School Lunches, the USDA and a Review of Eat Like a Dinosaur

School Lunches, the USDA and a Review of Eat Like a Dinosaur

Click here to jump right to my review of Eat Like a Dinosaur: Recipe & Guidebook for Gluten-free Kids by Paleo Parents Matt and Stacy.

Before I get to my review, I need to vent about a couple things. We’ve had a base wide power outage this morning so I am experiencing a rare treat: people who normally meet elsewhere in private on base are having to go to Starbucks, the only place within 10 miles that has electricity.

This is what I am witnessing:

  • a base doctor, studying radiology and drinking diet Mountain Dew. I am itching to ask him if he knows the effects of the brominated vegetable oil he is drinking, but I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t care.
  • a pharmaceutical rep pushing a new drug on a hospital administrator. He even has fancy new toys for the doctors, stethoscopes and models of joints and bones. I’m not sure how that makes the drugs work better, or makes them safer, but they sure will look cool in the doctor’s office.
  • a nurse apologizing for showing emotion when faced with men returning from war without their limbs. She said she will “work on it.” In my experience, military doctors and hospital staff have even less emotion than civilian doctors. I was told by a nurse not to cry when I was in the ER, as it would result in them not helping me. Cause I’m crying. If I was hurt bad enough, I wouldn’t be able to cry. I guess.

I just want to stand up and scream. After being surrounded by Paleo physicians, naturopaths and success stories at PaleoFX, I am once again in the land of Big Government. Make no mistake, the United States Armed Forces is tightly pinned under the thumb of the pharmaceutical industry, the USDA and the FDA. Everything it does must fall directly in line with the guidelines imposed by those (and other) government agencies.

Play it again, Uncle Sam

This whole issue with ObamaCare and the government making us eat broccoli that’s all over FoxNews right now makes me want to pee myself laughing. The government already tells the military what to eat. I wish they would mandate the eating of broccoli. Like I said, the military has to follow the guidelines imposed by the USDA. That includes the food our troops eat overseas AND school lunches for our children. I have scanned in a copy of the 6-week menu served to the toddlers at the Child Development Center (the CDC ironically enough, although I lovingly call it the Center for Disease Creation). Here goes. Brace yourself. (Note the date in the lower left corner of each page. This was when this particular menu was approved. These menus have been in effect at this facility for almost three years. I tried to contact the person who had approved them and was told that she no longer works there. But her menus still exist. God, the lunch ladies must be tired of making this crap over and over.)

In case you can’t make them out, the pictures at the top of each menu are all of things my children don’t eat – (L to R) potatoes, spaghetti, crackers, pizza, sandwich – and wheat makes up the majority of the menu. After two weeks on this diet, my level-headed, patient, loving toddlers were a screaming, biting, tantrum-throwing mess, covered in psoriasis from head to toe. We couldn’t handle them at all. We tried to bring in foods to substitute the wheat and dairy but were told that we weren’t allowed to, in case another child had an allergy. So, we went to the doctors. We had him write up an official diagnosis of wheat and dairy allergy, so that our children became “special needs” cases. Then, we got into the habit of packing ALL their food ourselves. (Note: even though our kids have these “allergies,” it doesn’t stop the school from serving wheat and dairy in front of them.)

We had to come up with all sorts of creative substitutions, since the teachers told us it would be best if the kids were eating foods similar to those the other children were eating. The only catch was that we couldn’t send them to school with any nuts and that we had to loosely follow the USDA guidelines – 6-11 servings of “grains,” shitloads of “dairy” and something green or red that can pass for a “vegetable.” We spent weeks coming up with chicken nugget recipes, tomato-free Sloppy Joe imitations, wheat-free, nut-free cookies and breads and interesting breakfasts. We did that for about two months, then we couldn’t take it anymore. We don’t eat Sloppy Joes at home, not even Paleo ones, so I felt it was an incredible waste of time trying to imitate the SAD diet the USDA imposes. So, we just started sending them off to school with Paleo food. Instead of cupcakes, our kids got a date. The teachers can’t believe our kids reactions when they give them their date. They will ignore the candy, cookies, cake or whatever gluten-filled crap the other kids are eating and act as if though they were given a million bucks instead of something that looks like wrinkly tree poop. The teachers have even told me that they themselves have tried the kids lunches and that our children eat “the best out of every one at this school.” There are hundreds of kids, teachers and staff. We don’t feed our kids that well for lunch. You should see what they eat for dinner. ;)

Eat Like A Dinosaur

Which leads me to my review of Eat Like a Dinosaur by the Paleo Parents, Matt and Stacy. I’ve been pretty much going at this on my own as most gluten-free kids cookbooks don’t work for me. Too many recipes contain nightshades. Or nuts. Honestly, I wasn’t planning on buying this book. I was given a copy at PaleoFX and flipped through it on the plane.

The difference between this book and others I’ve read is that it is written by actual parents with young kids. Those of you that don’t have young kids do not understand how difficult it is to please them. Toddlers have the palates of, well, toddlers. Even though our kids have been mostly Primal since birth, they still want to eat simple foods. They ask for things like bagels, cake and hot dogs, since that’s what the other kids eat. They won’t touch bok choy, often spit out their steak and need a freakin’ dip for everything.

