This blog post forms part of the Low-Carb Kids Course Video Presentation available on my website. If you haven’t watched the video yet, then hop on over and go watch the video to get the most out of the Low-Carb Meals and Kid’s Lunchbox ideas and tips. Psst. The Course is FREE!
I’ve been doing low carb keto for five-plus years. Before going keto, I wholeheartedly believed in low-fat nutrition. I’ve always been health conscious but initially I was very uncertain of whether my children could do keto or low carb with me. Neither did I realise what a huge learning curve going low-carb would be for me and them.
Based on all the lessons I’ve learned and challenges I’ve had to overcome (I have picky kids), I made this course and wrote this content to bring an awareness around our (own and) children’s nutrition. If you are a parent reading this, I really hope that the information will be of value to you and that you will implement some of the practical tips given in the post and video lesson.
Low-Carb Not No-Carb
The Low-Carb Kids Course is not a course to convince you to put your kids on a keto diet. As I explain in the Course, young children’s nutritional needs are ever-changing as they develop through these foundational years. Although my nutritional beliefs are low-carb keto principles, I don’t advocate strict keto for kids unless it is for the treatment of Epilepsy. To read more about keto as a treatment for Epilepsy, visit the Charlie Foundation.
HEALTHY, LOW-CARB MEALS & KID'S LUNCH BOX IDEAS & TIPS
Without making drastic changes, the first and easiest step for a parent would be to be aware of excessive amounts of sugar in foods and beverages. Once you can identify added sugar in food, you can make a few small changes to eliminate it in their diets. This awareness alone is a HUGE step towards a healthy nutrition foundation for your kids.
Navigating your way through all the marketing and nutritional information isn’t easy. In the Course, I share how food manufacturers disguise sugar and often use other names for sugar. Food manufacturers use “clever” marketing tactics to make us think their foods are healthy.
Nevertheless, with dedication and persistence, you will be able to make sound and informed healthy choices for your family.
One of the biggest challenges I found when transitioning my kids to low-carb was their school box lunches. Let’s face it. It’s easy slapping whatever between two slices of white bread. Suddenly, with bread not being a lunchbox option anymore, I had to get creative!
Dinner was easier than lunch boxes. Whatever we ate for dinner, the kids would eat, but even dinner meals were a slow and gradual process to transition them to low-carb instead of filling their plates (and tummies) with high-carb foods such as rice, pasta and potatoes.
Where to Start
As mentioned in the Course, lunchboxes are a big part of our kid’s day. So, we can start by removing processed foods from their lunchboxes. We can replace sugary treats with real fruit and give them water to school instead of sugary beverages. I also cannot emphasize enough that you have to start slow. It is not a good idea to announce to your children and family that you’re all going low-carb and then proceed to do an entire pantry purge. Such a drastic announcement is seldom met with positivity or buy-in from children. And, you’ll still be faced with the challenge of your environment even though you have made the announcement.
Even if your kids buy into this new healthy way of eating, they will still be tempted by their environment. Here are some of the environmental temptations to consider:
- Friend’s lunchboxes,
- School tuck shop, and
- Family (particularly grandparents) and friends still offering your kids sugary foods and treats.
The Most Obvious Culprits
The first step I took was to look at alternatives to bread. Three of the five school days, I would replace the bread with an alternative.
I also got my kids involved. We went shopping together and looked at different options. I taught them to read food labels and understand the sugar content in foods. As a general rule, we tried to stick to a food item below ten grams of sugar per serving. They would read the label and look for the carb content and then decide if it fits our new guideline.
Here are some of the alternatives compared to regular bread:
- Rye Bread (100%)
- Wholewheat, multigrain wraps
- Low-carb Wraps
- Low-carb Seeded bread – Commercially available (comes in all shapes and sizes, e.g. bread, rolls, bagels)
- Homemade low-carb bread
- 90 Second Bread
- Fathead Dough (can be turned into sandwiches, sausage rolls, and basically anything)
Sugary beverages are the worst! As you will see in the illustration below, a simple beverage like flavoured water has three teaspoons of sugar in it. That is a lot of calories from your child’s daily calorie intake from liquids. When it comes to sugary beverages, I am relentless. No more fruit juice for school and also NO REGULAR SODAS.
Eliminating sugary beverages is not an easy task. Some days I still have to fight the urge to buy that Fresh 100% Squeezed Fruit Juice Blend.
Even with the knowledge and awareness, I’ll sometimes still pick up that little “flu shot” tonic, made with a blend of orange juice, turmeric and lemon. You know, thinking, “I want to boost their immune system”. Or, what about the 100% orange juice or cranberry juices that look so colourful? It’s not 100% fruit! If you look at the ingredients of that little flu shot, you’ll be shocked to learn that it contains two teaspoons of sugar in a small shot of 100m.
