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The Paleo Lunchbox Primer

By Stephanie Vuolo, B.A.
August 27, 2015
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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.

CREATE A PLAN

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 requests.

START WITH FRUIT AND VEGETABLES

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.

USE THEMES TO REDUCE YOUR GUESSWORK

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.

DON’T GO NUTS

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.

GET YOUR KIDS ENGAGED

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!

REFERENCES

[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.

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