Friday, August 24, 2012

Paleo Primal Packed Lunch Ideas

lunch bags, ready to be filled

It's that time again.  The school year.  Time for a lot of lunch packing if you are a primal parent.  So, I recently brainstormed a list to look at when I am uninspired and have to get some lunch packing supplies at the grocery store.  See last year's post on this topic here.

The obvious disclaimer: I know these ideas aren't all 100% paleo or primal.  We compromise.  I give my kids dairy products (often) and plain-ish potato chips aka "veggie" chips (sometimes).  The goal is gluten free (though we occasionally use soy sauce at our house), artificial chemical free, and added sugar free.  Just wanted to make sure you know I am not completely stupid regarding what is paleo and what is not, and that I am doing these things by choice.

If you are 100% paleo, there are many ideas listed below that you can still use, especially in the protein section, which I think is the hardest to be creative in.

My children's school is nut free, which adds to the challenge of packing paleo lunches.

I prefer to send "cold" lunch items, it is easier for them to eat at their ages.

Also, my kids are served snack at school twice a day.  While most parents probably appreciate it, I resent it.  They don't need it!  It just propels the sugar-burning and undermines what I am trying to do.  However, I otherwise love their school, and the inconvenience of taking them anywhere else would be huge.  So, I have this inner battle of how much energy I want to spend on the issue of snack.  Last year, I went along with the flow.  They were offered a fruit product and a wheat cracker product at each snack time.  This year, I am going to allow them to have the fruit product (ranging anywhere from fresh fruit to apple juice -yikes!) but not the wheat product.  I will send along my own shelf stable gluten free alternatives (likely still potato or corn based) for those days when they do not have a substantial stand-alone fruit option.  A little crunch is fun now and then :)  Not ideal, but that is where I currently stand.

Also, just fyi, I have no sympathy for people who say it is too much work to pack their food.  Some days, between the two adults and two children in our family, I pack 7 meals-to-go, due to the weirdo work schedules of my husband and myself.  That's why I am such planner; I have to be or we wouldn't eat! :)

OK, now that you know where I am coming from, let's do this.  I know I probably shouldn't over generalize the food items by macro-nutrient group, but for my own organization, that is how I am going to do it here.  Some items like cheese and sun butter could go under both protein and fat.  I try to include in each lunch at least 1 protein + 1 fat + 1 carbohydrate.

Here ya go-

Protein items:

  • cooked chicken
  • deli turkey
  • deli ham
  • kabobs
  • mini cheeseburgers
  • cold meatballs
  • pulled pork
  • salmon on cucumber sandwiches
  • tuna and avocado
  • hardboiled egg
  • zucchini-ricotta rollups
  • salami
  • cold shrimp
  • chicken drumsticks
  • apple sandwiches
  • hot dogs
  • sweet sausage
  • steak jerky


  • real cheese cubes
  • real cheese slices
  • string cheese
  • cottage cheese
  • cream cheese
  • olives
  • guacamole
  • ranch sour cream
  • coconut balls
  • sun butter*


  • carrot sticks
  • celery sticks
  • pickles
  • tomatoes
  • fresh fruit
  • banana chips
  • raisins
  • fruit leather
  • unsweetened applesauce

Shelf stable snacks to send to the classroom:

  • tortilla chips
  • pirate booty
  • veggie straws
  • popcorn
  • chex cereal
  • sweet potato chips

*I have never tried sunflower seed butter, but I really want to, since it is allowed in place of other nut butters at their school.  I bought some at Trader Joe's and it is in the pantry.

I found this article helpful when creating my list.

Also, if you have access to a microwave at work at meal time, the easiest "no excuses" tip I ever heard is this: Always keep frozen veggies and precooked meat/fish on hand (shrimp, chicken strips, canned tuna, etc.).  If you are running late in the morning, you can always just throw these into a dish together, add some olive oil, garlic or S&P if you want or whatever.  Then, just heat & eat at mealtime.   Not gourmet, but no excuses!

Thoughts?  Additions to my list?  Please share any suggestions with us in the comments!  Everyone likes new lunch ideas :)

I hope your school year is off (or will soon be off) to a good start!

Coming soon: food containers I like.

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