Tag Archives: Paleo Children

The Paleo Lunchbox Primer | The Paleo Diet

Back to school means back to packing Paleo lunchboxes! It’s the chore many parents dread to tackle at the end of the day, but all the effort that goes into providing nutrient-dense, energy-rich fuel for your children is well worth it!1 Support your child’s cognitive, academic, and psychosocial development2 with these tips for effortlessly packing your child’s Paleo lunchbox for the next 180 school days.


For many busy families it’s challenging enough to plan and shop for meals to be eaten at home, that the 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 you can execute easily to get in a regular rhythm for the coming school year. You can add new menu ideas as inspiration strikes you, or as your little eaters make request.


For my daughter’s two years of preschool, I packed her completely produce-based lunchboxes. That’s right, my Paleo child didn’t even have meat in her lunchbox. Although Paleo promotes eating protein with every meal, I had a few motivations for this. Lunchboxes provide endless opportunities for exposing your child to different foods,3 especially the ones they don’t love, 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. Fruits and vegetables 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 sliced chicken breast that may not have been kept cold enough by an ice pack on a hot day.


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 Paleo parents who don’t rely on pretzels, snack crackers, cereal and cookies. Focus on three themes to create a framework for three different days of the week. For example, I make 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 ground beef and liver meatloaf muffin). Extra vegetables, both raw and cooked, can be added to round out the meal.


Many schools are completely nut-free to protect children with severe, life-threatening allergies.4 This shouldn’t throw you for a loop. There are plenty of choices for what to pack instead. Have your child create their own pumpkin seed and coconut flake based trail mix. Most importantly, a packed Paleo lunchbox is an extension of how you feed your child throughout the day. A handful of nuts can be served with breakfast or after dinner to round out your child’s diet.


Children, even the littlest ones, have strong opinions and aren’t shy about sharing their food preferences. Get their feedback to use as a guideline on what they want to eat and don’t want to eat in their lunchbox. Maybe it is too embarrassing to have stinky tuna fish or hard-boiled eggs to eat in front of their friends. You might discover that putting one Paleo treat, such as unsweetened dried blueberries, can go a long way in creating good will and provide the incentive to eat the green chard lettuce wrap you’ve also included. You’ll also 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.

My child’s Paleo lunchbox always attracts the attention of her friends, who ask if they can try what she’s eating. I think you’ll find this true for your family.

Happy Paleo lunch packing!



[1] Briefel, Ronette R., Ander Wilson, and Philip M. Gleason. “Consumption of low-nutrient, energy-dense foods and beverages at school, home, and other locations among school lunch participants and nonparticipants.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 109.2 (2009): S79-S90.

[2] Alaimo, Katherine, Christine M. Olson, and Edward A. Frongillo. “Food insufficiency and American school-aged children’s cognitive, academic, and psychosocial development.” Pediatrics 108.1 (2001): 44-53.

[3] Nicklaus, Sophie. “Development of food variety in children.” Appetite 52.1 (2009): 253-255.

[4] Watura, J. C. “Nut allergy in schoolchildren: a survey of schools in the Severn NHS Trust.” Archives of disease in childhood 86.4 (2002): 240-244.

Mom, Can I Eat It? The Slippery Slope of Food Choices | The Paleo Diet

“Can I try the bread,” my four year old asks me, when our server automatically delivers it to our table.  It was the first time she asked to eat a grain, when I didn’t have a Paleo-friendly alternative, such as an almond flour cupcake at a celebration, and I felt ill-prepared to answer. I had a split second to make a decision: if I said no what message would that send, and if I said yes what implications would that have on future choices? How do you discern when your Paleo child will eat grains?

Hunter-gatherers didn’t have to navigate this complex issue. They followed a simpler rule: catch it or find it, and you can eat it. It’s a slippery slope for families with Paleo kids today as they are surrounded by a world of wheat-based processed foods – frozen pizza and mile high frosted cupcake birthday parties, all you can eat waffle fundraiser breakfasts, bags of cheesy fish shaped crackers, and cinnamon bunnies at the playground. I think we can all agree, Paleo or not, that the nutritional standards for American children can be improved with an increase in vegetables,1,2 more Omega-3 rich fats,3 and less sugar.4

For most families, the Paleo Diet is not about keeping their children thin, but rather providing the most nutrient-dense foods to fuel physical growth and brain development.5  Foods that our DNA demands for overall health and to help our Paleo kids thrive.6 Children understand the connection between what they eat and how they feel.7 For example, too much fruit might lead to a stomachache, and too much sugar has them practically bouncing off the walls while riding an emotional roller coaster.8 However, we want to teach them about the benefits of following the Paleo Diet without developing a paranoia about eating the “right” food, called orthorexia nervosa9,10,11 so that they continue to make Paleo choices more often than not when they are living independently.

