Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Why I "Do" Treats in Lunchboxes

A mother of my daughter's classmate said to me the other day, "My son says that [your daughter] brings lunches that are healthy, and with a piece of chocolate."

Heh...and with a piece of chocolate.

There are a lot of viewpoints on how to approach paleo treats, and those viewpoints become even more splintered and diverse when you're talking about the issue of approaching treats/cheats with kids. If you've followed my lunchbox series for any length of time, you've noticed that I somewhat regularly include for my daughter something that qualifies as a treat/cheat. It could be some dark chocolate chips in a trail mix, or a piece of dark chocolate by itself, or a macaroon, or some other home-baked treat.

Some purists might protest that I'm setting my daughter up to see treats as normal, as an obligatory element in a lunch. I see their point, but often the biggest counterpoint to this argument is the fact that my daughter eats lunch at preschool with her peers, whose lunches regularly include at least some prepackaged brightly colored sweet treat.

So here is my dilemma: do I then craft lunches without any treats at all? I feel like dying on the hill of making my daughter nutritionally-fulfilling-only lunches in the name of a "treats are not a regular part of life" philosophy would have me winning a battle...only to lose a war in the long run with her seeking out treats and sweets in excess because she somehow feels deprived by comparison with her peers.

Between home and social/educational exposure, my daughter's regularly exposed to two approaches to food: {paleo + whole food treats} and {standard American diet}. She's already old enough to know which one her tastebuds and her eyes prefer. She also is old enough to compare and contrast - I've been asked by her on several occasions about why she doesn't get certain prepackaged processed items. So, I hope that sending modest treats from home in her lunchbox serves as an innoculation of a sort, a way to show her that treats can still be a part of life in the right amount, when made with wholesome ingredients.

How do you approach feeding your kids treats in a whole foods context?



  1. So true. I'm glad there are several Primal/Paleo parenting voices now, because those who don't have kids can certainly make the rest of us seem like illicit treat dealers. ;) I think your approach is sound and is one I feel balances all the influences they will have over their lives.

    I live in a hippie small town with a population interested in healthy food (of all stripes). I've met many who grew up in households with no sugar, no processed foods etc. and went CRAZY when they went to college. Some never fully returned. :/ Leading by example is the best thing we can do, and if having occasional treats helps them see that it's less of an either/or situation, then I say go for it.

  2. Most parents who send lunches with their children are off their rocker. They send processed, packaged foods that they think are *miraculously* healthier than the lunches provided by the schools. I wouldn't read much into this mother's comments, unless she is a fellow primal mother. Even then, it's your child, your decision, your best judgment.

    My approach is very similar to yours. My son brings his lunch every single day. Every once in awhile, I also throw in a square of dark chocolate or another paleo treat. It's not the end of the world, and about 50% of the time, that chocolate comes back home anyway. He's not much of a sweet tooth...

  3. I think that you've come up with a very reasonable solution to the treat dilemma. Treats exist- birthdays and holidays at school, at home, and with friends. Learning good choices in the treat department is just as important as learning to make other good food choices. You have the right to make those decisions for your child, and the criticizer has the right to choose no treats for hers. Either way has to be light years better than Lunchables!

  4. Thanks for your comments, ladies! Ironically my fellow mom's tone was lost in the typing; she was just making light friendly conversation as far as I could tell. No hint of criticism from her.

  5. I agree! It's important that kids understand why they should eat healthy, but it's equally important that they don't feel deprived. Besides, chocolate has antioxidants!

  6. The issue i have with this, is that comments about whether or not to treat your child often comes from people who either have older/ grown up children or no children at all. Like you point out: on the long term, depriving kids from treats and/ or sweets could lead to them seeking out unhealthy treats to keep up with their peers.

    Also, i think it's wrong to focus solely on the treats. Look at the big picture to see what else the kids are eating! If their eating their daily greens, nuts and grassfed meat... heck, they can have a treat! Their bodies can handle it! And seriously, if i look at what some of the other kids have for lunch... yikes! Kudos for the teacher, cos i wouldn't want to be among that unruly bunch in the afternoon!

    All the best

  7. We don't eat Paleo but my approach is very similar to yours. Of course you know you are my role model (even though my kids are 9 & 13, lol). Since my kids and husband do not do paleo I try and make them whole grained versions of treats and try to use good fats etc. Some weeks I slip, but even the more sugary treats I make are not as addictive as the prepackaged ones that elicit temper tantrums from my 9 yo when she wants more, more, more. Sigh..

  8. I'm a new follower of your blog...just starting out on the primal journey. I have a preschooler and am so excited to read about your lunches (and going to look at the husband ones next!)...I totally agree with your viewpoint on treats for kids. I'm so excited to have found your blog!! I, like you, am a Christan mother of 2 litle girls...I'm so glad to be able to follow along your path! :)

  9. What is in the top left container? It looks delicious...

  10. Top left container looks like baked egg cups: ham and egg or bacon and egg. They are wonderfully portable and there are loads of recipes.


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