We want to make our kids healthy lunches, but things may get so busy sometimes that we tend to default to the preservative laden, sugar and fat filled, pre-packaged items. That little “pang” of guilt rises, then we push it away, as we must continue moving into our day!
As a business owner and a mom I have faced this challenge and would like to share some suggestions with you. There are several principles to remember:
Children need to eat breakfast!
Children need sufficient protein.
Children need “good” fats.
Decrease refined sugars as much as possible.
Parents, set a good example with your food choices.
Keep offering different healthy food choices as kids tastes can change rapidly.
Eating breakfast in the morning is a necessity for energy and getting a good start. You wouldn’t drain the gas out of your car overnight, then hop in and expect it to run well in the morning, would you?
Some protein at each meal is very important for children. Balancing carbohydrates (cereals, fruits, bread) with protein helps children think better, helps stabilize insulin and blood sugar levels, decreases hunger for longer periods of time, and helps provide a more constant supply of blood sugar to the brain. Children may find it easier to concentrate, learn and pay attention. (Good sources of protein include chicken / turkey breast, salmon, tuna, cottage cheese, part-skim mozzarella, tofu, and egg whites).
“Good” fats are absolutely necessary for hormone balance, tissue repair and growth, and other body functions. “Good” fats are usually from vegetable sources like olives, olive oil, nuts (almonds and macadamia nuts), avocados, peanut butter (old fashioned with no hydrogenated oils) and tahini (sesame seeds).
Most children eat too many carbohydrates and refined sugars, which can throw the body out of balance. Fruits and vegetables are a much better choice than white breads, pasta, crackers, candy, etc. Soda is also a poor choice – it leaches calcium from the body and has no nutritious value. Especially avoid aspartame/ nutrasweet.
Eating well as a parent sets a good example for your children, then everybody is healthier!
Present your children with a variety of healthy food choices. (Don’t make cake a choice and let them choose between strawberries and honeydew melon instead!)
It’s not as hard as you may think! Keep in mind some basic principles: the more fresh fruit and veggies the better; kids need good quality protein and fats, and keep sugar to a minimum.
One day while doing the “lunchroom mother” thing at my son’s school, I saw a little girl whose lunch consisted of a sandwich made of white bread and marshmallow “fluffernutter”, a baggie of cookies, a baggie of chips, and a soda. The suggestions I am going to make now will take about the same time to prepare as that little girl’s lunch, and be much more delicious and nutritious!
For sandwiches, choose whole grain/multi grain breads. Look for a natural peanut butter that contains no partially hydrogenated oils, and jelly that is all fruit with no added sugars (these are available in the regular supermarket). Other good choices are Almond Butter, Cashew butter or Sesame Tahini instead of peanut butter. Open a can of salmon, chicken, or tuna and mix with a small amount of mayonnaise to make a sandwich that provides some needed protein.
Now instead of that bag of cookies and bag of chips, how about a bag of strawberries and grapes, or a bag with a few cherry tomatoes and a slice of green pepper. Find fruits and veggies your kids like, and remember many kids tastes change so don’t hesitate to re-try something that may not have gone over very big the first time! Other suggestions would be black or green olives, pickles, or celery sticks. One of my boys loves to munch on raw green beans; my other son loves cherry tomatoes and green olives.
Look for lunch packages of natural applesauce with no added sugar, or little containers of fruit cocktail in light syrup. Easy fruits that simply need to be washed first are pears, apples, plums, blueberries, and peaches. Little boxes of raisins or dried fruit are also available.
Nuts are full of nutrients and “good” fats, so offer a little bag of peanuts, almonds, cashews, or macadamia nuts. Most kids love cheese, and really enjoy the “string” mozzarella cheesesticks, which are also pre-packaged. (Avoid “free” or “processed cheese food” as these may have less fat but more chemicals added) Vanilla or lemon yogurt is tasty and usually has less sugar added. Sometimes a rice cake or a little bag of popcorn is a nice surprise.
So far, you’ll notice we’ve mentioned lots of alternatives that are quick and easy, without the cookies, chip, cakes, white bread and other nutrient poor foods. One last suggestion – AVOID SODA! It robs your body of calcium (due to it’s phosphorus content), it is very acidic, and full of sugar (please don’t make the mistake of thinking diet soda is better, because “Nutrasweet” / aspartame is a detrimental chemical and should be avoided also).
Be creative and keep it easy. Natural, healthy foods are easy to grab, and can make such a difference in your child’s health, ability to learn and focus, and even their moods. Please feel free to contact me with any comments or suggestions that you might have.
If you’ve found some things that work especially well, I ‘d love to hear them.
Call us a 215-736-3803
Dr. Susan G. Burger
Riverside Chiropractic & Vitality Center
300 West Trenton Ave. Morrisville 19067