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Posts Tagged ‘kids’

Healthy Lunches for Kids

In Nutrition on October 21, 2015 at 4:20 am

“Time’s fun when you’re eating flies.” – Kermit the Frog

healthy lunches

Nobody likes packing school lunches. I used to put way too much pressure on myself to make it balanced even though my kids would rather run around during lunch time than eat (they consistently tell me they “don’t have enough time” to eat lunch). I am fine with this BUT kids do need nourishment to make it through the long school days that, honestly, seem pretty intense compared to what I experienced during my childhood. I wish they had more time for both playing AND dining. I find these two things to be most essential to life and wouldn’t it be nice if our schools could reinforce that? To that end, at my home, I’ve focused more on providing a solid, balanced breakfast than putting all my energy into lunch but that’s another post.

For some guidance in packing a healthy, balanced lunch that a kid might actually eat…see below:

  1. Three main elements to a healthy meal: protein, healthy (plant-based) fats, carbohydrates (mostly from fruit & vegetables). Proteins: tofu squares, hard-boiled eggs, lunch meat (nitrate-free), leftover meatballs, breakfast sausage, grilled chicken, hummus, edamame/other beans. Fats: olives, nuts, seeds, avocado, cheese, hummus. Carbs: whole fruits, raw or roasted veggies, whole wheat pasta spirals, mini whole wheat pitas, whole grain crackers, hummus, edamame/other beans.healthy snack
  2. Aim for fruits and vegetables making up 1/2 the meal.
  3. Evaluate the “healthy-ness” of the lunchbox, by noting the ratio of pre-packaged foods to whole foods that you have packaged yourself. Skip almost any food labeled “kids” or specially packaged for kids as they are usually loaded with sugar (think yogurt squeezers and fruit chews) and/or heavily manipulated to not resemble the whole food’s origin.
  4. Dip It! Besides ranch, try smashed avocado alone or mixed into mild salsa, nut butters with a drizzle of honey or mixed with fruit-sweetened jam, or hummus (do some taste-testing to find a hummus your kids will love!). Hummus covers all 3 healthy lunch elements so it’s worth finding a favorite brand.
  5. Easy on the candy bars masquerading as granola/energy bars. Good choices are salmonberry barLarabars, Kind Bars (without chocolate), and GoMacro Bars. These bars are both heavy on the nuts which provides plenty of protein and satisfying fats as well as fiber which is important for regulating blood sugar and energy. Kind and GoMacro have added sweeteners but sugar grams are reasonable and are balanced by the high fiber content.
  6. Facilitate the eating of less popular fruits & veggies by combining them with favorites that you know they will eat. Examples: pineapple & blackberries, carrots & apple slices, cucumber & orange slices, bell peppers & sliced grapes. The flavors mingle making veggies more palatable. Obviously, this strategy won’t work on the “separatist” children!
  7. WATER, WATER, WATER. A hydrated child is focused and calm within a healthy and cooperative body. There are no good reasons to give your child a juice box or even milk. If you must pack milk, give them whole, plain milk. Flavored, as well as low fat or 2%, milk, is piling on the carbs. Whole milk is more satiating and allows for a balanced metabolic response.
  8. Resist packing your child a dessert (at least not daily). Yes, sweet is one of the five flavors that, if included within a meal, will lead to palate satisfaction; however, this flavor can be addressed using fruit as opposed to a cookie. The habit of needing something sweet after every meal contributes to a life-long sweet addiction, potential future weight issues, or other health concerns such as an imbalance in the gut microbiome affecting mood, hormones, and nutrient uptake.

For accessible, evidence-based nutrition guidance that is current, check out The Nutrition Source by Harvard School of Public Health. Great resource website and they have a better version of the Healthy Plate (a graphic your kids may be familiar with…).

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