Friday Lunch Wrap-up

I found out what was wrong with me: I’m deficient in Vitamin D. The lab results came back and my levels are below 20. My doctor told me to start taking 1,000 mg per day. I guess Vitamin D deficiencies are common among people living in the cold. Of course, I don’t eat dairy products too, but I do eat fish and eggs frequently. Now that I know, I can take steps to make it better!
Many of you mentioned enjoying the shots I took of my son’s lunches during the Eat Along Challenge in December and indicated you wanted to continue seeing what he was eating. Well, here you go. It wasn’t exactly a “banner” week for lunches…I wasn’t able to scratch cook as much as I would have liked and mimicking the offerings at daycare is constraining as well…
(I give them a B- this week.)
Top row: Sweet potatoes fries, leftover Chipotle (gave it a shot after I read it was gf — don’t take my word for it though); Bottom row: blueberry coconut milk yogurt, Amy’s gf/df pizza (amazing), applesauce, crackers, (rice cheese not pictured)
The daycare menu for Monday was American cheese sandwich, chicken noodle soup, applesauce, peas with snacks being yogurt and soynut butter on crackers. My son loves soup and cheese sandwiches and I didn’t plan well enough to make a soup for him ahead of time. I knew my lunch had to be good to compete with what he saw on his friends’ plates. We actually went out to Chipotle on Sunday night after I read it was gf (don’t take my word for it, do your own research). We haven’t been out to eat in ages, so that was nice. I had a little bit leftover so I sent it along, since I knew he liked it.
Top row: Rice and red snapper cooked in gf soy sauce,
bakery-bought gf/df muffin;
Bottom row: applesauce, sliced, skinless pears, corn, snack bar
The daycare menu was “Diced ham, rice, orange wedges, green beans, with snacks of fruit and a blueberry muffin.” I send leftovers a lot, but I planned the previous night’s dinner knowing I needed to have rice in his lunch. My kid loves fish. This was a popular lunch with him. The blueberry muffins the daycare offers are mini-spunkmeyer-like ones with no real nutritional value. I will start gf baking, at some point, but I haven’t had the time. In anticipation of muffins on the menu, I bought a few gf/df muffins from a local gf bakery and I froze them. I defrost one overnight and then send it along so that when they offer the other kids muffins, he can have one too. I’m really happy I did that because a little girl had a birthday and I’m sure that he was excluded from any food treat. They didn’t tell me in advance or I could have made sure he had something to eat in celebration…  🙁
Main: Ian’s gf/cf chicken nuggets, gf/df mac and cheese, peas;
Sides: blueberry coconut milk yogurt, sliced cucumbers and carrots, sliced pear, snack bar
You guys know how I feel about nuggets!! But when I have a two year old and I have to compete with the daycare menu they offer, well, I have to play the game. I know that making my own from scratch would be ideal. There’s no excuse; I just need to meal plan better anddo it according to the daycare menu. I keep a box of Ian’s in the freezer for occasions like this. He wasn’t crazy about this lunch and only ate half of it. The daycare menu was “Chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes, diced peaches, diced carrots, with snacks of fruit and ice cream.” Whenever I read that a snack is “ice cream,” I just have to laugh. Stupidly, I haven’t asked if they are really giving the kids ice cream!? I feel like it’s some kind of joke when I read it.
Top row: peas, passion fruit coconut milk yogurt, gf cornbread
Bottom row: rice pasta with red sauce and ground chicken, hard-boiled egg;
Far right: sliced pear, snack bar
They was his favorite lunch all week per his teachers. He ate everything. The daycare menu was “ground beef and pasta, bread, diced pears, baby peas, with snacks of yogurt and pretzels w/ cream cheese.”
FRIDAY – The day where I goofed up dinner…
…and he had to have gf/cf nuggets again!!
Top row: rice cheese, pasta and sauce (repeat), cornbread (repeat);
Bottom row: nuggets (boo), carrots, applesauce, crackers, and snack bar
Yesterday, the night before this meal, I made chicken tostadas with ground chicken and refried beans. At the last moment, I decided to drizzle some never-before-opened red pepper oil on top for flavor. I drizzled it on and then read the label, while putting a drop of it to my lips. The last ingredient said “flavor” and when I read it, I realized the oil was insanely spicy, too. I was kicking myself when I saw that and did my best to dilute it in the pan. He didn’t eat much, but I ate my dinner with my fingers crossed. Wouldn’t you know it, I woke up with a terrible tummyache AND my son had the biggest tantrum he has had for months about not wanting to put on a piece of clothing. So I don’t know what was in that stuff, but I couldn’t pack it in his lunch or even eat it for mine.
So I went with the leftover pasta that had been a hit before (even though I don’t like to repeat the main dish) and I had to get out the only convenience food we keep in the house (the blasted nuggets) and throw those in. I felt like a failure!!
Also notice the packaged cheese on the top. That is rice cheese. No, I’m not kidding. I would never buy this, but at daycare they give the kids American cheese slices. I know that he wants to eat the same things as they do (he’s only two so it’s not like he can be reasoned with), so when I can, I do try to give him similar stuff. The menu was “Whole grain pasta with meat sauce, mandarin oranges, green beans, with snacks of fruit and cheese and crackers.”
He went to daycare once last week (over break, when I had more time).
Top row: broccoli, quinoa, chili lemon salmon;
Bottom row: tomato soup, pears, pomegranate seeds, snack bar
Just to show that I can make beautiful lunches, when I have the time. He ate the fish and the soup. What did he leave behind? Half of the quinoa and broccoli. Not too bad.
(I rate them B+)
Wraps with turkey salami, coconut milk yogurt, pear, KIND bar for later
Everything is gf/cf for me. I read all the necessary labels to make sure.
Repeat – I don’t need variety like my son.
Rice pasta and sauce with chicken, cucumbers, yogurt, (snack bar not pictured)
I love pasta. It was one of my favorite school lunches too! The rice pasta isn’t terrible once you get used to it.
gf/df mac and cheese, cucumbers and carrots, egg, KIND bar for snack
The gf/df pasta is really great. We had some leftover so I ate it. It looks greenish because they use like a pesto-y powder. This lunch really wasn’t enough. I was hungry by 3pm. 
Top row: gf English muffin with peanut butter, blueberry coconut milk yogurt
Bottom row: chili, pear

