My Big Girl started Kindergarten last week. It is one of those moments that you look forward to with enthusiasm but also fear deeply within.
On the first day of school, my Big Girl was very brave. Unusually quiet, with a very serious look on her face, she was trying hard not to show her anxiety. I’m so proud of her! And I, (sigh) well I was determined to appear as cheerful as possible, while holding down tears and taming those restless butterflies in my stomach.
The good news is – we’ve survived last week; but this week we’re faced with different challenges and dilemmas. One of them is my Big Girl’s school lunch and, the other, her lunch box.
Since I got rid of every plastic container in the house, I had to go shopping for healthier alternatives. I was looking for a food container that includes no BPA, no phthalates, no melamine, no PVC and no god-knows-what toxic chemicals we’ve been trying to steer clear of.
Today, I found a super cute LunchBots lunch box. It’s actually perfect. It’s made from stainless steel and contains none of the bad stuff (no PVC, no BPA, no phthalates, lead, or melamine). You can buy it here (I’m an Amazon affiliate so if you buy the lunch box through my link, I’ll get some change. Thank you!)
The lunch box dilemma was an easy fix. But frankly, what will we do with her lunch box content? What to pack? How can I best meet my kid’s nutritional needs? How about some help?
Here is some expert advice from Sue Gilbert, a consulting nutritionist, who for many years worked with Earth’s Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and product development.
“A lunch to get kids through a busy afternoon should contain: An excellent source of protein, such as low fat turkey breast, hard-boiled egg, low fat cheese, tofu, or peanut butter. Protein has the effect of not only supporting tissue growth and maintenance, it also helps keep them alert. A meal of all carbohydrates can induce drowsiness, which just compounds the effects of naturally lower biorhythms that occur in mid-afternoon. It should contain a source of complex carbohydrates for time released energy, and a source of fat for staying power. It should also have a cup of calcium rich milk or fortified soy milk. The fat content of the lunch should not be so low that hunger will set in long before dinner, but it should be low enough to be healthy. Although the jury is still out on the optimum fat content for kid’s diets, I suggest that you try to aim for a diet that contains 20 to 25 percent fat. Thirty percent fat is a generous allotment and is the maximum amount suggested.
The following may be a useful guideline to follow when packing lunch:
• 1 cup milk, or one container of yogurt (or the money to purchase)
• Generous amounts of complex carbohydrates (e.g. sandwich bread, bagel, crackers, graham crackers, fruit)
• Moderate serving of high quality protein (e.g. tuna salad, low fat cheese, sliced sandwich meats or leftover meat from dinners, peanut butter)
• A small amount of fat for a long lasting source of energy (e.g. peanut butter, nuts, avocado, or homemade healthy treats that contain fat such as a muffin)
• A bonus to get them to eat at lunch is a piece of fruit or some fresh veggies.
Translating this into examples would look like this:
1. Bagel with peanut butter, milk money, apple
2. Tuna salad on whole wheat, baby carrot sticks, homemade cookies, milk money
3. Hard-boiled egg, muffin, banana, milk money
4. Tortilla rolled up with low fat turkey breast low fat cheese, and lettuce, bag of nuts and raisins, milk money
Remember that a school lunch is often eaten in haste, in an atmosphere of noise and chaos. It is not a place that is conducive to slow, relaxed enjoyment of food. Therefore, I suggest you do your best to be sure that kids eat the most important items, the protein and the carbohydrate, and feel thankful if some fruits and vegetables are eaten too. Save the calm setting of dinner to try and catch up on the day’s necessary servings of fruits and vegetables that were not fulfilled in breakfast, snacks, or lunch.
Lunch should definitely not include much, if any, sugary foods. When kids are short on time, they may go for sugary foods first, leave the sandwich, and then suffer a major let down a couple of hours later when the sugar boost has worn off. If you do include treats, try to make them treats that carry some nutrition, such as homemade quick breads or muffins like banana or pumpkin bread, or oatmeal cookies with raisins. Other foods to avoid are those that are highly processed, without much nutritional value such as bags of potato chips, highly refined crackers or cracker type foods (stick to whole wheat crackers), candy, cookies, ‘fruit’ type treats such as gummy bears, etc., non-juice drinks like Kool-Aid or sodas, or iced tea.”
Here’s to healthy lunches for all your boys and girls!
Are you concerned about the nutritional value of the school lunches? Would you prefer for your children to take their lunches instead of eating the school meals? What are your thoughts and experience?
I was contacted by a few readers pointing out that having a child who’s allergic to peanuts seriously complicates the what to pack for lunch process.
Frankly, I’ve never really given much thought to this, since, thankfully, my children do not have any allergies. So I can imagine that living with a peanut allergy must be very hard. Peanuts are versatile, a nutritious source of protein, and, worst of all, they’re everywhere. Fortunately, there are some completely nut-free peanut butter alternatives. Look for SunButter products. They’re made in the US from sunflower seeds and without hydrogenated oil or added sugars and salts.
SunButter’s nutritional value compared to peanut butter (per 2 tbsp serving):
- One-third less saturated fat
- 27 percent of a day’s recommended allowance of vitamin E
- More iron
- More fiber
- Same amount of protein
Here’s the product description from their website:
Sources for this article: http://www.ivillage.com/pregnancy-parenting
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