At first glance, I thought that this book had far too many desserts, snacks and treats. It was easy to judge from an adult perspective. However, when I took a closer look and thought about it from a mom’s point of view, I realized that Matt and Stacy have included recipes that their kids will actually eat. Kids want to eat crap. It is up to us as parents to disguise healthy food as “crap” so the kids think they are getting away with something, while at the same time providing top-notch nutrition and setting our children up for success later in life.

The first recipe I made was the “Anytime Cookies.” They are sweetened with a banana and an apple and that’s it. There aren’t even any eggs in them. They didn’t turn out anything like the pictures or the descriptions, but they held together. My husband said, “they taste like they’re good for me.” The kids didn’t care. To them, it was a cookie and they were eating it for dinner. To me (since I knew what was in it), it was a perfectly acceptable meal, along with some ham, olives, pickles and kale chips.

There are lots of tips for getting kids to help in this book and most of the recipes will appeal to both kids and parents. There are colorful pictures and great examples of Paleo lunches. (Hey Matt and Stacy, where did you get those great lunch boxes? I need a couple!) There are sauces, dips, creative drinks and lots of recipes I plan on making. The language used appeals to children, especially little boys who want nothing more than to actually be a dinosaur and eat dinosaur food. This book also contains a storybook, which my children love to read. In fact, it’s been difficult to actually use the book to cook anything – my kids keep stealing it so they can read “The Dinosaur Story” and I have to hunt through their toy boxes for it.

Unfortunately, a lot of these recipes use nuts so I can’t make them for the kid’s lunches. We can have them for dinner, though and on weekends. There are a few that use tomato (the hardest thing to substitute and a real kid favorite) that I wish didn’t, but I can hardly blame Matt and Stacy for including them. If my kids could eat tomatoes, they would be having Paleo Ketchup every day.

I think this is a great book for parents trying to raise Paleo kids. It’s colorful, creative and a great first edition from a couple of people that you should really keep on your radar. I would like to see an autoimmune Paleo cookbook from these two. If they don’t write one, perhaps I will. Adding the autoimmune component in is a real pain in the ass when it comes to options. But overall, I think Eat Like a Dinosaur is a great addition to your Paleo kitchen if you are cooking for children. Pick up your copy today!



  1. You mentioned that your kids would be eating ketchup if they could eat tomatoes. My kids are somewhat sensitive to tomatoes, so I have been looking for alternatives. I found this tomato-free ketchup recipe. I have not tried it yet, but it looks very easy to convert–skip the ascorbic acid, replace part of the water with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, use a different sweetener. My first thought was to look for blueberry ketchup recipes, but the recipe I linked above even looks like ketchup. There are links to other tomato-free recipes at the bottom of that page, but I can’t vouch for them as I haven’t tried them, either.

    • Thank you so much Sharon! I am going to try the Ketchup recipe and I will blog about it. I find I always need to tweak recipes I’ve found online so I’ll see what I can do. I’m planning on publishing an auto-immune or nightshade-free recipe E-book here in the next couple months so check back!

  2. Tara, you can find the BEST lunch boxes (some pictured in the book) at I’ve been using them for about 5 years and they are AWESOME!! No need for baggies, and they hold lots of food. Enjoy!

  3. Wrinkly tree poop! Now that was funny. And I couldn’t believe that teachers actually said that your kids need to eat food that looks like what the other kids are eating…that’s scary…good for you for saying screw it!

    • Fortunately I have had a more positive experience (following a negative one granted) at daycare. When I took in the list of things he had intolerance to, the initial reaction was what can we feed him. ;) Maybe someone should start a Paleo daycare chain. ;)

      I too have enjoyed browsing the recipes, but as we just got the book 4 days ago have a lot more cooking to do! Great review. :)

  4. How come you do not eat night shades, is it an intolerance?

    • I have isolated nightshades as the source of my skin conditions. I can eat them, but then I break out or my Hidradenitis Suppurativa flares up (see post here) Nightshades also cause psoriasis outbreaks in my kids.

  5. I was so pleased to read that the teachers saw your children’s lunchboxes as good. That is ridiculous that initially they tried to make you provide food similar to SAD foods! I just feel so sad for the other children, with well intentioned parents, who think they are providing healthy food – in accordance with the USDA recommendations.

    • I think the teachers had good intentions – they didn’t want ours to feel left out if the other kids were eating treats. Since they’re only three, it’s hard to explain to them why we eat differently. I feel really sorry for the other kids, too. Some of them are sickly, have rashes, allergies and are sick all the time. :(

  6. I got the ELAD from a giveaway and I’m loving it! I’ve tried a bunch of the recipes (my chicken nuggets weren’t as pretty as theirs) and we’ve all enjoyed most of them. Be careful of the salt though, there have been two or three recipes so far that when I followed to a T or even reduced the salt in a bit were still WAY too salty for us. Have you tried the “chocolate milkshake” yet? The kids were super excited about that one!

