Gluten-Free Back to School Tips

We are in the countdown for back to school.  Actually, we know some friends have already hit the books. With the books, comes lunchtime wonders.  As a gluten free household, we take a few extra steps to gear up for going back to school.



This year we decided to take a look at what we do differently than other folks because of the need to be gluten free.  We thought we would share our notes and perhaps whether you are gluten free or not – they might help you.

No matter what age – most of these tips will be useful to our gluten free friends.


Notify the school: Both my children are gluten free for medical reasons. Just like with any other medical condition that might affect the school day – we inform all of teachers and staff that might need to know the situation. In some cases your child may have a 504 or IEP and this should absolutely be included to make sure they are aware. Haven’t written the letter yet and school starts tomorrow – no worries – I have included my favorite sample letters.

My favorite sample letters are: 

Gluten Free Is Life

Gluten Free Kids Travel

Gluten Free Mom


Helpful tip: If your child is part of a club, sport or having a play date – you can base a letter off of this.

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New lunch boxes: If you just discovered you are gluten free – it is time for a new lunchbox. Actually, this is one of the durable products that I exchange each year. Since my girls are gluten free – they use their lunchbox EVERY SINGLE DAY OF SCHOOL – except perhaps the one or two days of field trips when it is requested to use disposable. No matter how many times I clean the lunch boxes – I feel that a new one at the start of the year isn’t too excessive.

Helpful Tips: Looking for lunch boxes? Consider choosing local and green.

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Lunches: You and your child will need to come to terms that lunch is going to be brought from home. Playing it safe means there will not be any school lunch purchases. But, that doesn’t mean it has to be a bad thing. We set a schedule of lunches on our house. One of my daughters really wanted to have school lunch or even pre-made lunches. We opted out of those even before we were gf, but I understand her desire to eat like everyone else. Our compromise: On burrito day at school – I treat her to one of the pre-made frozen burritos. (My favorite is Glutenfreeda brand.) And lunch looks like everyone else – more or less. We do sandwiches using local bread from Imagine that Gluten Free. Leftovers from dinner and a variety of other options. (This sounds like a great start to blog post  – ok then stay tuned).

Helpful Hints: Sometimes on field trips they may stop at a restaurant. Be in touch with the teacher ahead of time (not the day of) and ask where they are stopping. I have called ahead to the restaurant and if safe, I allow her to eat there.  I ended up being a chaperone on one trip, as it was about two months after my oldest was diagnosed and she wasn’t comfortable asking questions or eating out without assistance. If I have concerns, I send a full meal. However, I ALWAYS send an extra power bar or fruit with my daughter or her teacher depending on the schedule of the day.


Snack time: So many healthy (and unhealthy) options are out there. Start with the basics: fruits and veggies and go from there. Nuts, beans and meats and dairy options are a plenty depending on your dietary options.  And then spread further to the pretzels, crackers, breads, etc. (gluten free of course) For some local snack ideas see our blog post.

Helpful Hints: Sometimes there will be snack time in the classroom. Talk with the teacher ahead of time. Last year, for my elementary school child I provided gf pretzels that turned out to be such a hit – everyone wanted them.


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Lip Balm: Going back to school is always a good time for a new lip balm. (Yes, remember lip balm- and lip stick can have gluten in it – so doublecheck!) We found a new local brand that my girls love. It’s organic, cruelty free, vegan AND gluten free.  Did I mention local! Hello, Saf Organics!

Sunblock: Oh yeah, I know there is a debate out there. I have heard that items on skin shouldn’t be a problem – and perhaps for some it is not.  We however, fall into the category of problem… So we do a two step approach. We start with Environmental Working Group Sunscreen Guide and work our way down the list. We refer to the sunscreen company to make sure it is gluten free.


AfterSchool, Play dates and birthday parties: Play dates are easy – they usually only last 1-3 hours. I send an extra snack for the backpack. I contact the parent to let them know the situation. If they do not know what celiac disease is or show any sign of lack of sympathy, I instruct my daughter to be kind and eat only whole fruit or snacks she is sure is safe. My older daughter is at an age where she is learning to speak up for herself and does a really good job. For birthday parties I always offer to send food and contact the family ahead of time. I have had all three cases:

1. Family made sure there were gluten free options (and even several have made the entire party gf.. ummm wow).

2. I provided gluten free options for my child.

3. There was nothing for my child.

Case 1 and 2 are just fine. Case 3 there was a fail on some end and needs to be re-evaluated for future.


To see our other blog posts on the topic of “Back to School” please visit our Shop Local Tips and Green Tips. For parents of UNC folks- maybe we can tempt you with some of our tips for UNC Parents.


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