Back to School…Paleo Style!
It’s hard to believe that it’s already time for the kids to head back to school! I know there are mixed feelings from parents about this time of year…sad to have less time with the kiddos, but happy to get back into a routine and have more ‘adult’ time.
Whether you’re packing a Paleo lunch for yourself or for the apple of your eye, making the transition back to school requires shifting away from mostly home-cooked meal towards lunchbox mentality, that is, buying and packing Paleo foods that can be taken to-go. Big and little kids alike will benefit from homemade nutrient-dense lunches that emphasize good quality proteins, fats,and slow-burning carbohydrates. It can seem overwhelming to continually create new and exciting Paleo-friendly lunches, especially when you’re transitioning your family onto the Paleo diet. When inspiration dwindles, it becomes all too easy to slip into routine and habit, feeding and eating the same foods over and over again. Truly, one of the most beneficial things we can do for our health is to eat a diverse array of Paleo foods while rotating different foods through our meal plans. We need to avoid over-consuming any one food over the short- or long-term, as this can lead to food intolerance, allergies, aversion, or addiction.
Paleo Lunches and Snacks –
Moderate to Minimal Effort Required
If you’re looking for inspiration for packing a Paleo lunch, then you’ve come to the right blog! Below you’ll find some fun and healthy recipes and ideas for making quick, easy and portable Paleo-friendly lunches and snacks. Want to keep it Paleo, but just don’t have the time? Check out the prepared snacks below that require virtually no effort. I’ve also linked to some eco-friendly lunch boxes, travel containers, and a few other go-to tools that make packing Paleo to-go as easy as A-B-C!
Pack it Paleo – Lunchbox Ideas
- Last night’s dinner can be just as popular the second time around, even when served cold! Leftovers such as BBQ chicken, burger patties or thin-sliced steak are delicious wrapped with lettuce, tomato, or onion, and served with pickles and baked yam fries on the side. Or try serving leftover Meatballs with veggies, or yummy Paleo pizza!
- Paleo sandwiches can be made with Paleo bread or Grain-Free Herbed Focaccia Bread. Alternately, try using a large lettuce, chard or other green leaf as the “bread” wrapped around quality deli meats, tomato, onion, avocado, and spices. Or try a delicious Portabello Sandwich!
- Meat rollups – Quality deli meats rolled around avocado or other veggie strips are fun and easy to eat. These prosciutto melon wrap-ups are like little bites of heaven. Or simply roll deli meat into a tube for easy chowing on-the-go!
- Tuna, Salmon or Egg Salad – Tuna salad is a breeze to whip together using wild canned tuna, avocado oil mayo, diced onion, celery or pickles and fresh dill or dried dill seasoning. You can make egg salad or salmon salad in a similar fashion. Wrap these salads in lettuce leaves, pile them on leafy greens, or serve with a side of Jackson’s sweet potato chips or homemade sweet potato chips.
- Hot doggie! Pre-cooked hot dogs, sausages or sausage patties served with condiments on the side for dipping. Pack in some blanched broccoli or cauliflower too!
- Winner Winner Chicken Lunch! Chicken meat is finger lickin’ good when it’s gobbled cold. Chicken legs contain more healthy fats (compared to breasts) and are also easier to chow on-the-go! Simply cover chicken legs in lime juice, salt and pepper and bake in the oven or BBQ. Buffalo Chicken Wings in “Peanut” Sauce, Crunchy Almond Chicken Fingers, and Coconut Crusted Chicken are also fantastic when served cold. My favorite chicken salad is made with chunked chicken, grapes (or apple slices), celery, onion, cauliflower or broccoli chunks mixed with avocado oil mayo or smashed avocado, using curry powder as a seasoning. Ka pow!
- Meat Strips – Simply slice chicken, beef, pork, and other meats into strips, marinate them overnight in Paleo marinade, then BBQ, bake or fry. Delicious cold or hot, meat strips make for fun dipping in guacamole or a variety of Paleo dips. These spicy ‘breaded’ chicken fingers are also super tasty and great for dippin’ and eatin’ cold.
- Paleo Super Salad! In a tupperware to-go: greens, meat strips or cubes, shredded carrots and beets, olives, avocado, nuts/seeds, crumbled egg, cucumber, cauliflower or other veggie chunks, topped with Paleo dressing. Or try a simpler Chef Salad or our salad version of the BLT…the BAT (Bacon, Avocado, Tomato).
- Veggies n’ Dip – Raw veggie strips (carrots, celery, jicama, cucumbers, yacon, baked sweet potato fries, sugar or snap peas, blanched green beans, etc.) served with Paleo dips on the side in these adorably tiny, leak-proof condiment containers.
- Antipasto – sliced nitrate-free salami, pepperoni, or sopressata, served with olives, pickled veggies, sun-dried tomatoes and Paleo crackers.
- Fish n’ Chips – Wild smoked salmon with Paleo crackers. Or if you’re umami brave, try straight-up sardines or Kipper Snacks right out of the can! Or heck, why not try making sushi rolls using cauliflower rice and sashimi-grade fish?? Fish food is brain food! :-)
- Fruit n’ Nuts – Raw fruit (berries, melon chunks, apple or pear slices, etc.) with single serving packs of nut butter or seed butter, or make Ants on a Log!