    • Thanks for the headsup about the salt. I’ve found a lot of Paleo recipes have too LITTLE salt for my tastes. I usually change recipes as I’m making them anyway and if there’s more than a tsp of salt, I usually don’t add it.
      See?! I told you you could still do baking on a Paleo diet! I’m so happy you like the book. :)

      • Yea, I’ve really gotten into finding fun recipes for baking. Not sticking with it 100% yet, but I’ve got my mom and grandma in on the changes most days too. Elisabeth still eats crackers and bread when the other kids are here, but generally does without them when it is just us. Made some chocolate chip cookies recently that were just TOO yummy, lol.

  7. Hi, Primalgirl, I found your post through Jimmy Moore’s web site. If your kids need to take something grainy (looking) in their lunches, you might try some recipes from the book Cooking with Coconut Flour by Bruce Fife. I’ve tried two recipes so far (drop biscuits and honey muffins) and they’re just as fluffy and tasty as anything made with wheat flour. Paleo, too. (And of course, coconuts aren’t nuts.)

    • Thanks! I have this book, it’s great, one of my favorites.

  8. Thank you so much for this post! I have a six-year-old that I am currently trying to get to eat Paleo, after failing miserably about six months ago. She is seriously addicted to sugary cereals and I am more worried about breakfasts for her than any other meal. I had also been concerned about school lunches. I work in a daycare, and I can tell you that there is not a single thing that they serve for breakfast, lunch, or snack that I can eat. I feel for the children who do have to eat it, because it is sanctioned by the government that we have to serve these foods. I have often dreamed about having my own daycare where I only serve Primal meals and provide environments geared toward exploratory and constructivist learning, but with the government having such tight regulations over the childcare industry in all aspects, that is just a dream.

    Thank you so much for the book review. Perhaps this book will help me as I try to get my little kiddo to eat healthier.

    • Have you looked into opening a private daycare? They follow different regulations. There are Montessori and Waldorf schools around the country that teach very differently to the government sanctioned schools. They also require students to bring their own food. Some provide meals. Students are taught how to spin yarn from wool they have sheared from sheep themselves, how to take care of gardens and plants and how to make things from scratch, as well as different types of art, physical activity and whatever the school declares to be part of a “well-rounded education.”
      Another option: I believe that discrimination on the basis of religion is illegal in this country – if you declare yourself to be a follower of the Universal Life Church, for instance, you can feed the kids whatever you want and teach them in any way you deem fit. This is what I found online:
      “The Universal Life Church has only one belief: they believe in that which is right and in every person’s right to interpret what is right.”
      So, interpret away. ;) Religious schools follow different rules and regulations than the government sanctioned ones. I have often thought that Paleo is a type of religion for me.

      There are many options to make your dream a reality. And I, for one, would be the first one to sign my kids up in your school.

      • Nice tip about the religion! I’ll have to keep that in mind for my daughter for the upcoming school year!

        I have thought about having a private daycare, but I don’t have the space or the money to do it right now. My fiance and I are talking about buying some land and building our own house, so perhaps when we do that I can consider opening my own in-home daycare. I have done plenty of research into Montessori and Reggio Emilia in order to implement different aspects of those curriculums in the classroom. Someday I hope to actually get Montessori training, but that is also out of reach financially and time-wise at this time. I would love to have space to do gardening and stuff with my class, as well as the other stuff that you mentioned. I do some stuff like that with my class, but on a much smaller scale than I would like. Plus, the children that I teach are 2, and that presents a whole other set of regulations that older children are not subject to.

        I actually work for a private daycare presently. It is a large corporation, though, so they have their own regulations in addition to the ones that the state requires us to follow. Plus we are nationally accredited, which adds even more regulations. Regardless of whether or not I am public or private, I will be subject to some regulations if I want to be licensed. And in order to be able to keep enough children to make the venture profitable, I will have to be licensed. I just watched third-hand as one of my former students’ new teacher went through that process. I will be sitting down with her within the next few months to talk to her about what she went through in that process. She seems philosophically on the same page as me, as well, so it should be a productive and interesting conversation.

  9. Thanks for the review! While my husband was in school going through ROTC, we discovered that the kiddo and I are happier and healthier on a paleo diet. When it was time for the hubby to reenter the military, I was worried that we would have a struggle on our hands with the doctors (we also homeschool and decided to stop getting out 7yo daughter vaccinated). We really lucked out and got a doctor that believes it’s our choice (so long as it’s an informed choice).

    With school about to start back up, I am so thankful that we are able to live our lives this way, otherwise I think my kiddo would be a wreck from what they would feed her body and her mind.

    Loving your website (in case you couldn’t tell by all the comments)!

  10. I can’t tell you a recipe, but I make my one with ~1 tsp pf honey per 500g of tomato puree, just because I reduce the puree so much, until the fructose in the tomatoes makes a caramel taste, which sweetens the Ketchup. If you are interested, I can easily send you the recipe to try, I am not sure if you can have pumpkin, but the recipe works well with pumpkin, just it is orange then, which I fix with elderberry puree.
    I have some food allergies myself and therefore always trying to find substitutions.

    Did you ever make homemade chocolate for your kids? I made it for my little cousins and they like it more than the bought one, even though they are not paleo or primal at all.


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