Back to School Meals for Kids

Here’s the funny thing: why is it that we feel kids need special food compared to adults?

I’m not referring to infants (duh), or really little ones who don’t yet have all their teeth and the ability to chew up a mouthful of steak and kale, but kids who do.

Conceptually, that is.

Why is it that we think it’s appropriate for them to have sugary biscuits shaped like zoo animals, brightly colored crackers shaped like fish or breakfast cereals in all the colors of the rainbow?  

And that often, when you ask for a kids’ menu at many a restaurant from hole in the wall to upscale, the listing includes such offerings as breaded chicken nuggets, fries, macaroni and cheese, orange juice and pizza?

            Even if you’re reading this, shaking your head because you’ve had the good sense and wherewithal to not follow suit in this trajectory, the numbers don’t lie.

The food and beverage industry spends nearly $2 billion annually to market foods and beverages to children and adolescents in the U.S., reaching young people in the places where they live, learn and play[1].

            So let’s rethink it, from a very practical, chronological perspective:

If mom is Paleo and she’s breastfeeding, baby is already Paleo, and what a gift to give of starting off life with such an eating plan that is both a rich source of nourishment and a low allergenic one to boot!

            Once a baby reaches (add mention of what age they stop nursing) and weans off mother’s milk, it’s still easy: pureed versions of the very same foods you’re eating become the most viable option for this next stage of eating.

            Not only more nutritious as it’s fresh and homemade, but cost effective as you’re saving on packaging and labeling costs you would’ve put forth had you stocked your pantry with Gerber.

            And guess what happens naturally next? Since you’re eating in such a conscientious and healthy manner, and they’ve been eating that way all along, that is the norm.

            And you, being the parents, the ones who either hunt and gather or get to the farmer’s market to procure, call the shots and decide that you will have fresh produce, rich sources of fats and wild, natural proteins and will not stock up on goldfish crackers, chicken fingers and mini cookies.

            Yes, there will come a time when they see these things at a friend’s house or birthday party… or school… but if at home, the norm is one with a high standard and respect for personal health, from there the foundation grows and the sugary, processed items can stay in their right place: something that the kids might have now and then, but certainly not something to rely upon regularly.

Call it at 80/20 or 90/10 approach for kids if you will; whatever that perfect balance might be to achieve proper eating and activity at home without doing so in an overbearing manner that can have the exact opposite affect.


By leading by example.

If you don’t make it into a thing, neither will they!

So getting back to topic now… what would be some great ideas for back to school meals that you can prepare for dinner and then recreate into tomorrow’s lunch to go?

(Psst, by the way, it’s not just back to school for kids here; how about for you and your spouse to take to the office, too?).

  1. To keep things really simple, you could go the one-dish route:

Brown some chopped onions, celery and mushrooms in a dollop of duck fat in a Dutch Oven, then add some cubed grass fed chuck. Brown well on all sides, then douse the pan with enough broth to cover everything and a handful of whichever fresh herbs you may have on hand tied with twine to make a bouquet garnis.   Reduce heat to low and right before serving, turn off heat, stuff in an entire large clamshell container of spinach and let sit for just a few minutes. The leaves will wilt in a jiffy and you’ll have a lovely meal with protein, fat and veggies to enjoy some now, some tomorrow.

  1. Another easy approach is to roast it up.   Turn your oven up to 450 and set

a roasting rack atop a baking dish. Thoroughly dry a whole, pasture-raised chicken and truss the bird so that drumsticks cross one another and completely cover cavity near tail.   Place in oven, breast side down and roast 75 minutes, flipping over halfway.   Meanwhile, slice some red peppers, zucchini, eggplant and onion and arrange in a single layer in baking dish.   At the thirty-minute mark when you flip the bird (not that bird), place the veggies in the oven on a lower level and let them roast while the bird finishes.   Remove after 75 minutes if temp has reached 150F then set on plate, tented in foil to rest for another 10 minutes. Double check the temp has then reached 160F. Arrange the veggies on a platter and quarter the chicken.   Place the chicken on top of the veggies and pour the jus all over.

  1. Finally, perhaps the easiest option of all- the stir-fry! Any and everything

goes from cabbages (bok choy, red or green, Napa…even shredded Brussels!) to onions (shallots, red or yellow, scallions or chopped leeks) plus any proteins (pasture raised pork is a great option, as are shell-on wild shrimp) using a variety of fats to do the cooking in (try coconut for a tropical take).  

In other words- any natural fat (just double check your smoke points[2] to make sure you don’t inundate yourself with free radicals from fat oxidation!) any natural protein and whatever veggies are in season where you live.

Need specifics? A little more detail than just throwing in a little of this or that? No probs. Click here for my favorite stir-fry.

Just three examples of quick dinners to make, all of which can be easily chilled, packed up to go and taken to the classroom or office with no issue whatsoever.

Until the time comes when the entire school lunch program gets a complete overhaul, we’ve all got to do our best to make small changes wherever possible, and without a doubt, those changes begin in the home.

[1] Institute of Medicine. Food Marketing to Children: Threat or Opportunity? Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2006.