Gluten free: Where do I begin?

Snacks, Quick-n-Easy Meals, and Packed Lunch Ideas

By Shannon


When my daughter was diagnosed at age 6 with Celiac Disease, we decided to go completely gluten-free at home so that she would have one place in the world where she didn’t have to worry if what she was putting in her mouth was going to make her sick.

I sat in my kitchen for a many minutes staring at my pantry that was full of my favorite snacks and baking ingredients. I had an encyclopedia of recipes in my brain that used these ingredients – no cookbook necessary. That collection of recipes in my mind had been hard-won after many hours spent at a counter teaching myself to cook. And now they were all useless. I wouldn’t be making them anymore except on rare occasions while staying with family members for holidays.

I was beyond relieved that we had finally found out what was making my daughter so sick, but I was overwhelmed at the prospect of learning how to cook in a whole new way. Frustrated, I threw out my sauce-splattered recipe binder. I gathered everything in my kitchen with gluten in it – any and all derivitives of wheat, malt, barley, or rye – and took them to my friend’s house. And then I thought: “I have no idea what to feed my family.”

I started researching and, while there are some wicked good gluten-free recipe blogs and lists of great gluten-free restaurant menus out there, I just needed some lists of quick-cook meal and snack ideas. And lunches. My daughter’s school was nut-free and, for her, now gluten-free. What on earth was I going to pack her for lunch?

I couldn’t find what I needed online, so I made myself a list of go-to food ideas. The meals aren’t the healthiest, but for a busy family, everyone once in a while you need to just throw food on the table and go. These ideas are for nights like those.


Ants on a log

Apple Butter on a rice cake

Caramel rice cakes

Carrots with Ranch dressing

Chips and salsa

Chocolate-dipped dried apricots

Chocolate-covered nuts

Dried chick peas

Dried fruit


Frozen Grapes

Fruit, any and all fruit

Fruit Snacks

Fruit Strips

Golden raisins or Craisins

Guacamole with tortilla chips

Hard boiled eggs

Kind bars


Pepperoni or jerky

Pesto on Nut-Thins or rice crackers

Pirate’s Booty or Cheetos



Apples dipped in Nutella



Sweet Potato Fries

Toasted Pumpkin or Sunflower Seeds

Tomatoes with rosemary and sea salt

Yogurt or Go-Gurt


Quick and Easy Meals

Baked Potatoes with chili and cheese

Corn tortilla quesadillas

Boxed GF macaroni and cheese

GF chicken nuggets

GF frozen pizza

Sliced hot dogs served with freezer fries


Scrambled eggs with fruit and freezer sausage


Lettuce wraps tuna salad

Black beans and rice

Lettuce-wrapped burgers


School Lunches

Go-gurt, whipped berry cream cheese on GF bread, Blue Machine smoothie


Sliced turkey wrapped around cheese sticks, fruit cup, potato chips


Hummus with tortilla chips and baby carrots for dipping, chocolate milk, dried fruit strips


Tuna salad, rice crackers, applesauce, GF cookie


These lists are by no means comprehensive, but they’re a good start if you’re feeling as lost as I did right after my daughter’s diagnosis. Good luck, and I promise, it gets easier. Soon you’ll feel as competent making GF pizza dough and cookies as you did making wheat-based versions.


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Kdrama and musical theatre fan; mom of a girl with Celiac and a boy with a sweet tooth; food writer and editor published in Feast magazine, Louisiana Cookin', mental_floss online, and G magazine.

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