I made chili one night this week, but I didn’t send it with my son. He didn’t want to eat it, only picking out the chickpeas. I should mention that when you have a fat pear, you can’t close the laptop lunch box. So, I had to throw most of the pears into my purse, which was perfect for an afterschool snack. I wash the pear off and dry it with a paper towel, which makes a perfect napkin.

A couple things I’d like to mention:

1) I don’t think everyone should go gluten-free or that school lunches should be gluten-free (although with small tweaks, many rice-based lunches could be). I had to make these dietary changes for my family. It’s not easy and you shouldn’t do it unless you think you might benefit. However, I do believe that many people live with sensitivities, allergies, and intolerances to many different foods that go untreated for years.

2) I’m going to start baking gluten-free so that it’s not costing me a fortune when I go shopping. So that should be interesting!

3) I have talked to my son’s daycare about the food and they told me if I want organic food, I need to bring it myself. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m trying to raise awareness about the quality of the food at daycare with other parents, but they tell me that they are struggling with picky eaters and are simple pleased that their children are eating anything at all. I haven’t met or seen any other parents who pack, but I’m going to keep my eyes open.

4) The book club giveaway will be announced on Monday! I think Monday will be “Book Club Monday.” I may not have a book club post every week, but whenever I have a book club announcement, I’ll do it then.

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37 thoughts on “Friday Lunch Wrap-up

  1. I just went back and looked at your posts for the first week of January in 2010. Talk about a 180. New camera aside, I just love how they journey has unraveled!

