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The "OMG, I was Just Diagnosed With Celiac and There's Nothing to Eat" Guide to Brown Baggin' it
You (or your child) have just been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Now you're looking toward lunch time and starting to panic.
No sandwiches. No crackers. No cookies. No problem!
No, you aren't going to be bringing an empty paper sack. While we're on the subject, ditch the brown bag. Really, it's the 21st century. Time to invest in a nice, reusable lunch sack. One with a long handle that you can sling over your shoulder, and extra insulation to keep your food at the optimal temperature. If you're going to be 'brown baggin' it' without bread, it's more than worth the investment.
Sit down, breathe deeply. Pull out a pen and paper.
Make a list of all your favorite lunch time foods. Breathe. Don't edit it. I know, I know, there will be foods you can't eat on there. Don't worry about it. Write them down anyways.
Now...don't start crossing things off! If you do, you'll need to bring out that old papersack to stop hyperventilating. I promise, you won't go hungry. What I want you to do is circle the things on there that you CAN still eat. If there isn't anything, your list was too short!
For instance, you can still have fruit. Watermelon, oranges, apple slices, grapes...all perfectly portable and completely Celiac friendly. Potato chips are still okay. So are corn chips. You can have veggie sticks and ranch. (Not one of your favorites? Well, that's okay too.) Salads are still perfectly fine, you just have to skip the croutons. There may be some gluten free crouton options available, or you can make your own...so don't despair.
Now to tackle the sandwich issue. Most people love sandwiches. Sandwiches and lunch time go together like...well like peanut butter and jelly. But most sandwich bread is made with wheat and yeast; it relies on gluten to get that lovely spongy feel. There are some gluten free alternatives. Do not grab a loaf of gluten free bread and assume your problem is solved. Honestly, although there are tasty options out there, if you expect to switch to gluten free bread without blinking an eye you're going to choke on it. It's not 'the same'. Give yourself some time to miss bread before you start looking for that replacement.
So what can you do? Relax. Bread isn't the only vehicle for sandwich dressings.
Wrap it up. Although bread is off limits, corn and rice tortillas are not. Check any local grocery store for gluten free tortillas. Add your favorite sandwich toppings (including peanut butter and jelly), roll and enjoy.
Go bare. Just because you're used to smearing hummus and sprouts on whole wheat doesn't mean that it has to be that way. Take the salad leaves you usually gently set between the slices of bread, and add a dollop of hummus and olives and tomato. Or layer with lunchmeat, and drizzle with your preferred condiments. This is called 'lo-carbing'. Leftover burgers can be packed this way, too. Lettuce makes a nice, crunchy alternative...but it does wilt eventually so keep it chilled.
Eat cake. Marie Antoinette said it best, let them eat cake! Rice cakes, that is. Yeah, I've heard the hype too...cardboard, styrofoam...actually, rice cakes aren't that bad. Try topping with refried beans, salsa and cheese. Or nut butter and chocolate chips. Or just cheese and tomato, slightly toasted. (yes, you can toast rice cakes. Use a toaster oven, and only pop them in long enough for the cheese to melt)
Beyond the sandwich: You don't have to stick to your fallback lunches. Recycled dinners go well in lunchsacks. Chili tastes better the second or third day and can be paired up with gluten free crackers or chips. Shred chicken onto a salad. Burritos make good leftovers, too.
Bring Breakfast: Breakfast can do double duty. Trader Joe's sells gluten free waffles that taste fan-tabulous, even after they've been sitting in a lunchbox for 2 hours. Top with peanut butter and jelly, or slice up and dip in maple syrup. Bring some breakfast meat for protein, or a container of yoghurt. You can even pack up a tupperware of your favorite gluten free cereal and a thermos full of milk (my not-celiac husband's favorite snack-meal)
Now, why am I suggesting gluten free waffles but not gluten free bread? The fact is, the gluten free alternatives simply taste more appealing in a baked good. Bread is supposed to be bread like. It has a specific texture. There are a varieties of textures and densities in baked goods. And it's a lot easier to simulate a normal waffle than it is a 'normal' slice of bread. Once you've recovered from shock, by all means, try out the gluten free bread's out there. But, prepare yourself. They cost 3 and 4 times as much as their counterparts...so you may still need a few bread-less suggestions.
The options are endless, but you only really need to come up with 5 good ones. Write them down. A work-week's worth of brown bag lunches, almost effortlessly. You won't miss the gluten. Well, you won't miss it much anyway.