Written by: Beth Blessing
For us, school is right around the corner, but most everyone else in our community is already back to the grind. Early bedtimes, alarms being set, and lunches being made. As a mother and a nutritionist, it is important that my kids have a healthy lunch packed for them to take off to school. I often get asked, “what do you pack for your kids?”. Well, here it is my strategy on how to pack a healthy lunch.
First off, the gear. We like to use eco-friendly, reusable containers such as stainless steel bento boxes, water bottles, and thermal soup containers; reusable food-safe fabric sandwich and snack bags; and glass containers and water bottles with silicone sleeves. Fortunately, the school my children attend supports and promotes the same philosophy as my household; reduce, reuse, recycle.
Next, is packing a wholesome lunch that your kids will enjoy. I like to focus on a handful of food groups, and make sure at least one item from each group is represented in the meal.
- Protein: When it comes to lunch, we are a roll up kind of family. Sometimes we use lettuce as the roll up and other times we use deli meat. You can put all kinds of goodies into a roll up: avocado slices, guacamole, pickle spears, cheese, sliced veggies, hummus. If the kids aren’t having roll ups they also like hardboiled eggs, meat jerky, scoops of nut and seed butters, and anything “salad” (egg salad, salmon salad, chicken salad).
- Fruits and Vegetables: I can’t say enough on the importance of eating a diet abundant in fresh fruits and vegetables. They provide a host of vitamins and minerals along with powerful antioxidants and fiber. My kids prefer raw vegetables over cooked when it comes to their lunches. They also love to use their dipping skills whether it is carrots in hummus or apples in peanut butter. Other favorites are homemade kale chips, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes with homemade buttermilk dressing, “crunchy” salad (romaine hearts) with balsamic vinaigrette, and every single piece of fruit that exists.
- Dairy: Our family can tolerate dairy and is very fond of it. It provides a great source of calcium, protein, and fat (we use full fat only). The kids love the cheese sticks from Organic Valley and the mini yogurts from Traders Point Creamery. They are quick and easy to throw into their lunch boxes.
- Fermented Foods: An important group of foods that is often not consumed daily (or at all). Fermented foods and beverages provide probiotics that help keep the gut in harmony, suppress the overgrowth of bad bacteria, improve immune function, aid the body in assimilating nutrients, and rid the body of toxins. Lucky for me my kids love fermented vegetables (monkey see, monkey do). The Farmhouse Cultures garlic and dill pickle kraut has made my kids into fanatics. They even like to drink the juice. If your kids like pickles, they will like the garlic and dill pickle kraut! Other favorites ferments are yogurt, kefir, and kombucha.
- Nuts, Seeds, Beans, and Grains: My daughter loves oven roasted nuts in her lunch every single day. My son has no interest in nuts or seeds unless it is in the form of “flour” or “meal”. We make pancakes, muffins, and cookies with almond, hazelnut, and/or hemp flours, and toss them into his lunch. Another favorite in our house is hummus. With all of the new and exciting flavors from Hope Hummus, we have been eating hummus every day, and dipping every vegetable you can imagine into it.
And at last, don’t forget a very important nutrient that is not represented by a single group, but instead, incorporated into each of the different groups, fat. It is extremely important that children (and adults) eat a diet abundant in healthy fats such as saturated fats from humanely raised animals and tropical oils; unsaturated fats from olive oil, avocado and oil, and nuts and seeds; and omega-3s from wild caught fatty fish while limiting (or avoiding) trans fats (hydrogenated oils) and vegetable oils such as corn, soybean, and cottonseed. So, choose the full fat dairy, cook with butter and coconut oil, and mix olive oil into your marinades, sauces, and dips. It will help your kids feel full longer and overall contribute to a healthy mind and body.