  2. Gluten-free baking: check out The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread. My mom is gluten free and so far everything out of that book has been terrific. It's a little tedious finding all the flours and mixing them up but well worth the trouble!

  3. I have never seen coconut yogurt – something new to look for! Seeing your hard boiled egg reminded me that I should make some – my chickens aren't laying right now, since there aren't enough hours of sunlight each day (and I am too lazy to hang a light for them…)

  4. I've found the Tinkyada brown rice pasta to be really good, not just not "terrible once you get used to it." A friend (and fellow celiac) thinks the rice pasta tastes slimy and prefers corn pasta (although I don't know if he's tried Tinkyada). My daughter (another celiac) likes the Schar pasta best. It's a mix of corn, rice, and buckwheat flour. None of them have much fiber, but I'm glad at least that there are all these brands/choices now!

    Baking gluten free is more costly than "regular" baking, too. You'll find that the flours are pricier and you need more of them. But you at least then have control over everything in the food!

    As for nuggets, I use them occasionally. Bell & Evans makes a GF nuggets as well as GF tenders. I don't know if they're any better nutrionally than the Ian's nuggets, but I can tell you they taste quite good.

    Finally, I just wanted to say that all those lunches look pretty good to me. I think you're doing a great job. Don't beat yourself up for the rare flub.


  5. I adore Cybele Pascal's the Allergen Free Baker's Handbook. It is so worth the effort to obtain her suggested ingredients!

  6. Not trying to pick a fight (or stir the pot) but it often seems that the parents who say that their children will "Only eat such and such" are the ones who are eating highly-processed foods. I figure they get used to the highly-salted and fatty foods and then other more natural foods seem bland by comparison.

    Our 2.5 year old eats practically everything we offer her and rarely gets less nutrious food. She's not expecting hamburgers, etc. for a meal so she's happy with what we provide.

    Hoping you can persuade a few other parents at daycare to your side! We're very lucky that our preschool (only a few hours per week) has a rule about healthy snacks, so no cookies or junk food allowed. Parents take turns bringing snacks in and we have a no nut, dairy or soy ban as well due to allergies.

  7. I like how the new Laptop Lunches seem to have a larger container you can use for taking your pasta and such. That was one big issue I had when I bought a LL for myself about 4 years ago, the little 1 – 1 1/2 cup containers just didn't hold enough food to fill me up as an adult for a day when I like to bring leftovers a lot. Still spendier than I can afford on my student budget right now, but I can live vicariously through you and maybe think about saving up for the Power Lunch in the future 🙂

  8. Oh my Gawd, That stuff looks nasty. I would rather have your school pizza anyday over that stuff.

  9. The Institute of Medicine just issued a huge report finding that most American get all the calcium and vitamin D they need without supplements, either through the food they eat, or, in the case of vitamin D, a combination of food and sunlight. Your problem may be genetic. The dose your doctor is recommending is way higher that what the Institute of Medicine says is adequate. You might want to take a look at that report.

  10. I don't know if you already do this, but I like to make big batches of things and then freeze them. So when you do make chicken nuggets you can freeze some, and then they will be just as convenient as what you're using now.

    Also, I like the website

  11. I'm sure your doc mentioned purchasing a lamp or two that provides natural sunlight effects? My doc told me about those to also help with seasonal depression.

  12. I would not go by the Institute of Medicine report, I would look online for some very interesting information that questions it.

    I too have a child that eats just about everything. (he's 7) he has been eating the same things we have ever since he started table food. I make dinner from scratch with a wide variety of veggies, etc. He does not like sodas and cake either. (His choice)

  13. I'm interested in the coconut milk yogurts. Can you explain if they are homemade… or if store bought?

  14. Hi, Mrs. Q. These lunches look great! I wanted to offer a suggestion for a cheese alternative.

    My toddler goes to a Montessori preschool and they're also into cheese, while we feed him a vegan diet. I often send squares of pressed tofu rolled in nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast (or "nooch" as it's known in our house) is gluten-, dairy- and soy-free. It's orangey-yellow. Pour a bit of nooch into a dish and roll the tofu in it. I use small cookie cutters for the tofu.

