Thursday, May 5, 2011

Kids lunches

Earlier this week I posted about being “that mom” and sending unusually healthy lunches to “school” with Kai. I say unusually healthy because of what I noticed most of the other kids eating. I only have to send lunch two days a week for Mothers Morning Out, and half the time Lee ends up having to pack it because I am too tired to pack it the night before. I completely understand packing an “easy lunch.” However, we have really tried to put a little more effort into it. Here are some ways you can quickly swap out some of the easy foods for healthier alternatives:

Containers: Find a good reusable lunch container. There are some really great options out there. Everything from BPA free to insulated to separate containers. Another option is reusable sandwich and snack bags. They range quite a bit in price but usually one bag costs the same as a months’ worth of plastic bags. I am trying to buy one each month instead of buying another box of Ziploc bags.

Bread: We have always used whole wheat but I am still amazed at how many grownups prefer white. Kids eat what they are taught. Make sure you buy bread made from “whole grains” not just wheat. Look for brands that contain no high fructose corn syrup and contain little or no added sugar. Better yet, make your own!

Juice: If you are going to send juice, send a thermos of 100% fruit juice instead of sugar-filled, expensive juice boxes.

Fruit: Instead of fruit snacks, send real fruit. It tastes better, is more nutritious, is more filling, and does not contain artificial colors and flavors. Produce like grapes, apples, and oranges have a longer shelf life so they can be bought ahead of time for lunches.

Snacks: Send crackers for chips. Look for whole grain baked crackers. Goldfish and Pepperidge Farm both have whole grain, healthier choices. Goldfish rainbow colors now uses all natural fruit and vegetable extracts for their colors.

PBJ: Almond, pecan, and cashew are great alternatives to peanut butter and less allergenic. Watch the sugar content of jellies.

Vegetables: There often are not any in most kids’ lunches! Add tomato and spinach leaves to turkey sandwiches. Send carrot sticks and hummus (Kai requests this often!). We love putting sweet cherry tomatoes in his lunch…and they never come back uneaten.

Dessert: Store-bought, processed snack cakes and pastries are full of some of the worst ingredients. I honestly do not send a dessert. Some healthier suggestions are JellO pudding cups or Greek yogurt with fruit. However, pudding cups are filled with preservatives and alternative sweeteners. Yogurt often contains tons of added sugar. I do not think Kai even knows what the word dessert means. Occasionally he wakes up asking for ice cream!! but that is about the only dessert he knows…and he usually only gets it for snacktime on the weekends.

Adapted from:  Healthy Lunch Box Swaps that are Good for Your Kids

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