School is back and the never ending struggle to get out the door with clothes on, tummies full, and lunches packed all while being on time (*sigh*), has begun again! Often packing a healthy lunch is what falls to the wayside as we grab the quickest thing we can to get them to class and us to the rest of our day on time.
But feeding little ones well is so important to help them feel energized to stay focused in class, be active, grow up smart and strong, and develop healthy eating habits at a young age. Whoa, that is everything.
The Picky Eaters Challenge
Yes! Feeding kids a balanced diet can feel like a major struggle some times. It seems like all kids at one time or another are picky eaters. They go through phases of loving something one week then refusing to eat it the next. With the lunch packing routine back again, we wanted to share a little nutrition refresher and some suggestions on easy ways to pack healthy, simple lunches to give your kiddos the best shot at a great day!
What Should I Feed My Kids for Lunch?
Just like adults, kids need a rainbow of nutrition: a good mix of fruits, vegetables, protein, grains, fats, vitamins and minerals!
What Should I Avoid Feeding My Kids?
This is as important a question as what you should feed your kids. Just like adults, kids should keep salt, added sugar and unhealthy fats to a minimum. The first step is to try to eat whole foods or make everything from whole ingredients so you know exactly what you’re consuming and feeding your family. I know, I know: not so easy in real life!
The next (more realistic) step is to check your food and drink nutrition facts labels. For example, there are at least 61 names for sugar on food labels including sugar, corn syrup, agave, cane juice, sweetener, fructose, glucose, honey, and syrup. Unhealthy fats consist of trans fats and saturated fats like animal fats, dairy, and hydrogenated vegetable oils. Read the labels and find the best options you can.
Lunch Packing Time!
Grab your reusable food container and select a thing or two from each category to make a well-balanced, nutritious lunch. Want a quick visual check on if you’re keeping it balanced? Make sure your lunch has most of the colors from the rainbow and you are on the right track!
- Carrots, celery, and cucumbers have that crunch factor kids love. These also make great dipping vehicles for some of the proteins listed.
- Bite-sized tomatoes are all the rage with kids these days. They pop in your mouth just like grapes!
- Snap peas and bell peppers may be more on the adventurous side for your little one, but it’s worth a shot. Try sharing these veggies with a positive mindset and a big smile for maximum kid-liking potential.
- Kale chips or other veggie chips are great gateway vegetables. Usually vegetable chips are baked with a coating made from nuts that make them a super balanced snack.
- Grapes, apple slices, and mandarins are very kid friendly and a great snack before play!
- Berries have so many antioxidants, that help little bodies fight free radical germs from all the things they are exploring.
- Dried or freeze dried fruit adds a chip-like crunch with fiber and without added fats!
- Whole apple sauce (no sugar added) is a quick crowd-pleaser that should have only two or three ingredients to feel good about!
- Watermelon is hydrating, sweet, and makes everyone smile.
- Organic meat. Check labels to make sure you feel okay with the salt level and any preservatives used in lunch meats, otherwise consider cooking up some extra organic chicken one night and cutting it into thin slices for easy packing.
- Nuts are fun for snacking and go great in a trail mix with dried fruit.
- Nut butters are fantastic for dipping into. There is something so satisfying about dipping foods into other foods and there are some great to-go packets as well!
- Hard-boiled eggs are cheap and easy! Pre-peel them for less mess at school.
- Hummus is a great source of protein and if you make your own you can control the oil, salt and make a enough for the whole week! Also you can blend in vegetables (like carrots or spinach) for “color” aka sneaky nutrition.
- Bean dips from leftover beans at dinner. Just blend them up with a little water to get a texture perfect for dipping.
- Organic edamame is another fun one that some kiddos will love! For your younger ones, make sure they are shelled, for older kids let them peel their own!
- Organic popcorn is a nice snack that feels like a treat.
- Whole wheat cereals are fun for snacking and great for complex carbohydrates to keep them fueled for the day!
- Pancakes or waffles make fresher sandwich breads and feel more fun. Or if you have leftover batter you can bake mini muffins with fresh fruit or nuts for that fancy-feeling!
- Whole grain crackers are great for crunch and dipping into proteins!
Vitamins and Minerals
Don’t forget those essential vitamins and minerals. Try Yummi Bears Organics Complete Multi-Vitamin as the final touch in a nutritious, balanced lunch even your picky eater will love!
Set Limits on These
Fried chips with all those not-awesome salts and fats.
Fruit juices with (usually) loads of sugar. Best to get your sugar from whole fruits, since nature balances their sugar with fiber.
Pre-packaged foods unless you are checking the labels and feel good about the ingredients listed.