    My toddler LOVES nooch and actually will bring me the container. It's very rich in B12, as well.

  15. My son has food allergies and cannot eat most of the birthday treats sent into his school. I sent several safe treats to school with him at the start of the year, knowing that he will have a treat readily available for spur of the moment celebrations. Every few months I replenish his treat supply. I have sent in cupcakes labeled with his name and the teacher just freezes them for me and when bday treats roll around she feds him from his safe stash. It is so easy on us!

    I think the lunches look and sound great (With the exception of the fish, but that is just my personal turn off. I have never liked fish and now that my son is allergic to it we never cook it). Loving the Friday picture wrap up!

  16. For the commenter that posted about the Vitamin D report. The government actually just upped their recommendations for Vitamin D, and most doctors that have researched the matter believe that they didn't up it enough-oddly enough none of the people on the committee to decide the new level were a vitamin d expert. All the research on vitamin D's role in preventing diseases especially cancer prevention is still being investigated, so they upped the level purely on the basis on helping bones. Many doctors believe that once more studies are done, they will up the vitamin D recommendations yet again on the basis on preventing other diseases, not just for bone strength.

    (*conspiracy theory alert* there is testing going on for a vitamin d prescription that some believe will probably get approval right around the time that they decide to up the vitamin D recommendations to what the experts are asking them to)

    The best thing to do, is what Mrs. Q did. Have your vitamin D level checked by your doctor, adjust your intake, and have it tested again. If you live in a sunny climate you are probably going to get enough from sunlight and diet, but if you live somewhere with cold and clouds, you might need a supplement. Actually many researchers believe that cold and flu season is so bad in winter purely because that is when we have lower amounts of vitamin D in our systems.

  17. I want to second a couple of recommendations that a previous commenter suggested for gluten free foods. I am a big fan of Tinkyada pasta as well (which you can find at a lot of grocery stores these days) and I also highly recommend Bell and Evans gluten free chicken nuggets, etc. ( While they are still chicken nuggets, they are delicious, gluten free, and I think much healthier than the typical processed nuggets.
    Also, if you are going to start baking, I use a lot of Better Batter flour ( It's definitely not cheap, but I have found it to be a successful cup-for-cup substitute in most recipes and that is not easy to accomplish gluten free! There are also a ton of recipes on their website and I believe it is certified dairy free as well.
    If you are looking for premade items (aren't we all sometimes??), I highly recommend Udi's ( Their bread and bagels are the best I've had, and they also have several muffins that are quite good (and all dairy free too!). It isn't cheap, but they offer coupons on their website, and Whole Foods has Udi's coupons in this month's coupon thingy in the store.
    I just wanted to offer some suggestions I wish I knew when I first went gluten free– hope it helps!!

  18. Hi Mrs. Q –

    Could you please tell us what the rice cheese, gf/df mac & cheese and snack bar brands are? My daughter is allergic to eggs, all dairy & soy. I have discovered So Delicious coconut yogurt, which she LOVES, but haven't tried any alternative cheese products as I thought they'd be all soy based.

  19. Mmmmmm–I lurve KIND bars.

    And your lunches look nummy. Keep tweaking until you know what is working best for you and that child–it's so worth it!

  20. Re: "…the rice pasta isn't bad once you get used to it."

    I used to do a lot of cooking for a GF girlfriend and we found that GF pasta varies tremendously by brand. Try shopping around till you find one you like.

    DeBoles makes a Corn pasta that has a chew more like the real thing but it adds a cornbread-like flavor to your dinner (this may or may not be a problem, depending on the dish).

