Back to School Healthy Eating
Healthy eating and lunch ideas for kids
For weeks both parents and children have been preparing for the first day of school. And with everything from book bags to wardrobe purchased, there is one area that parents may have overlooked—preparing your kids for a healthy school year. Though schools have been cutting back on unhealthy meals and snack, it does not necessarily mean your child will be eating healthy foods. Whether you send off your first grader or high school senior, the same rules apply when it comes to eating right. Here, Co-founder of BeyondDiet.com and Nutritionist Isabel De Los Rios provides helpful tips to best prepare parents and students for a healthy school year.
What to Pack
“You want to be sure your child is fueled with the right combination of healthy protein, carbohydrates and fat to maintain energy levels, avoiding fatigue and cranky behavior,” explains Isabel.
Sample lunch ideas that include all three healthy macronutrients:
- Sprouted Whole Grain Bread (such as Ezekiel Bread) with almond butter and strawberry preserves along with cucumbers and baby carrots.
- Simply pack leftovers from the night before. Yes, many children have no problem eating things like meatballs, meatloaf and leftover chicken breast from last night’s dinner with their lunch. Add these delicious protein foods over a small salad. Add blueberries or grapes too.
- Turkey Rollups using nitrite/nitrate free deli meats (preferably organic)
- One scoop of hummus with baby carrots and cut up peppers
- Grilled Chicken Breast (leftover) over salad.
- Fresh fruit salad
Busy, active children need a lot of healthy fuel to support their needs throughout the day. Eating 3 meals a day, along with 2-3 snacks is a good general guideline. If children are eating more than that, they may not be getting enough food at each meal. If they keep telling you “I’m hungry”, encourage them to eat more filling foods at meals like natural proteins (beef, poultry, eggs fish) and healthy fats (avocados, olive oil, raw nuts).
Foods to avoid
The most dangerous foods for children, or for anyone for that matter, are highly processed foods containing vegetable oil, hydrogenated oils, sugar and colorings and additives. Unfortunately, these are the foods available to kids. We also need to be sure our children are not snacking on carbohydrates all day long. Typical snack foods like goldfish, pretzels and fruit snacks are all processed carbohydrates and may cause our children to feel a quick sugar high and then “crash and burn” later in the afternoon.
Wonderful snacks that are natural and contain a healthy balance of protein, carbs and fats include:
- Raw nuts and fresh fruit
- Hummus with baby carrots, cucumbers and peppers
- Trail Mix including almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and raisins
- Homemade granola bars using raw honey as the sweetener that you and your child can make together
- Freeze dried fruits or vegetables
- Natural almond butter or peanut butter on a sliced banana topped with raisins
- Homemade muffins or cookies made with wholesome almond flour or coconut flour instead of white flour
TIP: Allow children to get creative with healthy foods and that will increase the likelihood that they will eat them.
Berries are loaded with vitamin C, folate, fiber and phytonutrients. Fresh berries are some of the most powerful disease fighting foods available. Berries are a great option for dessert, a snack, or sprinkled on top of morning oatmeal.
Green vegetables such as kale, chard, collard greens, watercress, arugula, bok choy and dandelion greens are packed with vitamins A and C, iron, folate, beta-carotene, calcium and phytonutrients. They are very filling and high in fiber.
Whole organic eggs are a great source of choline, a B vitamin essential for brain development. Natural raised eggs are also high in Omega 3 fats, also brain boosting for both children and adults. Whole eggs are a great way to increase your child’s protein intake since most children love eggs and they can be prepared a variety of ways, hard boiled for snacking or scrambled for breakfast.
Raw Almonds and Walnuts
The fat found in nuts is mostly unsaturated fat, which has a beneficial effect on heart health. Walnuts in particular, are high in omega-3 fatty acids that are protective to the heart and circulation. Nuts are also good sources of dietary fiber, magnesium, copper, folic acid, protein, potassium, and vitamin E. Raw nuts are best as the salted varieties are usually cooked in unhealthy oils and unhealthy refined salt is added.
Grass Fed Beef
Grass fed beef is another great source of protein and B Vitamins, especially choline, for children. It is also a great source of niacin, zinc and iron. Grass fed beef is also very versatile and can be used for kid’s favorites like meatballs, burgers and meatloaf.