A Guide to Packing Healthy Kids Lunches

I have volunteered in school cafeterias long enough to know that parents  have absolutely no control over what their kids are eating when they are given money for school lunches or snacks/drinks. They will most likely be eating the worst quality kinds of meat, pork and chicken available on the market. The cheese and meat, whether in sandwiches or ‘‘cooked’’, contain hormones, antibiotics and nitrates. The fruits and vegetables are canned, which means they contain BPA, and most likely corn-syrup, preservatives and/or additives as well. The bread is white. The milk, and chocolate milk, also contain hormones and antibiotics. Desserts are abundant, and the lucky kids with extra money can also buy potato chips and Gatorade. Do not give your kids money for school lunch. Not once a week. Not once a month. Never.
So, how do you give your children a school lunch that is both delicious, nutritious, free of hormones, antibiotics, nitrates, BPA, pesticides, preservatives, additives and corn-syrup? Pack their lunches at home. 
This is not, and does not need to be, an impossible mission. One of the most important tools we parents have to keep our kids eating wholesome, home-made lunches is novelty and variety. Keep their lunches varied and interesting, and you will nourish your children to grow into healthy, energetic and strong adults. It will also sustain their energy throughout the day, and help avoid the post-lunch sugar highs and lows. Just ask any teacher what class is like right after lunch.
  • Have the time? Foods such as cookies, scones and muffins are fun to bake, and freeze well. The “main course” dishes can many times also be made and frozen ahead of time. Chop up fresh fruits and veggies.
  • Pressed for time? Mix and match with store-bought stuff such as pretzels, pita chips, Ak-Mak. Edamame cooks very quickly, and baby carrots come ready to go. 
  • Read the labels: skip the nutrient list, and check the ingredient list. Make sure that any food that you buy for your children is free of the following: hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, additives, nitrates, BPA, pesticides, GMO soy and/or corn, cottonseed/canola/soybean oils, hydrogenated fats/oils, and corn syrup. Avoid anything with funny names such as dextrose, maltodextrin, hydrogenated, yellow # anything and other colorings, and preservatives
  • Stick with wholesome ingredients. Sugary, white flour snacks have no nutritional value, and will contribute to health problems such as obesity and diabetes overtime.
  • Keep it as fresh as possible; fresh fruits and vegetables just taste better than their canned/frozen counterparts.
  • Whole-wheat bread sandwiches with organic cheese/meat/nut butters
  • Pasta salad (mayonnaise-free, olive oil based)
  • Pasta with tomato sauce 
  • Left-over lasagna
  • Soba, and/or Udon noodles (Japanese noodles)
  • Sushi (vegetarian, surprisingly easy to make at home)
  • Veggie burgers
  • Roasted potatoes and/or sweet potatoes (use olive oil)
  • Organic cheese and bean quesadillas
  • Left-over organic chicken, cut up in slices or pieces
  • Rice sauteed with vegetables, chicken etc and soy sauce (fried rice)
  • Sliced organic carrots, celery, radishes, cucumbers
  • Organic lettuce/spinach salad (olive oil based)
  • Organic cheese and crackers
  • Boiled eggs- organic
  • Hummus
  • Left-overs from the previous day dinner- as long as it looks appetizing!
  • Pistachio nuts
  • Cashew nuts
  • Tamari almonds
  • Roasted, salted organic peanuts
  • Edamame (sprinkled with sea salt)
  • Home-made pop-corn (not packaged or microwaved)
  • Olives (no preservatives)
  • Pickles (no preservatives) 
  • Organic cheese sticks, such as “Organic Valley”
  • Whole-wheat pretzels, such as “Snyder’s”
  • Organic peanut-butter pretzels such as “Good Health Natural Foods”
  • Organic, non-GMO tortilla chips (have not yet found one without Canola oil) 
  • Crackers such as “Annie’s bunnies”, and “Ak-Mak”
  • Brown rice crackers, such as “Edward&Sons” snaps
  • Organic rice cakes such as “Lundberg” tamari/seaweed
Note: Kashi TLC's, Stacey's Pita Chips, and Garden of Eatin' chips, as well as all organic corn chips I've seen so far, contain canola oil
  • Organic sliced apples, oranges, pears and mangoes, kiwi, grapes, blueberries, strawberries etc
  • Organic dates, cranberries, raisins or any other type of organic dried fruit (watch for added sulphur)
  • Organic cookies, muffins and scones. Home-made (with some whole-wheat flour) or store-bought (check the ingredient list!) 
  • Coconut-date bars, home-made or available in most natural foods stores
  • Whole-wheat fig bars, available in bulk at Native Sun 
  • Fig “Newmans” (not Fig Newtons!) 
  • Organic yogurt, such as Organic Valley
  • Store-bought organic cookies, such as MI-DEL
  • Organic animal crackers, available in bulk at Native Sun
  • Semi-sweet or dark chocolate, chocolate almonds/raisins (check the label for any “funky”, unpronounceable ingredients!)
  • Corn-syrup-free granola bars such as “Clif”, and “Kind”granola bars- again, always check the ingredients!
  • Organic Honey Grahams, such as “New Morning”
  • Licorice, such as “Panda”
  • Water. Preferably filtered, in a stainless-steel canister. Fake juices such as “Capri Sun”, “Hawaiian Punch” and “SunnyD”, and sports drinks such as “vitaminwater” and “Gatorade” contain corn-syrup and/or sugar (sucrose) as their very first ingredient; chocolate milk does not trail far behind in terms of sugar amount. Drinking sugar and corn syrup is not a good way to either hydrate or promote you child’s health. Hydrate with water; give them real fruit for their vitamin intake.
Do not be discouraged if your children rebel at first. It takes time to educate kids and retrain taste-buds. Be patient as they learn to differentiate real food from junk food. 

For more info, check these links:

No comments: