Aside from the Pumpkin Spice EVERYTHING craze, September is also when school is in full session. The fall season is also a bag of mixed emotions - especially for moms - as we find more personal time with our kids is spent on working on homework and planning lunch box meals. Homework might question your ability to be “Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” (ha!) but you’ll likely get an A+ in lunch box meal planning - if you keep it simple and wholesome.
As a mom, I’ve done the whole meal prep and lunch box planning for years. I’ve learned a few things along the way and for all you moms out there, I wanted to share my easy tips on how to build a better lunch box. I’ve also included snack items that you can make and pack in under 10 minutes! And before you do any planning don’t forget to check with your schools for any food allergy restrictions.
Lori’s Lunchbox Lessons:
- Keep It Simple! Embrace the brown bag and remember that lunch box menus don’t need to be elaborate. Ziplock baggies are your friend, reusable containers are even better or consider the trendy bento box option. A little bottle of water is always your best beverage option.
- Lunch time is the opportunity to refuel your loved ones for the second part of the day. This means wholesome choices are a must. As a nutritional foodie I suggest making meals based on a whole food plant-based foundation for optimal health and learning. This means choosing real foods like fresh sliced fruit, diced fresh veggies, a mix of nuts & seeds, bean dips or some diced fresh meat. Consider how the food choice will impact your child’s afternoon. I think it’s best to stay far away from anything with artificial flavors, artificial colors and preservatives - especially as foods that contain these ingredients are known neurotoxins and some are even carcinogenic. Refined sugar, most likely, will spell trouble in the form of an afternoon slump from insulin spikes or adrenal let-downs. Watch out for foods or drinks that list out added refined sugars, refined grains, plus fruit juices, juice blends and even single serving alternative milks. Be sure to look at the ingredient list of all dairy and deli meats. (P.S. Did you know that dairy is a top allergen or food intolerance? While any food can cause any reaction, dairy intolerance symptoms include: Asthma, bronchitis, ear infections and intestinal cramping, fatigue, ADD/ADHD and anxiety.)
- Lunch is a social event. Knowing your child's comfort level when it comes to lunchbox peer pressure will help you pack a wholesome lunch that they will enjoy. Of course you'll have more freedom for wholesome choices if your child is secure with wholesome food choices. Remember that you can set the acceptance level by setting the standards through personal example and how you choose to talk about food (and drinks).
- Every now and again have a 'Lunch Box Sampling' meal. You could make lunch options for dinner once a month. Get the kids involved to do some lunch option brainstorming, shopping and preparing. Involvement equals understanding and pride.
Lunchbox suggestions (easy to pack in under 10 minutes):
- Apple slices with Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) sprinkled on to deter oxidation and give it a tang! (My kids loved this.)
- Hummus Dip w/assorted veggies to dip Babaganoush Dip w/assorted veggies dip
- 100% Whole Grain tortilla rolled with avocado, salsa, lettuce and shredded carrots (I like Rudy’s Whole Grain Spelt Tortillas)
- 100% whole grain crackers with nut butter Small serving of non-hydrogenated mixed nuts
- Think water is too boring...try adding a few thinly sliced lemons or limes even strawberries into the water bottle for a refreshing taste.
- Need a cookie? Don't forget CaveChick brand - 100% whole grain, maple sweetened and dairy and egg free cookies!
There you have it - Keep these tips in mind as you plan out your child’s lunchbox this school year, and you’ll keep your family healthy, happy and fueled for learning!