It’s that back-to-school time of year again with schedules in full swing, which brings with it planning and back-to-school lunches! Eating healthy involves a little bit of time but it doesn’t have to be tedious or cumbersome! Here are some helpful tips to get the creative juices flowing…
Drop the paper and plastic bags! Instead put to use a reusable lunchbox system like Laptop Lunchboxes, or RubberMaid’s lunchblox. These containers are the perfect size for a child’s meal. Both are BPA free.
Water anyone? Fun ways to transition kids to water is to add flavor with fruit! Fresh fruit gives the enhancement of flavor without the added sugar. Try an assortment of fresh berries, watermelon or citrus blends! My first choice in water bottles is the inexpensive insulated Polar Sport in a 12 or 24 oz. size. They come in various colors, designs, and are also BPA and phalate free. For ice cold drinks until dismissal, fill half-way with water and store in the freezer the night before. Fill the next morning with water. Your kids will thank you for it on those hot and muggy days!
Let’s start with the basics:
- Avoid processed foods
- Use all-natural and organic when possible, esp. corn and soy
- Keep lunches minimal in sugar
- Purchase colorful foods
- Offer nutrient dense items
- Avoid desserts like cookies or pastries
The Main Dish
Leftovers. To keep leftovers warm until lunch, trying using a Thermos BPA-free Foogo container. They come in 7, 10 or 16 oz. sizes.
Sandwiches. There are many wonderful brands of gluten-free breads like Rudi’s or flourless, sprouted-grain breads like Ezekiel made by Food for Life. The benefits to eating low-glycemic, nutrient dense sprouted breads means the absence of blood sugar surges found with conventional breads.
Nut butters. An alternative to the proverbial PB&J! Add a high calcium choice like almond butter, local honey and add bee pollen (local bee pollen can help with allergies, but do not use with bee-sting allergies unless under a physician’s care). Bee pollen is loaded with B vitamins, contains 8 of the essential amino acids that play an important role in body function. For the pickier set line with banana slices or a chocolate hazelnut spread instead. Another option would be to ditch the bread and cut apples into slices and use the nut butter as a dip.
Salads. I consider salads the most versatile of all the lunch choices. Salads are also a great way to get greens and a plethora of nutrients into your child’s diet. You can add just about anything to a salad to make it colorful, tasty and nutritious!
For starters, baby lettuces are tender, milder and more nutritious and than their adult counterpart. My children’s favorite is Epic Roots Mâché, (aka Lamb’s lettuce). It provides 80% of the daily requirement of folate in just 1 cup! Top salad greens with your child’s favorite raw veggies like finely chopped carrots, red peppers and cucumbers. For heart healthy fats, try adding 1/2 an avocado. Healthy fats keep bellies full and feeling satisfied longer…eliminate the after school crash! Sprinkle sunflower, pumpkin or sesame seeds instead of croutons for added crunch. Bite-sized portions of nuts, such as walnuts or pistachios are great for additional protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
For a simple dressing use first cold-pressed olive oil with lemon or vinegar. If using bottled dressings, avoid those made with canola or soybean oil as they are highly processed. To keep salads soggy-free, purchase 2 oz. disposable plastic containers online at Amazon.com.
- Sliced or julienned organic red peppers or grape tomatoes (oh, so sweet!)
- Sliced vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, celery. Pair with hummus or ranch.
- Offer a different fruit for each day of the week. If you slice it, they will eat it!
- To keep apples and pears from oxidizing (browning) squeeze fresh lemon on the apples to maintain its original color.
- “Make your own” trail mixes with bulk nuts and organic dried fruit and antioxidant rich dark chocolate!
The alternative to processed snack foods
- Organic tortilla chips with salsa for dipping
- Bagged organic popcorn
- Cliff’s Kid ZBar or Cascadian Organic granola bars instead of wheat based cereal bars
- Hail Merry Chocolate Macaroons (5g sugar) contain raw coconut needed for energy!
- Chocolate! Dark chocolate contains antioxidants, contain less sugar and can be added to any trail mix.
Many of these options not only offer an abundance of health benefits, they are tasty too. The salty and sweet treats mentioned above will surely satisfy while, at the same time, nourish kids’ bodies and minds.
Laura Bushey is a health educator and personal holistic chef. Her company Kitchen of Life, provides a hands-on approach to transitioning individuals and families to the joys of eating and living healthier.
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