Back to school means back to packing lunches! And I don't mean plastic-wrapped crackers, cheese, and processed lunch meat with some foil-covered pudding cup! A healthy lunch is just as necessary as a filling breakfast. This mid-day meal has to supply the nutrition that kids need for an afternoon of learning. They need a lunch that will sustain them through the afternoon until they get home -- especially if they're involved in after-school sports or activities. Lunch-packing doesn't have to be frustrating or intimidating, however. Simple foods are often the most nutritious, so it's just a matter of finding the right formula for putting it all together! So, here's a 4-step formula for happy, healthy school lunches! Protein + Fiber-Rich Plant Foods + Nourishing Fats + A Small Sweet Treat = A HEALTHY SCHOOL LUNCH! (I recommend packing a large bottle of filtered water to drink. Sodas, juice boxes, and energy drinks are not part of the healthy lunch formula.)
#1 -- Protein!
Protein is the macronutrient that's going to keep your child satiated and his blood sugar stable. A lunch that's made up of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, some chips, and a piece of fruit doesn't have much protein. It's high in sugar and carbohydrates, but sadly lacking in protein. Yet, this is a pretty accurate picture of the contents of a typical child's lunch. Let's reduce the carbs and sugar and increase the protein, shall we? Here are some quick and easy protein sources to consider:
Protein doesn't have to appear in savory form either! A handful of Mixed Berry Gummies
or a mini bowl of Raspberry Jello
adds valuable extra protein from a quality source of gelatin.
#2 -- Fiber-Rich Plant Foods
Sadly, many children are lacking in fiber and experience the nutrient deficiencies and tummy troubles to prove it. Often, children's diets are such that the bulk of their fiber needs, unfortunately, comes from processed grains -- like cold cereal and white bread. Yet, those are not nutrient-dense fiber sources (and are most often made from highly processed and genetically modified ingredients). Here are some yummy, fiber-rich foods that go perfectly in lunchboxes:
#3 -- Nourishing Fats
The human brain is composed of nearly 60% fat. Since fats carry, absorb, and store vitamins like A, D, E, and K in the bloodstream, they are vital to a healthy diet. There is also some correlation between healthy Omega 3's and mental clarity,
and helping to boost moods.
When kids are busy learning, their brains need all the help they can get to store that information. Adding in proper amounts of high-quality fats will give them the boost they need. Nourishing fat sources for lunchboxes include:
#4 -- A Small Sweet Treat
Fruits make a lovely, easy dessert, adding valuable enzymes and vitamins. Choose fruits that will not crush easily (apples, oranges, bananas) or make sure to pack squishier fruits (grapes, melons, kiwi, berries) in a secure container. If you want to go the extra mile, however, something homemade is in order. These nourishing desserts can easily be made ahead so they're quick to grab and add to the lunchbox whenever you're ready to pack:
Mix up the lunchbox and your child will not only thrive and grow, but learn to love healthy foods, too!
Do you have a formula for packing school lunches? Which foods are most important to you?