The Cook Awakening

Everything-Free Packed Lunches

January 13, 2012
Posted in: Food Sensitivities, Health and Nutrition, Integrating Lifestyle Changes, Living with Health Challenges, The Simple Kitchen

A shorter version of this article was published in my kids’ school newsletter. Here it is in it’s full gory glory.

The cry is nearly universal. “What can I send with my child for lunch that is healthy, but won’t be ignored or dumped in the trash?”

Add on top of that, “And is free of (some combination of) gluten, dairy, soy, egg, corn, grains, sugar, nuts, …”

It’s enough to drive a mama/papa mad.

As a mama of two boys who between them avoid gluten, dairy, grains, sugar (honey excepted), artificial additives, and salicylates (say that ten times fast!), I’ve been mad. In all senses of the word.

Then I feel lucky. After all, they can still have eggs and nuts. And soy, if I liked (which I don’t).

It takes some planning, folks. Gone are the days when I could throw together some cheese slices and crackers, a few baby carrots and a banana.

Part of the planning is not just about the food itself, it’s about how my kids feel about the food. It’s about them feeling different from their classmates. It’s about making an effort not to create “forbidden foods” which therefore appear more desirable. And making them feel more safe in the world (wow, “regular” food can make me sick?)

And there’s the “ick” factor. “I don’t like it!” or “What is this stuff?”

Feeding kids healing foods is a whole lifestyle change. It’s takes a whole life VIEW change. It requires radical surrender and taking responsibility, all at the same time.

I could write a whole book on that topic, (and perhaps will one day), but for today my focus is: packed lunches.

I’ll list a few favorites around here. Mix and match to satisfy your family’s particular sensitivities.

Leftovers. Okay, that’s MY favorite. Cook extra, and put it straight in the containers they’ll bring to school. If it needs to be warm, Thermoses are a wonderful thing. I’ve sent rice pasta with cheese or meat sauce; soup; stew with or without a grain or potato accompaniment; burgers and avocado, lettuce, tomato, pickle, with or without a gluten-free bun; tacos in sprouted corn tortillas with ground meat of choice, avocado, lettuce, mild salsa, olives; and more. What’s for dinner? Can you figure out a way to pack it? Go for it!

Pancakes. I don’t like most commercial gluten-free breads, they’re generally full of non-nutritious starches and sugar. So, I make large batches of pancakes for Sunday brunch. Sometimes two – one gluten-free sourdough for my older boy and almond flour- or winter squash-based for my younger. We feast Sunday, and have a couple days’ worth of pancake sandwiches left. What’s a pancake sandwich, you ask? Pancakes, nut butter of choice, and a little smear of honey or sugar-free jam. (I’ve tried it with cheese, but I got a confused look, so haven’t made that again.)

Eggs. If your young one tolerates them, they’re a great choice. Super source of protein, and if the chickens are pastured, also a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Boiled, egg salad, sliced over green salad (dressing on the side), scrambled in a Thermos (with a pancake!), even fried. Frittata leftovers are super easy to pack.

Canned fish or chicken salad. For the fish, I prefer canned wild salmon to tuna due to concerns about heavy metals, but both are easy. For chicken, use leftover roasted or steamed. Mix with a little chopped onion and celery, add some preferably homemade mayonnaise (it’s easy, really!) and call it done. Serve on lettuce with live sauerkraut and tomato and pickle on the side. A few rice crackers or organic corn chips or other vegetable chips to scoop it up if you must, but just pack a fork, and it will really be enough.

Quesadillas. Sprouted corn tortillas (organic, please – almost all non-organic corn is GMO these days), and choice of jack cheese, avocado, green onion, chicken, olives … whatever you can imagine melting into that layer of cheese. Warm it, cut it in four, and send it in a Thermos. Dairy-free? I’ve been known to make “nuttydillas” —nut butter and honey or sugar-free berry jam between two warmed corn tortillas. Hummus and avocado are also options for a “wrap”–type tortilla filler.