Identifying food choices for your family and children is a very personal decision based on numerous individual factors. Although, The Paleo Diet permits the 85:15 rule, allowing up to three non-Paleo meals per week, may be more generous than you choose to be with your own child.

When determining whether your Paleo kids should eat grains, legumes, or dairy, consider the following:

  • How does your child act and feel after eating the non-Paleo food? Food sensitivities can manifest with runny noses, stomach upset, and itchy skin up to one week after exposure.12
  • What ways do you model a healthy relationship with your own choices around the Paleo diet lifestyle?
  • How would your child react or would they comprehend the idea of eating three non-Paleo meals a week? For some Paleo kids this is more easily understood than others.
  • Does your child feel left out or restricted13 when she sees her peers’ choices during school lunch, play dates, and parties? For many offering Paleo-friendly foods that mimic what other children eat can be useful, such as pizza made with a cauliflower crust and raw cookies made with dates, cocoa, and nuts.

So, how did I answer my daughter, when she asked to try bread for the first time? I said yes. I want to support her curiosity to try new things, especially pertaining to vegetables and different spices and flavors. Most importantly, I don’t want her to be afraid of certain foods without first experiencing them for herself.  Even at her young age, she’s aware of how they make her feel, such as when she eats dairy products they lead to terrible stomach pains.

Whatever balance you find between Paleo and non-Paleo foods for your own Paleo kids, communicate your philosophy to them so they can understand how to best make their own dietary choices when the time arises.



[1] Hendy, Helen M., et al. “Overweight and average-weight children equally responsive to “Kids Choice Program” to increase fruit and vegetable consumption.” Appetite 49.3 (2007): 683-686.

[2] Dennison, Barbara A., Helen L. Rockwell, and Sharon L. Baker. “Fruit and vegetable intake in young children.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition17.4 (1998): 371-378.

[3] Dearden, Claire, Pat Harman, and David Morley. “Eating more fats and oils as a step towards overcoming malnutrition.” Tropical doctor 10.3 (1980): 137-142.

[4] Lustig, Robert H., Laura A. Schmidt, and Claire D. Brindis. “Public health: The toxic truth about sugar.” Nature 482.7383 (2012): 27-29.

[5] Jew, Stephanie, Suhad S. AbuMweis, and Peter JH Jones. “Evolution of the human diet: linking our ancestral diet to modern functional foods as a means of chronic disease prevention.” Journal of medicinal food 12.5 (2009): 925-934.

[6] Cordain, Loren, et al. “Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 81.2 (2005): 341-354.

[7] Canetti, Laura, Eytan Bachar, and Elliot M. Berry. “Food and emotion.”Behavioural processes 60.2 (2002): 157-164.

[8] Goldman, Jane A., et al. “Behavioral effects of sucrose on preschool children.”Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 14.4 (1986): 565-577.

[9] Donini, L. M., et al. “Orthorexia nervosa: a preliminary study with a proposal for diagnosis and an attempt to measure the dimension of the phenomenon.”Eating and Weight Disorders-Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity 9.2 (2004): 151-157.

[10] Fidan, Tulin, et al. “Prevalence of orthorexia among medical students in Erzurum, Turkey.” Comprehensive psychiatry 51.1 (2010): 49-54.

[11] Bartrina, Javier Aranceta. “[Orthorexia or when a healthy diet becomes an obsession].” Archivos latinoamericanos de nutricion 57.4 (2007): 313-315.

[12] “Food Allergy and Food Intolerance.” (EUFIC). N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2015.

[13] Urbszat, Dax, C. Peter Herman, and Janet Polivy. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we diet: effects of anticipated deprivation on food intake in restrained and unrestrained eaters.” Journal of Abnormal Psychology 111.2 (2002): 396.

Paleo Babies | The Paleo Diet

If you’re a young couple raising your first kiddos Paleo, you may be asking what can I introduce and when? Trust us, you’re not alone. Many parents find it difficult to keep their kids eating healthy Paleo foods from infancy to the time they move out! So, let’s address these questions starting at the beginning.

If you are just setting out on the parenting journey, you are fortunate to be able to introduce foods your baby will love right from the start. At about 4 to 6 months solid foods are introduced and the most common of these in a household following a Standard American Diet (SAD) is cereal. A better approach is to start your Paleo babies off with fresh, organic fruits and veggies that you have pureed in a food processor or blender.

Introduce one at a time allowing your baby to become accustomed to them. When our children were at this stage of development, we found it best to steam extra veggies for dinner and then puree the leftovers and refrigerate for our children’s meals. It was a very simple process with little labor involved and the health benefits were well worth the effort!

Once your child is able to eat meats, you can do the same. Just be sure that you puree to a consistency that eliminates a choking hazard. If time is an issue and you prefer to buy baby food at your grocery store, there are many healthy, organic products to choose from. Be sure to carefully read the labels and avoid any non-Paleo additives.

