rid the back to school lunch blues with these ideas…

Here is my lunch bag set up – my PlanetBox (which comes with 2 containers and cool carrying case), a 16oz Klean Kanteen that I use for water, and a 12oz Klean Kanteen that I use when I am bringing hot food (e.g. soups or stews).

Guest post by Cynthia Roulston ~ This September will mark my 12th year of teaching. As an elementary school teacher, the start of a school year often feels more like the beginning of a new year then it does on January 1st. It is often a time I set new routines as I try to balance my life in a way that does not end up with work taking over every aspect. As part of that organization, it is also a time to think about how to continue my awesome success with a paleo lifestyle. I have been paleo for about 3 years and friends and family often bombard me with the same 4 questions:

  1. What do you eat for breakfast?
  2. What do you eat for lunch?
  3. What do you eat for dinner?
  4. What do you eat?

The last question is probably the easiest one to answer. I eat real food. I avoid grains, legumes and processed food. I seriously limit/avoid dairy. That means I eat the best quality protein sources I can afford, lots of veggies with a bit of fruit, and some nuts and seeds. Pretty simple, and yet when I manage to convince my friends to try a Whole30, to give the paleo way a try, these same questions surface.  One of the key elements to being successful with this way of eating is dropping your preconceived notions of what a meal is. I no longer look at foods in terms of “breakfast”, “lunch” or “dinner”. Most of the time I am successful eating 3 meals a day, and I simply look at them as that – meals. I view meals as the food that will nourish my body, and fuel it in the healthiest way possible, to sustain me throughout the day. This mental shift has shown me that no food is off limits just because of the time of day.

Cindy has invited me to write about lunches as we prepare to get back to work. So whether you are a teacher like ourselves or some other professional, a student, or have children attending school, hopefully there will be some ideas in this post that you can use. I will also include some photos (show casing my awesome Planetbox) of some easy awesome lunches I made recently.

One of the most important ways I keep on track with my paleo lifestyle during lunch is having awesome containers to pack my lunch in. I never really need an excuse to buy myself a present – but being able to keep your food fresh and tasty is going to help you enjoy it much more. Last year I discovered Planet Box lunch containers and they are fantastic! They are environmentally friendly, and keep your food fresh! The only down side to the lunch box I purchased is that it only works with cold meals. They have recently changed this in their newest version which is also a bit larger then the one I bought (darnit!). However, I have also discovered Klean Kanteen, which is another amazing environmentally friendly product that can hold hot or cold beverages, as well as leftover meals like stews and soups. The 8-12oz Klean Kanteen perfectly holds a warm meal (I heat it up in the morning before work and it is still super hot by lunch) and fits snuggly into the pocket of my Planetbox Lunch bag. I also have a 16oz Klean Kanteen that I use as my water bottle throughout the day. I have also tried and still occasionally use an impulse purchase I made at Deserres bento lunch box which looks pretty funky but isn’t as useful as the Planetbox, and doesn’t have a matching carry case. It’s amazing what you can find at the checkout line of an art supply store!

So now that you are equipped with an awesome lunch bag – it’s time to fill it with awesome food.  This diagram comes from Planetbox (a USA – based company), but I wouldn’t be surprised if Canada’s food guide were turned into a plate it would look very similar. I do like that they have made an attempt to market such an amazing lunchbox while encouraging environmental sustainability as well as healthy eating. Obviously we significantly differ on what we consider healthy eating.

If I was to re-create this diagram for my Planetbox to reflect a more paleo/primal balance it would look like:

The obvious difference is the removal of the grains and dairy groups, and larger portion of veggies as the main carbohydrate source.

