It is that time of year when we send the kiddies back to school and that also means in most cases, sadly, back to sugar and junk. The school lunch system in this country is so broken and so filled with cheap processed and sugar and carb laden “foods” that my suggestion is to just send lunch with your child from home if possible. Why the lunch system is so broken is another blog for another day. SO with that being said, lets talk about some ideas to pack lunches that are not going to make your child sick and hinder their learning abilities.
Before we look at lunch, lets chat about breakfast. Most parents are busy and working and on a budget and need fast inexpensive ideas for breakfast. That usually leads to a breakfast filled with sugar. Or just as bad, CARBS which turn to sugar once eaten. It is critical to remember that when you start your day with a carb laden breakfast, you are setting yourself up for a day of blood sugar spikes and falls, hunger, fatigue, crankiness, and more. Oh and the same goes for your kids.
To give them the best shot at good grades and good health, you have to start with breakfast. If you are giving your kids cereal, oatmeal, cream of wheat, toast, breakfast bars, or even worse, pop tarts or toaster pastries of any kind, JUST PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL STOP! And here is where you say “oh I am doing super healthy cereal like Cheerios or Granola.” SO here is a reality check for you. Every four grams of carbs not offset by fiber converts to a tsp of sugar in the body. You can eat a bowl of white table sugar, or you can eat a bagel, cereal, toast, oats, grits, or any other supposedly healthy starch.
Think back to those commercials from childhood with Tony the tiger and the idea of a great breakfast. It was pretty much all sugar, except the milk.
Orange juice- pure sugar. Toast- pure sugar. Cereal- pure sugar. This entire meal, once consumed will convert to sugar. This is not going to give your child a chance for a healthy day or a happy day or a day of learning. The only thing that gets healthy with a meal like this is the wallets of the very powerful sugar and corn and grain growers and manufacturers. Try a breakfast packed with protein and fiber and vitamins instead.
Some great options for breakfast are omelets with meat and cheese and veggies and maybe some fruit on the side. Not fruit juice but a piece of fruit or some berries. In a hurry? try a couple of boiled eggs and a banana. Bacon or sausage and scrambled eggs is actually a pretty quick breakfast. Another option I love is egg cups. Check out a million different recipes on Pinterest. Basically you take a cupcake tin and spray it and put a meat/protein on bottom, then throw a few chopped veggies and some cheese in and then crack an egg in each tin and season the top and bake. These also keep well for a few days in the fridge so you can make a dozen on Sunday and have breakfast for the kids and yourself for a few days. I cannot tell you how often we will pop two of these in the microwave on the way out the door on a busy day. Breakfast burritos and breakfast pizzas made with low carb tortillas and breads are also delish. Options are out there that are made with REAL food and not processed boxed junk. We just have to make finding these a priority. Google low carb breakfast for kids and look at the options. If you are really in a time pinch, buy a protein powder that is low carb and low sugar and give your kids a healthy protein shake. Some of the best brands out there for taste and numbers are Quest or the one we carry with Plexus. Stay away from high sugar drinks masking as healthy like Ovaltine or the other breakfast drink mixes out there. They are just chemical laden sugar and carb filled junk.
So now that we have some good options for breakfast, let’s move on to what you can pack in your child’s lunch to keep them healthy and alert and feeling good all day. There are two things to avoid at all costs, and they are in almost 60% of school lunches brought from home for kids aged 5-12. Lunchables and juice boxes. Lets look first at the kid friendly and kid-approved Lunchable. This is literally a box of chemicals and fat and sugar and salt. Grab one and read the label. Read the total sugar and total carb counts and it will likely be more than a days worth of sugar and remember that those grams of carbs convert to sugar also. What makes these little packages even more offensive is the idea that this is just not real food. Yes it is cheap and quick, but it is not suitable for your child to consume. In fact it is so bad that if you read the book Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss, you can hear from the man who invented this fake food and how his own kids don’t even eat them.
There is just no way to find a way to call this hot mess food. And of you wonder why your kids love these little things so much, again I will refer you to the book Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss.
Processed food creators know that any food that has the magic combo of salt, sugar, and fat is irresistible to our brains. This combo and especially sugar lights up the same places in the brain that are lit up by herion and cocaine. Would you give your kids either of those? I didn’t think so, and this is a whole different blog in and of itself also. Just say no to these processed boxed foods for your kids’ sake.
The second one that you should really avoid is the ever popular juice box. I don’t care if it is organic, no sugar added, all natural, or 100% artificial, it is all pure sugar and your kids don’t need it, nor do the poor underpaid teachers who have to deal with your cranky sugared-up kids all day. Send them with water, naturally flavored water. Teas sweetened with Stevia and things like that. Plain milk is always good and not the chocolate sugary kind. Try and send something that is not loaded with sugar. Use the water enhancement drops with water and create fruit punch that has no sugar. There are so many options that will not be harmful to your child’s health out there these days. Plain bottled water is always the best, or a thermos of plain water. Remember these kids are not born craving this junk from birth, we make them this way via social engineering and exposure to media and our not so great choices. But I am not blaming parents for the bad choices. There are so many advertisements and ads calling their products all-natural and organic and gluten free that many parents THINK they are doing a great job. But I am here to educate you and once you know better, you do better.
There are some better choices for the lunch-boxes. Let’s first look at some awesome bread options. If ever Joseph’s Bakery goes out of business, I think I will cry! They have a line of low carb pitas, flatbreads and lavash breads that we literally use every day in our home. They are very inexpensive and can be purchased at most major grocers. If yours does not carry them, ask them to start! You can also order them online here. They are so incredibly versatile. Kids love pinwheels and pitas. So use these to make healthy lunches that are not loaded with sugar and carbs hat will leave them sluggish in the afternoon. Fiber and protein will keep them full longer and also keep their blood sugar levels more balanced which means better concentration and more energy. Oh and these lavash breads make amazing thin crust pizzas! The options are literally endless and you can get 2-3 wraps per slice of lavash bread.
Instead of a lunchable, try one of these Lavash wraps. Let your child choose fresh fruit at the supermarket and add that. Raw veggies like cherry tomatoes and carrots and broccoli served with hummus or ranch dip are always fun as are slices of cheese and fruit. Remember to use real fruit, not the fruit cups that are packaged and processed. Use real cheese and not the processed American slices or the Velveeta type cheese foods. It is quick and easy to make your own versions of the Lunchable type meal with real food.
Throw in a handful of mixed nuts like almonds and cashews and walnuts and you have an amazing lunch that is packed with nutrients and not packed with chemicals and added sugars. Kids love textures and finger foods which is part of the draw to the Lunchables. Creating the same thing in a healthy way at home does not take much time at all. Boiled eggs are always a great go to as are pickles and olives and chickpeas. Take the time to introduce your kids to real food and find out what their favorites are and then making healthy lunches will not seem like such an overwhelming task!
Just remember to keep it real and keep it low in sugar and low in processing and you will be fine! I am always happy to answer any questions about kids and nutrition! Have a great year!