Leaders of the Packed
The first day of school represents more than just the embarkation of your child’s academic journey. Yes, there are new things to learn, skills to master and goals to achieve but it’s also important to remember your child’s mind is not the only thing getting bigger… they are too! No one wants their child to merely survive, you want them to thrive, and that starts with adequate nutrition. You may be able to prepare them for almost everything: freshly sharpened pencils, an endless supplies of neon highlighters, Lightening McQueen folders, Star Wars notebooks, Cinderella backpacks and anything else you can buy in the back to school section at Staples, but unless they are prepared to stay energized throughout the day they are merely objects, not the tools that will help them excel.
By now, we are aware of how preservative-, trans-fat-, sodium- and high-fructose corn syrup- laden all of the processed foods once infiltrating lunch boxes are, but kids still want these familiar tasting foods and we want the simplicity and ease of simply tossing items into a lunchbox. One thing is for certain: they definitely don’t want to be different than their peers who are still eating these chemically processed foods. We now know that these foods will only slow down your child, physically and academically, as well as contribute to the rising childhood obesity epidemic unfortunately sweeping the nation. At the end of the day, kids want what other kids are having, but whether its food allergies or adequate nutrition on your mind, you know you can’t send your kid off to school with those foods in their packed lunches. There are so many factors to keep in mind when you’re packing your child’s lunch- it needs to be fun and engaging, delicious, and healthful. There are a few things we need to tackle, so let’s start with food allergies.
As I mentioned in Allergies: A to Z, the number of children suffering from food allergies is on the rise- eight percent of children until age 18 have a food allergy (that’s one in 12!). The most common food allergies include peanuts, milk, eggs, wheat and tree nuts, and they the peanut allergy has become so severe that some schools have started banning peanuts all together. It may take an excel sheet with pivot tables and pie charts to keep track of which friend can’t eat what at the lunch table or the classroom food policies, so why not be proactive and pack a school lunch that won’t land you in allergy detention?
Passing on Peanuts:
Does your child love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Try a peanut-free alternative like SunButter, which is made from sunflower seeds. Healthy homemade trail mixes can always been a tough one to tackle but are great snacks, try pumpkin and sunflower seeds mixed with dried fruit and flaked coconut instead of store bought trail mixes which not only have peanuts but tons of sugary chocolate. Here are some of my favorite peanut free packaged foods:
- Snackers crackers- seedlander (free of peanuts and tree nuts)
- Enjoy Life soft baked cookies (nut and gluten free)
- Trader Joe’s Soft-baked Snickerdoodles (free of all of the 8 common allergies)
Peanuts may be the most dangerous and common food allergy but one of the trickier food sensitivities is excluding eggs especially since mayonnaise is a popular condiment, try switching to hummus or honey mustard in your turkey cucumber wraps (whole wheat of course) or sandwiches (have you seen this adorable whole wheat goldfish shaped bread by Pepperidge Farms?). Also these Kidekals water-restistant, washable, personalized labels are great for informing others of your kids allergies.
Aside from allergies, our biggest concern is providing healthful lunches and snacks that will give your kids the energy they need to make it through the day. Studies show that if you equip your children with healthy food to eat at school, they will be better prepared to study and learn. And it’s not all serious- lunch making can be a fun activity as well as a great way for kids to feel independent. Before we get into some specifics, some general suggestions to healthfully spice up your kids lunch box are swapping whole grains for refined, simple carbohydrates and trying flavored drinks or waters without added sugars in place of sodas and sugary juices.
|GoGo sqeeZ applesauce: individual sized, mess free, 100% real fruit and no sugar added. And its fun!||Motts Apple Sauce or any apple sauce with added sugar and tons of preservatives|
|Annie’s Homegrown Organic Bunnies: the perfect fun snack that are baked with no artificial ingredients. Comes in a variety of flavors, whole wheat and pretzels!||Cheez-It Crackers and Teddy Grahams (they have partially hydrogenated oils eventhough they claim to have 0 g of trans fats)|
|Pirates Booty, Lentil Chips, Hummus Chips, 365 Soy Crispettes or Pop Chips: all of these come in a ton of flavor combinations and are never friend. They have more fiber, are all-natural and have less fat than regular potato chips.||Any potato chip!|
|Stretch Island Fruit Company and Annie’s fruit bites are great ways for your kids to enjoy anywhere from ½ to 1 whole serving a fruit naturally and with no sugar added.||Fruit by the foot or fruit roll ups (they all have tons of high fructose corn syrup or heaps of added sugar).|
|Horizon Organic low moisture, part skim string cheese.||Polly-O string cheeses (or any non organic, part skim string cheeses) because they contain food coloring and preservatives.|
And all the while, your kid has to have the coolest lunch box in class; Parenting brings us the 12 best kids lunch boxes that are too adorable (and environmentally friendly) for words!