    The best I ever tasted was Quinoa Pasta (I forget the brand, but it comes in a teal-colored box). It actually had the best flavor, color, and chewy texture, provided you don't overcook it. It is quite a bit more expensive, though.

  21. I used to eat at Chipotle's, too, until I got sick from eating there. I think there are two problems: cross-contamination when cheese or sour cream gets into one of the other containers, and cross-contamination from the spoons of the beans/rice at the beginning of the line. They scoop out beans/rice and plunk the spoon right on the flour tortillas, and then put the spoons back in the tubs of beans and rice.
    Also, regarding pre-made food that doesn't make you feel bad for feeding it to your kids: I like Amy's brand foods. They are all vegetarian, and there are several gluten and dairy free options. We love the black bean tamales with spanish rice. They also have a delicious rice mac and fake cheese that's made of the new Daiya cheese. Their soups are fairly tasty, and several are gluten and dairy free. We like the split pea, lentil and black beans, as well as the tuscan style one and the southwestern style one. My ds will eat the split pea as it is from the can (heated); I prefer all of them to be seasoned a bit more before I eat them. I would add Mrs. Dash if I could (orange allergy), but seasoned salt is ok. If I'm not in a hurry, I make my own, by adding stuff like coriander, cumin(for the black beans), onion and/or garlic powders. It takes them from being "eh" to pretty darned good.

  22. I used to be annoyed when reading your blog and hearing about the soapbox you were on about food. I feel like being gluten free/dairy free is trendy in today's society and I can't really take it seriously. I don't believe in organic food either (besides the fact that organic fruit usually tastes better). I think going green and all this talk about 'whole' foods is 95% hype. We only live once and scores of "healthy" people get cancer. So no, you're not going to live an extra 40 years just because you only eat organic food. I don't trust all the 'experts' out there either. They publish one article saying such and such is horrible for you and then two months later say the exact opposite. But now I get your blog. We all have things we will or won't eat for different reasons. Everyone has different digestive problems/concerns and you are just figuring them out for yourself and family and happen to blog about it. Clearly, you take it very seriously and I take very little in my life serious. So I wanted to apologize (I realize you don't even know who I am) for being so critical and judgmental and commend you truly being passionate about what you believe even if I disagree with you.

  23. Your little guy didn't finish all the red quinoa…if it was a taste issue with him, we are big fans of the golden quinoa at my house because of its super soft texture and how it can be flavored with anything and it really takes on a whole new dimension. My fave flavor combo are chili powder/cilantro, basil, and for the morning, cinnamon/Stevie. -Kate

  24. I am a preschool teacher who works at a school that is very sensitive to food allergies and restrictions. We post laminated information cards with the child's name AND picture above our counters to prevent accidents. I also suggest to parents that they send a labled bag with treats (cupcakes, cookies or mini muffins) that their child can have so we can freeze them for any occasions that come up. No one is left out that way. Good luck!

  25. I highly recommend checking out paleo and primal recipes for baking. They're totally grain free, and usually a lot easier to make than the regular baked goods. Like Paleo pancakes- the basics is two eggs and either a banana or a single serve cup of apple sauce. A spoonful of almond butter can be added for texture (you do need enough butter/oil to keep it from sticking, just as you would if you were making omelettes), and chocolate chips are amazing in these. I usually add a splash of vanilla and cinnamon too, and just this weekend I replaced the apple sauce/banana with pureed nectarine. Soooo good. also has an amazing grain free chocolate cake recipe.

  26. Thanks for all your feedback. It feels so revealing to show you our lunches. Anyhow, the cheese he eats is "Rice Vegan" — sounds terrible, doesn't taste too bad.

    Have a great week! I'm really excited about this coming week's posts!

  27. I am diary-free (by necessity) and gluten-free (by choice- definitely not celiac, but might have a wheat intolerance) have tried Kind bars and So Delicious Coconut Milk for the first time this week (after seeing you blog about the lunches you put together) and they are both really delicious!!! I really like the almond and apricot Kind bar, and so far have only tried the blueberry and raspberry coconut yogurt but really want to try that mango one! My fiance is also tring some of the gluten-free items with me, so I'm excited for him too!

