Raising Cave-child: The School Lunch

For the low, low cost of two dollars, my cave-child could have ‘enjoyed’ today’s school lunch special: corn dogs, with a few non cave-child friendly side dishes. What else would her body be getting for this low, low cost?

One of the most popular brands of corn dogs contains a slew of ingredients. I’ve highlighted a few of the more concerning below: Batter Ingredients: Water, Enriched Wheat Flour (Enriched with Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Sugar, Enriched Corn Meal (Enriched with Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Contains 2% or Less of the Following: Salt, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Modified Food Starch, Soybean Oil, Honey Solids (with Wheat Starch, Calcium Stearate, Hydroxylated Lecithin), Artificial Flavor, and Onion Powder, Cooked in Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil. Hot Dog Ingredients: Pork, Mechanically Separated Turkey, Water, Corn Syrup, Dextrose, Modified Corn Starch, Contains 2% or Less of the Following: Salt, Potassium Lactate, Flavorings, Beef, Extractives of Paprika, Sodium Diacetate, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Sodium Nitrite.

Enriched wheat flour, obviously not cave-child friendly. But aside from this, enriched wheat flour is the phenomenon that occurs when a company removes all the ‘nutrients’ out of wheat when processing it into flour but then decides to the ‘nutrients’ back in once processing is complete. Wheat normally includes fifteen ‘nutrients’, this particular company only added five (likely synthetic) nutrients back in. Same sort of scenario with the ‘enriched corn meal’, but also with the added bonus of corn (one of the most genetically modified crops in the US).

Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate. I’m of the general belief that any food additive that requires a MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) should not be ingested. Inhalation of this chemical can lead to pulmonary fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and bronchial asthma. My child, like most, inhales her food, so I’ll just play it safe and keep this additive out of her diet. The FDA does list this on their GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list, but consuming an excessive amount of phosphate will lead to bone loss. Cave-child needs strong bones.

Next up, soybean oil AND partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Soy is another of the most highly genetically modified crops in the US. It’s a really unstable oil, especially when heated. Soybean oil also contains polyunsaturated fats and, once hydrogenated, trans fats. Trans fats are associated with major health issues, including ADHD, mood disturbances, depression, heart attacks and strokes. It takes the body nine months to detox from trans fats. It’s just bad, bad news all around.

Corn syrup, modified food starch, wheat starch, artificial flavor, dextrose, hydroxylated lecithin, flavorings. All possible sources of the neurotoxin, monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG wreaks havoc on many body systems, including the brain. I’m sure that research shows that cave-children with healthy brains are overall healthier and happier.
So, what will my cave-child be enjoying for lunch instead of corn dog special? Coconut milk, trail mix (with nuts, dried berries and coconut flakes), a paleo chocolate chip cookie and a chicken shish-kebab wrapped in bacon, of course. Still has the fun-factor of meat on a stick with the added bonus of bacon!



Laura Wendling is a freelance blogger and food photographer from Cincinnati, OH. She is also a social media consultant and an assistant for Dr. J. Renae Norton. Her dream is to work full-time for individuals in the health community as a contributing writer, social media consultant and assistant. A wife and mother of two, she has successfully converted her family from the typical diet of highly processed convenience foods to a clean-eating, paleo lifestyle. Follow her on twitter at twitter.com/lwphotographics and keep up on articles she contributes to at www.eatingdisorderpro.com/blog and twitter.com/drrenae

Categories: General, Paleo Diet Basics


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  1. Jeff says

    As I stare down the barrel of being a father (two weeks from today is our due date) I read stuff like this and wonder, “How in the WORLD can I teach my son to stay away from crap food like this.” I should be worried about diapers and swaddlers and sleeping through the night, but I can’t stop worrying that our schools are poisoning our youth.

    Thanks for the post, Rob, informative as always.

    • Deanna says

      It is very dis-concerning to watch what students consume on a daily basis at school. The only way to combat this is to start at home and teach good nutritional habits to our kids and anyone else who is interested in learning then the knowledge will spread.

      I know I haven’t been the best when it came to nutrition but as the years role by I do better because I know better. As far as schools poisoning our youth it isn’t at the local level we should be concerned with. It is at the federal level where the real change can happen because there are where the rules for the rest of nation are made regarding school lunches. Schools only have limited choices when it comes to what they can and can’t serve students.

      As for school lunches they just say my kids have decided to wait until they get home to eat because it gives them more time to hang out with their friends at school.

    • David says


      I feel the best way to teach is to do. If you follow the paleo solution to the tea, your kids should follow.


    • Greg G says

      Hopefully your wife is able to breast feed. Start there, and do that for as long as you can. Around 6 months start giving your child real food. Some use bananas. We made mushy peas and let him play with it. after finger painting for 15 minutes he started licking his fingers. Now he gums everything. A favorite is the drummette of a chicken wing. He sucks the skin like crazy. And bacon or anything else high fat (babies need and love fat) — he sucks on bacon to pull the grease out.

      And this probably need not be said on this site, but ignore all recommendations to feed rice cereal. Useless crap.

      Cancel cable if you can as well. The food companies are adept at getting kids to want and crave junk food.

      Start with that foundation and I think you’ll increase your child’s chances exponentially.

  2. George says

    I absolutely agree – my son (3) does not eat school lunches because of the crap in them. We pack his lunch every day!

  3. Andrew says

    Is Laura considering adoption? I might be 25, but I’ll be darned if that lunch doesn’t sound better than anything I received while I was in school (not including University).

    Good work :-)

    • Laura says

      Come on over, as long as you don’t mind being in the company of some wild cave kids (you’ll be fairly safe, we only let them use their cavekid clubs one evening a week ;-)) We’re always cooking up fun, delish paleo foods!

