7 Celiac-Friendly Foods to Send to School

Children with celiac disease need to completely eliminate gluten from their diet. Here are 7 celiac-friendly foods to send to school.
7 Celiac-Friendly Foods to Send to School

Last update: 17 March, 2023

Preparing a school lunch box produces concern for parents, as it must contribute to the good growth of the child. In addition, when a health problem is added, it seems that the matter becomes more complicated. However, it’s simpler than it seems, as gluten-free foods are easily accessible. In this article, we tell you which celiac-friendly foods you can send to school for your child’s lunch.

Take note so that your children’s school lunchbox is full of flavor, color, and, above all, the nutrients that your child needs. You should already know that your child’s diet should be designed and managed by a nutrition professional.

What is celiac disease?

Although it can occur at any stage of life, according to the journal Pediatria Integral, celiac disease is 5 times more common in children than in adults. It’s a type of intolerance to the protein in certain grains, including wheat, barley, rye, and oats. This protein is known as gluten.

Celiac disease has a genetic basis, which produces a chronic condition in the small intestine. When the celiac person consumes gluten, their own antibodies destroy the villi of the intestine, which are what absorb the nutrients available in the person’s diet.

For that reason, it’s included among the diseases that produce intestinal malabsorption. It can be associated with low weight, growth retardation, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal distension, and fatigue, among other symptoms. The good news is that when gluten is eliminated, the intestine recovers and goes back to functioning properly to absorb nutrients.

The objectives of school lunches

It’s important to bear in mind that the school lunchbox is a complementary meal that doesn’t replace breakfast. Therefore, it’s important that children eat breakfast at home. This will reinforce healthy eating habits and guarantee they go to school with the nutrients and energy they need for their morning.

School lunches should satisfy your child’s energy and nutritional needs to get them through the afternoon. The foods you include will maximize physical and intellectual performance. That way, your child can be alert, attentive, and active in class.

7 celiac-friendly foods that you can include in their school lunchbox

A gluten-free diet is the key to reversing the consequences of celiac disease. But you have to know how to choose the right celiac-friendly foods. So after seeing this list, you’ll be able to select the most nutritious options.

Fruits provide vitamin A, which improves visual development and strengthens the immune system, as well as vitamin C, which acts as a powerful antioxidant.

1. Fruits

Whole fruits or natural juices can be included. These should be washed well, peeled, if necessary, and cut into small pieces. The natural sugars contained in fruit are an important source of energy for your child. Here are some options that you can choose from and vary:

2. Dairy products and derivatives

Dairy products provide the calcium that children need to strengthen their bones. Also, their good quality protein will allow good growth. Some options include different varieties of fresh and ripened cheeses, but not processed ones. Also, consider cottage cheese, cream cheese, unflavored whole or skim milk, some yogurts, cream, butter, and other allowed dairy products.

Calcium is better absorbed in acidified products, so yogurts are a good choice. Vitamin A is also found in whole milk and milk products.

3. Fresh vegetables

Green, yellow, and orange vegetables are healthy and are sources of vitamins A, C, and K. They also provide folic acid, magnesium, and antioxidants. Some of them can be lettuce, tomato, carrot juice, carrot-based gluten-free cakes, pumpkin, or spinach. In addition, potatoes also count among the fresh vegetables.

4. Grains

The grains that you include should be those that don’t contain gluten. The American Journal of Gastroenterology reiterates that the only treatment for celiac disease so is to follow a strict gluten-free diet. However, others are being studied that allow for more long-term symptom control.

Some options include brown and white rice, corn tacos or tortillas, corn grits, rice flakes, popcorn, cream of rice, cornstarch, rice crackers, and rice cakes. In addition, starch, potato flour, and tapioca are also suitable for making cakes, cookies, or pastries. Amaranth, quinoa, soybeans, lentils, and other legumes are protein substitutes for gluten-containing grains.

Other sources of protein and healthy fats are nuts. In this regard, almond, hazelnut, or walnut milk can be part of your child’s lunchbox.

Which grain shouldn’t be included?

The Children’s Digestive Health and Nutrition Foundation indicates what foods that shouldn’t be eaten in the case of celiac disease. We’ll mention them below:

  • Wheat and its derivatives, such as pasta, cookies, bread, pastries, cakes, pies, and biscuits.
  • Oats
  • Bran, wheat germ, and wheat starch
  • Durum and semolina
  • Barley
  • Graham flour
  • Rye, triticale, and seitan
  • Couscous and bulgur wheat
  • Malted beverages and shakes
  • Sweets and commercial snacks
  • Seasoning mixes
  • Rice syrup
  • Sausages and processed meats
  • Any packaged product that isn’t certified as gluten-free
A boy refusing a spoonful of food.
Cereals with gluten or those contaminated with gluten should be totally excluded from the diet of children with celiac disease. For example, oatmeal is one of them.

5. Meat and eggs

Tuna, chicken, turkey breast, eggs, and veal are all celiac-friendly foods that can be included as a source of protein of high biological value. These are ideal to make a healthy sandwich with gluten-free bread.

Fatty foods and sweets

Butter, sour cream, margarine, honey, oil, and sugar are allowed in the gluten-free diet. In the case of soft drinks, they don’t contain gluten, but they do provide empty calories.

Probiotic foods

A study in the journal Acta de Gastroenterología Latinoamericana concluded that the use of probiotics achieved a beneficial effect on the symptoms of celiac disease. Furthermore, their administration proved to be safe. However, there’s still not enough evidence, as the number of patients needs to be increased and other experimental designs need to be applied.

For this reason, your child’s treating physician should be consulted when deciding whether or not to include probiotic foods in your child’s lunch. Some of these are fermented dairy products with probiotic bacteria, acidophilus milk, and some fermented vegetables.

Choosing celiac-friendly foods

Finally, remember that most of the healthy foods that make up the school lunchbox of children with celiac disease are those that are usually recommended for other children. The only difference is that they don’t include those that are sources of gluten.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.