It is that time again. The kids are getting ready to go off to school. I am sure you have been busy with back to school shopping but have you thought at all about what to pack your kids for lunch? Probably not. It may seem like such a minuscule detail but lunch is a HUGE component to your child’s school day. So many children’s lunches are unbalanced and packed with sugar laden foods. Studies have shown that an unbalanced diet leads to behavior problems and that sugar plays a crucial role in acting out and lack of concentration in school.
Now you are probably asking, “what is considered a balanced lunch?”. Your child’s lunch should consist of a food item from each food group. I have come up with a list of healthy lunch foods that your children will love in each food category.
When choosing meat proteins, I recommend always buying organic. I know that organic is expensive; however, there are a list of foods that I always buy organic. Those consist of meat, eggs and the dirty dozen. Under USDA regulations, all organic livestock must be fed a diet free from synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or other chemicals that could potentially cause a great deal of damage to our health.
- Meat protein- Be careful of lunch meat. Check the ingredients on all lunch meat before purchasing. If you don’t know what an ingredient is, don’t buy it. Also, watch out for any added sugar!
- Tip: use grilled chicken (leftovers are great!) instead of lunch meat
- Hard boiled eggs
- Nuts (if the school allows)
- Tuna fish
Always choose whole grain or whole wheat breads. Whole grain breads are not as refined and processed as white bread, providing more essential nutrients for the body.
- Ezekiel sprouted bread, English muffins, wraps.
- 100% whole wheat wraps or pita pockets.
- Wheat alternatives such as rice wraps.
Fruits and Vegetables
- Try to buy fresh and local fruits and vegetables if you can. I go to my local farmer’s market once a week.
- Typically, children like fruits more than vegetables because they are sweeter. If this is how it is in your house, try giving them sweet vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, sweet peppers, or corn.
- If your kids like salads, throw a salad in their lunch once in a while.
- Cottage cheese
- String cheese
- Low sugar yogurt- BE CAREFUL with yogurt. Many yogurts have a ton of added sugar! Look for “unsweetened” on the labels. Tip: If a yogurt is a certain flavor 99% of the time it has added sugar.
Sweets (not recommended)
If your child just loves cookies and wants a sweet treat, make your own healthier cookies and freeze them for a tasty surprise once in a while ( Nutty Choc-Chip cookie recipe).
Additional advice and recipes:
- Pack a piece of fruit or sweet vegetable instead of sugar rich snacks. Almonds are also a great snack and packed with protein and healthy fats to keep them full and not craving sugar.
- Pack a water bottle instead of juice or soda.
- Instead of buying sugar rich protein, energy or granola bars, make homemade snack bars (Sugar Free Granola Bars recipe & Sweet + Salty Granola Slice recipe).
- Use avocado or hummus instead of mayonnaise or cheese for sandwiches.
- Popcorn tossed with cinnamon is a great alternative to a sweet snack.
- If you kids loved what you had for dinner the night before, pack the leftovers for lunch the next day. There is nothing wrong with that! As long as it is healthy.
- Rice cakes with Almond or Peanut butter (no added sugar).
- My Favorite Snack Growing up: Ants on a log. Almond or Peanut butter smeared on a celery stick with raisins or dark chocolate chips (ants) on the nut butter.
- Cut up carrots, celery, sweet peppers, broccoli or cauliflower and pack a dip such as guacamole, salsa, hummus, or black bean dip.
- Homemade kale chips instead of regular chips.
One last food for thought: Remember that you are not the person eating this lunch. You can pack a super healthy lunch but if they don’t like the food, they won’t eat it. Have your children help pack their lunch with you. It is a great way to bond with them and they will be more likely to eat their lunch if they helped make it. Have fun with it! Get creative! Ask them what they would like and offer them healthy choices.
Have a safe, fun and healthy school year!
Until next time!