General Meal Guidelines:

  1. I like to base each meal of my day around my protein source. Protein ideas are endless – fish (I like salmon fillets, or tuna salad with my own homemade mayo), boiled eggs, poultry, beef…you name it! I also like nitrate-free deli meat when I can get it. Using meat for wraps is one of my go-to favourites. Find a good local butcher – we love Royal Beef  as they have the best deli ever in addition to their other amazing quality meats.
  2. Next I choose my fat source. Sometimes my fat may already be incorporated in my meal – e.g in a stew if I am reheating leftovers. Otherwise, I may need to add some.  Fat Sources I like -  Olive oil, or walnut oil I frequently use as a base in my salad dressings, a handful of nuts, or a couple of table spoons of almond or cashew butters are great for dipping fruit in. Avocado, olives, coconut milk and coconut flakes are great, easily portable fat sources too.
  3. Lastly – I go to town on the veggies. I like to experiment with variety as I look for different combinations that work with my protein sources. Carbohydrate Sources are even more endless – I always like to favour things in season, although lettuce leaves for wraps, as well as carrot, celery and cucumber seem to pop up a lot in my rotation because I love them and they are easy. No one can claim boredom here though!! Ways to prepare veggies are as numerous as there are kinds! As for fruit I try not to go too crazy. I use it more like a garnish/condiment or dessert. Definitely a smaller portion compared to veggies. As with my veggies, when it comes to fruit I also like to be adventurous and experiment with what is in season.

Top/Left –> Clockwise ~ * Hormone/antibiotic free ham slices wrapped around sliced tomato and avocado, coronation grapes, almond butter for dipping apple slices into and some cucumber * Grassfed roast beef, carrots, banana with almond butter for dipping, kiwi slices, 90% Lindt cacao chocolate * Tuna Salad Wraps in a Bento Box * Leftover roast chicken, cashews, cucumber slices, watermelon pieces and 90% Lindt Cacao chocolate

Still hungry? Make up some homemade baggies of this or something similar! Also, check out PALEOdISH’s last blog post for loads of additional snacky(ish) ideas that are perfect to pack in your lunch box!!!

Emergency Snack mix – grassfed beef jerky, prunes, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds

Other Lunch Suggestions:

  1. Be prepared – I like to make a plan for the week and I assemble my lunch as part of my evening routine so that in the morning I can just grab my lunch from the fridge and go.
  2. Sunday Night Slow Cook – I like to prepare a large cut of meat (e.g. a roast or whole chicken, spaghetti sauce, chili, soups or stew) where I know there will be lots of leftovers and I’ve got an easy yummy protein source ready to go for at least 2 lunches during the week, or can be frozen for later. It’s nice starting the work week knowing you’re set up for the first couple of days.
  3. Leftovers Rule – During the work week I will often make extra amounts of my third meal (dinner) which lends nicely to lunch-able leftovers.

Cynthia Roulston has been an elementary school teacher for 12 years. With a MSc in Nutritional Science she has also worked as a clinical research associate in breast cancer prevention trials at Princess Margaret Hospital. This background in nutrition is what led to her interest in the paleo diet.  A former national and world-level Ultimate Frisbee player, and former track athlete, physical fitness has been a significant part of her life.  Cynthia currently competes in kettlebell sport. As a part-time Movement Coach at StrengthBox, she derives satisfaction by helping others achieve their personal best. She’s a great motivator and specializes in making workouts fun. She firmly believes in setting a positive example for her students, and continues to amaze them with her feats of fitness and strength. She recently became a MovNat Certified Trainer and enjoys as part of a paleo lifestyle, encouraging and teaching her clients how to move naturally with ease, power and grace. Check out her blog, which includes some good stuff related to MovNat, kettlebell training and living a paleo lifestyle.

snacky(ish) ideas

I was inspired to write this post after meeting and chatting with a new friend of ours from the gym this past weekend. We were out spectating at The Threshold Open Competition, which was hosted by CrossFit Toronto on Saturday…and got gabbing. He asked me…’What kind of Paleo type snacks do you usually eat?’ I paused for a second…and then replied by saying ‘veggies and guac’, ‘hard-boiled eggs’, ‘beef jerky’…and then paused again, realizing that we don’t really do all that much ‘snacking’ per se…especially when we are able to consume large nutrient-filled meals that keep up going and fully satisfied throughout the day. I think that I initially had a difficult time answering this question because all of the things that I would consider ‘snacks’…are all pretty much the foods that make up our regular meals somehow on a daily and weekly basis.

