The back-to-school season is a great time to think of some fresh new ideas for brown bag lunches. We want the lunches we pack for our children (and ourselves) to be appealing, easy-to-eat, convenient to prepare, and of course, healthy. As a father of four, I know that can be a bit of a challenge.
It is worth putting some time and effort into the art of packing a lunch however, because lunch is the most important meal, since most of us are away from the home and we need to be sustained and nourished all day. According to the National Restaurant Association, close to one quarter of our population eats a commercially prepared, typically unhealthy lunch five or more times per week. The typical person (age 8 and over) consumes an average of 218 meals per year away from home. There is a lot of opportunity here to influence and improve the nutritional quality of America’s diet.
Packing a lunch not only protects our health and gives us control over our food choices, but it can also make the day less stressful. It gives kids more time to socialize with their friends instead of wasting precious minutes on the cafeteria line. For adults, having a lunch ready to eat eliminates the need to run around town searching for healthy options. It can also be more economical.
Here are some nutrient-dense suggestions for kid-friendly packable lunches:
Cut up veggies and dip can be a tasty and fun addition to any lunch box. Try baby carrots, celery sticks, red pepper strips, snow peas, raw string beans, raw broccoli, raw cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, cut-up cucumbers or romaine lettuce leaves with dips like my Banana Walnut Dressing or Apple Pie Dressing.
Make healthy wraps with whole grain pitas, tortillas or better yet, collard or lettuce leaves. Super Simple Hummus with shredded lettuce, cucumber and tomato slices is a quick and easy option. Another favorite at my house is Salad Stuffed Pita with Creamy Almond Dressing. Try my new nutty beany butter creations:
Cashew Beany Butter and Chocolate Almond Beany Butter. They take nut butters to a whole new level. They are great spread on whole grain bread and topped with apple, banana, or strawberry slices. Just make sure that you read the ingredient list when choosing a whole grain bread. It should list "whole grain" as the first ingredient. If more than one grain is used, they should all be whole grains.
Send your child to school with their own bean burger creation. Make a batch of my Better Burgers and you have lunch for several days. My kids love them topped with tomato, lettuce, healthy ketchup and even some raw onion and avocado.
Fresh fruit and nuts are always a good bet. In addition to the usual apples, pears and bananas, use peeled oranges, and grapes packaged in zip lock bags and add some almonds or pistachio nuts so your active children are not left hungry. And for a lunchbox dessert, kids love these Oatmeal Raisin Cookies filled with Blueberry Jam. I hope you enjoy your lunch as you enjoy good health.
Make superior food choices for your children now and help to disease-proof their future
As parents, we want what is best for our children. We would never intentionally harm them. In fact, we make sure to get them the best care we know, read to them at bedtime and insist they wear their seatbelts, but when it comes to children and food, somehow we don’t know what is the best thing to do. Our children seem finicky and only eat cheese, pasta, chicken fingers or milk and cookies. At the same time, we notice that they are frequently ill. They suffer from recurring ear infections, runny noses, stomachaches and headaches. We note their symptoms and haul them in to the doctor, who prescribes yet another round of antibiotics. All this is normal for children —right? Wrong!
This scenario may be “normal” for kids today, but it is not normal if we feed our children the high-nutrient foods designed by nature to properly fuel them. Scientific research has demonstrated that humans have a powerful immune system, even stronger than other animals. Our bodies are self-repairing, self-defending organisms, which have the innate ability to defend themselves against microbes and prevent chronic illnesses. This can only happen if we give our bodies the correct raw materials. When we don’t supply the young body with its nutritional requirements, we see bizarre diseases occur. We even witness the increasing appearance of cancers that were unheard of in prior human history.
When you have a child, you have the unique opportunity to mold a developing person. One of your greatest gifts to them can be a disease resistant body created from excellent food choices beginning at youth. Ear infections, strep throats, allergies, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADD or ADHD), and even autoimmune diseases can be prevented by sound nutritional practices early in life. Common childhood illnesses are not only avoidable, but they're more effectively managed by incorporating nutritional excellence into one’s diet. This is far superior to the dependence on drugs to which we are accustomed. No parent would disagree that our children deserve only the best.
If you are a parent, you may want to follow this course of action:
These steps are designed to assist parents in the challenges of raising a healthy child in our world of insane eating habits and toxic food choices.