By Dr. Shannon Sarrasin, ND
With school underway, many parents are pulling out their hair trying to come up with lunch box ideas that will please their child yet still pack a nutritional punch. With the right balance of nutrients in their diet, kids will feel energized, and have a strong foundation for learning, immune health and overall well-being.
Skip the Sugar
Unfortunately foods marketed towards kids such as cereal, yogurt, and snack foods are often loaded with sugar, food dyes, and additives. These ingredients lead to fluctuations in energy and behavior, and can interfere with a child’s ability to focus.
Feed their Brain!
Avoid the processed foods and stick with whole foods that you prepare in your own kitchen. Be sure to include healthy protein and fats to feed the brain, complex carbohydrates for lasting energy throughout the day, and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Here are some meal ideas to add variety, creativity, and nutrition to your child’s lunch box:
- Sandwich stuffers: try hummus, avocado, sprouts, almond butter (and banana), cream cheese, veggies, egg salad, tuna, or good quality meat (from last night’s dinner).
- Pasta or grain salad: try soba noodles, quinoa, or whole wheat pasta with veggies, garbanzo beans, olive oil and seasoning.
- Soups are warming and nourishing during the winter months. Boost protein by adding lentils or split peas.
- Sushi or rice wraps with cucumber, avocado and mango.
- Quesadilla with refried beans, cheese and diced veggies.
- Falafel balls made of chickpeas are fun to eat alone or stuffed in a pita pocket.
- Dips such as nut/seed butter, guacamole, hummus or other beans dips add nutritional value and make veggies more of a draw.
- Peanut-free classroom? Check with your school to see if seed butters made from sesame, sunflower, or pumpkin seeds are an appropriate replacement. They are a good source of healthy fat, protein, calcium and zinc.
- Boost protein by adding a hard-boiled egg, edamame beans, trail mix, or sprouted beans which are fun to eat.
- Provide veggie variety by including cucumber, carrots, snap peas, celery sticks, bell pepper sticks, zucchini slices, jicama, kale chips, or cherry tomatoes.
- Add creativity by cutting foods into fun shapes and by providing a variety of colors and textures. An occasional note or card lets them know you care and packs a little extra love.