Back to school means it’s time to start getting creative about what to pack in those Paleo lunchboxes! Ensuring your child has a Paleo friendly lunch that they will actually eat is a chore many parents dread to tackle at the end of the day, but all the effort is well worth it! A well-formulated Paleo lunch will go a long way to support your child’s cognitive, academic, and psychosocial development.
How To Effortlessly Pack Your Child’s Paleo Lunchbox:
It can be challenging enough to plan and shop for meals to be eaten at home, especially when life happens and the family gets busy. Ingredients for packed lunches often get left off the grocery list completely. Start with creating one, seasonal Paleo lunch plan for a single week of packed lunches. Keep it simple with one menu and a few options you can execute easily to get in a regular rhythm for the school year. You can add new menu ideas as inspiration strikes or as requests are made.
Vegetables and Dips
Pair raw, dehydrated or roasted vegetables (carrots, celery, jicama sticks, cucumbers, baked sweet potato fries, snap peas, blanched green beans, peppers, home-made vegetable chips etc.) with Paleo dips on the side.
Lunchboxes provide endless opportunities for exposing children to new and different foods, especially the foods that may need a little more convincing, like vegetables. Children are more likely to try new foods when they are hungry and have no other options available to them, such as when they are at school. Vegetables will also hold up well in lunchboxes, and can be eaten on the way home from school without worrying that they have spoiled, as opposed to leftover proteins that may not have been kept cold enough by an ice pack on a hot day.
Make a super Paleo salad (check our Salad Guide) or throw together some available ingredients like greens, meat strips or cubes, shredded carrots, beets, olives, avocado, nuts/seeds, crumbled egg, cucumber, cauliflower, and other veggie chunks in a to-go container. Serve with a favorite Paleo dressing in another small container and don’t forget to pack a fork!
Last night’s dinner can be just as popular and delicious, even when served cold! Leftovers such as BBQ chicken, burger patties, or thin-sliced steak are delicious when made into Paleo-style sandwiches, burgers rollups or wraps. Leftover meatballs work well with dips and sauces too.
You can use a large lettuce, chard, or other green leaf as the “bread” wrapped around quality deli meats, tomato, onion, avocado, and spices. Serve with pickles or home-made “fries” make a perfect lunch.
Quality deli meats can be rolled around avocado or sliced vegetables and are fun and easy to eat and thinly slices meats also work well alone, wrapped into a tube for a quick on-the-go snack.
Need dinner on the table, ready when you are? Our weekly meals are always a family favorite and leftovers make a great lunchbox addition.
Tuna, Salmon, or Egg Salad
Tuna or salmon salad are easy to make using wild canned fish, avocado oil mayo, diced onion, celery, pickles, and fresh or dried dill seasoning. You can make egg salad a similar fashion. Wrap these salads in lettuce leaves, pile them on leafy greens, or serve with a side of raw, roasted or dehydrated vegetables for easy dipping.
Chicken Drumsticks or Wings
Chicken meat is always a crowd pleaser, even when served cold. Chicken legs or drumettes contain more healthy fats than breasts and are also easier to eat on-the-go. Try seasoning with lime juice, salt, and pepper and bake in the oven or BBQ for an easy, delicious meal.
Make deviled eggs or simply hard boil eggs and serve them sliced in half topped with salt and pepper. Cold bacon and hard-cooked eggs together are always enjoyable, hot or cold. You could also make mini egg muffins, packed with favorite flavors and ingredients which are tasty, travel well and easy to eat on-the-go.
Have you tried Pete’s Bacon? The meatiest, most supple, melt-in-your-mouth bacon you’ll ever have. It’s a game-changer.
Everyone loves baked goods, especially a good Paleo muffin which is delicious, nutrient dense and healthy! You can use these as a tasty canvas to pack in some fruits and vegetables
Well-sourced, additive and nitrate-free cured meats like salami, pepperoni, or soppressata pair well with pickled veggies, sun-dried tomatoes and some dehydrated vegetable chips or Paleo crackers.
Fruit and Nuts
Pack raw fruit (berries, melon chunks, apple or pear slices) with single serving packs of nut butter or seed butter, or pack celery sticks to make ants-no-a-log. Be sure to check if the school your child attends is a nut free facility – seed butters work just as well.
As winter approaches and the weather cools down, try packing Paleo soups, stews, and chilis in an insulated thermos. The thermos keeps food hot for several hours, so a piping hot meal can be enjoyed hours after it was packed.
Use Lunchbox Themes
Most lunchboxes today are divided into various compartments, leading many to wonder what are they supposed to put in each section in order to fill it up, especially for Paleo parents who do not feed their kids the usual fare of pretzels, snack crackers, cereal and cookies. Focus on three themes to create a framework for three different days of the week. You could try a sandwich box (with apple slices and sunflower seed butter and cucumber slices with guacamole), a breakfast box (a slice of an egg and pork frittata with a fruit salad), and a leftover box (roasted carrot “French fries” and a mini meatloaf or egg muffin). Extra vegetables, both raw and cooked, can be added to round out the meal.
Be Mindful of Too Many Nuts
Many schools are completely nut-free to protect children with severe, life-threatening allergies. This is easy enough to comply to with a little planning and there are plenty of choices for what to pack instead. Have your child create their own pumpkin seed and coconut flake-based trail mix. Or include sunflower seed butter as part of a dip. Most importantly, a packed Paleo lunchbox is an extension of how you feed your child throughout the day. A handful of nuts or a few tablespoons of nut butter with breakfast or after dinner are easy enough to add if desired.
Engage Children in the Process
Children, even the younger ones, have strong opinions and are rarely shy about sharing their food preferences. Get their feedback to use as a guideline on what they do and don’t want to eat in their lunchbox. They might prefer not to have stinky tuna fish or hard-boiled eggs to eat in front of their friends. You could also discover that putting one Paleo treat, such as unsweetened dried berries, a muffin or a little home-made trail mix, can go a long way in creating good will and provide the incentive for them to eat the green chard lettuce wrap you may also have included. There is definite benefit from their engagement if they would be willing to wash the lunchbox each night to prepare it for the next day, and to help pack it with their favorite Paleo lunch ideas.
Nothing is perfect. Be flexible. Real food may not always be as consistent as the convenience products you buy from the grocery store. You may face a little resistance or feel the effort is tiring and burdensome but with a plan and a few ideas, you can have your children well-fed and nourished with each lunchbox.
The beginning of the school year is filled with its own stresses, schedules, readjustments and constraints. Making sure keeping you and your family nourished and fueled need not be an added chore.
Happy Paleo lunch packing!
Michal Ofer is a wellness and digestion expert and nutrition coach. She is focused on assisting clients to take control of their health and happiness through the sustainable food and lifestyle choices that best support them. Through strengthening the body from the inside out, her clients are able to reach new heights of health, happiness and wellness. Michal obtained her Professional Training and Certificate from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. She has a further studied through the University of Colorado (Boulder) and Stanford University and is a Certified 21 Day Sugar Detox Coach. Michal has also received a Bachelor’s Degree in Life Sciences and a Master Life Coach Certification. For further information and to connect with Michal visit her website at www.michalofer.com