It's that time of year again: Back To School! Are YOU ready to get back into the swing of things? Getting your little one(s) up, fed, and out the door with food?
To ensure that your kids are getting necessary nutrients throughout the day, consider what the foods that you pack them for lunch. Research shows that processed food (with added flavor, coloring and preservatives) affects a child's well-being as well as learning and behavioral issues.
How much sugar does your child consume each day?
One teaspoon/cube of sugar equals 4 grams. According to the World Health Organization, the recommended daily intake for adults is 6 teaspoons or 25 grams a day. Preschoolers and school age children 3-4 teaspoons or 12 grams a day. Check out sugarstacks.com to actually see the sugar equivalent of foods.
If the convenience of giving your child packaged foods is hard to break, then make sure to read the label! Look at the sugar content on the label and calculate the teaspoon equivalent. Make sure to also note the number of servings for the product. Some fruit juices and cereal bars, are deceivingly healthy, but truly are loaded with sugar. While fresh fruit also has fructose and glucose, fruit is naturally high in vitamins and fiber which takes time for the body to digest.
Let's talk about bread
Whenever some moms tell me that their child doesn't like sandwiches, I always think that its a blessing in disguise. Bread, especially white bread, has no nutritional value, is loaded with sugar, and spikes blood sugar levels. The glue-like properties of the gluten protein, when consumed in excess, can lead to a number of ill-effects on many people. Try to cut down on, or refrain from, these refined carbohydrates and sugars and focus only other grain/starch sources.
A healthy lunch should include:
PROTEIN – Meat (real meat, not deli meats), chicken, eggs, edamame, falafel/veggie burgers, hummus, quinoa, or nuts / KIND bars / bliss balls (if allowed)
VEGETABLES (yes, vegetables!) – Carrot sticks, celery sticks, grape tomatoes, salad, corn, cucumber, peppers, etc
FRUIT – Preferably fresh or dried (this doesn't mean fruit gummies or roll-ups!)
The best way to get everyone back on schedule, including yourself, is to be prepared to make everything easy each morning.
- Buy lots of what you need to pack to last throughout the week. Think about packing foods that are more durable and travel well, nothing too soft (like raspberries and peaches), or foods that get funky after being out of the fridge for too long (like seafood and some dairy). Ice packs may help, but I know by the time my kids eat, the food still isn't really cold.
- Utilize leftovers! Make more of any favorite meals (roasts, burgers, ragu, soups, stews, etc), and save a few portions for a very convenient packed lunch!
- Prepare foods in advance – Make muffins, granola bars, cut up vegetables. Some parents I know even put the entire lunch box together and stick the whole thing in the fridge the night before.
Previous School Lunch posts