School Lunches have to appeal to the eye. I have found the most success with setting up a child’s lunch like an appetizer sampler in a Bento Box. A Bento Box is a container with multiple compartments.
Try to include protein, healthy fats and color: fruit/veggie in each meal.
Some lunch examples include:
1. Hummus, chopped veggies, rolled nitrate free cold cuts, and almond thin crackers or pita chips.
2. “make your own pizza” pita bread, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, spinach, turkey pepperoni, with a side of fruit.
3. Yogurt parfait- Greek yogurt with rolled oats or a low sugar granola, fresh fruit and chopped nuts.
4. Sliced apples, peanut or almond butter, hardboiled egg, 1-2 oz. cheese, and mini English muffin or bagel.
5. Corn Chips, guacamole, salsa, rolled chicken nitrate free deli meat, and ¼ c trail mix with dried fruit and nuts.
6. Black bean soup (or chili, or vegetable soup) in a thermos, wheat crackers and chopped fruit.
7. Cold cut sandwich on Ezekiel bread with veggies and hummus with a side of chopped fruit and 1-2 tbsp. nuts.
8. Chopped fruit, nut butter and a homemade protein muffin.
9. Chicken or tuna salad with wheat crackers, spinach, and a side of chopped fruit.
School lunches can make or break your child’s overall performance in the classroom and any after school activities that they participate in. A school lunch that is loaded with processed ingredients and sugar will leave your child with a spike in blood sugars, providing a quick burst of energy followed by a drop in blood sugars, making them want to sleep in class and they will have minimal energy at after school activities.
The key to a perfect school lunch is balance and it also has to appeal to your child. Children truly eat with their eyes and if it does not look good then they probably will not eat it. Pack lunches in bento boxes and compartmentalize with cupcake silicone reusable “cups”. For younger children who love to pick, pack finger foods like grapes, carrot sticks, cheese squares, trail mix, hummus and/or a sandwich. This is like a mini appetizer plate or a protein box that is sold at coffee shops. It can also work well for older teens and even adults at work, in the car or at their desk.
Get them involved with the planning process.
Have them decide what kind of protein they would like, examples include:
• Nitrate free lunch meat
• Boiled eggs
• Greek yogurt
• Tuna/chicken salad/tofu for vegetarians
Then have them choose their favorite fruits, veggies:
• Apple slices
• Carrot sticks
• Cherry tomatoes
• Mandarin Oranges
Last but certainly not least choose a healthy fats like:
• Trail mix
• Nut Butter (almond, cashew or sunflower)
If your child is actually involved with the planning process they will feel like they “own” the lunch and will be less likely to throw away things that they do not want. Teachers and cafeteria staff report that fruits and vegetables end up in the trash in most school cafeterias.
When you are packing the lunch, keep balance in mind, and make sure to include protein, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats. Limit processed grains and empty calories like cookies, crackers, and juice. If they like dessert then pack a piece of dark chocolate. Removing items that are high in sugar like juice and cookies will increase their ability to focus in classes after their lunch period. It has been reported that over 12 million American children are medicated for Attention Deficient Disorder (ADD). Sugar and excessive carbohydrates magnifies symptoms of ADD in children, healthy fats like nuts, and oils help reduce symptoms of ADD.
Always pack water over juice, all humans should aim to drink at least half their body weight in ounces of water per day, even more for those who are active. It amazes me that student athletes will not drink any water at school all day long and then practice out in the sun sweating after school for 2 or more hours. A dehydrated athlete will have a hard time focusing and more importantly could pass out from heat stroke or suffer from other dehydration symptoms. Packing a large water bottle is the best thing you could send with your child EVERYDAY. All natural Hydroxide alkaline water is even better at reducing their chances of being fatigued and/or dehydrated. The best one I found is AQUA-OH!. It is all natural, comes as a concentrate and is the least expensive yet most efficient one out there. It actually eliminates acids (H+ ions) by the hydroxide (OH-) combining with it and forming water. This helps drastically reduce inflammation (much of which is caused by consuming sugar) which is a problem for all ages. It also helps clear the detoxification pathways which is very helpful for children and adults. Since it is a concentrate, let them help make it, you can add Stevia or fruit. This helps them take ownership of the water.
Lastly make sure you keep the lunch at a safe temperature, this is often overlooked. Always pack the lunch in an insulated lunch bag or box with 1-2 ice packs depending on how big the lunch is. Sometimes kids have 4 or more hours before lunchtime, and they store their lunch in a locker that is outside in the heat. If perishable items reach a dangerous temperature they will be exposed to harmful bacteria and could get your child sick.
As a parent one of the simple things we can do to keep our child healthy is nourish them with fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, proteins and optimal hydration. Developing a healthy nutrition routine will carry over into their adult life decreasing their risk for developing chronic diseases that are related to weight gain such as Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and thyroid complications.
Always focus on color (both fruit and vegetables), high quality protein, and heart healthy fats. See the options listed below.
• Twist on PB&J (2 slices Whole grain bread, 1-2 Tbs. all natural almond or cashew butter and all natural fruit spread or better yet real berries + 1 apple + 1 serving carrot sticks with 2 Tbs. hummus for dipping.
• Lettuce Wraps with nitrate free deli chicken or turkey, tomatoes, spinach, 1 oz cheese and mustard + 1 c chopped melon + and ¼ c nuts or homemade trail mix
• 1 serving almond crackers + ½ c chicken or tuna salad + 1 banana + 1 c cucumber slices with salsa or hummus for dipping
• 6-8oz Greek yogurt + ½ c all natural granola + ½ c berries and 5 celery sticks with all natural peanut/almond or cashew butter and raisins (ants on a log)
A great resource for children’s lunches and recipes is 100daysofrealfood.com and The Green Box League of Nutritious Justice.
Snack options can be one or two of the items listed in the lunches above.
• Yogurt and fruit
• Hummus and chopped veggies
• Berries and nuts
• Sliced apple and cheese
• Trail mix with dried or fresh fruit
• Rolled deli meat with cheese and veggies
• Protein muffin