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Smart lunches for Smart Kids

By Emily Countryman | Ideal Wellness | Sponsored Featured

The first day of school is right around the corner!  It looks a little, well, a lot, different this year. But that doesn’t mean that lunches need to change. Depending on where your kids are going for school and day care this year, you may need to send them with a packed lunch. If you are staying home, it’s still a great idea to help them plan a healthy lunch for the next day or incorporate it into your homeschool routine.  

What are you going to pack in that lunchbox this year? Kids need a healthy, FUN and nutritious lunch to reach their full potential.

Would an Olympic athlete or an esteemed scientist pack cookies, pop or cheese puffs in their school lunch? I doubt either would be able to perform at their peak with those items.

The same is true for our children. We send our kids off to school after a breakfast of sugary cereal, a toaster pastry and an 8-ounce glass of orange juice (the OJ alone has 22g of sugar). It’s time to rethink lunches and set the kids up with smart meals to be smart students!

To get our kids to eat and enjoy healthy meals, we need to make it FUN!

Full of natural colors; think berries, fruit, vegetables, and cheese.

Unprocessed foods; avoiding packaged chips, fruit snacks, and juice boxes.

Natural and nutritious; a small treat is fine but make sure most of the lunch is serving your child by fueling them with whole foods.

The more healthy and nutritious foods you pack in your child’s lunch, the less room there is for junk and sugar. It’s not about taking away foods but adding in more good and nutritious foods to crowd out the bad.

Make sure you avoid these highly processed and non-nutritious items:

  • Fruit Snacks. Although the box says “Fat-Free” or made with real juice, what they are really saying is “full of sugar.” Fruit snacks should be thought of as a treat, not a fruit or mistaken for anything healthy. 
  • Pop, soda, juice boxes, and juice pouches. Just pack water! Kids don’t need all of this sugar in the middle of their day while trying to stay focused at school.
  • Cookies, pastry snacks and most prepackaged items in the cookie aisle. Especially avoid those 100-calorie packs…this is another term for full of sugar!
  • Fruit Cups stored in juice and added or artificial sugar. Go for a fruit cup packed in water, or better yet a piece of fresh fruit!

So you might be wondering, what can I pack? Here are some great ideas for fun, healthy and edible back to (home)school lunches:

  • Sandwich with whole wheat or Gluten free bread. Add turkey (look for something organic without nitrates), cheese (again, unprocessed, no plastic wrapped single slices) and mayo, butter or avocado slices. Don’t be afraid of healthy fats, kids need these for more brain power! You can even sneak in some lettuce or bell peppers, and try some hummus as a spread too!
  • Tortilla rolled up with almond butter and a banana in the middle.
  • Chicken or tuna salad with rice crackers for dipping.
  • Sliced veggies or fruits. Add to a small, kid-friendly skewer for a kabob effect!
  • Lara Bars or other clean protein bars. Just be sure to note the sugar content and avoid bars with added sugar. You can even make your own healthy protein bars at home.
  • Air popped popcorn.
  • Other fun health snacks like olives, cheese, seaweed or small snacks dipped in hummus.

If you have a picky eater, get them involved by letting them help you make and pack their lunch the night before. Fun lunchboxes, separated bento boxes, soup thermoses, and water bottles will help as well!

Emily Countryman is a board-certified health coach and owner of Ideal Wellness with six locations throughout the PNW. She can be reached online at info@idealwellnesswa.com and www.idealwellness.com

One thought on “Smart lunches for Smart Kids

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