Healthy lunch Box

By Claire Bacon, ACN, CNC

Lunch time is a part of your child’s schedule, and equally as important as breakfast. How are you doing with picking out nutrient-dense meals and snacks to keep him/her going through the day? As a parent, are you overwhelmed and maybe looking to make your mornings easier? Well read on, because we’ve got lots of tips for building a healthy lunch box and adding snacks, too.

Growing children often get hungry between meals, or prefer to “graze” rather than eating a large meal. Nutritious snacking can help with keeping energy, attention, and mood even throughout the day. But, we need to watch out for having too many of the processed and convenient snack foods that can have a detrimental effect on his/her health.

What we want to avoid most are those artificial flavorings, colorings, preservatives and sugars that are commonly within processed foods. Why? Because these ingredients can contribute to chronic inflammation in the brain, blood sugar issues, and immune suppression, which you could notice as behavioral issues, short attention span, tantrums, and frequent sicknesses or skin conditions.

Finger foods like celery and carrots go great with hummus on the side.

Building a Healthy Lunch Box

Many parents these days are realizing their kids are sensitive to wheat gluten and dairy. The typical sandwich with deli meat and cheese is not an option for many people. But no worries! Making a well-rounded meal can be as simple as remembering a few basic principles. We have some fresh ideas for you right here:

Think about other “transportation vehicles” to carry a meat or veggie patty (or nut butter) to your mouth
  • Grain-free tortillas, crepes or dosas (all thin and pliable to make a roll-up)
  • Stuffed vegetable “boats” like roasted zucchini or bell pepper, or de-seeded cucumber you could fill with ground meat
  • Large, firm lettuce leaves to replace a bun
  • Carrots, celery, or jicama slices for dipping

Remember that lunch boxes get thrown around, so you’ll want to secure your food items in a small baggie or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. If age-appropriate, could consider using toothpicks, as well.

Always include a protein, plus a fat to keep him full

Of course, most of these things you’ll want to make the night before. Leftovers packed correctly can be your saving grace!

  • Chicken salad with chopped celery and apple
  • Egg salad with homemade or avocado mayo and pickle relish
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Chicken or beef meatballs
  • Slice of gluten-free meatloaf
  • Chicken-apple sausages
  • Mild turkey jerky or bison jerky
  • Individual hummus or guacamole cups
  • Homemade chia seed pudding
Add Variety with Salt or Crunch
  • Gluten-free crackers
  • Dehydrated apple or mango chips
  • Dehydrated okra or other veggie chips
  • Small baggie of nuts
  • Half an avocado sprinkled with salt, wrapped in air-tight plastic wrap
Finish with something Sweet
  • Organic grapes or berries
  • Clementines are easy to peel
  • Fresh apple or nectarine slices
  • Coconut milk yogurt
  • One dark chocolate square

Storebought Options for Your Healthy Lunch Box

Choosing healthy snacks can be challenging! There are so many snacks that “claim” to be healthy, but are they really? Have we been tricked by the marketing on the front label? Assuming we’re not dealing with specific food allergens, here are a few tips for buying store-bought snacks:

  1. Look at the total amounts of sugars and carbohydrates. You want to aim for less than 15g of carbohydrates, and less than 5g of sugar per serving.
  2. Look at the ingredients listed. If the main ingredients are dehydrated fruit, vegetables, nuts, or another form of protein, that’s a good sign for a snack. (If it reminds you of a chemistry lesson, put it down).
  3. Look at the serving size to get a full understanding how much is in the container.
  4. Look at the protein and fat content in the snack, because these nutrients will keep your child feeling full, longer. Kids’ brains need protein and fat!
  5. Combine foods – like a homemade trail mix – if the store-bought version is not quite good enough.
  6. Always buy “unsweetened,” “organic,” and/or “non-GMO certified” if you have a choice.
Half an avocado with a dollop of chicken salad is a creative way to get your healthy fats!

Delicious and Healthy Snacks for the Lunch Box:

Having a substantial list of child-safe snacks is helpful when you go to the grocery store. It can be a bit daunting to sort through the choices, especially when pressed for time. Depending on age-appropriateness, here are our favorite kid-friendly options to keep on hand:

  1. Coconut milk yogurt is a great source of protein, calcium, and the beneficial bacteria that are needed for good gut health, and healthy teeth.
  2. Fresh apple slices with a packet of Justin’s nut butter is so yummy and convenient.
  3. Dehydrated mango slices with a small bunch of organic grapes or peeled Clementine wedges are refreshing and delicious.
  4. If not too hard to chew, a few pieces of a mild turkey, beef, or buffalo jerky can keep blood sugar stable and mood upbeat.
  5. A hard-boiled egg is great for breakfast, but also goes into a lunch box well. The protein and choline help keep the brain alert!
  6. Celery with either almond butter or hummus, with raisins, is a great balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats in a snack.
  7. Make your own deli turkey roll-ups with a sliced cheese and/or a thinly sliced pickle.
Guacamole spread on gluten-free crackers is a satisfying afternoon snack!

Supplements To Assist Your Child’s Diet:

Children can take supplements to support their digestion and gut health. This helps because after all, we know diet is not always perfect. The following three supplements we highly recommend for any family with small children…

  1. Betafood – The main ingredients in this product are beet leaves and beet root.  How many kids are eating beets on a regular basis?  None?  These are essential nutrients for anyone looking to improve how your body breaks down fats and oils.  If greasy foods upset your stomach or make you constipated, Betafood on a daily basis is a great addition to your routine!
  2. Lactic Acid Yeast – This product contains a lactic acid-loving beneficial yeast, to lower the pH in the gastrointestinal tract. A high carb and sugar diet can throw off the pH of your gut, causing gas and bloating.  If your child craves lots of carbs but winds up toot-tooting all night, Lactic Acid Yeast could help!
  3. Prosynbiotic is a synergistic blend of four probiotic strains and two prebiotic fibers to support gut flora and overall intestinal health. Kids love it because the powder tastes sweet dropped right on the tongue.  Prosynbiotic can go a long way to supporting kids’ digestive health, especially when they’re so happy to take it!
We hope this gives you some new ideas and motivation for packing a healthy lunch box!

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