It's back to school time, and you know what that means: brown baggin' it! Whether you love or dread the daily pack-a-thon, making your kiddos' lunches from scratch is the best way to make sure they're getting the nutrition they need to stay focused and energized all day long.
If you've been spending a bit too much time on Pinterest lately, never fear -- your kids' lunches don't have to be shaped like happy faces or cartoon characters to be fun. Our goal here is to nourish kids, not entertain them. Follow these tips to make easy lunches that are delicious, nutritious and kid-friendly.
Balance That Blood Sugar
- Keep them calm and studying on! Does your child struggle with behavioural problems or with focusing in class? If so, getting his or her blood sugar under control should be your first priority. There's nothing like a blood sugar spike to send a kid into hyperactivity mode.
- Watch out for high GI foods: Foods high on the glycemic index like juice, muffins, donuts and sugary cereals can cause blood sugar spikes and subsequent crashes. Most store-bought snacks for kids are packed with sugar.
- Symptoms of spiking and crashing blood sugar include moodiness, crankiness, insatiable appetite, hyperactivity, anxiety and difficulty concentrating -- not good feelings for a kid to have while trying to learn!
You can keep your child's blood sugar balanced by:
- Including protein in every single meal or snack -- lean meat, fish, eggs, legumes, lentils, nuts (if they're allowed at your child's school) and seeds.
- Making sure they eat every two to three hours. Pack protein-rich snacks as well as a healthy lunch.
Fuel That Brain with Healthy Fats
- Fats are hugely important for brain development.60 per cent of the brain is made of fat. Low fat diets are not good, especially for kids!
- Eating healthy fats helps with balancing blood sugar.
- Get variety in your fats. There are two types of essential fatty acids we need in our diet: Omega-3s and omega-6s. The ideal balance of omega 6-3 is 1-1. However, the typical ratio in Western diets is 15-1.
- Avoid the processed fats.Watch out for processed foods claiming to contain omega-3s! Eating processed meat that claims to include flax oil isn't going to help. Omega-3s are extremely susceptible to heat damage.
Get in the good fats, avoid the bad!
- Good sources of omega 3 fatty acids: flax seeds, salmon, sardines and grass-fed beef.
- Virgin, unprocessed coconut oil is also a healthy fat. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid that strengthens the immune system, which is great for kids encountering new germs when they get back to school.
- Organic Ghee: Also known as clarified butter, this is the pure fat from organic butter (so dairy proteins), and is credibly rich in nutrition for healthy brains, teeth and digestive systems which helps improve absorption of the fat soluble nutrient.s
The Bad fats: trans fats, processed fats, canola oil, Crisco, margarine... keep it whole and unprocessed.
Nuts Not Allowed? Never Fear!
- If nuts have been banned at your child's school, don't worry. Almost all recipes calling for nuts can be made with seeds instead -- granola bars, trail mix, sandwich spreads etc.
- Watch out for peanut butter replacements made with soy. It's best not to overdo the soy due to its hormonal effects. If you're going to use them, make sure they're non-GMO. For a healthful alternative, try seed butters instead.
Kid-Friendly Snack and Lunch Ideas:
- Stews and chilis in a thermos - try Lemon Lentil Vegetable Soup, Autumn Orange Zest Tagine or Beanerific Chili.
- Make your own sandwich -- supply the basics and let kids choose from fillings.
- Veggieful Pasta
- Bean/Vegetable burgers - try Quinoa Chickpea Burgers or Buckwheat Sweet Potato Burgers.
- Chocolate Crispy Rice Squares
- Sweet Rolled Flax Balls
- Muci-licious Chocolate Pudding
- Apple Cinnamon Nut-Free Kale Chips
What are your fave go-to kids' lunches?