What’s For Lunch?

One of the biggest challenges for families who are eliminating grains and dairy and/or limiting carbohydrate intake is what to put in children’s lunchboxes. Making this problem even more difficult is that most schools have nut-free policies, so one obvious staple is immediately out. (I definitely think schools should be a safe place for all children with allergies, not just nut allergy kids!)

Making dinner isn’t so hard – just add more kale or green beans, and leave out the rice. But lunchboxes are a real challenge! Packaged carby, grainy, not-foods are such a staple for kids lunches: goldfish, pretzles, cookies, even bread! How do we send a PB&J? A bologna sandwich? Oh no!

Don’t panic! Here’s a list of grain-free, low-carb lunch box ideas guaranteed to get you back to school with straight A’s in lunch!

Meat Roll-ups Get good quality lunch meat, such as Applegate Farms or Wellshire Farms, and roll it right up! My daughter loves when I draw a design on the inside in mustard before I roll it up – she always unrolls it to see what the design is (usually hearts and smiley-faces) before eating it. Sometimes we roll meat up around a pickle spear, or a carrot, or sometimes we line olives up inside and roll it up around the olives (they don’t stay in very well, but my daughter thinks that’s funny).
Instead of a sandwich baggy, we have a little BPA-free container that’s just the width of a slice of sandwich meat, so I can roll up three or four slices into little tubes, and pile them into the container.

Pepperoni! Wellshire Farms makes “happy” pepperoni – good quality meat with no MSG or preservatives. Amber loves to have it for a treat! They make sticks and slices, and the best is, they don’t need refrigeration – so even on a hot day, this works great in a lunchbox!

Fruits and Veggies You just can’t go wrong with carrot sticks and apple slices. In season, we like to put all kinds of fruits and vegetables in. Whatever your kid will eat, put it right in there! You could put half a cucumber in their lunch – especially on a hot day, they’re delicious! Your kid likes peapods? Go crazy! Sometimes I put frozen peaches in for a treat, or frozen berries. Just make sure they’re in a leak-proof container!

Hard Boiled Eggs Who says you can only color eggs at Easter? If your kid likes hard boiled eggs, stock up on egg colors (or use natural egg colors), and send them to school with fancy hard boiled eggs! They’ll be the envy of the table – just don’t forget the salt!

Nuts and Seeds In some schools, you can’t have any nuts at all. But many schools do allow nuts that are not peanuts. My daughter’s old school *implied* a nut restriction, but when I asked, the principal told me that the nut restriction was only in the classrooms, and not in the lunchroom. So definitely talk to your school! If there is a nut restriction, you might still get away with sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds. These can give a little bit of salty satisfaction that would usually come from crackers or chips.
You can talk to your child about having nuts responsibly at school, especially if there is a nut allergy in their classroom. Always instruct them to wash hands after lunch, but even better, it can be a teaching tool to explain that lots of people have “special diets”, not just your own kid!

Home-made Applesauce Chunky home-made applesauce is one of my daughter’s absolute favorite things. It’s super easy to make, doesn’t need added sugar, and is a great desert. We like it with the skins on, which makes it even faster to make. Just chop up some apples (skinned or not, as you like) and put them in a saucepan. Add a bit of water to the bottom of the pan (just a couple tablespoons) and plenty of cinnamon. Put the heat on medium, and cover – come back to it now and then, and when the apples start to get soft, mash them a little bit with a potato masher. We like to leave it fairly chunky.
This will keep in your fridge for a week, so you can make it up on the weekend for the whole week!

PB&J While it’s probably too much work for every day (and probably more sugar than you want every day, too) sometimes there’s a special day that needs a PB&J (or almond butter and jelly). For that, we use the Almond Pancakes as “bread”! They don’t have quite the consistency of bread, but work just great.

Hot Leftovers Remember when we were kids, and we all had those square metal lunchboxes that had Strawberry Shortcake or Superman on them, and came with matching thermoses? You can still get thermoses, and you can get them now with all stainless steel so that there’s no plastic touching the food! You can get plain ones and fancy ones from Thermos.com, and pretty cool ones from Crocodile Creek as well. We like to put last night’s leftovers into our thermoses – we heat them up on the stove, and fill everyone’s thermos. That way, no one needs a microwave! If your kid liked dinner, why not send the leftovers with them to school!

Most importantly, remember: your kid doesn’t NEED goldfish. It’s easy to grab little individually wrapped packages of things, and if that was your habit last year, then the change will require some work – on your part and your kid’s. But it’s absolutely worth it!
Definitely take some time to reinforce why you’re making the changes – focusing strongly on the benefits for your kid (stronger, taller, smarter – whatever will motivate your child). Understanding the changes is what will keep them from trading your home-made applesauce for someone else’s goldfish!
And on the days when your kid is “less enthusiastic”, remember that when they’re 25, they’ll thank you for all the work you did to keep them healthy. You might not believe me now, but I know it will happen – because it happened to my mom. 😉

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