However, this is a question that I get quite frequently (and I totally get where people are coming from)…so I decided that I would share my thoughts with all of you, by creating a post filled with all the ‘snacky(ish)’ type foods that we make or buy. We find these especially important to have at the ready while on the road, on vacation, when travelling or when attending something like an all-day conference/competition. I also think having access to such a list is really beneficial for someone who is new to Paleo style eating, and is still transitioning from their ‘conventional’ diet. Many of these ideas are fully portable, satiating and super delish to boot!

Below you will find a super comprehensive list (that I hope you find helpful)…that includes different goodies, either store-bought and/or homemade. I have written them out in no particular order. Some are literally ready to eat in no time (berries – don’t forget to wash), while others require additional prep (meat cupcakes), and then can be stored and eaten in the days to come. Have fun poking around and hovering/clicking on the links in this blog post, as I have also included some of our favourite brands and where to find them. At the bottom, I have also added an easy reference sheet that you can print off as a go-to guide that you can look back on when you are feeling a little peckish! Stick it on your fridge, so it is visible!!! Finally, feel free to leave any of your favourite ‘snacky(ish)’ ideas in the comments section at the end…I would love to hear from you!

Veggies (anything you love…chopped up) with Homemade Guacamole/Salsa – literally cut up your favourite veggies and keep them in the fridge in a container, so that they are ready to go! Try dipping carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes etc…If you don’t have time to make your own, I would recommend using some Mad Mexican Guacamole and Salsa!

Avocado drizzled with olive oil & balsamic - take a knife and slice an avocado in half. Plate and drizzle with some good quality olive oil and balsamic. Sprinkle with some pepper and sea salt. Enjoy!

Nuts & Seeds/Homemade Trail Mix – choose raw or dry roasted cashews, macadamias, almonds, pecans…and the list goes on… Have a handful here and there when you are on the go! You can even get creative by making your own trail mix with various nuts, shredded coconut, dried fruit, dark chocolate etc…

Kale Chips – made these for the first time this week and they were a total success! Basically used 1 bunch of organic kale, a couple tbsp of melted coconut oil, a few sprinkles of ground chipotle and sea salt. Bake at 300(ish) for about 8 minutes, turning and then for about another 5 minutes, while watching carefully. Full blog post on this coming soon…

Sweet Potato Chips – we are huge fans of these babies. Feel free to play around with different seasonings when you make these. All you need are some sweet potatoes/yams, a mandoline slicer and some spices and you are off to the races!

Taro Chips – these are similar to my sweet potato chips, but they actually turn out a little crispier if you like some more of that ‘crunch’! Have a looksy at your local Asian market and pick up some taro root and get slicin’.

Beet Chips – yet another yummy and delicious way to enjoy a healthy chip type snack. I was honestly amazed how wonderful these turned out. They are super easy and really satisfying. Love ‘em!

Coconut Flakes/Shredded Coconut – grab and go and feel free to enjoy right out of the bag! This is a handy dandy food item to keep in the pantry or to take with you in the car when you are on the go! Also, terrific to add to your own homemade trail mix or sprinkle on top of some fresh berries.

Coconut Butter/Oil – I honestly keep an entire jar and a spoon with me, at the ready, both at work and at home. I love love love coconut butter so much and literally just eat in plain the majority of the time. I now have some of my co-workers hooked on this product as well…that and hard-boiled eggs! HA!! You can also melt it and devour over your favourite fruit!

Coconut Wraps with Nut Butter or sliced meat – this product was a total hit with us. Having said that…it is not something we eat all the time, but would definitely recommend as a delicious treat when paired with your favourite kind of nut butter. We found them in Toronto at The Big Carrot on the Danforth!!!