  4. says

    This is unreal! I have a 13 y/o client whose school lunches consist of chicken patties, pizza, and pasta. I understand money is an issue, but there are other options. I wish I could remember where I saw this, but one school district was having the students grow their own fruits and vegetables. This was getting them involved so that they will be more likely to eat them and also it helped cut down costs immensely. If it is still expensive sell them at a school farmer’s market or something. People wonder why we are in the middle of a health crisis.

  5. says

    I agree that it is safer, more economical, and healthier to send the kids off to school with a packed lunch from me than the garbage our American schools insist on serving children. For other suggestions: I wrap sliced marinated chicken breast in boston lettuce (butter lettuce); throw carrots, cucumbers. grapes, nuts, etc. in snack bags for lunch. The kids rarely come home saying they were hubgry or hated what I packed them. The kids also like sausage and peppers; leftovers from our Paleo dinners, etc. I pack myself the same thing for the office because I can’t find better food downtown. I just know Paleo nutritional plan is the right thing for the kids to be following. Wish more of my friends and family did this for their kids.

  6. Mya says

    OK- I get it and I have many of the same concerns as other parents regarding school lunches. I planned and planned how to get my kids eating paleo at school as well as at home. I ran into a couple of roadblocks: there is no fridge available to the students, so keeping things cool enough is a challenge; there is no way for students to heat food brought from home, so getting foods hot is impossible; lunch containers that will insulate well enough to keep the cold stuff cold and the hot stuff hot for 5 hours (from morning packing to lunch time) are prohibitively expensive. These barriers limited the types of food I can send with my kids and that increased the budget. I simply cannot feed them paleo friendly foods for less than the $.40 a day that I pay for school lunches. As a single mom who works a full-time and a part-time job and goes to school herself, I just can’t afford it… I welcome any ideas you all may have for getting my kids to a healthier place.

  7. Michelle says

    You will not be able to feed them healthy foods for less than $0.40. This is because of subsidization in our school lunch system. Sorry.

    What I use: I pack hot things (leftovers) in the small Thermoses that can keep things hot. I put boiling water in to make it start off very hot, and heat the food very hot. The other stuff simply goes in a cold pack. I did pay a lot for my son’s lunch box (stainless steel Planet Box). However, I don’t forsee ever needing to buy a new one. That thing will last for YEARS. Pay now or pay later.

    I put food costs at a high priority above other things. I’d rather cut out TV, expensive clothes (shop at resale shops), any convenience/restaurant food, getting junky gifts for others around the holidays that they will throw away, etc. etc. before feeding my kids junk.

    What we pay now for food as a % of our budget PALES in comparison to 40,50 years ago because of advances in agriculture. Use your freezer to store things, stretch it further, etc. Maybe even add rice or potatoes to stretch your budget. THat’s better than resorting to school lunches on a regular basis.

  8. becky yo says

    My daughter’s lunch (but not today because I failed to make lunch) usually is something leftover (soup, stew, or even rice and meat) in a the Thermos King. It is not a cheap thermos but it keeps food extremely HOT. It’s $12.00 and it’s a one time cost that I’ve amortized over the year.

    If I’m sending something chilled like sliced meats and veggies, I use an ice pack (they are cheap, get them in the $1 zone at Target which keeps the food cold enough. In Japan, the kids don’t refrigerate or heat up their bento lunches (and I don’t think they have epidemic food poisoning.)

  9. says

    My kids have thankfully take very well to eating their leftover suppers cold for lunch the next day, because I will NOT let them eat school food if I can help it. I weep when I see what children are getting at school, and I weep some more when I see what some of them are bringing from home (no joke, there is a 1st-grader whose mom BRINGS him McDonald’s for lunch DAILY, including a 32-ounce coke after he has one for breakfast! *sob*). Add to that the amount of food that is given to kids BY the school – candy, ice cream and pizza parties, birthday parties for kids, refreshments (my daughter’s BAND TEACHER is giving the kids candy while they watch the video of last week’s concert today – I told him to please keep it to himself for the half-hour my kid is in the room :-() – and it’s no surprise there’s an obesity epidemic. :-‘(

    As for keeping food cold enough in the lunch bags, I got some of the reusable hot and cold packs from CVS (intended for heating or freezing and use on the body LOL) and one of those keeps food cold and safe long enough for the older child whose lunch isn’t till 1PM, while the one who eats at 11:30 doesn’t really need an ice pack. I make as large an evening meal as possible and parcel out leftovers directly into small containers for lunch the next day to save time in the morning (and to send hubby and me to work with some too). A slow cooker/crockpot has been a godsend for helping us make large meals – soups, stews, and roasts. They each get a drink from home as well; I make a “juice drink” by pouring about 1/2″ plain straight cranberry juice or lemon juice in the bottom of a half-gallon juice jug, sweetening with a couple dropperfuls of stevia (I get BIG bottles at Whole Foods that last several months EACH!) and filling the jug with water – essentially NO sugar, and it’s either cranberry or lemonade. If I’m out of that, they get water in the reusable bottles, never milk. I do make my own yogurt – it’s the only dairy we can tolerate anyway – and that also saves me big-time: $5-6 a week for the gallon of milk vs $4.50 a QUART of organic yogurt; I dish it into containers from the big glass jars in the fridge and send that in as “dessert” with the lunch – no artificial colors or HFCS, both of which turn my kids into weepy spacy emotional wrecks. :-( I’m not going to say that I can feed them a good lunch on $.40 a day, but I can do so for well under a dollar each most days.

  10. says

    Another thought for Mya: even if you can’t pack a Paleo lunch every day, if you can maybe do 1-3 days a week, that’s still better than none, right? Meanwhile, educate your kids about healthy food – it’s an investment in their future you can make now that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Best wishes – I know it can be really hard.

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