Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Packing Healthy Lunches For Kids

By Marcie Barnes

I was pleasantly surprised today to see
this article from a Rochester, MN's newspaper with some great tips on packing healthy lunches. Here are some of the highlights:

Don't focus on packing a "meat" sandwich. (Avoid processed lunch meats.) - The article suggests vegetables, tofu, cheeses, and beans as substitutes. Some ideas that came to mind here were a hummus wrap with veggies, nut butter and fruit on whole wheat bread, A southwestern style wrap with refried beans, salsa & lettuce (or this
unique recipe), or a "grilled" cheese that incorporates tofu. (In a lunchbox I would toast the bread with cheese and tofu open-faced so it has a chance of staying crisp till lunch).

• Some of the best foods for a child are the most portable. This section talks about nuts. Unfortunately, my son's school does not allow nuts of any kind, and I am sure that is the case in a lot of places. I try to find snacks such as soy chips and
spirulina cookies instead, and from time to time I give him almond milk to give him the healthy nut benefits.

• Eliminate sugary snacks and processed foods. - Hallelujah! The article suggests: fruit with peanut butter, vegetables with a low-fat dip, high-fiber cereals and low-fat cheeses. I'm not a big fan of low-fat for kids, as long as they are good fats. It's funny, pediatricians recommend whole milk for two years because it is needed for brain development,
among other things - well, don't they still need fat for cell & brain development after two? This article says yes. I'm on the fence as to whether animal fats (specifically dairy) are in the "good" category - so I limit them, and supplement with fish oils.

• Make sure to pack foods that are rich in nutrients and offer a number of health benefits. This section is a little vague, but the sentiment is important. When I hear "rich in nutrients" I think - as fresh as possible and as raw as possible. I know "raw" and kids don't always go together, but make sure your child doesn't keep eating baby food all their life either. Some great raw foods for kids include: salsa, hummus, cole slaw (easy on the sugar!), cucumbers, celery, fresh fruit, and yogurt. Try to steam veggies as lightly as possible. One of my favorite things to do is make a "crunchy" veggie chili consisting of three-bean chili mix, onions, red and green bell peppers (lightly cooked) and sprouted beans tossed in at the end so they stay crunchy.

More great resources for healthy lunchboxes:

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