- Paleo soups, stews and chilis in an insulated thermos.
- Eggz n’ Bacon – Make deviled eggs or simply hard boil eggs and serve them sliced in half topped with salt and pepper. Cold bacon and hard boiled eggs is another winning combo! Or pack an Omelet Muffin! Speaking of muffins…
- Paleo Muffins! Carrot Banana Muffins, Zucchini berry muffins, Raspberry/Almond Muffins, Chocolate/Coconut/Banana Muffins, Pumpkin Muffins, Nut-free Muffins, Egg-free Muffins, and many more!
Prepared Paleo Snacks – Grab n’ Go!
No time to cook? No worries! Check out the links below for some healthy prepared Paleo snacks that can also serve as a healthy lunch requiring little to no effort. Companies like Paleo-On-The-Go make eating Paleo super simple by delivering everything you need right to your door! Emphasizing protein- and fat-rich snacks will help to get through that midday slump with plenty of energy to spare. Snack on…on-the-go!
- EPIC Hunter Gatherer – Super portable protein packs – beef jerky on one side, trail mix on the other.
- Dried meats – Free-range Turkey Jerky, Chicken Jerky, Pork Bites, Grassfed Beef Jerky, Bison Bites, Lamb Bars…or dry your own meats in a dehydrator!
- Veggies on the go – Veggie Go’s, Vegetable Melba Toast, SeaSnax, Cheezy Kale Krunch…or just chow an avocado with a spoon and a dash of salt and pepper!
- Bars Galore – Tanka Bars, Epic Bars, Granilla Bars, Yes Bars, AMRAP bars, Exo Bars (made from cricket flour!), YAWP! bars, Evo Hemp Bars, The Paleo Diet bars, Larabars, Paleo Treats…or build your own bars with YouBars!
- Crackers n’ Chips – Sprouted Pizza Crackers, Low Carb Garlic Crackers, Jilz Mediterranean Crackers, Kale Crackers, Kale Chips, Plantain Chips, Veggie Chips, Pesto Tomato Chips, Sweet Potato Chips
Lunchbox Pitfalls – Don’t Faileo, Keep it Paleo!
- Don’t be a grouch – It goes without saying that school hot lunch is barely suitable for Oscar the Grouch, and may be best served directly into the trash can.
- Carbs = Sugar. Eating a sugar-rich breakfast (i.e. fruit eaten alone) can lead to a mid-day energy crash. Load your loved ones up with protein and fat in the morning for a successful day away!
- Fruit juices and fruit overload. Did you know that one banana contains upward to 30 grams of carbohydrates? That’s a large dose of sugar coursing through your veins all at once! Consider spreading out fruit consumption and limiting yourself to a few pieces per day.
- Dried fruits are much more concentrated in sugar than fresh fruit. Use them in moderation and pair dried fruit with a fat and/or protein to slow the delivery of glucose to your blood (think: Trail Mix).
- Too many raw nuts – The anti-nutrients in raw nuts and seeds can cause intestinal issues. Rotate raw with roasted nuts and seeds. Sprouting (soaking) raw nuts overnight in water decreases anti-nutrient content while increasing nutrient bioavailability.
- Sports drinks and other sugary drinks – avoid altogether…there’s lots of healthier drink options out there!
- Candy, chips, and other junk foods – just say no!
- Avoid deli meats preserved with nitrates and other chemicals. Try Applegate brand or Diestel Turkey instead.
- Dairy products – Some kids tolerate dairy better than others. If you do choose to moo, opt for grass-fed, raw, or organic dairy sources and try to avoid pasteurized products.
Packing Paleo Lunch To-Go
If you’re taking your lunch to-go and it will be more than a few hours until you eat it, you’ll benefit from having a cooler, lunch bag or lunchbox that’s well insulated to keep your food staying fresh for hours and out of the ‘danger zone’. You may also want to grab some non-toxic ice packs, eco-friendly to-go containers, and perhaps some stainless-steel containers for packing liquid. Here’s a few options to consider!
Accessorize Your Lunchbox in Paleo Fashion
- Non-toxic ice packs
- LunchBots stainless steel containers
- Leak-proof condiment containers
- Insulated stainless steel soup Thermos with telescoping spoon
- BPA-free, stainless steel water bottle by Klean Kanteen
- Kid’s bamboo travel spork
- Non-toxic glass food storage container with protective silicone sleeve by LifeFactory
- Snapware – Oven Safe Pyrex Glass Tupperware with snap-on lids, BPA-free, Made in the USA
One last note…packin’ Paleo doesn’t have to be complicated, but planning ahead will save you a ton of time and energy. My routine works well with two chop n’ cook sessions each week (Wednesdays and Sundays). It takes between 1-2 hours to prep all of my veggies and cook up meats to have on hand. This preparation makes throwing together lunchboxes a breeze, so you can spend your mental energy focusing on other things…like homework! :)
“The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action”.
– Herbert Spencer
In good health,
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