Typically, mothers who are breastfeeding their infants continue to do so well beyond the introduction of solid foods. Whenever the baby is fully weaned, there is no need to feed your child milk or milk-based products. Remember, we are not meant to ingest the milk of other animals and the same Paleo principals that apply to adults, apply to children. Water is always appropriate to serve with meals. If you want to give your baby something a little more interesting and with more nutrients, try purchasing a fruit and veggie juicer. Our little ones drank lots of carrot juice as well as other freshly juiced fruits and veggies on a regular basis. We recommend that you buy organic produce to ensure that your child gets the cleanest nutrients possible.

From the minute your child is born, you embark on a nutritional journey that builds the foundation for a lifetime of health and wellness. With childhood obesity having become an epidemic, it is encouraging to see an upward trend in awareness and action on the part of new parents. As we make conscientious and healthy decisions for our children on a daily basis, we are helping to reverse the obesity epidemic for future generations. Next we will address the challenges of raising teenagers and young adults in a not-so-Paleo world.

All the Best,

Lorrie Cordain, M.Ed., Co-Author of The Paleo Diet Cookbook

Paleo Children | The Paleo Diet

Hello Dr. Cordain and Team,

I am a passionate Paleo follower and advocate this healthy way of eating to anyone who will listen. My question is in regards to my children aged 2 and a half and 3 and a half. Are there any special considerations that need to be made for small children?

My children love to eat meat, chicken, fish, and a large amount of fresh fruit and vegetables which is awesome. They eat small amounts of walnuts and pecans (cut up very small and eaten under supervision), I cook with extra virgin coconut oil, and they have a small cup of coconut water with dinner (only water other than that). We have not had wheat/gluten for 2 years, have stopped using gluten-free grains and use almond meal for special occasions. I have recently weaned my 2 and a half year old and have stopped giving my children organic milk after reading your book, though I occasionally use mozzarella and Parmesan when I make pizza for my husband and children. I want my children to have the best possible nutrition and I am a mum so I worry naturally, but any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Kind regards,


Lorrie Cordain’s Response:

Dear Georgia,

Thanks so much for sharing Paleo with your friends and family. We are passionate about the numerous health benefits of The Paleo Diet and believe that it is people like you who are helping to spread the word, which in turn improves the health of so many people worldwide.

Your question is important, and one that we receive often from conscientious parents just like you, who are interested in making sure their children are getting all the nutritional requirements they need to begin and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Our recommendation is that the optimal time to begin introducing children to The Paleo Diet is at the time they are weaned and begin eating solid foods. When our 3 boys entered this stage of development, we used a blender or food processor to make a Paleo version of the organic, grass fed meats, and healthy fruits, and veggies we had cooked for our family meals. We found “baby food” very simple to prepare, and our children enjoyed these foods, developing their own personal tastes for a variety of dishes.

Once children reach the age of 2-3, like your children, they have grown enough teeth to be able to enjoy the same, delicious foods you prepare for the grown-ups in the family. Be sure that foods are well cooked and cut into very small pieces, as children this age can easily choke. Most pediatricians caution parents against feeding their children foods such as grapes and large pieces of meat, so use common sense when presenting foods that could cause problems. Bananas, peaches, mango, and avocado are good fresh foods that can be cut in to small pieces and eaten without cooking.

As children continue to grow, they are able to eat raw fruits, veggies and dense meats. Introduce new Paleo foods gradually and avoid forcing any foods that your child indicates he or she is not ready for. Parental attitudes about food are very important when raising healthy children. Food should never be presented as a reward or punishment and children should not be forced to continue eating when they are feeling full. We have been very mindful of this while raising our children and make consistent efforts to make our family meals a time of coming together to enjoy healthy foods. It is important to make every effort to gather daily as a family to share our lives over a delicious Paleo meal!

Over the years, many friends and family have asked us how to ensure that their children eat Paleo foods at all times, whether they are at school, visiting friends, or attending social functions. It may surprise you that we have never been quite this vigilant and strict with our children’s food choices. We feel that it is our responsibility to continually educate, provide, and model for our children the importance of eating a Paleo Diet. Equally important, we have shared the scientific principles that guide The Paleo Diet concepts and the positive impact this lifestyle will have on their health throughout their lives. We want our kids to make educated decisions and understand the implications for their choices. All of them have enjoyed the occasional pizza birthday party with friends, a fast food hamburger with fries, or a sweet snack. Because they have been given the information they need, each has made the personal decision to choose mainly healthy, Paleo foods as their dietary lifestyle of choice. Too many kids leave home for the first time and go overboard on the choice to eat all the forbidden foods which are suddenly unrestricted and readily available. Hence the infamous “Freshman 15!” With 2 children in college and one in high school, we find that guiding their food choices throughout their growing up years, and allowing the occasional treat has led them to make very healthy choices on their own. This is a gift you can give your children to take with them as they head down the road for a lifetime of health and longevity. Best of luck to you and your children!

All the best,

Lorrie Cordain, M.Ed.
The Paleo Diet Team

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