Thursday, March 10, 2011

Packed Lunches for "Picky" Eaters

i took a little trip down to the florida keys all by myself to visit friends and chill my head out.  you need that every once in a while when the cold of a nyc winter has got you in its grip.  it worked.  a few days of sun, relaxation, fresh caught fish, acupuncture and swimming with dolphins did the trick.  now i'm back and looking at things with fresh eyes and a clear head.  invigorated and feeling charged enough to make it through to the spring that is waiting to knock at my door.  while i was a way i received an email from my friend nina asking what i put in my kids packed lunches so i ran off a list and liked what i saw so i thought i would share it and my thoughts with you.  

every year i teach a workshop called "packed lunches for picky eaters."  at least 30 people show up, sometimes more. they confess that they do not feel inspired to make creative lunches or feel lost because their child is picky and wants to eat the same thing every day. you know what i think about that.....picky eaters are not born that way, they are created.  if you are a picky eater, chances are your kids will be too.  if you embrace food with the same gusto and vulnerability you embrace life, then your children will grow to be food fearless and want to try everything. remember, "just one bite to be polite"  because you never know, your new favorite food might be right in front of you.

i pack 3 lunches every day (son, daughter & husband).  usually the same menu because that makes it easier and we can all talk about it later. "what was your favorite part of lunch today?" or "what did you think of the new herb salami i bought?" and "i loved the berries in those pancakes. should we get those berries again?"  I find that this is a great way for the kids to learn to express gratitude.  It just like asking "what was the best part of your day today?" a question i ask every night before the kids go to bed and they answer with joy.  without knowing it, they have just reflected and said thanks for something - an evening prayer if you will. 

back to lunches:  the goal of a packed lunch is to provide nutrient dense meals that will keep blood sugar stable and fresh, beautiful flavors that will keep your eaters content. i rely heavily on leftovers and rarely ask my family what they want.  i usually hit a home run and the lunch bags return empty. but some days i don't hit it right on the head and that's okay.  no matter what, everybody digs in and gives what they have a go.   the following is a list of what i have packed for take away lunch when you just can't have your family2table at home.  the important thing is to bring that family2table feeling, love and nourishment to you and your family wherever you may go.

1. Any type of antibiotic and hormone free, grass fed meats (my children eat sandwiches but sometimes prefer slices or "rolls" of meat as well as sausage, meatballs, burgers, etc). check out elk trails ranch (Ron) at the union square farmers market on saturdays -  he makes the best buffalo kielbasa! you can cook it or just put the whole sausage cold in the lunch box.  both my kids love it and i carry it wherever we go.  Buy a few packs and keep them in the freezer.  OH! we love duck confit. you can make or buy a leg or two and shred the meat into soups, stews, salads, sandwiches etc.

2. Chunks of good (preferably raw milk) cheeses.  A cheese sandwich on sourdough rye with a thick layer of real butter and a sprinkle of celtic sea salt is delicious and will keep the blood sugar balance for hours.  Skewer the cheese with sausage chunks, cherry tomatoes (or any other cooked veg that skewers well and your child will eat) or fresh fruit. Skewers are available at most kitchen supply stores (a pack of 100 for $1.50).  DONT FORGET TO CUT THE POINT OFF BEFORE PACKING!

3. Nori or Cucumber wrapped vegetable sushi rolls - so fun! they love this. sushi is not that hard to make with practice.  Lacto-fermented vegetables can be made easily at home but are also available from Hawthorne Farms at Union Square Market and Integral Yoga.  They taste great and are a great source of enzymes, Vitamin C and probiotics for good gut health. Roll Chia seeds into the rice for more Omega3s.

4. Sliced Apples or pears with a sprinkle of sprouted granola and raw honey.  green apples are also great sliced very thin on a cheese sandwich with curry mayo. I use a japanese mandolin to get paper think slices for sandwiches. Please be careful and use the finger guard. 

5. room temp. brown rice pasta salads (leftover fish, sausage, chicken, pesto, roasted veggies, tomato, capers, olives, anchovies, etc)  If your child is a pasta fan and that's your go-to dish, then do all you can to make it a bit more nutritious.  Use real bone broth (beef, chicken, fish).

Bone broth has so much value nutritionally. Vitamins, minerals, gelatin for gut healing, etc.  If you roast chicken for dinner save the bones and make broth.   Hawthorne farms has incredible beef soup bones and marrow bones.  Marrow is a super-food children should consume as often as possible.  it is also something we as parents can slip into the food without them even knowing -- in pasta, for instance.  Use lots of butter, broth, raw milk parmagianno cheese.  

Pasta is a great opportunity to use fish eggs as well. Salmon roe, dried bottarga (mullet or tuna roe).  Make pasta a whole pound at a time and store in quart containers in the fridge.
Use ample sea salt in the water when cooking.  You can also cook the pasta in Broth or Miso instead of water for more nutritional value.

