Going Paleo yourself is the easy bit – getting the rest of your family on board can be more of a challenge. Little wonder than, that Paleo ideas for children’s school lunches is one of the top things I'm asked about. I've therefore come up with 79 different options for the kids school lunch box…
I've also written the “Paleo Lunch Recipe Book“, so take a look if you'd like lots of lunch recipes to brighten up your lunchtimes!
The school dinners served in so many schools seem to follow the government guidelines – and the food pyramid – and are often low fat, high in refined carbs and lacking in protein. Add to this the industrial seed oils, the feed-lock meat of dubious origin and highly processed nature of many school meals, it’s little wonder more and more parents opt to send their kids to school with a home-made packed lunch.
I've read about some schools (in America) banning parents from sending their children in with food from home, to make sure the children eat the “healthy” school lunch – and don’t bring in bad food from home. Whilst I'm sure some parents do pack complete junk – I hope this move doesn't become widespread, as it would put Paleo parents in a very difficult position.
Depending on the age of your child, and whether they’re in kindergarten, nursery, preschool, primary school – or are older, you’ll need to tweak your lunch offering accordingly. Some schools have blanket bans on any nuts in case of allergies, which would unfortunately rule out nuts, nut butters and many baked paleo goods (if they used nut flours). Hopefully your school rules and regulations won’t place too many restrictions on your kids and what you can bring…
Another key consideration is temperature. If you’re packing meat, you’ll want it to stay cool, so it’s a good idea to pack it with an ice pack in an insulated lunch box. Likewise, try a thermos flask if you want to serve hot foods like soup.
In terms of containers, whilst Tupperware and plastic lunch boxes do the job, my favourites are lunchbots stainless steel bento boxes. They’re easy to clean, light and won’t smash if dropped – and of course BPA free. Glass containers aren't ideal for school – and brown bags aren't so good for non-dry foods!
By getting the kids involved in choosing their lunch ingredients – and helping to pack them, they are far more likely to enjoy their lunch. Remember – it’s also better to overpack than under pack, this way if your child gets hungry, they’ll have their own food to eat, and you won’t risk the school giving them junk.
Making sure lunch is colourful, varied and well presented (you can even get bento cutters to cut vegetables into fun shapes), your children are less likely to be bothered that they aren't eating the same as their SAD eating school friends. Including cocktail sticks and dips, is another way to introduce an element of fun to lunchtimes.
As a general rule, base lunch around the protein source (this is what will keep them going after lunch!), then choose a fat source – and fill up with vegetables and fruit. Fruit and carby veggies like sweet potatoes are often a good bet for children, who need a lot of ready energy.
Leftovers are obviously a great bet for lunch – but here are some other ideas:
Wraps and Sandwiches
There is no bread in any of these sandwich options! Make wraps using a flat wrap, around your child’s favourite filling. Some good wraps are:
- Nori (seaweed) wraps
- Coconut wraps
- Sliced deli turkey
- Sliced beef
- You can even use bacon as a wrap!
- Romaine, lettuce or cabbage are also good to use
If your wrap won’t stay shut, use a fresh chive, green onion or blanched scallion green to tie a knot around the wrap, keeping it in place.
- You can make sandwiches using a coconut flour or almond meal paleo bread recipe.
If you’re after something more alternative to sandwich a filling between, how about:
- Flat slice a capsicum (bell pepper)
- Slice a large portabella (flat) mushroom lengthways
- Simply use cucumber slices
Some other ideas along these lines include:
- Cheese (if your child tolerates dairy) on crackers – using dehydrated sweet potato slices as crackers
- Paleo sushi using nori and cauliflower rice
Protein is key, so try some of these options in your kid’s lunchbox:
- Canned wild salmon
- A tin of sustainable tuna
- Beef jerky
- Leftover roast chicken/ beef/ pork with sauce
- Meatballs in a tomato sauce
- Chicken drumsticks with dips
- Pork strips, pork crackling (serve with home-made apple sauce)
- Meat and Veggie wooden skewers
- Crispy chicken with a tomato dip
- A burger patty served with sweet potato fries (assuming your child will enjoy this cold!)
- Paleo sausages (get your butcher to make a batch up for you)
- Peeled hard boiled eggs (serve with bacon and avocado to make a breakfast at lunchtime!)
For something a bit different, how about these ideas?
- A nice warm soup in a thermos
- A slice of Paleo pizza
- Crustless quiches (or egg muffins)
- Dates wrapped in prosciutto
- Cherry tomatoes stuffed with salmon and feta (if Primal)
- Pigs in blankets
Salads are a good summer option:
- Chicken salad with home made Paleo mayonnaise
- A simple egg salad
Natural Fat Sources
If the rest of lunch is looking a bit low on fat, add in one of these:
- An avocado (and a spoon!)
- Some olives
- Some fresh coconut
A Fermented Side
A portion of fermented food is another great kids lunch idea:
- Fermented pickles
Veggies are a great way to finish off the lunch box. Fill it with:
- Fingers of carrots, celery, capsicum (bell peppers), broccoli, cauliflower & cucumber and dips
- Celery halves, with nut butter in the groove.
With almost all of the lunch options, dips and sauces are great to provide on the side. Try making these:
- Butter (especially if you’re serving veggies – and eat dairy, or course!)
- Mango or pineapple salsa
- Paleo mayonnaise
- Ranch dressing
- Nut butters
- Paleo tomato sauce
- A zucchini hummus
Child Friendly Fruit
Fruit is another good group to choose from. How about:
- Cut watermelon
- Apple and cheese (if Primal)
- Fruit on a wooden stick
- Apple and almond butter stacks
For a very sweet treat, dried fruit is a nice option:
- Dried apples
- Dried mango
- Raisins or sultans (be very careful with the ingredients – many brands use “vegetable” oil!)
When lots of your child's friends may be having chips (crisps), perhaps your child might enjoy something similar?
- Kale chips
- Plantin chips
A very small portion of one of these, is a good occasional treat:
- A square of dark chocolate
- Chocolate avocado mousse
- Home-made dark chocolate almonds
Yoghurts/ Creamy treats
Some other good options for a sweet treat:
- Berries & cream (if your child has dairy), or
- Berries in coconut cream (or coconut milk)
- Coconut yoghurt
- Plain Greek yoghurt (if Primal) with fruit and nuts
A few more lunch treats
A few final treats to occasionally include in your child’s lunchbox:
- Home-made Larabars
- Grain free granola
- Coconut flakes
- Coconut flour muffins
- Paleo trail mix
- A mix of almonds, dark chocolate chips and coconut flakes.
What're I missed? I'd love to hear what you pack for lunch – and what you child is most excited to be given? Also, how does your child deal with peer pressure (if it exists at their school)?