Tag Archives: Paleo kids

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.

Keep the Kids’ Diets On Track, Despite School Lunch Pitfalls | The Paleo Diet

‘Back to School’ is nearly here and while it’s time to bid the lazy, hazy days of summer goodbye, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean putting healthy eating habits on hold.

It’s one thing to allow the kids to enjoy a piece of cake at a friend’s birthday party or reach into the Halloween candy bowl in moderation, but the long term ramifications of in-school dining are far worse than the one-off treat. Eating unhealthy lunches for years can take a seriously negative toll on both the mental and physical health of children.

In 2012, the U.S. government updated the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Changes included counting fruits and vegetables as separate meal groups, offering fruit every day, making half of grain choices whole grains, giving different grades different meal sizes and reducing sodium and trans fat in meals. However, not all schools implement the NSLP and not all students eat the healthier choices schools provide.1

A third of kids and adolescents in the United States are overweight or obese,2 and even if the government regulates the number of calories a child’s school lunch has, as it does with the NSLP, many schools allow children to purchase a la carte foods on top of the calorie-rich main entrée high in fat, sodium, sugar or all three.

And, these a la carte options tempt children ages 2-18 who, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, get their calories from milk, cakes, cookies, quick bread, pastry and pie! 3 Their carbohydrates come primarily from soft drinks and rolls; their fat from cheese and from crackers, popcorn, pretzels and chips.

So rather than setting the kids up for health problems including diabetes, kidney stones, bone loss, cancer, heart disease as well as lower IQ scores, parents and kids can proactively take control of what they’re cooking and eating not just at home but to take to school as well.

It’s not just a matter of assuming that lunches brought from home are inherently healthier; in fact, quite the contrary. Lunches brought from home contained almost double the amount of sodium as government meal program lunches, 40% less fruit and 88% fewer vegetables. Additionally, 90% of packed lunches included desserts, chips or sweetened beverages, not permitted in school lunch program meals, and students almost always entirely consumed them, according to a study done at Baylor College of Medicine.4

Now, here is where being a health conscious Paleo parent becomes a crucial part of ensuring the kids are eating properly. You’re practicing mindful, conscientious sourcing, shopping and healthy, regular food preparation, and simply by doing that, you’re doing the single most important thing: leading by example for your kids. The second:  get the kids involved right away; the more they contribute, the more likely they are to be inclined to eat what they’ve prepared.

Researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University5 studied how cooking with a child affects the child’s eating habits and found that children who had cooked their own foods were more likely to eat those foods in the cafeteria, and even ask for seconds, than children who had not had the cooking class. When children are involved in meal preparation, “they come to at least try the food,” said Isobel Contento, professor of nutrition education at Teachers College and a co-author of the study.

As you likely already do for yourself, keeping foods looking, tasting, and smelling delicious is key to preventing boredom and to demonstrate that healthy can equal tasty and satiating; it’s not one or the other.

Got picky kids? Try the theory of repetition. Susan B. Roberts, a Tufts University nutritionist and author6 suggests a “rule of 15” which involves putting a food on the table at least 15 times to see if a child will accept it. Once a food is accepted, parents should use “food bridges,” finding similarly colored or flavored foods to expand the variety of foods a child will eat. If a child likes pumpkin pie, for instance, try mashed sweet potatoes and then mashed carrots.

Feeling like you’re not going to be able to find all the time you suspect you’ll need to allocate to add in that you’ll spend teaching the kids about properly sourcing fish and meat, choosing and preparing the best in season veggies and how to cook economically? Think about how much time the family is spending on other group activities, such as watching television or even sitting around on smartphones or tablets.

A new study by Common Sense Media7 found kids ages 0-8 spend an average of two hours a day with screen media like smartphones, video games, computers, television, and DVDs. And adults aged 35-49 watch more than 33 hours of television per week, according to data from Nielsen.8

Looks to me like there is quite a bit of wiggle room right there! Why not reallocate those precious hours to spending time as a family gardening, cooking, and enjoying meals both at home, as well as sent to the school lunchroom with love. Don’t be surprised if other parents begin to reach out to get your two cents on how on earth you got the little ones to eat broccoli and grilled chicken for lunch with gusto!



[1] “The Effects of Children Eating Unhealthy School Lunches.” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 24 June 2015

[2] “Weight-control Information Network.” U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES. N.p., n.d. Web

[3] Ogata, B. N. and D. Hayes. 2014. “Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Nutrition Guidance for Healthy Children Ages 2 to 11 Years.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 114(8): 1257-76

[4] “Brown Bag or Cafeteria Tray, Kids Don’t Eat Healthy School Lunch.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, n.d. Web

[5] Parker-pope, Tara. “6 Food Mistakes Parents Make.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 14 Sept. 2008. Web

[6] Roberts, Susan B., Melvin B. Heyman, and Lisa Tracy. Feeding Your Child for Lifelong Health: Birth through Age Six. New York: Bantam, 1999. Print.

