Making healthy school lunches can help get and keep your kids on track to healthier living and learning.
As back to school time approaches, anticipation of that first bell ringing compares to the ball dropping on New Year’s Eve. It represents a time to reevaluate routines and reorganize schedules. Plus, it’s time to restock – school supplies, clothing and fridges.
Why is packing healthy school lunches so important?
Packing healthy school lunches:
- can and should be better for your kids’ health and immune systems.
- gives you a truer picture of and peace of mind about what they actually ate (versus what they took or what they were served).
- helps support healthier energy and attention levels so your kids can learn and store information more naturally. Less healthy lunches or snacks contain lots of carbs, gluten, corn syrup, additives, food dyes (yellow 5, blue 1, red 1, etc.) or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Many of these ingredients have been linked to issues such as difficulty concentrating, aggressive or hyper behavior and even chronic sinus problems. Read my blog, “Are food allergies and behaviors linked?” or my book for lots more information about this.
- allows a more diverse menu, with input from your kids.
- may inspire you to do the same for yourself.
I dream of eventually writing about all the goodness of school-provided lunches. And some schools and food service providers have taken decent strides. But they still generally load our kids full of carbs, dyes and GMOs. So for now, I’d rather take on the task of packing lunches for my kiddos, even when the school-provided lunches are free.
What are some new and easy ideas for healthy school lunches?
First, let go of any preconceived notions! Healthy school lunches:
- do not have to be the ideal temperature.
- do not have to be standard lunch fare.
- should not include a treat. Save that for dinner, if at all, when he or she is not going to be confined to a classroom setting and expected to learn!
- only contain “weird” food if you act like they do (imagine any exchange of words or facial expressions here if packing lima beans or soup that’s not warmed, as an example).
Second, work with your kids to make a menu or list of options so they have vested interest. Try new recipes together and have fun with it.
And of course, organic is best, especially when serving any of the Big Four GMO crops (corn, soy, canola oil and cottonseed oil).
Here are some ideas to help get you started.
• organic deli meat roll-ups
• organic deli meat wrapped in lettuce (add your fave sandwich toppings)
• paleo chicken salad (just Google for many recipes) in lettuce wrap or bowl
• leftover dinner in a wrap (or unwrapped and yes, even cold)
• meals in a muffin
• eggs (hard-boiled, deviled paleo style or as muffins)
• fish cakes or crab cakes
• organic nitrate-free sausage or bacon with paleo pancakes
(Always include at least 1 veggie and aim to make 50% of his/her food veggies.)
• raw veggies – carrots, peppers, sprouts, radishes, sweet potatoes, celery, snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini or
cucumber slices topped with your favorite meat, cheese, dip, raisins, etc.
• dips – cauliflower hummus, guacamole, hummus, nut butter (almond, cashew, sunflower if tree nuts are OK at school)
• yogurt – coconut milk yogurt if avoiding dairy; no added sugar, sugar substitutes or aspartame
• nuts or seeds, paleo snack bites or bars
• chips – kale, sweet potato, root vegetable, apple
• fruits – applesauce, tomatoes, bananas, grapes, pineapple, oranges, etc. (as a side or snack but remember that fruits
are best digested solo – or with about 15 minutes of separation from other foods)
If you want to go for extra credit in healthier living, pack your lunches-to-go and water in stainless steel containers from LunchBots, PlanetBox or other brands. They cost more but last longer than plastic. They don’t leach chemicals into food and they don’t create more waste. The kids think they’re pretty fun, too!
So make it a priority today to eat better because ultimately it can help you learn better, sleep better and live happier. And the more urgent you make it, the stronger the example you’re setting to help keep your kids on a healthy track longer. Take some time. And have some fun planning healthy school lunches or lunches for work as your family heads back to school!
*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.