A Piece of Fruit (in season if possible)/Fruit salad (Berries) – a friend asked me the other day – ‘Do you eat a lot of fruit?’ My reply – ‘No, not really. I tend to eat more in the summer however, when it is in season.’ The peaches right now are to die for! Other than that, we usually stick to mixed berries, which includes: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.

Beef or Pork Jerky/Sticks – If you have a dehydrator (which I don’t), you can get creative and make your own jerky in the comfort of your own home. We tend to pick up beef jerky/sticks or pepperettes at the Brickworks Farmer’s Market on the weekends and enjoy them here and there throughout the week. A wicked punch of protein that is super portable. Be mindful of store-bought jerky/sticks, as they often contain soy and/or wheat…and other nastiness.

Bacon – rocks any time of the day! Enough said!! Source some good quality bacon from a local farmer and bake up a tray to munch on whenever! Scrumptious!!!

Good quality Summer Sausage/Salami – again we get ours at the Brickworks Farmer’s Market, at the Monforte stand. They carry a mennonite-style summer sausage that is made from pork and spices or a pork/beef blend. It is excellent. It comes encased in a cloth bag and does not need to be refrigerated. This is definitely on our weekly grocery list! YUM!!!

Smoked Salmon – we really don’t eat smoked salmon all that often, but I do know of many who enjoy this food as a healthy option. A high-quality source, can often be somewhat pricey, however for many it’s convenience and deliciousness outweigh the cost. Comes cured and pre-sliced.

Shrimp – people LOVE shrimp! Have you ever been to a party and watched the vultures, I mean folks hover over the shrimp cocktail?! I know I have. Shrimp is awesome on it’s own (cold) or super fabulous when marinated and then quickly grilled on the BBQ. Done is no time flat!

Prosciutto – salty goodness! I can seriously polish off an entire package in one sitting. This has to be one of my fav treats! Peel and roll…and pop it in your mouth. It is really that simple. We get ours from a company called Niagara Foods Specialties…and rave about their quality. Another Brickworks Farmer’s Market find!

Hard-boiled/‘Guacafied’ Eggs – oh hard-boiled eggs…I honestly never get sick of you! I eat them almost daily…for reals! Super quick to make and even easier to take with you on the road. I usually just crack, peel and sprinkle with a dash or two of hot sauce…and some pepper and sea salt. If you have more time and want to get a little fancy…try guacafying your eggs!

Scrambled Eggs – this is a go-to option for us on evenings where we are super busy. You can whip them up lightning fast, as a full-on meal or a wee snack if you are hungry. Packed with nutrients and lots of goodness too. If you wish,  you can also add in some herbs and spices or some leftover meat to make them even more flavourful and hearty!

Egg Muffins – these cute little bite-sized beauties can be made ahead of time. They keep well in the fridge and can then be re-heated or even enjoyed cold. If you have children…they will be sure to love them as well!

Pickles – we adore Bubbies pickles. These dills are naturally fermented, without vinegar or preservatives. Pick some up today at your local health food store and thank me later! Enjoy by themselves, as a garnish or in a dish, like my zingy tuna salad!

Sauerkraut - you can purchase this natural pro-biotic from the store or even better…make it yourself. Again, for a store-bought version, we really like the Bubbies brand. Many people often find they enjoy making their own as a way of keeping costs down and controlling the whole process. If you don’t do well with cabbage, you could also try fermenting other veggies such as carrots, asparagus and beets.

Olives – personally, I can’t even stand the smell or sight of them, but my husband loves them, as do many others. They come in all sorts of varieties, and you can even buy them stuffed with things like almonds! They are a great option to grab and chow down on!

Canned Tuna/Salmon/Sardines - When we purchase fish in a can…we usually go for Raincoast Trading brand. I really like that this company is committed to quality and sustainability. ‘Raincoast Trading adheres to the highest sustainability standards when catching, processing and packaging its seafood.’ This product is definitely worth the extra dollar in my opinion!

