This piece is a part of a series of blogs for how to send your child back to school in a safe “Wildatarian” style.
With school right around the corner, you may be asking yourself “what do I pack for my child’s lunch?” Whether you have a picky eater or a child who is mesmerized by all the junk food the school cafeteria has to offer, it can be tough to pack something they will actually eat. I have learned both from my personal experience as a mother and from seeing many parents come through my practice that children will thrive on delicious healthy foods, but it takes education and a little disguising to make it work! When children are given nutrient-rich foods that their body can break down, they often start to crave the feeling of wellness more than the taste of the junk food. Many parents in my practice are amazed when their children begin to make healthy choices on their own at home and when out in social settings. Making small changes in their lunches can bring big improvements in both in their physical and academic performance. I have witnessed children struggling with below average academic performance transform into high-achieving, organized, and thriving learners!
Please enjoy the tips below for making your student’s lunches nutritious, delicious, and safe.
Packing Your Students Lunch:
The lunchbox you use is just as important as what goes in it. I have put together a list of chemical-free containers to keep your child safe.
- Use a lunch box that is BPA, PVC, and Lead Free. This cloth lunchbox is safe and comes in many different colors, or opt for something sturdier with this Stainless Steel option.
- Use glass containers to pack the food in your child’s lunch or you can buy reusable bags that are plastic-free and great for the environment as well.
- Many restaurants are doing away with plastic straws, so why not follow the trend and send your child to school with a metal straw.
Food for Thought:
Ditch the traditional sandwich and chips routine in favor of healthier (and just as delicious) ideas that your child will love. You may even pack one for yourself!
- If your child loves Peanut Butter and Jelly, try a Sunbutter and Strawberry sandwich on Sami’s Millet Flax Bread. Peanut butter is notorious for contamination with mycotoxins – byproducts of mold which can tax the immune system, and even impair mental health. Jelly is usually high in added sugars / food colorings and low in actual fruit – it can cause your child to crash during that important math test. The Sunbutter and Strawberry option cuts the gluten, sugar, and mold but is equally delicious.
- If your child loves Potato Chips, try Plantain Chips instead. Plantains are a natural gut healer and provide good vitamins that can help your child think better throughout the day. Choose chips made with healthy oils and give your child just the right crunch to go along with any meal.
- To replace a Lunchable, try my version with Cornish Game Hen and Manchego Cheese. While convenient, Lunchables are filled with harmful chemicals and sodium. Give your child the meat and cheese they love by shredding a Cornish Game Hen and cutting up chunks of Manchego Cheese. Even without the cool packaging, your child will be the envy of all their friends once they try this protein-packed combo.
- If your child loves Reese’s Cups, try Sun Cups. Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants and the healthy fat from the sunflower seeds will give your child the sweetness of dessert without the harsh additives found in conventional candy.
- To replace Fruit Juice, try Natural Fruit Water. Soak your child’s favorite fruit, like melon or berries in their water to give them the flavor they crave, but without the high sugar in store-bought juices. You can add some monkfruit sweetener or stevia drops at first until their taste buds acclimate to a less sweet beverage. Also, be cognizant of single-serving juice boxes – they are often lined with BPA, a notorious hormone disruptor.
- If you child loves Carrots and Ranch Dip, try Cucumbers and Hummus. Hummus may look unappealing to some kids, but once they try this protein-rich dip, they won’t be able to go back! Cucumbers are very hydrating to keep your kids going even through their active recess session.
- If your child loves Saltine Crackers, try Seaweed Snacks. Seaweed is a great source of iodine, which can help support a healthy thyroid. Children either love them or hate them, but the salty flavor and fun texture might just be the making of your child’s new favorite snack!
If you have a picky eater, don’t expect quick results. Point out how nourishing healthy food is and give them permission to choose what you pack in their lunch within your “Wildatarian” boundaries. This process can help them learn what foods taste and feel good to them and provide a feeling of empowerment and independence. Never force your child to eat if he or she is not hungry – this can cause them to misinterpret their own hunger signals. Be patient with new foods as you introduce them into your child’s diet. What they don’t like today may turn into their favorite food tomorrow!
One of your most important jobs as a parent is to empower your child to make healthy food choices; this is a skill they will benefit from for the rest of their life. It is never too early to introduce your child to the Wildatarian lifestyle – one which can bring them to a state of optimal health! My children are happy products of this approach and now as 20-somethings have become wonderful chefs making healthy food choices.
Stay tuned for next week’s article about healthy stress management habits for children!