Healthy Lunchbox 2012: The Paleo Parents

I have no doubt that you are familiar with my friends Stacy and Matt from The Paleo Parents.  I mean, between their fantastic and family friendly book, Eat Like a Dinosaur, their phenomenal Pod Cast and of course their adorable website, how could you not?

If that weren’t enough, last year’s Healthy Lunchbox Paleo Parents Guest Post is what launched me from an 80/20 or 60/40 paleo dabble to a 99.9% dedication (0.01% for the occasional slip).

It’s easy to see why I am so very excited to have them once again join the Healthy Lunchbox series and share their paleo parenting expertise with us all.

I hope you enjoy their post as much as I have, and please don’t forget to check back with The Paleo View Podcast tomorrow, which I am tickled pink to be a part of!

Thanks Stacy and Matt!

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If you recall, last year we did a guest post for Sunny of And Love it Too on packing paleo lunches for school. We’ve included those ideas for you at the end as our daily suggestions. As a quick reminder, we also discussed the topic of healthy lunches quite extensively on the first episode of our podcast, The Paleo View. We also cover this topic in our book, Eat Like a Dinosaur.

Due to our personal experiences last year with lunch packing, when Sunny asked us this year to contribute to her annual round-up, we wanted our annual post to focus more on food “replacers” as an option for alternative choices. Otherwise known as, food that looks the same as what the other kids are eating.

As our oldest child moved up in grade school, the challenge of packing a “normal” looking lunch in order to avoid being “different” and teased became more complex. So, this post is full of ideas for dealing with the emotional emergency of Johnny says I’m weird and teases me because I don’t eat yogurt and chips.

Also, it’s a very real and overwhelming problem of converting to always homemade real food for so many people. Going from prepackaged foods like chips, yogurts, cheese sticks, and fruit cocktails and instead using whole ingredients and packing from the fridge instead of the pantry can be quite daunting in the rushed morning. Even worse, many people don’t know what to do in place of that old lunchroom standby, the sandwich. I thought it might be helpful to share some of our best tricks t0 replace those easy-on-hand products with better* versions.

 


Replace Sandwich Bread with Pure Wraps

Let me address the biggest hair-tearing quandary straight off. So many people tell me they can’t imagine packing a lunch without also packing a sandwich. Unfortunately, regular bread is the most gluteny, high-carb food product you can buy (not to mention that most grocery store breads are full of all kinds of crazy chemical preservatives. The gluten-free replacements aren’t much better: they’re usually based on other grains like rice or heavy starches like tapioca or potato, along with containing the same preservatives. Not only that, but they often have seed oils and bean products (like guar gum), and don’t even have the texture and mouthfeel of real bread anyway. What’s a parent with lunchmeat to do?

Enter a favorite of ours, Pure Wraps. Somehow, the folks at Improv’eat have figured out a way to make a tortilla using only coconut meat, coconut water, and salt. They’re like tortillas with a slightly stiff bite and are pretty delicious on top of it! Use it like you would any wrap! We like to use ham or turkey wrapped with avocado slices or use them for tuna salad.

 

Replace Pudding or Yogurt with Almond or Coconut Milk Yogurt

If you’re dairy-free like us, losing Bill Cosby’s favorite treat and the staple of yoga moms everywhere was very hard for us. I believe the human palate has a desire for different textures even more powerful than its desire for different “food groups” and yogurt and pudding hit that creamy spot and are very hard to replace without the whole lot of effort of cooking custard on the stove or fermenting your own yogurts over the course of several days.

Luckily, you can now find coconut milk and almond milk yogurts in most higher quality and health food stores (including Whole Foods), many grocery stores (like Wegman’s) and even on Amazon. The texture is practically identical to regular yogurts and there are the same variety of flavors Dannon and Yoplait will give you. They’re even free of evil soybeans! So when your kids become jealous of their friends’ strawberry yogurt, you can confidently sending them to school with a strawberry coconut yogurt.

 

Replace Chips with Banana Chips or Healthier Potato Chips

Nothing says empty calories and rancid seed oils more than Doritos and cheese puffs! Then again, nothing appeals the child’s palate more than a salty crunchy carb! Instead of potato chips, why not give them a crunchy food that also contains some mineral and vitamin content? Still not the best choice, but a really special treat your kids will love!

We are able to find a plain brand like this one in oure regular grocery store, but try to plan ahead by ordering online and choosing brands that cook with safe fats & oils – these Avocado Oil Potato Chips and Banana Chips in Coconut Oil are always big favorites with our boys. They love using cool reusable baggies, which saves the environment and our money!

 

Replace Crackers and Popcorn with SeaSnax, Coconut Chips or Trail Mix

No, really! You’re already thinking that your kids won’t like seaweed, but these green wonders are actually really delicious! They’re salty, but contain all the mineral content you’d ideally want from a snack. Did you know that seaweed is one of the best sources for iodine, a key mineral in thyroid function, that we can find? We buy cases of SeaSnax and pack them several times a week.

Coconut and fruit and nuts are also much more nutrient dense sources for snacking, our boys LOVE making their own trail mix with their favorite nuts, dried fruit and coconut – or there are plenty pre-made options available at Trader Joe’s or Amazon.

