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Recipes and Tips for Kid-Friendly, Allergy-free Lunches

Monday, August 18th, 2014

As seen in iVillage
: See full article here.

Need some tips for gluten and allergen free lunches?  Here are some “out of the lunchbox” ideas.

Parents with children that have severe food allergies can especially feel challenged by the morning lunch prep routine– easy options for lunch seem limited.   Without advance planning, the morning rush can make your head spin. Here are some easy ideas to help overcome those mental blocks that we can face during the hectic, rush around mornings.  The tips below are all geared towards the gluten-free and allergy-friendly lunchbox but really anyone can add these ideas to their lunch prep repertoire.

1. Plan and prepare in advance

As much as possible, prepare at least part of lunch the night before, while you are preparing dinner.  If you are making a salad for dinner, make an extra salad for your child’s lunch.  If you are preparing pasta, make an extra serving and re-warm in the morning.  Soups, pastas, risottos all make great lunch box options.

-Wash and chop a plethora of fresh veggies and place in air-tight container in the refrigerator.  Use what you need as you go.

-Make and freeze larger batches of items such as gluten-free granola bars and home-made gluten-free cookies.

-Purchase handy lunch containers, a thermos and a large enough lunch box to fit everything.


2.  Think outside of the regular sandwich

The challenge with gluten-free sandwiches is, of course, the bread. It often crumbles, doesn’t taste good, has holes in it, is expensive, etc.  A great way to prepare sandwiches on gluten-free bread is by using a panini maker or sandwich press.  The flavor and texture of purchased gluten-free bread is enhanced by toasting or grilling.



Turkey Pesto Panini:

2 slices whole grain gluten-free bread such as Rudi’s

2-3 turkey slices, nitrate free, try organic brand like Applegate Farm

1 slice cheddar, Monterey Jack or Provolone Cheese, or Daiya dairy free cheese

Sliced tomato or avocado

Pesto sauce for the adventurous kids

Spray a little cooking spray on the Panini maker, place your first bread piece, then add nitrate free turkey, a cheese slice or Daiya Cheese Shreds (our favorite!)  add optional sliced tomato or avocado, then another cheese slice, and top with second slice of bread, for the adventurous kids, pesto sauce can be spread on the top piece of bread.  Cook as instructed.  Wrap in reusable sandwich wrapper.  While the Panini will not stay hot until lunchtime, it still tastes great.

Almond Butter, Jam and Fruit Panini: Spray a little cooking spray on the Panini maker, spread one piece of bread with almond butter, the other with low sugar, organic jam, place first bread piece, thinly sliced apples or bananas, place other piece of bread on top.  Cook as instructed.  Wrap in reusable sandwich wrapper.

Waffle sandwiches: Try The Pure Pantry Buckwheat Flax Pancake and Baking mix to make waffles on the weekend.  Make extra a freeze.  In the morning, lightly toast two waffles, spread with nut butter and organic jam or cream cheese and jam.  Try turkey slices or ham with swiss cheese or Daiya Mozzarella to create a “Montecristo” type of sandwich. 

Cookie Cutter Sandwiches: appearance is everything to some kids.  Create cute cut-out finger sandwiches with large shaped cookie cutters.

3.Make a Hot Lunch

Not a lover of the gluten-free bread choices out there?  Think outside the sandwich, and get into thermoses!

This Bento box type thermos provides great versitility:

Thermos Meals

Again, planning ahead pays off in the morning.  Left overs make great lunches the next day.  Soups, stews, pastas, risottos, are all easily reheated and packed into a thermos.

Soups: What can be more satisfying that a nice homemade cup of soup?  Here are a few ideas:

White Bean Oregano Chili: A family favorite in our home. A large pot can be made on the weekend and doled out during the week.  Accompany with organic corn chips or gluten-free corn muffins.

Asian Noodle Soups: gluten-free rice noodle packaged soups with added veggies are a perfect, quick hot meal to take to school.


