Updated: Sep 16, 2019
Back to school is in full swing! My oldest, Silas, started Kindergarten this year! It’s such an exciting season of our lives. So far he loves school!
The days leading up to the beginning of the school year we were talking about what he was most excited about and he said ‘lunch’… Lunch?! Seriously? He’d be off making new friends, learning to read and write, experiencing art and gym class for the first time, but he was excited about lunch? Um… O.K., So, I inquired a little further. Turns out his idea of school lunch was based on some TV shows and commercials he saw. He though his lunch would be an array of pizza, juice, cereal and cookies. And to my surprise, after looking over the school’s lunch menu, I found his idea of school lunch wasn’t too far off.
Well, I had to break it to him…most days he would be bringing his lunch to school and it would be pretty similar to lunch at home; his lunch box would contain healthy, real foods. And occasionally he can get pizza and a cookie.
The foods we send to school with our kids can contribute up to 1/3 of their daily intake of nutrients; so it’s super important to make sure the lunch and snacks we are sending to l contain the nutrients that they need.
Here are some tips to make sure your child’s lunch box is filled with healthy foods that support energy and learning.
1. My number one tip is to focus on REAL, whole foods. So many of the foods we eat today are far from their whole, natural forms. When foods are processed many nutrients are lost. Although synthetic nutrients may be added back in, they do not compare to the natural form. The majority of what we eat should be unprocessed; think veggies, fruit and protein in their natural forms. Many kids love veggie sticks with dips: hummus, guacamole or ranch. If your kids are like mine and will not eat raw veggies (yet J) pack a low glycemic fruit like berries, green apples or melon.
2. Avoid Processed Foods (This is pretty much a continuation of my first tip, but deserves its own place.) I know, you all know, it’s important to eat our veggies. But, I want to emphasize why it’s important to limit processed foods. It seems, as a culture we try to ignore the fact that harmful ingredients are added into processed foods. Preservatives, stabilizers, artificial flavors, sugar and sugar substitutes (many of them known to be carcinogens) and all of the other weird words on the back of the box – all of these things take a toll on the body. So skip the processed rice cakes, crackers, chips and desserts. My rule of thumb; if you’re going to eat something out of a box choose something that only has a limited number of ingredients that you can recognize. My favorite boxed snacks for my kids are Simple Mills Crackers, Kind Fruit Bites, Plant Snacks Cassava Root Chips and plantain chips (I buy plantain chips in bulk at Whole Foods). These all contain real ingredients, no fillers, flavorings or additives.
3. Include lots of proteins and healthy fats. Proteins and fats will keep energy levels stable and support brain function. Healthy fats are linked to improved memory, focus and improved ADD/ADHD outcomes. Some healthy options include:
Hard boiled eggs
Turkey or ham roll ups (nitrite free)
Seeds or nuts (if allowed at your school)
Sun butter (or nut butter if allowed) w/ apple slices
Jerky (I like Epic jerk products because they’re made from all real ingredients and contain lots of protein and fat. Plus, they have a ton of yummy options)
Avocado chicken salad
Banana protein muffins (recipe here)
4. Skip the juice. Juice is missing a lot of the things that make whole fruit healthy. Most types of fruit juice contain as much sugar as a sugar-sweetened beverage (like a Coke)! The small amounts of vitamins and minerals in juice do not make up for the amount of sugar. This rush of sugar leads to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. Blood sugar spikes result in blood sugar dips which means cranky kids who are unable to concentrate. Instead of juice, pack whole fruit and water to drink. (If your kids refuse to drink water add some high-quality electrolytes for a little flavor. Ultima Electrolytes is a decent brand that has a good flavor… I recommend grape)
5. Skip the refined bread. When most of us think of lunch we think of sandwiches. But sandwiches can quickly become an unhealthy option. Refined bread doesn’t provide much nutrition at all; it’s stripped of almost all fiber, vitamins and minerals. Refined grains are digested very quickly and have a high glycemic index which messes with blood sugar levels (like we just talked about). Throw some jelly or marshmallow into the mix and you’re looking for a blood sugar disaster. Bottom line: Don’t focus on bread and when you serve bread choose either whole grain or sprouted. (Sprouted bread offers many health benefits over whole grain bread which I’ll talk about in another post.)
6. Embrace leftovers. My family lives on leftovers! It saves me time (no need to prepare a lunch, just heat and throw in a thermos) and it makes offering healthy foods a no-brainer (no planning or additional food prep). When I make things like meatloaf, meatballs and spaghetti squash, casseroles and chicken tenders for dinner I make sure I save enough for the kids to take to school the next day. I also batch cook my chicken tenders and meatballs and freeze for easy lunch options throughout the month.
As Moms most of us worry if our kids are getting the nutrients they need. Packing lunches and snacks that are filled with real, unprocessed foods is the best place to start. For some moms this might be an easy endeavor. But for most, it might seem like a huge challenge. If your kids are used to eating processed foods don’t feel bad if the switch to healthy foods is slow. When working with kids, I always suggest adding in new, healthy foods that they like before taking out their usual options. This may mean keeping in some processed snacks while you also offer some raw veggies, nuts, fruit, or any healthy thing you think your kiddo might like. Once you find some healthy options then start removing and replacing the unhealthy things. This way, it won’t be such a shock to your child and they will be less resistant.
If you have any specific questions about how to make the switch to healthy foods feel free to comment or email me at Brandy@abundantnourishment.com
In health and love,
Nutritional Therapy Practitioner
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