste good, making yourself a satisfying gluten free lunch is really well within your grasp. Think outside the lunch box and make yourself something really great to eat!


Cathy LauerCathy's Bio: Cathy Lauer has been cooking/baking gluten/dairy free for 17 years. She has written 3 all baking cookbooks and has a gluten free baking blog/store. In her spare time she loves to garden in a big way with fruit, vegetable and flower gardens. She is a classically trained singer and loves to read and collect recipe books. She homeschools her youngest son (11) and has 3 grown children and is grandmother of 2. Cathy's Gluten Free Creations Ltd. Gourmet Gluten Free Baking. Cookbooks and Baking Mixes. 250-758-5232 - Cathy Lauer Website - Email

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