When we first started the primal lifestyle one of the first and biggest challenges for me was what in the world I was going to pack for my then Kindergartener’s lunch. No sandwiches? No ziplock bags of goldfish? What else could there possibly be?
Like I mentioned in my getting started post, we definitely went cold turkey which meant I had to think fast and be creative so my little ones didn’t feel like the ground was just pulled up from under them. I quickly learned how to make primal pancakes from almond and coconut flour, and no-oat oatmeal for breakfast. For lunch, I started by compartmentalizing with bento type boxes, and stuck to staples that I knew deep down they actually liked: rolled up nitrate-free deli meats, nitrate-free salami and pepperoni, carrots, cucumbers, almonds, cheese, applesauce, greek yogurt, and fresh fruits. Then, I started to experiment more : cut up red and yellow peppers, raw spinach, lettuce wrap sandwiches, different kinds of nuts and seeds, and whatever veggies and meats were leftover from dinner the night before. To be honest, I was met with negligible challenge. I’m not sure if it was the excitement of learning something new, or the fashionably pink bento boxes, but I deemed it a success.
Now, there were days when I would hear things like, “______ told me that her mom said that wheat is healthy for you and I told her that she was wrong,” or “It’s not fair, _______ has Cheetos in her lunch everyday and I never do!” When that happened, I would just take a minute to re-explain why certain foods are better for your body, keep you healthy, and make you “big and strong.” However, I will admit that not every moment was a teaching moment, and there were many “nods and smiles” when Cheetos were mentioned.
Everything seemed to be going well for a while until I noticed some very distinct behavior on playdates. I saw my kids practically (ok–actually) binging on junk food. The slight mention of Goldfish or pretzels by another parent would send them into a frenzy. My husband and I then realized it was time to take a step back. We slowly introduced a few staples that made our day to day much easier: certain brands of gluten free cereals (especially for my oldest who swears up and down she does not like eggs!), home-made gluten free cereal from puffed rice or corn and honey that doubles as a snack, buying hot lunch at school once a week, and keeping a basket of leftover Halloween or Easter chocolates as treats for “happy” dinner plates. We also switched to the amazing Planet Box, thanks to the suggestion of a fellow Kindergarten mom at the time, not to mention the envy of my daughter who was in awe everyday of the “coolest lunchbox.”
We didn’t want to be those parents who didn’t allow certain things. We wanted our kids to know the facts and try their best to make healthy, informed choices. We are so very fortunate to not suffer from any allergies, so we will never tell them they CAN”T have something on a play-date, at school, or at birthday party; however, what we will do is keep the home as primal as possible to lower the percentage of “junk” they are exposed to everyday, and keep encouraging them to make well intentioned choices. There is one distinct rule in our house that has helped tremendously: “You don’t have to like it, but you have to try it” and for the most part, they end up liking it. They have really come a long way, and my husband and I laugh at the dinner table now when there is fighting over the last brussels sprout, bite of steak, or scoop of cauliflower rice. Like I mentioned in our interview, my kids probably fall somewhere around 70/30 when it comes to eating primal, but that is a huge leap in the right direction if you ask me.
So, I will step off my soap box now, and give you those lunch ideas! Here are my oldest daughter’s packed lunches from last week. Our deal with the daily “treat” at lunch is “your real food better be all gone first or you will be eating the rest of it for an after school snack.” Click on any picture for the gallery to appear!
Happy lunch packing,