Lunchbox Tips & Tricks
TIP #1 – During the summer months, a kid’s school lunch needs to be kept cool. A lunchbox full of chips and crackers can stand in the sun the whole day and still be okay. But, fresh food goes off much quicker than processed foods. So, you have to invest in some ice bricks and not just a cooler bag. I found the cutest ice bricks at the Crazy Store. They have a variety, from small, palm-sized ones to ice bricks that look like fruit. FYI, stylishly transporting lunch in these cooler bags was equally important for my kids!
TIP #2 – You need lunchboxes that have dividers or sections. We tried all sorts and finally decided on the Addis ones because they were nice and sturdy and not that expensive. I think Lunchboxes go to the same place socks and hairpins go.
TIP #3 – As discussed previously, presentation is everything (to my kids in any way). You can use toothpicks to stack the food or make cute (and healthy) combinations. Toothpicks also help keep food together, or if you add a dip, it’s easy if using a toothpick. Another way to make their lunch interesting is to use cookie cutters or shapes. We had butterflies, trains, dinosaurs, flowers, and the kids loved it! It’s available in many stores, but if I recall correctly, I think I bought mine at @Home.
Finger Food Options
We had two more obstacles to deal with when it came to the lunchboxes. First off, my kids didn’t like cold food and didn’t have a place at school to warm up leftovers (from the night before). The second obstacle was time. I don’t know about your kids, but if my kids must choose between play and food, they will choose to play!
Obviously, they get lunch breaks at school, and they know they need to eat, but whatever we packed in their school lunchbox had to be something quick that they could grab and then get to their main priority – play!
Finding and choosing food that they could grab-and-go was also a journey of trying many stuff and finding what works and what doesn’t work.
Here’s a list of some finger food options:
Ps: Apparently, it is highly frowned upon to take anything like boiled eggs or scrambled egg sandwiches to school. #Embarrasing #lessonearned
TAKE A LOOK AT THE SNACK LIST GUIDE IN YOUR DOWNLOADS FOR MORE HELPFUL IDEAS ON SNACKS TO ADD TO LUNCHBOXES. THERE IS AN EXTENSIVE LIST OF SNACKS YOU CAN BUY AS WELL AS SNACKS THAT CAN MAKE AT HOME. HOPEFULLY, YOU’LL GET SOME INSPIRATION FROM IT.
Presentation Of Food
Even if we have the best intentions and make good nutritional choices, feeding our families healthy and nutritious meals, we are competing against huge Food Manufacturers who spend billions on research and marketing. For example, those little Zoo Cookies looks a hundred times more fun than mom’s homemade cookies. And, if you’d ask my kids to choose between McDonald’s nuggets and mom’s nuggets, well, let’s just say I don’t take offence anymore. #sorrymom #homemade
Food manufacturers spend billions of dollars on perfecting the package and presentation of their food and to make it enticing for children (and us).
Food manufacturers spend equal amounts of money on perfecting something called the bliss point. What is the bliss point? Think about foods such as popcorn or McDonald’s chips. These types of food contain just the right amount of sweet, salty, and crunchy – so much so that it causes us not to be able to stop eating it! This feeling of not being able to stop eating a bag of popcorn and the hand-to-mouth mechanism is what is referred to as the bliss point.
When food scientists design a food where they combine a little bit of salty, sweet and crunchy in the food, it hits all the right receptors in our mouths and lights up dopamine in our brains – making us want MORE.
Here are some more meal ideas. These meals can be made for dinner and then taken to school as leftovers.
Low carb wraps such as the ones from Trulygood Food is a great option and keeps lunchboxes and meals interesting. I do find the wraps to be a bit thin and unless we toast it, it does tear. Another option for wraps is the Woolies Multi-seed Low-Kj wraps. One wrap is only 1.6 grams of sugar.
Another alternative is to make your own low carb wraps. Take a look at this versatile low carb recipe from Keto Diet App.
Mini meatballs, mini burgers, mini pancakes, mini muffins – basically anything “mini” is a good idea for kids.
This Basic Hamburger Patty recipe can be used to make mini-meatballs.
Also, check out this Cream Cheese Pancake recipe. I make these pancakes in a mini-pan and mimic the BBQ Chicken Pancakes (from Woolies).
The Chicken Nugget recipe is another classic “win-your-kids-over” recipe. It’s easy to prepare for dinner and then place in their lunchboxes for school.
Egg Muffins are crazy versatile and great for lunchboxes or quick breakfasts on your way to school. This Loaded Egg Muffin recipe contains a bit of extra protein and this Ham and Egg Cup recipe doesn’t only look cute but taste delicous.