Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s back to school we go! I don’t know about you, but I am having a hard time believing that Summer is winding down already. At any rate, I find myself on the horizon of sending my son off to a full day of preschool. The only thing more daunting than letting him go for the first time is trying to pack something he will enjoy and compete with other kids’ lunches, all while still providing him a healthy lunch that I know he will eat.
So why not school lunch, you ask? Well, I am not here today to bash the various school lunch programs out there. And I do realize that many improvements have been made to those lunch programs. That said, the fact of the matter is, there are very few FRESH choices provided. Also, in my case, I have both a kid with food sensitivities and one who can be a selective eater. I would hate to pay for a lunch, only to have him dump it in the trash, just as I would hate for him to come into contact with a food that disagrees with him and get sick.
I would like to also note that the benefits of packing a nutritious lunch carry on into adulthood. Otherwise, unless you have enough time to go home and prepare something over the noon hour, you will probably find yourself on the other end of a burger and French fries. Or a taco. Or maybe a sub sandwich. (Okay, so there are some veggies involved here…but there are still a lot of carbs!)
If you have a child who is resistant to packing a lunch, a fun lunch box and asking his/her input for food choices can go a long way. My son loves to pick out the healthy foods for his lunches from the store! He also likes feeling like he is in control of what he eats, since for supper, it is mom’s way or the highway. 😉
As far as lunch boxes go, it is easiest to find one that is fun and then put a LunchBot or Planet Lunch insert inside of it. These are stainless-steel spill proof containers that have multiple compartments. Good for the environment, and easy clean up! Plus they won’t leech plastics into your food. Is your household busy in the morning, or do you like to sleep in until the last minute? I highly recommend packing lunches the night before, so you can just grab and go!
Okay, so no more excuses, right? If you choose to pack a lunch, your reasons may differ from mine. This much is for sure though: a fresh, healthy, and tasty lunch will leave you energized to power through your afternoon. It will also prevent a blood sugar crash that results in glomming down a package of Oreos in between work/school and suppertime.
I have broken these ideas down into four basic groups: protein, fruits, vegetables, and dessert. Usually I pick at least one thing from each category for my son. For myself, I tend to stick to just meats and veggies. A packed lunch can be as simple or as complicated as you make it, but here are some basic ideas to get you started:
Roll bell pepper strips in deli meat
Cucumber sliders or cucumber sub sandwiches (The cucumber slices are the buns.)
Sunflower seeds/pumpkin seeds
Homemade trail mix
Almond butter between apple slices (Slice apples the round way so it resembles a circular sandwich.)
Hot dogs sliced lengthwise, filled with your favorite goodies
Your favorite deli meat and veggies inside Paleo coconut wraps (Available at www.amazon.com & in stores.)
Berries, any & all kinds
Tangerines or Cuties
Nectarines, sliced in half and in a container
Desserts: (Often, we just use fruit. But if your kiddo has a sweet tooth, or you want to include something special, these are some great ideas.)
Purchase or make 100% fruit strips
Pack a few dark chocolate chips
Dates rolled in shredded coconut, or other dried fruits
Bake healthy cookies/muffins to your child’s liking
Chia pudding (Use chia seeds to gel up some almond milk and add in flavors/sweeteners of your liking.)
Hail Merry Macaroons (All natural, grain & refined-sugar free. Available on www.amazon.com. The chocolate chip cookie dough flavor is to die for!)
Lastly, here are a few foods you should avoid packing regularly:
Crackers & Chips—these are mostly empty calories and can be fried in rancid oils.
Soda & Sugared Juice—if your child is a juice drinker, consider diluting 100% fruit juice.
Prepackaged foods with unpronounceable ingredients—this one is obvious. The advantage of packing a lunch is getting away from chemical additives, transfats, and preservatives.
Breads—once again, these are empty carbohydrates that won’t help sustain even energy levels.
Regular baked goods—these should be saved for special occasions only. They are sure to provide and energy spike and subsequent crash later in the afternoon that can lead to brain fog, fatigue, or behavioral issues in children.
Hopefully these ideas get you started on the road to packing a healthy lunch for both you and your kiddos. It is a fantastic, healthy, cost-effective habit, and you can never start too early!
Yours in Health,