Pasta Salad: gluten-free fusilli pasta tossed with chopped celery, cooked broccoli, shredded carrots, diced black olives, and 1 tablespoon Balsamic salad dressing. 

Gluten-Free Spaghetti and Meatballsmake a big batch for dinner, then warm and serve it up for lunch the next day.

Mac and Cheese – Dairy based or Dairy-Free with peas or broccoli. 

BBQ Chicken:

Left over BBQ’d chicken: My son’s favorite.  Barbeque extra chicken legs or thighs, pair them up with coleslaw or a side salad.

4. Get in the greens with salads

 I am proud to say my 3 year old eats salads.  If your children are salad eaters, a whole world opens up for lunch box choices.  It is easy to prepare a chef salad or garden salad with a protein.  For dinner the night before, prepare an extra portion and place in a lunch container.  Put salad dressing in a smaller container.  There are endless options. Here are a couple of ideas:

Chef Salad: top lettuce mixture with slices or turkey,cheese, add hardboiled egg slices, cherry tomatoes, avocado slices.  Place salad dressing in a separate small container.

Greek salad: top lettuce mixture with cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, Greek olives and feta cheese crumbles or Daiya Mozzarella shreds, add sliced grilled chicken if desired.  Place salad dressing in separate small container.

Garden salad with tuna: top lettuce mixture with sliced carrots, sliced cucumbers and any other veggies your child likes. Combine one can tuna with 1 tablespoon Vegenaise (egg free,dairy free mayo) ½ cup diced celery, ½ cup diced pickle, a squeeze of ½ lemon, dash of dill.  Place one scoop of tuna salad on top of greens.  Place salad dressing in a separate small container.

5. Add Some Easy Snacks and Sides:

Trail mix: make your own or purchase.

Yogurt Parfait: Your child’s favorite yogurt or coconut yogurt flavor with a small container of sliced fruit and a container of gluten-free granola to top it off.  Our favorite gluten-free granola is from Healthy Creations.

Home-made Gluten-Free Granola Bars: try this recipe for Cherry-Almond Oat Bars. Make double batches, cut into bars, wrap each bar individually and freeze.  Pull out a ar when needed – it will defrost by snack time.


Home-made allergy-friendly cookies:  Try some fun fall recipes like Pumpkin Pie Bars, or Molasses Ginger Cookies, or an old time favorite, Old Fashioned Chocolate Chip cookies.

Gluten-free Chex Mix: try my Agave-Almond Chex Mix recipe for a great snack to pack for lunch or to bring to a class party.

Pre-packed healthy snacks: Organic Fruit leathers, organic squeezable fruit purees, organic apple sauce are all easy to throw in options.  Gluten-free crackers and cheese, and organic gluten-free corn chips with salsa are also easy to pull together.

Fresh fruit is a staple in every lunch we make.  We always keep apples, oranges, bananas and grapes on hand as a grab and go lunch item or snack.  More fragile fresh fruit such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, we place in small containers.

Fresh veggies and dips: Carrots, celery, red pepper strips are all great with hummus, organic ranch dip, or Edamame Pesto Dip (recipe in “Fresh from Elizabeth’s Kitchen”).

There are so many options for gluten-free, allergen friendly lunches.  With a little advance planning you can provide healthy, tasty lunch options that will keep your kids well-fed and make your mornings flow smoothly.

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Eat Reasonably in Every Season

Monday, January 18th, 2010
California Riding Magazine • January, 2010

Eat Reasonably in Every Season
Deprivation diets don’t work.

by Valerie Breslow, CN, CHHC, AADP

As that first autumn leaf begins its descent, we indulge ourselves in a holiday eating marathon consumed with excess at every turn. It begins with the unwrapping of that first foil candy at Halloween. With chocolate still smeared across our palates, we turn our attentions to a plateful of turkey, stuffing and gravy with all the fixins’. But wait, it’s four weeks until Christmas and we engage in the holiday games filled with folly along with eggnog, cheese logs and good cheer, only to be followed by Judgment Day! Now it’s Jan. 2 and we’re suffering from a liberal dose of postprandial (after a meal) depression and a desire to address that time-honored tradition of resolution setting.Our resolutions list usually includes saving money, spending more time at the gym and always ends with lose weight! We then foist upon ourselves the notion of a strict, calorie-reduced diet filled with a full-serving of strict deprivation and a side helping of guilt and shame for our previous holiday indulgences. “A moment on the lips, forever on the hips” haunts us as each morsel of food passes our lips while the dreaded thought of bathing suit season lingers on our minds.

