The Autism and ADHD School Lunch

If your child has ADHD or an Autism Spectrum disorder, the dietary changes that help them can make preparing school lunches a nightmare. You don’t just have to ensure it’s a lunch with GFCF, additive-free, allergen-free food, but you also have to make a lunch your child will want to eat!


Firstly, brainstorm about all the foods you know your child loves to eat. Can anything be kept in the new diet? What can be substituted? Depending on your child’s age, ask them what their favourite foods are and make a list to fall back on when feeling stuck for good ideas. Your child will be more willing to eat a lunch that they’ve had an input with. Notice what your child brings home uneaten and make sure they have enough variety. Find a few meal and snack ideas that work for your child and make a written plan for the week where you rotate them. This is helpful when it comes to shopping lists, budgeting, time, prep work, and if someone else has to step in and do the lunch packing for you.


When it comes to preparation, do as much of it as possible the night before to save on the morning pre-school stress. Peel and cut fruit to make it easier for your child to eat and use easy-open-and-close containers so little ones won’t spill anything on the way home. Cut up fruits and vegetables can be dipped into fresh lemon juice mixed with water to prevent browning. Freezing juice the night before and putting it into your child’s lunch bag in the morning will keep the other food cool, and the juice will thaw by lunchtime.


Also, make lunch creative and fun to so it’s more appealing. Try special shape cut-outs, skewers and party toothpicks. You could include stickers or a personal note from Mum or Dad for little ones, and for older kids, you could occasionally start a treasure hunt where you send them looking for the next clues somewhere in their school supplies or at home so they can win a reward or privilege.


There are a few meal and snack ideas that you can use to get started. Use rice cakes or GFCF waffles instead of bread, or sliced, cored apple rings as a substitute for a bagel with a nut butter spread. Try fruit or veggie kebabs with dip, or homemade granola bars or little pots of granola cereal. Water should be the drink of choice, but for variety you could try homemade lemonade or an almond or rice milk. You could even give them dinner leftovers in a thermos, like GFCF spaghetti, soup, or a rice dish, as long as your child’s school can provide a clean plate. Make sure the school knows your child’s requirements – written instructions are always best.

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