Last week I talked about the importance of a good breakfast for kids. They spend a large amount of their day in school and it requires energy (mental and physical) plus focus and stamina. Protein as part of a healthy breakfast is key!
This week, I'm tackling lunch! Let's face it, school lunches leave a lot to be desired--in regards to taste AND nutrition. After a morning full of activity and learning our young scholars need refueling with some nourishing eats!
Being the gatekeeper of your home and what comes into it goes a long way in preventing childhood obesity which can lead to other problems like diabetes or cardiovascular disease. A large part of our children's success depends on what they eat and their nutritional status. We need to be promoting healthy habits. Eating healthy foods makes one feel good and that along with regular physical activity helps one look good and that promotes self esteem. In short, we are responsible for teaching our kids how to care for their physical bodies; They are worthy of taking care of themselves!
Here are some of my favorite tips whether you are sending your young Einstein off to public school or educating at home, PLUS tips for how to choose a healthy option for your child's lunch.
1. Don't sent "kid-size", pre-packaged foods in their lunch box. While these may be convenient they are more costly and lacking in any real nutrition from whole foods.
2. Do send whole foods cut into to child-friendly sizes and portions. I believe children should eat the same things we eat just in smaller portions. We spend a small portion of our life being kids so we should be promoting healthy habits for a lifetime.
3. Do let your child participate in the process of making their lunch and choosing what goes in it. This is an opportunity to teach them about feeding their body that foods that keep them healthy and feeling good!
4. Do use a resuable tray/container like this one which is a very affordable option. Or you can choose something like this from Yumbox. These come in a variety of colors.
5. Do use re-usable bags for packing snacks or lunch. This cuts down on cost and waste. These from Wexy Bags are cute and fun.
Now, for some really delicious options for those lunch boxes or lunch at home for the home-schooler!
1. Taco bowls, Burrito Bowls or any other type of layered meal will travel well. Some organic, whole grain brown or white rice with a protein source like ground beef or chicken packed in a thermos then have the cold ingredients separate so your child can layer them on at lunch time. Sliced or diced avocado is a must so they get some healthy brain fats!
2. Wraps are a fun way to send some great nutrition with your child. You can use an organic tortilla and build it at home with some Nitrate/Nitrite Free deli meat, spinach, carrot, cucumber and ranch or honey mustard, roll it up then cut into to "sushi" style sections or use lettuce and let them build them at school during lunch time. Talk to your child about their favorite toppings; Letting them have a choice will encourage healthy habits too! My kids loves lettuce "boats" with bacon, grape tomatoes, and avocado! So good!
3. Use the Protein Packed Pancake recipe from last weeks blog, found here . Spread with a nut butter, add some sliced fruit like bananas or strawberries and roll it up! You can then cut into smaller sections or leave whole. Add some raw veggies and hummus plus a small yogurt and lunch is done!
4. Meatballs! Kids love them and they are easy to make ahead and freeze. Just warm up in the oven before packing in your child's lunch, then place in a thermos. You can send a dipping sauce in a separate container. I'd pair it with a small salad packed with dark, leafy greens, a bit of raw cheese (if dairy is ok for your child) and their favorite dressing (check ingredients!)
5. "Snack Lunch" My kids love this! We boil some eggs, cut up veggies and fruit, have some gluten free crackers, nuts and other favorite healthy snacks. We set it all out on our kitchen counter and enjoy! You could pack mini portions of some healthy snacks in your child's lunch too. Be sure there is a protein source like hard boiled eggs or chicken bites (cubed, cooked and seasoned chicken) and a healthy fat like avocado or nuts. You child will have fun discovering all the yummy treats they get!
I hope these ideas are helpful and inspire you to create some new and healthy lunches for your child. Enjoy!