There is no quick fix or fast food option for undoing these newly acquired pounds healthfully. Out of desperation, we turn to the latest diet trend for help. Unfortunately, beyond giving you an initial sense of control over your eating patterns and portions, diets more often than not create a rebound effect. After a few days, cravings soon take hold along with hunger pangs and lowered energy due to all the low-calorie foods. The desire to rebel against the prevailing diet ensues and then the cheating and weight gain really begins.

If diets don’t work, then what’s the answer? It’s called eating sensibly regardless of the season. Weight loss happens naturally when you make conscious decisions about your eating and lifestyle habits. While these changes may not happen overnight (as seen on TV), they do take place over time in a meaningful way that won’t take its toll on your metabolism, energy balance, lean muscle mass and overall well-being. The bonus: enjoy food year-round while experiencing a life free of deprivation where you know how and why to feed your body with the appropriate types and amounts of foods that heal, build and sustain a healthful mind and body.

Here are a few helpful tips to consider before you consider embarking on an extreme diet:

1. Eat a wide variety of whole, unprocessed foods.
First and foremost, kick the junk food to the curb! Consuming fresh fruits, vegetables, whole gluten-free grains, legumes, lean meats will make you feel full longer. These nutrient-dense foods will not only balance your blood sugar, they will also provide the necessary nutrients to sustain your activity levels throughout the day.

2. Drink the best quality water you can find. Most people are chronically dehydrated. We often mistake thirst for hunger. Try drinking a glass of water before giving into cravings. Avoid sugar, processed juices and high-calorie, sugar-laden drinks that will only create dips in blood sugar.

3. Consider eating a more plant-based, gluten-free diet and avoid empty calories. Plant foods are typically lower in fat and calories and higher in fiber than meat, dairy and processed foods. Add in gluten-free, high-fiber whole grains (ie, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, etc.) and try avoiding products with high-fructose corn syrup, or a long list of ingredients that aren’t natural. These foods tend to be highly processed and loaded with empty calories.

4. Chew your food well and eat with intention. By thoroughly chewing your food, your body will better assimilate nutrients and you will also slow down your eating. (It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that the stomach is full). By slowing down, you’ll feel full and satisfied eating less. Avoid eating in front of the TV or the computer; instead, eat at a table and enjoy and appreciate the food you’re eating and the company sitting next to you. Stop eating when you’re 80 percent full – it takes practice.

5. Start your day with a healthful breakfast.
Skipping meals causes your blood sugar levels to peak and dip, affecting your energy and moods. It will also cause you to overeat later in the day when you are unable to burn off the calories.

6. Exercise. Do any type of physical activity for 30 minutes every day.

7. Sleep and relaxation. Take time for sleep and relaxation. When you are sleep-deprived or stressed, your body will need extra energy, causing cravings for sugary snacks, caffeine and other stimulants to create an energy boost.

8. Spend more time with family and friends, be active and find your passion. This will leave less time for indulgences in foods that aren’t nourishing. Boredom and stress can also lead to overeating. Make sure to take time to laugh, play and participate in activities that bring you joy.

Valerie Breslow, CN, CHHC, AADP, Founder/Owner, The Wellness Box, is a holistic health and nutrition counselor who empowers clients to create nourishing and balanced lives for themselves by incorporating simple-to-follow, healthful food and lifestyle choices. She can be reached at 858-337-4217 or by visiting

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