By Dr. Sara Hart
By this time of year, packing school lunches has moved beyond a morning chore to a nearly painful morning ritual that can easily lead to the intolerable battle of wills with elementary school kids (or adults for that matter) in some households! Here are some ideas to ease the struggle or just inspire the daily habit.
Sandwiches and single serving packaged foods can get extremely boring and may not pack the biggest nutrition for their buck. Yogurts and snack crackers often contain more sugar and preservatives than the value of their nutrients. Even many of the foods marketed as health foods contain additional ingredients better off left in the chemistry lab. Save money, eat healthier ,and create less environmental waste by getting creative with homemade packed lunches.
Ideas to make morning’s easier:
• Engage kids in their own lunch creations. Have them select ingredients from the fridge to begin a creative project of making their own lunch the night before.
• Purchase re-usable travel containers (local crafters have many cute options available) to help snacks seem interesting.
• Always deal with food prep after having an adequate breakfast with enough protein to help the blood sugar be stable. Hypoglycemic irritability can account for many kitchen tantrums (of any age group).
Quick, easy, and healthy options for packed lunches:
• Hard boiled eggs – ideal protein/fat ratio for keeping blood sugar happy and if they’re free range organic eggs they can be incredibly beneficial for cholesterol levels! Healthy fats are especially important for growing children as they approach the era of major hormonal changes.
•Lettuce wraps – skip the bread and create a veggie rich lunch by taking large lettuce leaves and wrapping them around tuna fish or smoked salmon. You can also add sprouts, cheeses, mayo, rice, quinoa and spices to keep it interesting! To make for a better option than the average PB&J, you can take a lettuce leaf, swipe a bit of peanut or almond butter through it and layer it with raisins or other dried fruit.
• Veggie Sticks – skip the puffs, instead pack some lightly steamed veggies for food that’s just as fun to eat and actually warrants the energy expended while munching. Puffed foods incur high heat exposure, which makes their natural oils no longer beneficial to consume. A light steam to chopped carrots, broccoli, and beets makes the valuable nutrients in these vegetables easy to digest and their natural sweet flavor more pronounced.
• Trail mix – while it is easy to imagine the M&M filled sugar hunt of many commercial trail mixes, you can create healthy and less expensive options by purchasing nuts and dried fruit in bulk and mixing it to your preference. Consuming nuts and seeds is the single best way to get the balance of vitamins and minerals in your daily diet.
•Dried fruit or fresh fruit cut in a unique way can be a fun addition to a packed lunch. Fruit is often a big hit with kids and can provide an abundance of antioxidants and immune boosting vitamins. But, fruit sugar will adversely affect the blood sugar levels if there is not already substantial protein or fat in the body. The mixture of fruits and nuts makes for a great balance.
• Left-overs! Chicken salad, veggies and rice, or soups may not be the first thing that comes to mind for a kids lunch, but can be a great and easy way to get the job done. Many families recognize that their dinners are far healthier food choices than the other two meals of the day. Perhaps making “dinner” every meal throughout the day is a better way to go.
The goal for a healthy packed lunch is to come home completely eaten. Helping kids engage in their food choices can be helpful to their interest in eating it as well. The goal for the day’s nutrition is to provide the body with an overwhelming quantity of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants found mainly in freshly prepared vegetables, meats, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and fruits. Regardless of how we get the nutrients in us, the most important factor for maintaining growth, energy, and concentration during the day is to ensure adequate blood sugar balance and a low-additive diet to prevent the body from getting irritated by unnecessary ingredients.
For more information and recipe ideas, please visit HartHealingArts.com or stop by Stillwater Healing Arts Clinic in Lyons.