Smoothies. This is the best way I know to sneak nutrition into my guys. Use a base of yogurt, or coconut yogurt if dairy-free. Add any mixture of the following powerhouse foods: fruit (berries preferred), chia seed, ground flax seed, egg yolk, nut butter of choice, green food such as spirulina or chlorella, whey powder, colostrum, coconut oil, grass fed ghee, wheat grass juice, bee pollen, or avocado. I’ve even been known to add a little mildly flavored chicken broth in my kids’ smoothies. If it’s mostly the yummy stuff, a little “healthy” stuff won’t stand out. Add a few drops of stevia or a teaspoon of raw honey if there’s not enough sweetness.

Go slow! Don’t add a lot of super-foods all at once if your child isn’t accustomed to eating them. They might feel a little queasy. There can be too much of a good thing.

Sides. Vegetables: Vegetables with ranch dressing, or whatever the current favorite dressing is, with hummus, or other bean-based dip. Or by themselves. Raw, lightly steamed, sautéed, braised. Carrots, broccoli, green beans, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, sugar snap peas,…. Live, lacto-fermented sauerkraut or pickles (I like Bubbie’s brand if you don’t make this kind of thing yourself. But they’re EASY to make.)

Bread, chips or crackers: they’re not the most nutritious choices, but are sometimes how we get our kids to eat. Organic corn chips, yam chips, vegetable chips, or rice crackers. Read your bread ingredients and avoid any with tapioca or potato starch high on the list. Better yet, make your own!

Grains. I don’t consider them a staple, but most in our culture do. Try to introduce some of the more nutritious types, like quinoa, buckwheat, and millet. Millet and quinoa are a great substitute for the wheat bulgar in tabouli, and is very packable. Make it with LOTS of parsley, which is packed with minerals, anti-oxidants and vitamins.

Any grain can be transformed into a salad or stir-fry, and is a great way to hide vegetables for the resistant. Chop them finely and add a protein, favorite dressing or some gluten-free soy sauce or coconut aminos and call it yum.

Packing real-food, non-allergenic lunches is not hard, but it does take a bit of planning. Have your pantry staples on hand and keep the fridge full of a nice array of vegetables. Plan dinners large to be able to use leftovers.

And, above all, get the kids involved! They can make their own sandwiches, package their own leftovers at night, cook their own eggs, get their own napkin and eating utensils. (They can unpack at the end of the day, too, and put all their dirty containers in the sink, too. Or so I’ve been told. Haven’t seen that one much.)

This entry was posted on Friday, January 13th, 2012 at 6:01 am and is filed under Food Sensitivities, Health and Nutrition, Integrating Lifestyle Changes, Living with Health Challenges, The Simple Kitchen. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


4 Responses to “Everything-Free Packed Lunches”

  1. Sherri Brown Says:

    Bravo Durga!
    I am sharing this on the hummingbird playgarden site. I have become very aware of the quantity of food parents send. Often it involves too many choices along with waste. Another aspect of the school lunch subject.

    Your family is so lucky to have you!

  2. Durga Says:

    Thanks, Sherri!

    Quantity is a great topic. I used to send a lot of little nosh things for my kids to choose from, and found they’d eat all the less nutritious choices and leave the power foods alone. (I’d have them sit down when they got home and “finish their lunches.”)

    Now I send them two “main” things (our family jargon) and a side. Sometimes a healthy treat. There’s not enough of the side or treat to satisfy them, so they HAVE to eat the power food.

    Often I’ll put the main in a little plate type container with some sauerkraut and veggies with it. I find the veggie side is more likely to get eaten, at least a couple bites of it, if it’s in the same container. If their in a separate container it’s sure to be ignored.

  3. admin Says:

    Make that “they’re”.

    Luckily good grammar is not important in getting our kids to eat well.

  4. End of Summer | Durga Fuller, Self-Care Counselor Says:

    […] many of you are looking at getting back to school at least in a couple weeks. Tomorrow feels soon! Here’s a link to an article I posted a few years back on packing nourishing lunches for kids – and for […]

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