Replace Fruit Cocktail with Apple Sauce Pouches

If you ever look at the side of a fruit cocktail cup and actually read the ingredients and nutritional content, you’ll find that this is not a healthy fruit source of vitamins and minerals, but rather an insidious sugar delivery system that amps up the sweetener, especially the corn syrup, content. So, instead, I pack him an all-natural unsweetened apple sauce squeeze pouch. It’s fun to suck up applesauce from a straw! Plus, a natural applesauce is much lower in sugar than indeterminate fruit pieces cased in syrup!

Replace Granola Bars with Larabars

Nothing, to me, is more overhyped as a health food than ye olde granola bar. When I was growing up, this was the healthy alternative to candy bars and moms were always using it as the default snack. Unfortunately, soon the default granola bar was the Chewy brand, practically a candy bar with HFCS and chocolate chips and marshmallows.

Even the healthy and natural versions have added sugar and, of course, grains. Larabar takes a different tact. All the ingredients in this delicious snack are dried fruit and nuts. All you do is mash together all these ingredients and you’ve got a real whole food snack to replace your granola! We have recipes to make your own Fruit & Nut bars in Eat Like a Dinosaur, but even we take shortcuts too!

Replace Cheese Sticks with Black Olives

In our preschool, the default snack that parents provide seems to always be cheese sticks. Unfortunately, I know that nothing good will come from my son eating that cheese stick. What are they really getting from cheese anyway? Mostly fat. So why not replace that fat source with heath olive oil? The sacred olive fruit is a perfect snack and we eat them by the bowlful! Best of all? We can subscribe and save some cases of BPA-free cans!

 

*Please note, some of these options aren’t the best choices. However, when you’re converting to whole foods from processed, when you’re dealing with children’s emotions and the trauma of being teased, or simply about to give up all together if you can’t find shortcuts – these foods are much better choices than their alternatives.


Here is what our children’s lunches usually look like, when we’re able to plan and everyone’s feeling strong about their healthful looking lunches. You’ll note, half the battle is with the cool accessories, which we post on our site here!

I hope this post has been of use to you and you can now be less stressed about leaving behind your formerly standard packed lunch items; time doesn’t have to be a limiting factor from having a nutrient dense and wholesome kid-friendly lunch!

 

Stacy and Matt are the minds behind the blog PaleoParents.com. They also wrote the children’s cookbook Eat Like a Dinosaur for their three boys, Cole, Finn and Wesley. When they’re not chasing three active boys, they enjoy packing lunches while listening to Stacy’s new podcast, The Paleo View.

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Comments

  1. Great ideas! And if you don’t want to pay the big bucks for Lara Bars, here are recipes for 5 different types! http://www.livingcrunchy.com/2012/04/homemade-lara-bars/

  2. Great post! I’ve been thinking back when I was a kid and all of the garbage I used to eat for school lunches (anyone remember lunchables?). Anyway, had a quick question that I’m not sure if you can help with. Since giving up dairy I took a closer look at the ingredient list for the coconut yogurt. I was disgusted to see the long list of chemicals. A friend of mine mentioned she noticed the same thing and decided that it would just be healthier to eat greek yogurt than touch the coconut stuff. Thoughts?

    • I do prefer Greek So Delicious yogurt to the other stuff, as the thickness is more to my liking and the ingredient list is shorter. That being said, I do prefer to make my own. This recipe for unsweetened crockpot yogurt has served us well. I do start with a small amount of the store-bought yogurt, but once I have made the first batch, I reserve one cup for future batches and use the milk I am most comfortable with. Even though the recipe shared shows how to do with with pre-made unsweetened coconut milk, I have used homemade coconut milk and canned coconut milk with success. Do what you feel is best for you and your family, milk is off limit for us so we do what we can with our own recipe.

      Thank you for asking!

  3. Melinda P says:

    Thanks for this post! Although I homeschool, I have picky kids, plus I wouldn’t mind having a few conveniences in my life right now, so this is an extremely timely post for me! I have a question about the Seasnax – Do they taste fishy? The reason I ask is because I picked up a small package of roasted seaweed (not the Seasnax brand, but the only roasted seaweed snack I’ve ever seen at any store) to try out before I ordered Seasnax from Amazon, and I swear it tastes soooo fishy, I could hardly eat it. Are the Seasnax better tasting?

    • :) Hi Melinda! I am hoping Stacy or Matt will get back with you on this as I have not been fortunate enough to give Seasnax a try. I do love seaweed chips though and don’t have any issue with the taste. Of course, I make my own so that may be the biggest difference.

      Sorry to not be more help!

  4. If I were you I would make my own Larabars, because the Larabar company is owned by some big company, I forget which, that donated lots of money to NOT have GMOs labeled. You can make your own with equal parts dates and nuts, with a bit of shredded coconut, and other dried fruit if you want.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Sunny has a terrific recipe blog where all her recipes and gluten- and dairy-free. She also hosts a terrific series of Healthy Lunchbox posts, which we were happy to contribute to not once, but twice. […]

  2. […] Sunny has a terrific recipe blog where all her recipes and gluten- and dairy-free. She also hosts a terrific series of Healthy Lunchbox posts, which we were happy to contribute to not once, but twice. […]

  3. […] and Matt offer up  products and power lunches by The Paleo […]

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