I find many of my clients struggle to find easy ways to feed their children healthy food, especially for school lunches. It’s easy to make a sandwich, throw in a packet of crisps, a chocolate bar and a token piece of fruit, but this is leading to hyperactivity, malnutrition, decreased concentration and therefore decreased learning capability.
In my opinion there is no such thing as ‘children's food’. Food is food. Intolerances and allergies aside, we are all designed to eat the same food. Children don’t need sugary snacks or juices! If anything, it’s even more important that they eat real food as they are growing and setting themselves (cells, body and mind!) up for life. If they are malnourished while growing, they are going to struggle to achieve optimal health when they’re an adult which could increase the risk of chronic diseases.
‘Which?’ magazine analysed the nutritional content of a range of items targeted by leading manufacturers at children’s lunch boxes and found that in a single lunch box there could be the equivalent of 12 teaspoons of sugar! That’s in ONE meal!! One common children's drink, Robinsons Fruit Shoot, contains 23g of sugar, thats the equivalent to FIVE teaspoons of table sugar!! They seem to be sold everywhere and I see so many children drinking them!! Then add in the chocolate bar, bread, sweets, cereal bars etc and you can see how it all adds up - including the calories. This is leading to childhood obesity, illnesses, dental problems and we are now seeing young children with diabetes.
So, what to do - we need try and reduce the high sugar lunch for a lunch that will be nourishing, tasty and keep your little ones focused during an afternoon’s learning. I understand that completely switching a child's lunchbox from a sandwich, crisps and sugary drinks and snacks to a chicken salad with quinoa wont happen over night! They are addicted - to sugar - so it means small steps, subtle changes, patience from parents, and inspiring recipes.
The first thing I recommend is getting a lunch box with lots of little compartments,or lots of little pots that fit into a large lunchbox! This will mean you can give lots of different types of food (dips, fruit, yoghurt etc) without them all mixing into one! So, just like I recommend to my adult clients, I would make sure there is always some good quality protein, essential fats and phytonutrients in every meal. Phytonutrients could mean salad, vegetables and/or fruit.
Protein sources- meat, fish, nuts (but usually can’t take into schools), seeds, eggs, quinoa, beans, lentils
Essential fats- seeds, eggs, avocado, chia seeds, coconut oil, oily fish, flaxseeds
Phytonutrients- fruits, vegetables, salads
Some great lunchbox additions (choose 4 in total)-
One of (main protein source)-
- Homemade burger- no bun, topped with mashed avocado and tomato
- Chicken breast- cooked in herbs and spices, chopped up into bite sized pieces.
- Sweet potato bread http://bit.ly/1NBZLWk
- Quinoa salad
- Brown rice salad
- Hummus and rice cakes
- Tuna sandwich- mix tuna with olive oil, 1 teaspoon of chia seeds and herbs. The chia seeds stop the bread from going soggy. I would recommend either rye bread or sourdough bread.
- Halloumi- fry off a few of pieces of halloumi and chop into bitesized pieces and serve with roasted vegetables and/or quinoa.
- Homemade veggie burgers- made from beans and lentils
- Courgette and corn fritters- simply mix grated courgette and corn with eggs and a small amount of brown rice flour and fry off until cooked.
- Eggs cooked in vegetables- peppers are great. Cut peppers in to 4 rings and place into a frying pan. Crack one egg in each. Cover and cook until done. You could also do this with half an avocado but bake in the oven.
- Nut/seed butter sandwich- using rye or sourdough bread. Pumpkin seed butter (or other seeds), or nut butter if it’s aloud at the school (almond, cashew, natural peanut etc).
- Flask of warm soup, chilli, curry etc- if it’s cold and you have some left over from the night before, warm up in a saucepan while everyone’s getting ready in the morning and place into a thermos flask. It will still be hot at lunch!
- Egg ‘mayo’ sandwich- mash up boiled egg with avocado. Even if your child doesn’t like avocado, they won't notice it! Serve on rye or sourdough bread.
Two of (main phytonutrient source)-
- Cucumber filled with tahini or pumpkin seed butter- cut a cucumber in half and scrape out the seeds. Fill with a seed butter (or nut butter if your school allows). You can also top it with grapes.
- Fun shaped vegetables- make vegetable more fun and buy a few cutters of different shapes (flowers, dinosaurs etc). Cut cucumber, carrot, pepper, feta, cooked sweet potatoes etc.
- Smoothie- this can contain anything but hiding some kind of greens would be great! Banana, berries, spinach, and coconut water is always a favourite!
- Fresh fruit- chop it up so it is easy to eat, or use berries which are tasty, colourful and easy to eat!
- Raw vegetable sticks to dip into hummus/guacamole
- Fresh vegetable juice- mainly vegetables but some fruit to sweeten. Eg. apple, celery, cucumber, lemon.
One of (treat!)-
- Energy balls- recipe on my website http://bit.ly/1PzTPuh
- Homemade granola bar- using nuts and seeds and sweetened naturally http://bit.ly/1WTN5gn
- Homemade flapjack- using jumbo rolled oats and naturally sweetened
- Nakd bar- sold in supermarkets
- Greek, natural, unsweetened yoghurt- sweeten yourself with honey, 100% maple syrup and/or fruit, possible serve with homemade or natural granola.
- Homemade, natural muffins- naturally sweetened
- Homemade cookies- naturally sweetened
- Homemade brownie- naturally sweetened
- Bounce ball- sold in Holland and Barrets, Ocado, Waitress and online
- Pulsin bar- sold online
ALWAYS- water!! You could also add some coconut water if they want a sweet drink.
As you can see, there are lots of options! And they taste pretty good too :-) Obviously, most of these will take a bit longer than a quick sandwich, crisps and chocolate bar, but if you’re organised and prep at the weekend or just make sure everything is in the fridge, it’s not that much effort. After all, your kids health is worth it!