Trying to improve my child's health and transitioning to a Paleo diet can definitely be called a work in progress. I am therefore always looking for new ideas and research and recently read this article by the Paleo scientist Robb Wolf on how he feeds his own two daughters.
If you read the article you will see that it is undeniably impressive what he and his wife have achieved with their children but I was heartened to read that even he acknowledges that feeding children can be a case of "“what is best vs what can I pull off". For me, this is particularly so when it comes to packed lunches as there are so many factors that can limit what you can give them for school, not least their own preferences as to what they will eat when you are not there to cajole them!
A Paleo friendly lunch should ideally contain some protein, vegetables, healthy fats and carbohydrates from fruit or other starchy foods. As always I try to keep things simple and these are the foods I am currently including. I try to mix and match the foods each week to get a healthy balance. Most of thse my son will now (finally) eat but a few are definitely still ongoing options!
Proteins are reasonably straightforward for a Paleo lunch. Options I include are:
Vegetables can also be pretty straightforward to prepare too. Easy options (if your child eats them and trust me this didn't happen overnight!) are:
Carbohydrates is where it begins to get tricky. Carbohydrates are a contentious issue in themselves and there is an ongoing debate on how much carbohydrates we need, how often we should eat them and what are the best sources. I don't see any scientific consensus on this and I tend to side with researchers who argue there is not one definitive answer and we need to find our own optimal level. This, however, gets even trickier with children but I do feel that children need more than adults and therefore do need to be included at most meals. I do, however, agree with the Paleo stance that the ideal options for carbs are from fruit and non-grain starchy foods such as sweet potatoes and other starchy vegetables if possible.
Carbohydrates from fruit are relatively easy. Good school options to cover a range of nutrients are:
Broadening out to other non grain sources of carbohydrates is where I find it more challenging. I have yet to find a way to easily get these into my son's packed lunch so I normally give him some white rice or gluten free bread and I am currently trying to see if oatcakes are suitable for his gut health. However, there are some very good Paleo recipes out there and these are some of the ones that I am currently trying out.
Healthy fats are the final food group to ideally be included. Again, like carbohydrates, this is not always the easiest for a packed lunch. A good source are nuts or nut based recipes such as energy bars but many schools, understandably, do not allow children to bring nuts into the school. However, other options to try include:
Some recipes to try that include healthy fats include:
I hope these ideas are helpful. If you have any other suggestions I would love to hear them.
*I should also add that kidding myself that hoola hoops are potato based and therefore 'sort of paleo' has happened more times than I care to admit. This of course is my son's favourite lunch...
Good luck with the school year!