by Nancy Mehagian
Thanks to Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution, healthy lunches for kids in schools have become a hot topic and it’s about time. With childhood obesity and diabetes on the rise in a country with so much abundance, it’s a crime that our kids are not healthier, especially when natural foods are readily available and simple to prepare.
With many of our kids in school full-time, we all need to start thinking about how we are going to nourish them so they can, as Oprah would say, become their best selves—healthy, attentive and energetic. It’s impossible for any person to be healthy if they are not eating healthy foods.
I highly recommend getting an insulated lunch bag or using freezer packs for perishable foods. A thermos is always good for keeping soup, stew or chili warm during winter months. Variety is an important factor in preparing healthy lunches for kids in school – would you want to eat the same thing each and every day? Take kids shopping so they can choose things they like so they will be more likely to eat what you pack for them. Even better, allow them to help out in the kitchen, giving them a sense of pride that they actually helped prepare their own meal.
Here are ten tips I hope will help with packing your child’s healthy lunch (please be sure that you are aware of your school’s rules relating to peanuts and other allergens):
- Every lunch needs to contain some quality protein like sliced turkey, sliced or cubed cheese or individually wrapped string cheese or even hard-boiled eggs. (Don’t forget the salt.)
- Use whole grain bread, whole grain bagels or whole wheat pita for sandwiches and throw in wraps made of whole wheat tortillas for some variety. Use cookie cutters to make sandwiches into different designs or prepare small tea sandwiches.
- Fruit smoothies can have all kinds of healthy additions like frozen fruits, yogurt, soy milk and nut butters. Kept in a thermos, they are a wonderful refresher on warm days.
- Add different types of small veggies each day—carrots, celery, jicama, sugar snap peas, edamame and tear drop tomatoes are great with hummus or any of the other wonderful bean dips.
- Include whole fruit or a chunky fruit salad with some Greek yogurt or peanut butter for dipping.
- Kids like to graze throughout the day so pack some energy pick me ups, such as almonds, walnuts, cashews, raisins or dried cranberries or a nice trail mix.
- Don’t forget to use yesterday’s leftovers. You can even change them up with a skewer and make a kabob. If it’s chicken, cut up the pieces and add such items as cheese cubes or veggies.
- Bean and cheese burritos are easy to make at home with healthy tortillas and refried beans and can be eaten hot or cold.
- Pasta salads are also excellent choices made with whole grain, fresh vegetables and a protein.
- Seal the lunch with love. Kids, no matter what age, love a personal note as a surprise in the middle of the day
What are you kids favorite things to bring for lunch? Let us know in the comments below.
About the Author: Nancy Mehagian teaches gourmet cooking classes and has been a health practitioner in Los Angeles for over thirty-five years. She opened the first vegetarian restaurant on the island of Ibiza and is the author of the award-winning culinary memoir, Siren’s Feast: An Edible Odyssey. She lives in the Studio City with her dogs, Cisco, Buddha and Ringo. An exciting and innovative collection of healthy, tasty and easy to prepare foods that introduces and encourages mindful eating for junior chefs, The Supernatural Kids Cookbook is available in print from Huqua Press and on all digital e-reader platforms from Premier Digital Publishing. With a foreword from Bridget Fonda and over 70 innovative, easy to prepare recipes to choose from, a portion of the proceeds from The Supernatural Kids Cookbook benefits Jeff Bridges’ End Hunger Network. Website: http://supernaturalkidscookbook.com/