School is in! Or, for some, it’s right around the corner. While you are settling into new routines, get into the habit of packing a balanced, nutrient-dense lunch for your kids. This will set them up for success! I’ve seen it countless times in my practice – children who struggle in school can make a remarkable turn-around by simply plucking the junk food out of their diets and replacing it with healing, nutritious foods.
So this year, step away from the frozen, crustless pbj’s (unless you find an organic variety with sprouted grains) and commit to sending your child off to school with a balanced lunch!
3 steps to a balanced lunch
1. Aim for a 60-30-10 balance – 60% good carbohydrates, 30% quality protein and 10% healthy fats. Carbohydrates provide energy and fuel the brain. Protein builds muscle and stabilizes blood sugar levels. Healthy fats are crucial for vitamin absorption, provide steady fuel and have a protective effect on the organs.
2. Keep them hydrated. I sometimes add a splash of juice to my children’s water bottles for the added electrolytes and because the light fruity taste encourages them to drink more.
3. Don’t forget the healthy bacteria! Kids need cultured foods to keep their digestion balanced. Yogurt, kefir, water kefir or kombucha, cultured pickles & sauerkraut are all good choices. If they aren’t getting enough of these foods, supplement with a probiotic such as this one.
Mix-n-Match Ideas for a Balanced Lunch
Pack 60% Good Carbohydrates
Whole spelt or gluten-free pasta with sauce
Rice, “Nut-Thin” or other whole-grain, minimally processed crackers
*Carrots & celery with a yogurt-based ranch dressing
*Tomato and cucumber salad with a little olive oil & raw apple cider vinegar
Sliced kiwi & pomegranate seeds
Mango chunks (frozen ones thaw by lunch)
Apple slices (with a couple drops of lemon to slow oxidation)
Homemade muffins (multi-grain or gluten free)
*Date Energy Balls (such as these)
*N.B.J. – Sprouted bread with nut butter & raw honey (change it up – almond, cashew, hazelnut)
*Homemade granola bars (such as these no-bake blueberry chia bars)
Pack 30% Quality Protein
*Leftover chicken soup or chicken chili in a thermos
*Chunks of chicken (or shredded with a touch of bbq sauce)
Turkey roll-ups (sneak in some spinach)
*Egg muffins (such as these spinach & ricotta omelet muffins)
*A boiled egg, halved and sprinkled with sea salt
*Tuna or egg salad on sprouted or gluten-free bread or a whole-grain mini pita pocket
*Feta cheese (look for sheep feta) & olives
*Almond butter packets
*Sunflower seeds (with raisins and a few dark chocolate chips)
*Yogurt (plain, flavored with honey and berries)
*Baby Bell cheese
*Pack 10% Healthy Fats
I’ve put an asterisk next to foods above that contain a serving of fat. Any natural fat will provide satiety and slow-release energy, but try to include some omega 3’s specifically, for brain food.
Lunch foods high in omega 3’s: Tuna (choose light, not white, for less mercury), canned salmon, nuts & seeds, olive or walnut or flax oil drizzled on veggies or salad.
If you suspect your child isn’t getting enough omega 3’s, supplement with a fish oil such as this one. Make sure the supplement you choose includes the fatty acid DHA.
Bon appetit, kids!