My Top Ten Tips for Packing a Real-Food Lunch

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How to Pack a Healthy Lunch

One of the questions I’m asked most often, is how to pack a healthy lunch. Most people who know me, either from this blog or from Mommy and Me, know that I try to feed my family a nourishing Weston A. Price type diet, also known as a Traditional Food diet. This means that a lot of the food we eat isn’t available readily prepared in traditional supermarkets.

People always want to know how I’m able to pack real-food, unprocessed lunches without going insane! I think they picture me baking fresh muffins every morning while I milk a goat and forage for berries. That is pretty far from my reality. The truth is, I’m not special and a real food lunch is as easy to pack as a processed lunch. You just have to get the hang of it! 

Top Ten Tips for Packing a Real Food Lunch

1. Start With a Quality Protein

In her groundbreaking book Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon explains: “Protein is essential for normal growth, for the formation of hormones, [and] for the process of blood clotting….”(1) Children need high quality protein in their diets to support their developing brains and bodies. (2) Some ways to incorporate high quality proteins into your child’s lunch include:

  • Leftover turkey, chicken or beef cut into small pieces or used in a sandwich. (Just make sure your sandwich bread is sourdough or sprouted!)
  • Wild tuna, salmon or sardine salad. (Concerned about mercury? Read more about that here. What about radiation? Read here.)
  • High quality, nitrate free, minimally processed lunch meats
  • Raw, Grass-fed Cheese
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs
  • Mini Meat Loaves
  • Nut Butter Sandwiches made with nuts that have been soaked and dehydrated, then blended with coconut oil. (Read more about why soaking and dehydrating nuts is essential here.) Add a naturally sweetened jam and butter from pastured cows.
  • Organic, Full-Fat Yogurt

2. Add Fresh, Organic Produce

I generally add two fruits, two vegetables or one of each, but the more the better! We tend to use what is seasonal, and either locally grown or organic. If you need to save money on produce, try using frozen organic fruit (frozen berries stirred into organic yogurt or baked into coconut flour muffins are a favorite in my house), or even peas!

3. Make Sure to Include Good Fats

According to the Weston A. Price Foundation: “During the critical growing years, children need levels of fat substantially in excess of the levels recommended in the US dietary guidelines.“(3) Good fats and oils include:

  • Quality dairy fats from grassfed cows (butter, cream, cheese, whole milk and yogurt)
  • Fat found in meat from properly fed animals, poultry and fish. “These animal fats supply true vitamin A, vitamin D and the proper cholesterol needed for brain and vision development. The animal fats also supply other fat soluble nutrients that support the immune system such as glycosphingolipids. Fish oils such as cod liver oil also supply important elongated omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamins A and D.” (3)
  • Unrefined oils such as olive, coconut and flaxseed.

4. Fermented Foods

I try to include fermented foods in every lunch I make, and often include a fermented condiment such as Kimchi, Saurkraut or Fermented Carrots (carrots are a perpetual favorite). Fermented foods are easy to digest, contain B vitamins and vitamin K2, promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut (also known as the second brain). Best of all, fermented foods will help keep your school-aged children from getting sick since they promote immunity!

Other fermented foods include yogurt, cheese, sourdough breads and cultured butter.

5. Play With Your Food

There is nothing worse than spending precious time and money packing your little one a wonderful, healthy lunch, only to have it return home untouched. Trust me, this has happened to me! With a little creativity though, a nutritious lunch will appeal to children. Use your imagination, think like a kid and the possibilities are endless!

6. Use Leftovers

Lots of leftovers taste great cold. Try chicken, wild salmon, roast beef, quinoa, meat loaf, quiche or taco meat in your kids’ lunches. Cut up extra veggies while you’re making a dinner salad. Plan to have extra food. Pack their lunches while you’re serving dinner, or right after dinner, and there’s no rush in the morning!

7. Cook in Bulk

There are plenty of lunch-friendly foods that can be made ahead of time in big batches and frozen for weeks of stress-free lunch prep.

Some other things you can prep ahead of time for lunches are:

  • A whole chicken or roast for sandwiches
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Cut up fruits and vegetables

8. Keep Some Nourishing Convenience Foods On Hand For Busy Times

Life is hectic, and few of us can keep up with the pace. When you find yourself overextended and too busy to make your own nutritious food, it’s nice to have some nutrient dense, traditionally prepared convenience foods ready and waiting. For instance, online real-food mecca Wise Choice Market carries a multitude of traditionally prepared wholesome foods to keep your family healthy including:

  9. Small Treat

Children (and adults!) love a little treat in their lunches. There are numerous options for treats that are nourishing as well as fun.

10. Pack It All Up in a Reusable Container

Part of keeping our kids healthy is making sure they have a healthy world to live in! Ditch the disposable brown bag and go green! See my picks for zero-waste lunch packing in this post.

And there you have it! Ten tips to help you remember how to pack a healthy lunch.


(1) Fallon, Sally, Mary G. Enig, Kim Murray, and Marion Dearth. Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. Washington, DC: NewTrends Pub., 2001. 26. Print.

(2) Udani, PM. “Protein Energy Malnutrition (PEM), Brain and Various Facets of Child Development.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar.-Apr. 1992. Web. 29 Aug. 2014.

(3) Enig, Mary, PhD. “Dietary Recommendations for Children: A Recipe for Future Heart Disease?” Weston A Price. The Weston A. Price Foundation, 31 July 2001. Web. 29 Aug. 2014. <>.

More Resources:

A Month of Gluten Free Lunches

40 Days of Gluten Free School Lunches

50+ Grain Free and Paleo Lunch Box Recipes

Real Food Lunch Ideas for Busy Moms and Dads (Facebook Page)

Gluten-Free, Real Food Recipes for Kids (e-book)

The Gluten-Free Lunchbox (e-book)

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Top Ten Tips for Packing a Real Food Lunch (without going crazy!)

About Kelley

Hi! I'm Kelley. Real foodie and crunchy mom to a teenager and a toddler. My husband and I live in Southern California.

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