Bigger Kids

5 easy healthy lunch box tips

Boost the good-for-you factor of your kids’ lunches with these five ideas

By Peggy Kotsopoulos, RHN
5 easy healthy lunch box tips

Although the lunch box might seem like a back-to-school accessory, what goes on inside can pack a powerful punch. What your child eats during the day plays a huge role in cognitive development, learning ability, attention span and energy. Food is fuel for the body and mind. So making small substitutions to your child’s favourite lunchtime staples can make a huge impact on his or her health. Here are some tips:

Swap regular bread for sprouted-grain bread

It might look and taste like regular sliced bread, but the nutritional profile doesn’t even compare. When grains are sprouted their nutritional profile changes during the germination process. The proteins and carbohydrates are broken down into a more easily digestible form, and the vitamins and minerals are activated increasing it’s nutritional profile.

How to do it:
• Use sprouted-grain bread and wraps as a substitute for white or whole-grain bread.
• Manna bread (sprouted grain loaf) is naturally sweetened, making a great muffin substitute.

Oomph-up the omega-3s

60% of our brain is made of fat. Adding the right fat makes a huge difference when it comes to optimal health, mood and academic performance. Omega-3’s are critical for proper brain development and functioning. Studies show children with the highest levels of DHA (an omega-3 derivative) have the least risk for depression, bipolar issues and ADHD. Sources of omega-3 include sacha inchi seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds and oily cold water fish.

How to do it:
• Pack sachi inchi seeds as a lunchbox snack. They contain the highest plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. Plus they are rich in protein and fibre, and are naturally nut-free.
• Use flax seed oil in dressings and dips.
• Stir chia seeds into yogurt.

Go green

Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients essential for optimal health, with dark leafy greens, sprouts and algaes being the most powerful.

How to do it:
• Sunflower sprouts are jammed with nutrients, chlorophyll, protein and are way more nutrient dense than “macro” green counterparts, such as spinach, and taste better, too! Toss some into your child’s favourite wraps or sandwiches, or blend into a smoothie with fresh or frozen fruit.
• Use collard greens as a sandwich “wrap,” or crispy romaine leaves as a fun taco shell.
• Pack raw veggies with hummus as an at-school snack.

Skip the refined for au naturale

Refined sugars, juices, sodas and simple carbohydrates suppress the immune system, cause blood sugar fluctuations and yeast imbalances — all which affect mood, concentration and performance.

How to do it:
• Skip the fruit juice. One cup contains more than 50 percent of the daily recommended intake of sugar. Replace with water or milk instead. Or make your own fizzy flavoured drink with 2 ounces juice diluted with mineral water.
• Make your own jam using fresh fruit (see below!)
• Use apple butter as a natural sweetener

Pack the protein

Proteins are the building blocks of cellular growth. But they also help to balance blood sugar levels, sustain satiety and energy.

How to do it:
• Replace regular yogurt with Greek yogurt — it contains roughly 4 times more protein per serving
• Hemp seeds contain one of the highest plant-based sources of protein. Sprinkle some into sandwiches, on top of salads or pasta dishes, or stir into yogurts or dips.
• Add a hard-boiled egg. Eggs are rich in protein, tryptophan, vitamin B12 and vitamin D — all helping to boost brain function! 

Sunflower Seed butter and Jam Sandwiches (SB&J) – nut free!

• 2 slices sprouted-grain bread
• 2 tbsp (30 mL) Omega-rich Strawberry Jam (see below)
• 2 tbsp (30 mL) sunflower seed butter
• ½ banana, thinly sliced
• 1 tbsp (15 mL) hemp seeds

• Spread one slice of sprouted grain bread with Strawberry Jam
• Sprinkle with hemp seeds
• Layer with banana slices
• Spread the second slice of bread with sunflower seed butter and close the sandwich

Omega-rich Strawberry Jam

• 1½ cups (375 mL) fresh strawberries, washed and stems removed
• 1 heaping tbsp (30 mL) ground chia seeds
• ½ tsp (2 mL) vanilla
• 1 tsp (5 mL) coconut sugar (optional)

• Roughly purée berries in food processor with vanilla and coconut sugar
• Pour into bowl and stir in ground chia until well combined
• Cover and refrigerate overnight. The fibre-rich properties of the chia will begin to gelatinize, turning your fresh berries into a powerful omega-, fibre- and anti-oxidant-rich jam!

This article was originally published on Sep 01, 2011

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