Balance – that elusive apple pie in the sky. Work, family, friends, exercise, phone calls, emails, soccer practice, walks with fido, drop-offs, pick-ups, party planning…it’s a precarious juggling act. Now that school’s back in session, making it through the year in one piece will require you to keep your family healthy starting with what they put in their mouth.
It clicked when I found out my Kindergartner get 10 minutes to eat and my grade schooler gets a whopping 20. If they’re standing in line for 10 minutes waiting in the lunch line, they’re practically jamming food down their gullet and swallowing it whole. If I don’t make every bit count, who will? And did they get to even wash their hands before they eat?
The sad reality is childhood obesity has grown to epidemic proportions, literally and figuratively. According to the Center for Disease Control, in the last 30 years, the prevalence of obesity has tripled. It’s not about being heavy. It’s about the chronic disease that can takes years from their otherwise healthy lives – heart disease, liver disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, sleep apnea – this list goes on.
It would be very easy to succumb to those non-descript, pre-packed wrapped lunch meals and neon-colored ‘phood’ snacks. But you know better than to slap that super processed, phony baloney onto your kid’s buns. You’ve bought them school supplies. Now get them food wise, starting with what’s for lunch. I mean, white bread and fluorescent snacks are so 1982.
5 Reasons Why Packing a Lunch For You and Your Family Makes So Much Sense (Cents):
- It’s bound to be cheaper than what’s on the menu
- No waiting in the lunch line, so they have time to chew
- You can clean your foods of bacteria, hormones and pesticide residue
- Peace of mind that their meal has been given the stamp of approval by you
- We hear packing a lunch is what the cool kids do
Save your wallets and waistlines by getting ahead of the yellow food bus with this 411 on lunchbox fun. Check out our great main events and super sides grown up enough for you AND your kid’s that pack a nutritious punch and take you through the week. Mama tested, kid approved.
- Roll on: Layer sliced chicken breast, lettuce or sprouts and chopped tomato onto a sprouted grain tortilla with a dab of stone ground mustard. Roll and slice into pinwheel pieces.
- Pita the Pocket: Fill a sprouted grain pita with tuna salad seasoned with lite mayo and studded with celery and raisins.
- Rasta Pasta Salad: With a vegetable peeler, create long ribbons of carrot and zucchini. Steam and add to brown rice pasta (let them pick their fave shape). Season with a little grated cheese and butter and heat up in the morning before they head out the door.
- Veggie Grilled Cheese: Cheddar, red bell pepper and steamed broccoli get cooked between two pieces of sprouted grain bread. Grill in an oil-free pan and use a Panini press and seal it all in for one-handed eating ease.
- Simple Sushi: Sushi rolls are no longer a snooty snack. Grab some Sea Snax olive oil toasted seaweed and roll up some vinegar-seasoned brown rice, avocado and cucumber hand rolls.
- The A+: Most classrooms are peanut free, so opt for almond butter and sliced apples onto a warm sprouted wheat tortilla and fold in half. Give it a quick glow in the pan for a nice nutty flavor. An A+ in our book!
Super Star Sides
- You don’t have to ‘sneak’ fruit and veggies into your meals anymore. Earthbound Farm have made getting your delicious daily dose of F+V a snap with organically grown pre-cut produce. Crisp apple slices from the sweetest apple varieties are harvested from premium organic orchards. Each 2oz bag equals about half an apple or one serving of fruit. Mini-Peeled Carrots & Carrot Dippers are an excellent source of vitamin A and other important antioxidant carotenoids, including beta carotene, alpha carotene, and lutein. Plus they’re great for your peepers. Packaged with organic creamy ranch dip. http://www.ebfarm.com/.
- Most muffins, or what I like to call booty breakfast cake, pack a whopping 400+ calories! All natural Vitalicious VitaTops give you all the flavor without in the kind of muffin top you can cuddle up to. At just 100 calories and a gram and a half of fat each they’re a guilt-free choice for a delicious midday snack or a lunchtime dessert. Plus they contain 9 grams of fiber 4 grams of protein. Because they don’t contain any preservatives, keep them frozen and by lunchtime your VitaTop is thawed and ready to eat. Top that! www.vitalicious.com.
- Here’s the new skinny on crunchy snacks. Pretzel Crisps are a tasty, thin, all-natural flat-baked pretzel and the world’s first spreadable pretzel cracker. At only 110 calories per serving with no trans fats, saturated fat, or cholesterol, they’re packed with fiber and flavor that can handle the dip or stand alone on their own. Deli Style, available in the deli section of stores of course, and Modern Classic varieties. Savory and sweet varieties include Sesame, Garlic Parmesan, Tuscan Three Cheese and Cinnamon Toast (yum, it’s like a churro but without the guilt). Dig in. www.pretzelcrisps.com.
- The iconic moo cow just puts a smile on your face. Horizon organic single serve milk comes in a variety of flavors – plain, chocolate, strawberry and vanilla – packed with calcium and protein to power through the day. Cheese sticks in both Colby and Mozzarella flavors couldn’t be easier to pack. Horizon Organic believes that the choice for a healthy family and a healthy planet should be an easy one, offering nutritious products for families while supporting 500 family farmers across the U.S. Raised without antibiotics or hormones, happy cows make happy humans. http://www.horizondairy.com/.
- Fruit is sprayed, waxed, trucked, touched and plucked by over 20 sets of hands. A quick flash through the faucet just ain’t gonna’ cut it. Eat Cleaner Fruit + Vegetables Wipes are a uniquely formulated to kill bacteria, clean wax, pesticides, agricultural dirt and fertilizer from the surface of your fruit to make it safer and healthier to eat. Even fruit with a peel should be cleaned before you remove it. Individually wrapped, slip one into your lunchbox and encourage the kids to clean their hands before they eat, since grimy hands can transmit bacteria. www.eatcleaner.com.
5 more pennies for your thoughts:
- Make a list and buy it twice. Take our tips, make your list and head to the store on the weekend and buy 2 weeks worth of supplies, twice a month so you’re stocked up. Being prepared is half the sanity battle.
- Have them do the work. Get kids involved in shopping with you and making their own healthy lunches. The connection to picking and making food builds a foundation for good eating habits and teaches them responsibility. Have them make one for you while they’re at it. It’ll save you $5-10 bucks a day which could go to your vacation fund or a non-profit you’ve been meaning to donate to.
- The night before. Prepare lunchboxes the night before and put them in an insulated lunch box to keep them cool longer. Add in an ice-pack if food is sitting for more than 3 hours.
- Chemical free is the way to be. Always opt for BPA and thalate-free plastic storage containers. Kid’s Konserve makes a great reusable water bottle and the Bento boxes at Pottery Barn make you want to pick one up for yourself!
- Lunch love notes. Slip them a caring, thoughtful note that lifts their spirits at lunchtime and let’s them know you care. That little bit-o-love satiates a deeper appetite and will make them look forward to what’s in the bag.
You can get in front of the garbage food bus and protect your plates. When you take the wheel, you help chart their destiny and lead them down the right food lane. Because you better believe, they’re like little sponges absorbing what you dish out.
Mareya Ibrahim, Chief Executive Mom of EAT CLEANER, and the founder of The Cleaner Plate Club is a natural foods industry veteran and food safety education advocate based in Orange County, CA. www.eatcleaner.com