6. Lentil salad (any bean or grain salad actually - 1.e cous cous, quinoa- major protein source) - combine with meats, fish, veggies, herbs, olive oil, coconut oil.  PLEASE REMEMBER when preparing grains, beans and pulses to SOAK for 24 hours to disable the phytic acid - which is anti-nutrient and blocks mineral absorption.  When bringing to a boil, skim "scum" off the
top as this are impurities that need to be removed.  With lentils and beans,  DO NOT add salt while cooking.  Salt after you have turned off the pot and let soak with salt while cooling.  you can add aromatics to the pot while cooking (carrot, onion, garlic, herbs etc)

7. Hummus with crackers - Wassa or Rye Vita (i usually give olives and pickles on the side) my kids love to spread and dip. you can also do hummus with blanched crudite.  I blanch with ample celtic sea salt in the blanching water and the ice bath as this imparts more flavor and minerals into the vegetables.  Roasted Vegetables are great crudite for kids as these veggies are very sweet from the carmelized natural sugars of the vegetables from roasting.  If you are making your hummus, soak beans properly first.  Hummus can be made from all beans and pulses.  Black bean with chipotle puree and cilantro, white bean with preserved lemon, garlic and thyme, red lentil with garam masala and dill.  have fun and play with flavors. be bold, try new things and let your children help create new flavors.

8. boiled Eggs with crumbled bacon - Neiman ranch thick cut - and peas. I cannot say enough about EGGS.  I LOVE eggs.  my kids adore eggs all ways.  Please make sure you are getting eggs from a reliable, non-factory farm source. I can recommend Nevia from Bohdi Tree Farm who comes to Abingdon Market on Saturdays and Dave from Muddy Farm who is also at Abingdon Market on Saturdays.  Eggs can be added to pasta or eaten plain and exquisite with sea salt.  Eggs salad with homemade MAYO or Wild Salmon Salad (fresh or tinned) with chopped, boiled eggs on sourdough bread or crackers.

9. Wraps! we use flax bread or sprouted tortillas. we particularly like bacon, tomato, fermented beets and avocado and lamb sandwiches with cucumbers and yogurt.  PLEASE TRY and get away from the packaged single serve Yo Baby style yogurts (way too much sugar) and move on to plain, organic yogurt made from good milk from grass fed cows like Hawthorne Farms Plain and Maple Vanilla yogurt available at Union Square Market.  There are plenty of reusable containers that we can put the yogurt in and put in the lunchbox.

10. use half an Avocado as the cup for another salad and combine (lentils, beans, fish - salmon salad, shrimp salad, tuna - don't get too mayo-gooey though and please use a homemade mayo to impart more nutrition).

11. fried rice - a great way to use leftover rice.  heat a skillet - very hot - add coconut oil, break an egg and scramble. Add leftover, cold rice and cook. add any veggies ( frozen peas are great), leftover meats, fish, herbs (cilantro, basil) add asian vinaigrette (wheat free traditionally brewed Tamari, rice wine vinegar, fresh lime juice, fish sauce and sesame oil).

12. cold soba noodle salad - Soba noodles are delicious and this salad can be prepared days ahead of time. as a matter of fact this dish gets better as it marinates in the fridge.  You can buy soba noodles in packages or in bulk.  Using a julienne peeler, add cucumber and blanched carrots to the cooked noodles. Add cilantro, basil, sesame seeds and leftover chicken, meat or fish.  Use the Asian Vinaigrette from the fried rice above.
This vinaigrette is easy to make and stores well in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

13. chopped chicken LIVER or bison liver or liverwurst on bread - I know what you are kid won't eat liver. Most don't like it, that's true. But, if you make it and eat it, odds are at some point they will get into it.  Pate is readily available, delicious and one of the most nutritious foods on the planet.  we should all eat it twice a week.  Just try it. Please. 

14. a cold Roasted Chicken leg is always great (leftovers make great lunches, friends!).  Nothing beats a drumstick with a few sides for lunch.  Thanksgiving Turkey, Meatballs, Meatloaf, Burgers Stew, Soup, etc. Leftovers are a blessing.  Use them liberally!  A thermos keeps them warm all day.

15. Yogurt and Fresh Fruit Salad - Again, please try and stay away from the single serving packaged yogurts.  There are many brands that are properly made and delicious.  Skewer the fruit and encourage the Yogurt as a dip to the fruit kabobs.  Raw honey or maple syrup in the yogurt is a perfect sweet treat!  This is also a great classroom snack.

16. Thai Summer Rolls & dumplings - Shredded Raw veggies (and leftover meats and fish) and herbs in a rice paper wrapper with dipping sauce.

17. Pad Thai & Curries:  Curry can be made days ahead and warmed in the morning. Pad Thai is a great new take on pasta for kids and is easily prepared and packed in the morning.

18. Sourdough bread with real butter and smoked salmon.  Forget the bagel! this is the bomb!

write to me if you need recipes for any of these ideas of if you have an idea you would like to share.


  1. You have lots of great ideas. I don't know if some of them would work for super picky kids, but I know mine would love most of them. Of course, they've been raised to not be picky eaters, so they will eat just about anything I serve. :)

    Thanks for posting!

  2. what a great list! thanks for the ideas, printing it out and putting it up on the fridge :)

  3. this is one of my favorite websites. thank you. your cookie recipe is wonderful.

  4. I LOVE your blog and have linked it from my blog ( post because I am talking today about my toddler and healthy food. I plan to follow along! Thanks for great ideas and content~!

  5. thanks bethany,anonymous and jen! r don't forget to post your email addresses if you want me to answer you directly!