Packing a Lunch for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Packing A School Lunch For Kids With IBS Requires A Little Creativity

Lunch box piglet
Packing a lunch is probably a better idea than buying one, but it still presents some challenges when you have IBS. Ugopapa / Getty Images

Finding foods that don't trigger irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms is difficult, but turning them into healthy brown bag lunches is even more challenging. Children and adults in school face the challenge of packing lunches that taste good and don't cause IBS symptoms such as pain, bloating, and diarrhea.

What About School Lunches?

Even with a renewed focus on nutrition in the United States, school lunch menus haven't changed much over the years.

The kid-friendly staples of burgers, pizza, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and grilled cheese are still on many elementary school menus, although they are now accompanied by baby carrots, fresh fruit, and raisins instead of French fries. High school lunch menus may offer more variety including sandwiches on French or sourdough bread, soup and baked potatoes, but junk food items such as ice cream, cookies and brownies are also available. College cafeterias can be mixed bag, with many campuses bringing fast food chains into their student unions.

Finding good food choices for people with IBS might be very difficult and may even change from day to day. This is why packing a lunch, while time-intensive, can be the best idea to prevent IBS flare-ups.

Benefits of Packing a Lunch

Packing lunches for school is a good way to steer clear of unhealthy alternatives, but it does require some creativity and willingness to experiment.

Food must also be handled properly to avoid spoiling--if there is no refrigerator or microwave available the choices will be a bit more limited.

Some important points to remember when creating IBS friendly lunches are:

  • Avoid artificial sweeteners.
  • Avoid gassy foods (Bananas, Beans, Nuts, Raisins, etc).
  • Include plenty of soluble fiber (Brown rice, French bread, Oatmeal, Pasta, Sourdough bread, Soy).
  • Include high protein, low fat foods.

Using a Thermos

A thermos is an excellent way to carry IBS friendly drinks such as chamomile tea, soymilk, or even sparkling water. Soups, stews, and rice dishes can fit in a thermos and be the main dish in a healthy lunch.


Upgrading Your Sandwich Game

The staple of brown bag lunches is the sandwich. It travels well, is easy to eat on the run, and has an endless variety. However, peanut butter and jelly on white may not sit well with people who have IBS, so sandwiches need some new ingredients. Breads such as sourdough and French are delicious alternatives to plain white bread. Skip the lunchmeat, cheese, and mayonnaise and try soy, tofu, or seafood alternatives.


You Can Still Do Desserts and Snacks

Many of us have a craving for a sweet or salty snack after our healthy meal. The good news is that there are plenty of desserts and snacks that can satisfy both the craving and the need to follow an IBS diet.


Cut Down On The Time It Takes

Packing a lunch every day can be time consuming. From time to time it may be tempting to skip the brown bag and purchase cafeteria or fast food which is not always nutritious or IBS-friendly. Use these tips to minimize the time and energy necessary to make lunches:

  • Cook foods in large batches and freeze in small portions.
  • Pack lunches the night before instead of in the morning.
  • Wrap up a weeks worth of snacks in individual portions.
  • Prepare tea or other drinks in a large pitcher that's ready to pour into a Thermos.
  • Get the kids to pitch in and help; turn Sunday night lunch packing into quality time.