[7] Lee, Sarah H. “Kids And Technology: How Much Time Are They Spending With Screens?” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2015

[8] “Average American Watches 5 Hours of TV per Day.” NY Daily News. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2015

Are Family Workouts Key to Kids Forming Good Habits? | The Paleo Diet

We’ve all heard it before; the obesity rates in the US are growing rapidly, but did you know just how bad it’s actually gotten? 1 out of 3 kids are now considered overweight or obese,1 which represents an increase of more than double in children and quadruple in adolescents in the past 30 years2 and almost matches the current statistic of how many American adults fall into the very same category, over one-third.3

Suggesting we’re in a crisis is an understatement. To make matters even more tragic, the youngest of the young, who cannot bear any of the responsibility, are perhaps at the greatest risk.

Researchers found humans develop their total number of fat cells in childhood.4 Once fat cells have grown in number, that number is there to stay and all we can do, short of having surgery to decrease the amount of cells, is to manipulate the size of each cell.5 So, we can deduce a person who has been overweight since childhood will have a far more difficult time trying to reach a healthy weight compared to someone who gained later in their life.

Forget about nature versus nurture; the bottom line is that if mom and dad are overweight, making poor food choices and watching TV five hours per day,6 the little ones aren’t exactly going to go to the farmer’s market or a jog around the block on their own!

The cause for this desperate state of affairs is vast; a nationwide solution is multifaceted and complex as it goes beyond simply recommending that people eat more veggies, cut out sugar and get out to exercise. We have to factor in current state of health of the parents, or lack thereof, what foods and medications they’re taking, whose nutritional advice they’re following and what comprises their physical fitness regime. Furthermore, each family needs to take it upon themselves to proactively make changes, if for no other reason than to ensure the kids have the best possible future ahead of them from a health perspective.

Getting more active as a family can be just the ticket. For some, it may be starting with going for a family hike on the weekends, and incorporating an evening walk around the neighborhood after dinner, rather than parking it on the sofa. For others, it may begin there, and naturally find its way to more competitive family workouts, with parents signing up for a 5k or half marathon and kids participating in the children’s version of racing that are often held the same day.

Unlike a training program catering to adults, kids need to be supervised during family workouts to make sure they’re safe in their fitness routines. Michael Neely, DO, the Medical Director at NY Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy,7 proposes there are some easy to follow guidelines to make sure the kids are properly engaging in physical fitness activities that won’t put them at risk.

  1. Because children’s skeletons are still developing, they cannot handle the stress of lifting heavy weights, and may be easily injured. Instead, focus on involving your child in strength-training exercises that utilize resistance and your child’s own body weight such as push-ups, sit-ups and light calisthenics or resistance bands. Wait until high school age to include weight training and lifting.
  1. Young children can also run for short stretches, but parents should exercise discretion at just how much they allow them to run. Children’s joints are particularly sensitive to repetitive stress, and too much running can easily cause injury and inhibit proper growth. A good indication is when the children reach their voluntary exhaustion.
  1. Until kids reach 18, they remain at risk for cartilage, tendon and bone platelet damage. Encourage kids to wait a little longer, until age 21, to take on a marathon. By then, the body has finished with the most critical phases of development and can properly sustain the stress of long-distance running.

So, how much is too much? Let the little ones run, or play until they’re tired. In doing so, you’ll not only be sure they’re keeping safe, you’re encouraging them to tune in and listen to their own body’s cues, something many an adult has to relearn.

Even if you feel you, or your family, are starting at square one and have a long way to go, it’s never too late to get started. In some cases, reflecting on the long term effect on kids of poor food choices and lack of physical activity can be just the impetus a parent needs to put their own health in check and start implementing some strategy right away.

A family that plays together stays healthy together!



[1] “Overweight and Obesity.” KidsHealth – the Web’s Most Visited Site about Children’s Health. Ed. Mary L. Gavin. The Nemours Foundation, 01 Oct. 2012. Web. 29 June 2015

[2] Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. Journal of the American Medical Association 2014;311(8):806-814.

[3] “Adult Obesity Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 09 Sept. 2014. Web. 29 June 2015

[4] “Fat Children May Be Tied to a Lifetime of Obesity.” New Scientist. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 June 2015

[5] Kolata, Gina. “Study Finds That Fat Cells Die and Are Replaced.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 04 May 2008. Web. 29 June 2015.

[6] “Average American Watches 5 Hours of TV per Day.” NY Daily News. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 June 2015

[7] “Exercise for Kids: What’s Safe, What’s Not.” Exercise for Kids: What’s Safe, What’s Not. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 June 2015

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.

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