11.08.2008

Lunchbox Makeover: Ideas for School Lunches

This post is modified from an article I wrote for our church's school, of which I am a board member. I thought I would share these tips for healthy lunches for school, work, or simply being on the go with little ones!

One of the biggest challenges we as parents face is feeding our children. Good, nourishing food is essential for their growth and development, as well as for their brains and learning. Packing a healthy, nutrient-dense lunch that will appeal to young children can be tricky, but it will pay off dividends in your child’s energy levels, immunity, and overall well-being.

Sugar,white-flour, and unhealthy fats form the backbone of a typical school lunch. White bread, jelly, peanut butter filled with sugar and hydrogenated oil coupled with fruit juice and chips may be appealing for children, but the high carbohydrate intake can cause a major “crash” in blood sugar after lunch. This “crash” (for lack of a better word) can lead to brain fogginess and lack of focus, and ultimately hunger, later in the afternoon.

For a healthy lunch, it’s important to focus on healthy fats, proteins, veggies, and whole-grains. These foods provide not only essential nutrients, but also provide fiber that slows down digestion so that you avoid that dreaded “crash” after lunch.
Luckily, there are some simply things you can do to transform the “typical school lunch” into a wholesome, healthy lunch that your kids will eat.

Instead of:
White bread


Try:
Sprouted Ezekiel Bread or Brown Rice Tortillas for sandwiches If you are grain-free, use sheets of nori for nutrient-dense roll-ups and make "sushi". Leftover grain-free pancakes made from almond flour can be spread with nut butter and a touch of honey for sandwhiches as well.


Instead of:
Lunchables

Try:
Whole grain crackers or veggie sticks, raw cheddar or Swiss cheese slices (not processed!), and nitrate-free ham or turkey, smoked salmon, or left over roast beef.

Instead of:
Ramen cup-o-noodles

Try:
Purchase a soup thermos and fill your child’s lunch with homemade soups or leftovers. Simply heat up a small portion in the morning before school and put in thermos and it will stay warm until eaten!

Instead of:
Potato chips

Try:
Dehydrated veggies (carrots, zucchini, squash, sweet potatoes). Trader Joe’s has some yummy "plantain chips" that are high in potassium and additive-free. Seaweed chips are also a delicous, mineral-rick potato chip replacement.

Instead of:
Fruit juice boxes

Try:
Iced herbal tea sweetened with honey or stevia. There are so many sweet, fruity herbal teas that when lightly sweetened taste great with next to no sugar! We like Stash's mango-passionfruit herbal tea as well as Teavana's herbal teas (but they are a Thrifty Oreganic indulgence and not an everyday staple!)

Instead of:
Shelf-stable, ultrapastuerized fat free chocolate milk

Try:
Raw milk blended with real, unsweetened cocoa with stevia or maple syrup to taste.

Instead of:
Jell-O chocolate pudding cups

Try:
Chocolate banana- avocado pudding (puree 1-2 avocados with 1 banana in food processor. Add 1-2 tsp cocoa powder and 1 TBS honey or to taste)

As you can see, it takes only some small changes on your shopping list to yield big benefits to your child's health, your budget, as well as the environment. Packaged "convenience" lunch foods (like juice boxes, lunchables, "uncrustables" and pudding cups) are both expensive and not eco-friendly. While I realize that these can be tempting (primarily because big box stores like Wal-Mart and Costco can sell these at a pretty appealing price), DON'T be fooled. A little more money spent on quality ingredients (like nitrate-free ham, avocados, and Ezekial bread) will save you money on co-pays and prescription drugs or supplements because your child is less likely to fall prey to illnesses when consuming real food! This may sound like bogus claim, but I encourage you to take the Real Food Challenge and see what happens!

3 comments:

Cathy Thienes said...

Carrie, I am so impressed by all your good, creative suggestions. I hope to try the banana-avocado-chocolate stuff for my sweet tooth. Sounds weird, of course, so I'll try it just for me--and your precious little ones sometime. I'm betting it will turn out just fine. Thanks much.

Laryssa @ Heaven In The Home said...

Carrie,
You always have such good ideas.
Your blog has been very helpful as I have been learning to fix healthy food for my sweet family.
Thank you!

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I think the facts above show that there is still a large problem with wasted food in our school systems