To all my fellow parents out there who are super busy and who truly do not need one more thing on their plate, no pun intended, we must take time to pack our kids a healthy lunch. Here are some items you can pick up at the grocery store or your local farmer's market to include for a healthy lunch. I am also including tips to get your child involved from picking out the food they will enjoy during lunch time to packing their lunch pail. It is time we put some time and energy into this!
Here are some items to have on hand...
1. Fresh ground peanuts aka peanut butter. Be sure when picking out your peanut butter there is no added sugar. The way you can tell is go to the ingredients list and if you see the word sugar find a different brand.
2. Almond Butter! Again be sure there is no added sugar in this. At some health food stores you can grind your almonds right there or many super markets including Target carry almond butter.
Veggies: raw, baked, or steamed
1.Carrots are great raw or baked and keep well. Tip: if you bake them be sure to slightly bake them. You do not want them mushy. Try baking at 350* for 20 minutes depending on how thin the carrots are or if they are whole big carrots it may take 45-60 minutes. Before you put carrots in the oven you can cut to desired length and width, put in a bag and add 1 tbsp of olive oil and some fresh dill. Then shake bag vigorously for a minutes to get oil and dill all over carrots. Serve cold at lunch.
2. Broccoli raw or lightly steamed. Many people steam broccoli too much and it becomes mush. If you choose to steam steam lightly for about 3-5 minutes on stove or if you buy the microwavable bags only put it in for ½ the time. A little lemon squeezed over broccoli is good.
3. Celery - This is great to make ants on a log. Put peanut butter in the groove and add a few raisins on top of the peanut butter.
4. Mixed sweet peppers: red, yellow, orange
1. Apples are one of the best little travelers for fruit. They keep well and are loaded with fiber (4.4 grams).
2. Bananas are another fruit that keeps well and has good fiber (3.1 grams) and protein (1.3 grams).
3. Grapes are great for lunches and packed with antioxidants.
4. Strawberries are also good for packing just be sure you clean them well. They are full of pectin which helps slow digestion and leaves your child feeling fuller longer.
5. Blueberries are my go-to. These are great in oatmeal, frozen, or fresh. Kids love popping these in their mouth and they are super healthy.
6. Dried fruit (Be sure in the ingredients list there are no added sugars)
7. Frozen mangos or any mix fruit (will mostly thaw by lunch)
8. Dried goji berries - These are considered a super food!
9. Cherries are great! They are loaded with flavor, have good fats, protein, and fiber in them. 1 cup is only 51 calories and serves as a great treat!
Protein and good carbs:
1. Beans (black, pinto, kidney, garbanzo, etc) are super easy and will keep well until lunch. Plus they are loaded with protein and fiber.
2. Nuts - You can purchase mixed nuts or a specific not such as cashews, almonds, pistachios, etc. Just be aware of added salts and try to get unsalted.
3. Hard boiled egg. I like to peel my kids eggs the morning of school. The choice is up to you depending on the age of your child.
4. Cooked quinoa is a complete protein and kids love it. Like rice they eat with a spoon or fork. It is loaded with health benefits and has lots of protein and fiber, along with, healthy fats. I like cooking my quinoa in a vegetable broth (takes about 20 minutes). The ratio is 1 cup broth to ½ cup quinoa (2:1). You can cook it using water too. You can season as you see fit.
5. Grilled or baked chicken (stay away from processed meats) if you want an animal protein. Chicken is great on anything.
Drink water!!! Our kids should only be drinking water. They do not need to drink fruit juices with high amounts of sugar even if it says natural 100% juice. The problem is the juice is missing the fiber that is needed so the sugar rushes quickly to their bloodstream. If your child wants a little sweet drink add a little lemon or lime to their drink or even a strawberry in their drink but do not give in to the advertisements for juices. I believe it is much healthier to eat fruit than to drink fruit juices.
1. Be sure you eat these foods for at least a week leading up to school. If some of these foods are new to your child be sure to continue to serve and eat these foods at home, so you have constancy with how your child is eating.
2. Eat healthy and speak highly about healthy foods. A child shouldn't hear a parent complain about a veggie they do not like. It is so important for your child to see you eating healthy whole foods just like the ones they are taking to eat at school.
3. Throw a paper plate in your child’s lunch pail (or roll one up), so you are a child can put their food on their plate. Include a spoon and fork. You can practice this by going on a picnic and have your child bring his lunch to unpack and prepare his plate before eating. Pack the same lunch for the picnic, bring a plate, and before eating prepare your plate with the food in the lunch pail. We need to get away from always eating out of boxes and bags. This is a healthy practice.
4. Let the child pack the lunch with you. Also be sure to take the child to the grocery store and have them help pick out the food. For example if you are looking at three types of dried fruit with no added sugar ask the child which one they would like. Best to buy in bulk and when you go home have the child put dried fruit into little baggies. You can prep most everything for the week beforehand which will save you a lot of time.
5. Add a little note to their lunch pail. Let them know you love them and you are proud of them for choosing to pack a healthy lunch and for them helping pack that lunch. They will start to associate their lunch with a happy reward (your note) and they will look forward to that note.
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