Zingy Tuna Salad – we tend to make a monster batch of this stuff and store it in the fridge to have throughout the week. Totally yummy on it’s own, in hard-boiled eggs, or even on top of a bed of mixed greens! Extreme party for the taste buds and it packs a superb punch of dill!

Larabar or similar homemade version – Coconut Cream is pure gold! Larabars are really convenient and sold as minis or in full-size bars. As far as bars go, they are great because of their minimal ingredient list – usually just dates, some kind of nut and spices. Look around, as you can often times find them on sale at Costco (limited flavours though) and at various grocery/health food stores. We eat them once in awhile, but not a lot, as I find them super sweet! Note – I don’t do much baking myself…but if you want to try making a similar version on your own, just do a wee google searcheroo and loads of recipes related to these bar will pop up!

Dark Chocolate – we don’t have it in the house all that often. I feel better when I don’t eat chocolate. That being said…I love sampling and trying new ones every now and again. A square or two once in a while usually does the trick for me!

Slice of High Quality Raw/Unpasterized Cheese (if you tolerate dairy) –  I can eat most dairy products without an issue. When I do indulge, it is usually with a slice or two of high quality raw/unpasterized cheese from the farmer’s market. Check out Monforte Dairy and Best Baa Dairy!

Leftover Meat with Hot Sauce/Mustard or Guacamole - may sound weird to some, but this is a natural and frequent occurrence around these parts. Open fridge…open glass container and then grab a chunk of meat. Dip in some hot sauce, specialty mustard or guacamole and you are laughin’. It really doesn’t get any easier than that!

Cup of Bone Broth - OPPS! I have made bone broth several times and just realized that I haven’t done a full blog post on it…just photos and descriptions on good old fb! I will put it in the queue. Anyhoo…slow cooking of meaty soup bones can easily be transformed into a delicious and super mineral-rich broth. After making a huge batch…it can also be easily stored in the fridge or freezer for later use/consumption!

Unsweetened Dried Fruit - what  you are looking for here is fruit that has been de-hydrated, without having extra sugar added to it when packaged. You want to try to look for the most authentic brand…or get busy in the kitchen making some of your very own. You could try dried mango, apple, banana or whatever else your heart desires. A word of caution – (dependent on your goal)s…you may want to be careful not to just eat an entire package in one sitting! (this is easy to do)

Spicy Meat Cupcakes  or Homemade Meatballs – again both of these meaty treats can be made up ahead of time and consumed at your leisure! HA!! Top with some guacamole for a little added yumminess. Can be heated or eaten cold.

Other snacky(ish) foods you may want to try: pork rinds, liverwurst, baked sweet potato/yam, SeaSnaxPaleokits and Grass Fed Jerky Chews. I am sure I will think of more…so this post will be updated whenever necessary.

I hope you enjoy…happy eating!!!

snacky(ish) ideas
  • veggies with guac and salsa
  • avocado drizzled with olive oil & balsamic
  • nuts/seeds/trail mix
  • kale/sweet potato/taro/beet chips
  • coconut butter/oil
  • coconut wraps with nut butter
  • fruit
  • beef jerky/sticks
  • bacon
  • summer sausage/salami
  • smoked salmon
  • shrimp
  • prosciutto
  • eggs - all kinds
  • pickles
  • sauerkraut
  • olives
  • canned tuna/salmon/sardines
  • larabars
  • dark chocolate
  • raw/unpasterized cheese
  • bone broth
  • dried fruit
  • leftover meat with hot sauce, mustard and guac
  • meat cupcakes/meatballs
  • pork rinds
  • liverwurst
  • baked sweet potatoes
  • sea sax
  • paleokits
  • jerky chews
  1. buy, prepare and eat!
  2. print this off and have it ready when you feel hungry!!
  3. make good choices!!!