Continuing with our “Back to School on the Ketogenic Diet” blog series (see Part 1), today we’ll provide some tips and meal ideas to help you pack a school lunch that your keto kid will love.
Packing the Ketogenic Lunchbox
Many parents face a daily challenge when it comes to packing their child’s lunch box. It can be difficult to come up with lunch ideas that are transportable, nutritious, and that your child will actually eat. When your child is on a ketogenic diet for epilepsy, this task is even more daunting. Not only does the meal need to be carefully weighed and prepared, but oftentimes your child must eat the entire meal to maintain the ketogenic ratio. This is challenging enough at home but it can be even more difficult in the school cafeteria when you aren’t there to supervise. We’ve put together some tips and ideas to help you come up with keto-friendly school lunches that your child will enjoy.
Before school starts, ask your child’s dietitian to help you come up with some transportable meals that can be sent along to school. Find out from the school whether there is access to a refrigerator or a microwave since this will determine the types of meals that will work.
Presentation is Key
Because the ketogenic diet is high in fat and fat is denser in calories than carbohydrates and protein, ketogenic diet meals appear smaller than regular meals even though they provide the same amount of calories. Many parents find that small, fun food containers help to make ketogenic meals look more appealing and kid-friendly. Bento boxes are very popular right now and are perfect for packing keto school lunches. If you’re not familiar with them, bento-style food boxes have multiple compartments to hold small amounts of different foods that can be packaged in clever, kid-friendly ways. You can find Bento-style and other kid-friendly food containers at major department stores, kitchen goods stores, or online.
If you are looking for some lunchbox inspiration, check out these creative Bento school lunch ideas on Pinterest. Once you get some ideas, you can work with your child’s dietitian to make keto-friendly versions of Bento meals by substituting the ingredients in the compartments with low-carb, high fat foods like olives, pepperoni, or macadamia nuts.
If the Bento-style boxes weren’t cute enough, there are additional accessories to make meals even more kid-friendly. For example, there are these adorable Bento food picks to hold foods together and Bento forks to send in place of utensils (keep in mind these could be a choking hazard for very young children). Then there is my personal favorite accessory, the Bento vegetable cutter. You can use these to cut low-carb vegetables (such as cucumbers or zucchini) into fun shapes that can be eaten with mayonnaise or other high-fat keto dips.
Mind the Ratio
For younger kids, it may be a good idea to send meals that have a consistent ratio regardless of how much is eaten since you can’t be there to ensure your little one eats the entire meal. For example, tuna salad that has all ingredients combined vs. a hot dog with a side of mayonnaise that must be eaten in entirety. With combined meals, you don’t have to worry that the ketogenic ratio will be off if your child doesn’t finish it all.
KetoCal LQ can be very handy for school lunches since it is ready-to-drink, nutritionally complete, and has a 4:1 ratio regardless of whether your little one takes a sip or drinks the whole box. Plus, if your child gets distracted by all the commotion in the school cafeteria, it may actually be easier for him or her to drink a meal at lunchtime. Kids love the KetoCal drink boxes since they look like the juice boxes all the other kids are drinking. Consider keeping a few boxes of KetoCal LQ at school as a back-up lunch in case the one you pack is left on the school bus or accidentally spilled on the cafeteria floor.
As always, be sure to consult with your child’s health care provider about all meal ideas to ensure that they work for your child’s specific ketogenic ratio and calorie requirements.
For those of you who have already mastered the art of packing your child’s ketogenic diet lunchbox, which meals are your child’s favorites? What tips would you offer other parents who are new to this?
For more information on this topic, read Part 1 and Part 3 of the Back to School on the Ketogenic Diet series.