Getting kids to eat properly in today's fast-paced, fast-food world is a huge challenge for us moms. With the school policies on no nuts and the fact that food has to stay unrefrigerated for 3 hours, you have to be very creative and resourceful to get your kids on healthy lunches. Yet, so much hangs in the balance if we fall short. Food will affect their bio-chemistry, energy level, ability to focus, and even their sense of self. If blood sugar levels are unstable, or if meals are not being digested, children will eventually be handicapped when it comes to reaching their potential. It is our privilege and responsibility as mothers to give our children the very best chances to succeed in life, and we do that by putting care and attention in the meals we serve.
Here are some clever tips for making healthier kids lunches:
1. Good Food Can Be Fast Food, Too.
For some kids, the most color in their lunch is on the logo of a "Twinkie" wrapper. As well, the excessive packaging in processed foods is an environmental nightmare! Make no mistake – just because some people know how to market to busy, multitasking women, does not mean what they're selling is ethical. Juice boxes, "Lunchables", mini crackers and cheese, and chocolate dips with cookies, all neatly packed and ready to send might be quick for you, but the long term consequences of these choices cannot be overlooked. The fastest food out there is an apple!
2. Insist a bit and be prepared for "Withdrawal"
Understand that many of the foods kids eat these days are physiologically addictive. You can actually think of your children as mini drug addicts, hooked on refined sugars, salty meats, cheeses, crackers, and many poor quality breads. You need to get them through their withdrawal! But be warned, Mom, you are going to need to get yourself through withdrawal too if these eating habits are reflective of your own unresolved patterns. Once you have decided you're going to do it, prepare for war! War against every bit of nutritional indoctrination you have ever been fed! When your children come to you protesting that they NEEEED those sausage links and cheese balls, when they tell you they HATE melon, celery and cucumber, simply smile and tell them you understand and that this, too, shall pass. They are in withdrawal! Persist and your children will be healthier, brighter, calmer, and clearer eyed than you have ever experienced. You will reap the rewards of transitioning your kids to a healthier diet soon. You will have the assurance of knowing that you are giving them the very best start in life you can, and that they will be thriving in those little bodies of theirs.
3. Don't Overdo A Good Thing: Treat Reduction = Increased Appreciation
Remember when 'treats' were a rare and special thing growing up?
I was talking to a lady who works in the grocery store where I shop. She calls me the GREEN QUEEN because they say my cart looks like a GARDEN. So, I mentioned something to the effect of “kids today get way too many treats”. Her reply was "Kids today don't get any treats". I was confused and asked her what she meant. She responded, "Kids today get whatever they want, whenever they want, so nothing is ever saved as a treat." Well said! This is a double rip-off because it means kids are missing out in more ways than one. GONE is the satisfaction that comes from longing for something special, having to wait until the right occasion, then achieving it and feeling how much more wonderful it is after having waited. Today, kids are missing out on this subtle pleasure, which is also the learned skill of waiting to delay gratification.
4. What To Put In Their Lunches?
Many schools have strict policies that packed lunches cannot include nuts. This means no garden burgers, patés, or desserts with any nuts or nut butters. PLUS, the food has to hold up for about three hours without a fridge. There go the avocados, too. Let's face it, school lunches are tough, but here are a few helpful suggestions:
- Loads of fresh fruit, berries
- Freshly grind sesame seeds and mix with a bit of honey
- Manna Bread: Sprouted grain breads and loaves
- Rice and sushi loaded with veggie strips
- All vegetable sticks
- A cool pack with a smoothie
- Bean salads (chick peas, sprouted lentils, etc.)
- Rice cakes
- Veggie paté
Don't feel guilty about keeping it simple. Let your kids' lunches be a beacon of color. Try including cute notes, loving messages, and little surprises in their lunches. Nothing is more beautiful than big slices of melon and fresh strawberries!
5. Slow Down, Mom! This One Counts!
I know how difficult it feels at times to keep all the plates spinning in the air with the busy lives we are living. If we do not have time to nurture our children by feeding them wholesome food, we set them up for all kinds of unnecessary, avoidable struggles and difficulties. It could then be considered that we are being remiss about the purpose and privilege we have to be raising children. We need to bring ourselves back to basics and get this right. Of all the things on your to do list, Mom, this one really is worth taking the time and making it happen the right way!
While you might be putting out a bit more time to put together your ecologically conscious, healthy school lunch, and while you may also have a bit of protest to get through in order to pull it off, the results will speak for themselves with a child who is calm, concentrated, has natural hunger, and whose body thrives on good food and mama's lovin'.
Image: Elana's Pantry