School lunches. It’s that time of year again. Many of us buy school lunches and many of us pack them up for our children to send with them to school. With either of these options, there are many thoughts to consider.
You’ve all seen that I’ve sent out a lot of information about food and using it as medicine. I value good, healthy food for myself, as well as my children. What they eat will determine their energy level for the day, whether or not they may be more susceptible to colds and flus, and their overall health and vitality. Most people don’t consider food as medicine, and, especially with children, since they are so energetic and seem to be impervious to most of the health issues that we have as adults. And, while some of this is true, what is important to look at is that the food that they are eating now does effect them immediately, as well as their future. You’ve seen this, I’m sure, with your child who maybe eats a piece of birthday cake, a piece of candy, or chocolate and then they are bouncing off the wall for the next 2 hours. This is a very obvious effect of sugars and dyes. There are lots of other foods (and I could write a whole book on this, but I’m going to try to keep this simple) that effect our children for good or for not so good.
What I would like to do today is to have you start thinking about what it is your children are eating before, during and after school, but, particularly, while they are eating lunch at school.
School lunches, while I am so grateful that they are available to kids, are not the most energy providing, nutrient-packed foods. Most of the bread is white, processed flour, the vegetables and fruits have come out of a can, and the meats are processed. Again, I’m not discounting these lunches, but I would like you to be aware of what they consist of. If your child has a school lunch, make sure to supplement at home with either fresh greens and vegetables and fruits, or make sure that your child is taking a very good multivitamin to make sure he or she is getting the proper nutrients.
Some schools are starting to have salad bars available for the children, and there are some ‘Farm to School’ programs popping up that allow for more fresh produce to be introduced into the lunch programs. Ask your school about this, if you are interested. I know there are schools in our area who are starting this. I think it’s great, and I hope that more and more schools make this available to their children.
For those who pack their lunches, again, there are lots of packaged, processed foods filled with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and dyes available for busy parents to purchase to send with their children to school. I implore you, please look at the labels of what you are buying. Look at the sugar content and how many chemicals and dyes are being used in your child’s food.
What you want to look for is whole foods (food that is as close to how it was grown, as possible). This includes fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, cheeses. And, I know the argument for some of this is that it is so costly. I would like for you to start thinking of your food as your health insurance policy.
Healthier food = healthier you
When you and your family are eating foods full of life, water, enzymes, anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals, along with all of the hundreds of healing properties that fresh food contains, know that your health can and will improve. So, in the long run, spending a little bit more on your food bill will save you money at the doctor’s office.
Having set the ground work for lunches, onto the fun stuff. I’ve compiled some ideas of great lunches. Make it fun and explore.
If you don’t have these items in your cabinets already, I recommend you invest in these: small, kids’-sized thermos for keeping food hot during the day, a bento box, small glass or plastic containers, stainless steel water bottle.
I ALWAYS send my kids to school, sports, music lessons with a water bottle. My daughter’s bottle is small enough that it doesn’t weigh down her backpack. Water is essential for healthy brain function. If you’ve read my posts about water, you know that tea, soda, or juice do not take the place of clean, pure H2O. Send them with water to drink throughout the day.
In addition, so that she feels like she’s getting a treat, we have ‘Chocolate Milk Tuesdays’ (she didn’t want it on Mondays because of all of the national holidays we have on Mondays. Pretty smart kid). I pack her a chocolate, almond milk so that she doesn’t feel deprived. Again, dairy causes mucous, allergies, and skin issues in many kids, so you may want to watch how much dairy your kids have. We rotate at our home. A little bit of dairy every few days but definitely not 2-3 meals per day. There are lots of really good dairy alternatives.
Some people like packing lots of small items for their child to graze over the day, while other parents like a ‘main’ course for their children for lunch. Here are some inventive ideas and updates on the traditional peanut butter and jelly:
- Cucumbers, cheese (alternative cheeses also good), lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts, olives, hummus, refried beans… whatever your little one likes in a sandwich but rolled up into a tortilla (gluten free options also available) and cut up into small spirals.
- Lentil soup, bean soup, pasta heated up in the morning and put into the thermos (heat with hot water before putting in the contents so that the thermos is heated and keeps the food hot longer). My daughter loves having hot food for lunch from her thermos.
- Quesadillas with cheese and beans
- Bagel sandwich with cheese, Tofurkey, (we are vegetarian but you can use traditional meat slices, but, again, watch how much Sodium and other chemicals are being used in your meat products), lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, Nayonnaise (vegan alternative mayonnaise)/
- Salad. If your child will do this, go crazy with it! Lettuce, beans, cucumbers, avocados, tomatoes, olives, nuts.. whatever they will let you make it with.
- Lots and lots of choices here…. sliced fruit such as peaches, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, apples sprinkled with cinnamon, sliced pears
- Cut up vegetables like cucumber, carrots, sliced sweet peppers, olives, edamame, sweet peas, broccoli
- Make a dip with yogurt, honey and orange juice for dipping fruit.
- Vegetable dip can be made with mayonnaise (or Nayonnaise), sour cream or yogurt and the Knorr vegetable soup mix (my kids love this and end up eating lots more veggies because of it)
- cheese and crackers
- fruit leather
- I try to bake a few different kinds of cookies or bars over the weekend to freeze to use during the week. There are lots of great recipes in some of the posts I’ve done in the past from Chocolate Covered Katie blog. Gluten free options, sugar free and vegan and all incredibly good!! No one in or outside of my family notices that it’s healthy. Some ideas are: rice crispy treats made with almond or peanut butter and honey. Healthy granola bars, cookies, and puddings. My daughter has even gotten inspired to make her own treats to take. So much fun with this!!
I hope this helps some of you. You can also look on Pinterest and get inspired with all of the beautiful pictures of bento boxes for children’s lunches.
Have a super school year with your children. Enjoy them and stay calm and remember to breathe.
Dr. Arjan Khalsa