  28. I love the fact that you take such great care in what you make for your child 🙂 My daughter attends a daycare/preschool prep program and we have to provide their lunches..which I love to do because I know for she is getting the nutrition I want her to have. The teacher has told me that she has never seen a child who eats the things my daughter does LOL ie hummous, all veggies, etc…I am lucky to not have a picky 3.5 yr old 🙂 the hardest thing I had was that the school is completely nut free..not just a class but the whole school. They provide a list of companies that make nut-free products but a lot of them I will not use because they have HFCS in them…so there has been a challenge. I give you big Kudos though as always for what your doing and dont stop…

  29. Mrs Q ,
    I understand your frustration with the daycare and their food choices , but please be sensitive to the fact that funding and large quantities of food are an issue. You really didn't expect them to provide you with all prganics , did you? Maybe I am mis-interpreting , but that's the way it came acroos. Almost , as if you were surprised they said you had to provide your own food wants. I find that completly acceptable. Organic food is incredibly expensive in the comparison , and also , a lot of stores don't carry a whole lot of things in bulk that are organic.
    I am truly belssed to have children with no food related allergies , and although I feel that I have something to do with this , they are relativly open about what they eat. I , do however , have a nephew who is hf autistic , and is on a gf/sf/df/wf diet. I am very well aware of the efforts that must be made here..however , when you say things like "I am such a bad mom " "or a slacker" for sending organic Chicken nuggets with your child , it comes across incredibly judgemental and "soapboxy" ( a new word I have two little kiddos , I work a full time Job and my husband work2 jobs and is gone ( a firefighter) 4 days out of the week , every week. So as much as I would like to cook for my family and prepare homeade meals for them everyday , that is just not possible , without sending me to an early grave. I truly understand that this is your blog , and you voice your opinions , but a little sensitivity soemtimes would be nice in these kinds of instances. I dont feel like a "bad mom" for sending my children with Chicken nuggets for lunch , I am happy because it breaks the penut butter sandwich cycle we get into. Not only that , when it's paired with yogurt ,a nd fruit/veggies , I feel it's a perfectly acceptable meal , and doesn't deserve the same kind of disdain that McDonalds happy meals get from you.
    As your child grows up , chances are he will eat a hamburger , or drink a soda….and you know what ? More than likely , he is going to be 100% OK , and prolly better for it in the long run , because he will have experienced the food , and can then make his own choices, with persanl knowledge to back it up. I think if you relax on your self a bit , it's going to make everything easier in the long run…You seem like a lovely person , albeit a bit high strung 😉 , so don't feel liek you have to be "supermom" , we all need a day off here and there.

  30. Kori — I am totally high strung — you nailed me! 🙂

    Yes, I need to chill.

    I simply felt like I needed to tell you why my kid ate nuggets since I have attacked nuggets before and then all of a sudden my son is eating nuggets. To some, I look like a hypocrite.

  31. Where did you get the large container for your Laptop Lunch? I would love something that big. I bought a system for my daughter (13 months) but have yet to try it out. I'm thinking of trying it for myself first to see if I want one, but don't have that large compartment. That size would be great! Thanks!

  32. "Flavor" is usually code for MSG.

    Don't beat yourself up for serving Ian's nuggets! They're high quality, and you're doing a great job making sure he eats a balanced diet.

  33. I don't know if you've ever heard of or tried Shirataki noodles, but they are perfect for gluten/dairy free eaters. You can find them at any Asian grocery store, and also at Whole Foods. They are made of yam flour and come pre-cooked in a liquid. Unless you've grown up eating them though, the texture and smell can be a bit much for us westerners, so what I do is drain them, rinse them, and dry them out on a hot frying pan for a few minutes until they begin to shrink. They are delicious with any sauce!

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