SUMMERCAMPIt is about that time of year.  Many of our kids will be going off to camp this summer.

Some of our kids will be doing gluten-free camps, which is an awesome option.  But for those of us who don’t have a gluten free or celiac camp on our doorstep, finding a good camp solution may mean bringing your own food.

Recently, I received this question on The Savvy Celiac Facebook Page from Nikki:  

Any suggestions for food to pack for my 9-year-old going to a camp for four days where they do not provide any accommodation on their menu? He will have to eat all of his own food. 

First some practical discussion points with the camp (Nikki may have already done these things, but I thought I would talk it out here for others who might be in the same boat):

  1. Check to make sure your child can have a portion of the refrigerator and freezer dedicated to his supplies. Also, find out what kind of labeling you should do to ensure no one takes them.
  2. Confirm your child can have the fresh fruit, veggies, salad, milk, juice, that the others are having.  I would hope there could be someone in the kitchen dedicated to pulling out a bowl of the meal’s fruit/veggies, before the other kids dig into it.
  3. What is the menu for the week?  If your child wants to have meals similar to the ones other kids are having, you will need to get the menu in advance.
  4. Find out if there are any special camp events surrounding food.  i.e. S’mores, chocolate fountain, pizza night, baking or cooking project, etc.
  5. Ask about use of the microwave for reheating and oven for cooking.
  6. See what they can do so the actual process of your child getting his/her meal isn’t overly obvious.  Your child needs to eat just like everyone else, so just play it cool.  I know making a spectacle of it would make the camp experience worse for my daughter.
  7. Get the contact name of the camp liaison regarding the meals. When you figure out your gluten-free game plan, make sure that contact and your child are fully aware.  Make sure that liaison has your contact information in case there are questions or a problem.

Gluten Free Food Ideas for the Week:

The “Bring” category is the main gluten-free food necessary to get your child through the week.  The “ASK” category are suggestions that may allow you to expand the gluten free options by asking whether naturally gluten-free foods in the kitchen could easily be served up for your child before all the kids get at the food. 

Breakfast:  

BRING:

  • Cold cereal! — This absolutely seems easiest to me.  Get their FAVORITE cereal and let that work for the week.  
  • Cereal bars.  Envirokids has simple bars made from their cereals.  
  • Protein/snack bars.  If your child likes these, there are a TON on the market:  KIND Snacks, Luna Protein, Lara bars, NoGii, Soy Joy, and more. (may need refrigeration if chocolate is involved)
  • Box of gluten free donuts  (needs freezer space)

ASK:
There is always naturally gluten free food available at camps, restaurants and more.  

  • Inquire about fruit that might be available (as mentioned above).
  • Do they serve any eggs?  Boiled, scrambled, fried?  As long as nothing is added to them, if they could do one serving on a plate, that would great protein for the day.  
  • Yogurt? If they have yogurt, find out what brand to confirm it’s “gluten-freeness”.  Maybe each day your child can have yogurt to supplement the meal he brought from home.

Lunch:

BRING:

  • Lunch meat, cheese and bread for sandwiches.  My daughter would rather eat the meat and cheese on crackers like a “Lunchable” (needs refrigeration).
  • Annie’s Homegrown individual serving mac and cheese bowls (look for the gluten-free labeled container).
  • Chips.

ASK:
Do they serve salad, veggies or fruit with each meal?  If so, please see if they can set some aside for your child.  Then add gluten free salad dressing to your “Bring” column.

Dinner:

BRING:  

  • My instinct on dinner is to try to make frozen meals that are just reheated.  This can be done when you find out what the menu is for the week.  You might be able to make a similar dinner for your child.  These meals might even be healthier for your child.
  • Not an option for you to make food?  Premake a pizza and put it in the freezer to await baking.
  • GlutenFreeda has some yummy “Hot Pocket” style foods that are gluten free.
  • Amy’s and other companies has some gluten-free frozen dishes that just need to be warmed in the microwave.
  • Pack some hot dogs or veggie burgers which are quick and easy to reheat in the microwave. 
  • Make sure you have a yummy dessert option available.

ASK:

  • Inquire again about the naturally gluten free produce options.  
  • Having a cookout? Can the kitchen staff grill up a burger on aluminum foil for your child that day?  If yes, then add a gluten-free bun to your “Bring” list.
  • What about dessert for the the meals? What typically do they serve?  If they have plain vanilla ice cream for a sundae bar, it is possible that ice cream is safe to eat.  If yes, then just make sure everyone understands your child should get ice cream first.

Snacks:

  • Go Picnic has many shelf-stable meals that are gluten-free (always read the label to confirm because some Go Picnic meals are not).  We used these as snack/lunches while in Haiti on our mission trip over our spring break and they worked great.  I don’t think they are enough for a real meal (in my opinion), but it is great to have just in case.  
  • Kirkland Signature Steak Strips (aka beef jerky) at Costco or Old Wisconsin beef sticks.  The jerky was a lifesaver in Haiti!  A lot of jerky IS NOT gluten free.  But the Kirkland Signature was!  If you can’t find any, look at Costco.
  • Fruit Leathers.  Yummy in the tummy but bad for the teeth.  We allowed it for the week in Haiti, but not before and not after.
  • Applesauce.  Seriously is it just me or does applesauce taste better in those funky squeeze pouches?
  • Nuts!  If the camp will allow nuts, bring them!  Pistachios were really good in Haiti, but did get stale after a few days in the humidity.
  • Hummus.  Sabra Hummus with a cracker or veggies is a good snack.  You can get them in individual containers. (needs refrigeration).

I am certain my readers will have additional suggestions.  I know some of my foods are processed gluten free foods which many folks stay away from.  I say do the best you can so your child can BEST manage the situation without you.  If you can help it, don’t make it too complicated. 

If, in the end, your child truly has to supply all his/her food, then ask for a camp fee deduction.  You are spending extra money on the food for your child, in my opinion, you shouldn’t have to pay the same amount as everyone else since the camp staff isn’t feeding your child from the camp food supply.

Good luck!  If you have other suggestions, please comment below.

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One Response to “Gluten Free Food List when Summer Camp isn’t GF”

  1. Hi, I have been a camp nurse for 10 years and we offered gluten free at our camp upon request before anyone heard of it. A couple suggestions and that is 1.our kitchen made a lot of its own desserts from mixes and if a child brought their own mix for brownies on brownie night or cake on cake night our cooks would make it right along with making the other desserts. (They knew not to use the same utensils). 2.Have your contact take some of the labels off their canned or frozen boxes and fax them to mom for approval if in doubt. 3. Most camps now keep their menus in the computer and can email the list to you so you can match a similar meal so your child doesn’t stand out. 4. It also never hurts to make friends with the camp nurse if there is one, as they may already be familiar and can help advocate for your child. julie

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