Managing Life as a Gluten Free Student

By Jenny Stegen | October 11, 2020

The School Day

Boys sitting at table in school classroom

It's not always easy being a gluten free student. It's hard seeing your friends eat things you can't have (it does get easier with time and practice). It's not fun packing lunch every day or standing in a different lunch line. Each day takes extra thought and planning, especially if you are involved in after school activities.

Growing children should start the day off with a healthy breakfast. My kids love GF oatmeal with raisins, eggs and toast, or GF cereal and milk. They take their lunch to school daily, but some schools provide safe GF menu options for kids. If your school does not have a GF food program check out details in my post entitled Gluten Free in School. This article provides everything you need to help your school initiate a GF food program. If you decide to send lunch to school with your kids, these Arctic Zone lunch bags are the best! Check them out. They come with amazing ice packs that keep food cold for hours. I wish you could buy these ice packs separately on Amazon but you can get more here. If they are out of stock, sign up and they will send you a notice when they have more in stock. They work wonderfully in any type of cooler or lunch bag. These Rubbermaid containers are our favorite for lunches. They have all of the good things about storage: dishwasher safe, microwave safe, stackable and easy to store, and durable.

Did you know you can safely send hot food with your child for lunch? This Thermos is the perfect size for their lunch bag. It will keep food nice and hot for at least 5-6 hours. No need for a microwave! Make sure you follow the pre-heat instructions and fill the Thermos with boiling hot water for 5-10 minutes before you fill it with food. The food should be steaming hot when you place it in the thermos. These steps will ensure hot food for lunch that is safe to eat! Perfect foods for the thermos include soups, casseroles, pasta, mac and cheese, meatballs, pulled pork, taco meat. The food must have a little moisture to stay hot and safe for several hours. Dry foods do not work well in the thermos.

Growing kids do not function well physically or mentally if they fast for more than four hours. This means they will need a snack in the afternoon. Make sure they have a supply of gluten free snacks in their locker. School lockers often get pretty congested with other things. You might ask the school administration if there is an office or a classroom cupboard where your child could stash some gluten free snacks. Maybe the school nurse would have a spot. You might be well acquainted with a teacher who would be willing to store some snacks in their classroom. Make sure this place will be easily accessible to your child. If you ask for help and get nowhere, ask someone else until you get what you need. With persistence, you will find someone who is willing to help! Our GF kids are so lucky because their dad is a middle school teacher. His classroom has been a wonderful, central location for them to store snacks. He even has a small fridge in his room where they keep a few cold things. This has been a luxury!

Need some good ideas for school lunches and snacks? Check out our Favorite Products Page and Top 12 Gluten Free Snacks Kids Love.

Lastly, it is common practice for kids in elementary school to bring treats for birthdays and holidays. Make sure you develop a plan with your child’s teacher at the beginning of the year. Pick up a supply of your child’s favorite GF snacks or candies and give them to the teacher for safekeeping. These treats can be used when your child cannot eat the cupcakes or special treats brought in by other students. If a parent calls you asking for ideas that are safe for your child you can refer them to my post entitled Gluten Free Party Treats Everyone Will Love. It has a good variety of 10 easy GF treats along with tips on how to prevent cross-contamination! SLAM DUNK! Also you can check out this amazing gluten free candy list .

After School Activities

Football team in the huddle at practice

The day can get awfully long for kids, especially when their extracurricular activities are in season. It is not good at all for kids to fast for more than four hours. Their active, growing minds and bodies will not function well on no fuel. Make sure they have a supply of snacks in their locker. Their lockers often get pretty congested. Ask a friendly teacher, school nurse, or coach if there is an office or a classroom cupboard where your child could stash some gluten free snacks. Make sure that place will be accessible during after school hours. It also doesn’t hurt to ask if there is a microwave in the school that your child might have access to after hours. They might even allow your child access to a refrigerator in the teacher’s lounge or elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to ask! If you don’t get the help you need - keep asking until you find someone willing to help.

You will need to invest in an excellent water bottle and a portable cooler that will keep things cold all day long. Some kids are still at school at supper time and they will need something reliable, sturdy, and easy to carry. We love the Gatorade stainless steel water bottles. These keep drinks cold all day long and it's easy to wash the drinking spout. I am not a fan of the water bottles that are hard to clean - this one is a breeze. This Tourit backpack cooler looks no different than a typical school backpack and will keep things cold for up to 16 hours. It has a separate compartment for dry items as well. If you want a little added space for school supplies and a laptop this OUTXE backpack is just the ticket. I advise against using ice in soft coolers - ice can puncture the cooler and turns into a pool of water when it melts. Stick with these fantastic ice packs. They are the best and sure to stay cold all day long. Once again, if their locker is too full to store their backpack cooler, ask around and find an accessible spot where they can safely store it. Hint . . . ask their favorite teacher or coach!

I advise labeling or placing an ID tag on all bags including lunch bags. And don't forget to label water bottles. Kids on the go are prone to losing track of things that aren't attached at birth. These items are not cheap to replace! Etsy has an amazing selection of ID tags that can be personalized. These come in a variety of colors. I love these mini tags for lunch bags. Someone with a brilliant mind invented these personalized bands for cups and water bottles! Lastly, these waterproof stickers are perfect for labeling many of your portable possessions!

I hope these tips help you survive and THRIVE in the life of a gluten free student. Don't give up!

Best Wishes,

Jenny's Signature