Thursday, 31 August 2017

BACK TO SCHOOL LUNCHES 


Anyone else feeling a little shocked at how it is already September?! As much as I am ready for my kids to go back to school (and I totally am), I am not exactly buzzing about getting back into the swing of packing lunches. However, I find that being prepped makes all the difference! This week on Wellness Wednesday, I shared a bit about how I make lunches tasty, easy and something my kids devour down. If you haven't watched yet, check out the video above. Here is a quick summary of my tips to help make lunch packing a *bit* better.

Presentation

I have posted pics of my kids lunches throughout the year on Instagram- literally when I finish making them in the mornings- and often the response I get is a long the lines of 'oh my goodness, that's so much work You really do that every day?' The truth is, it's really not. If you took all the same things in the lunch box and tossed it in some baggies, I guarantee it will look a whole lot less impressive. My kids lunches usually consist of some sliced veggies, fruit, hummus and trail mix. Not exactly gourmet, but stick it in the Bento box and the colours and presentation make it look amazing. Kids are like adults, if it looks appealing it's more likely that they will eat it. I have Planet Boxes for both my kids. Yes, they run on the pricier side, but after 3 years, I think they are totally worth it. It's one piece, so nothing to lose. The clasp is easy for kids to open and close. It's stainless steel so, besides the whole not leaching plastic xenoestrogen chemicals into the food, it also stands up to all the backpack tossing and looks the same as the day I purchased it (the fabric lunchbox part not so much...). To dress it up, there are magnet sets that run about $6, so when kids get sick of their lunch box design, for $6 you can have a 'brand new' lunch box. They are a bit tricky to find locally for someone like me who despises online shopping (they are available to order on their website and ship from the US). Both Baby B in Paris and Village Kids in Elora carry these boxes in stock but also take special orders and will order in exactly what you want. The soup thermos is by Lunch Bots which I picked up at Tadpole in Uptown Waterloo which I really like as well. Lunch Bots has their own line of stainless steel containers as well and Fenigo in Waterloo carries their entire line as well as a tonne of other lunch box solutions. For their water bottles I picked up LifeFactory glass bottles at Home Sense. Though glass might sound scary, the silicone sleeve really does protect the bottle well- we had LifeFactory glass bottles as our baby bottles and generously my kids tested the stability of their design by tossing them from the high chairs and we have yet to have one break.

The Food

When it comes to the actual food, I try to keep it veggies, fruit and protein based and shy away from adding a tonne of starch/sugar. Just like adults, keeping blood sugar normalized is insanely important for focus, concentration and learning. The unfortunate thing is that most of the 'lunch snacks' are pretty much just a bolus of sugar that spikes the blood sugar and then causes it to plummet. So I try to focus more on proteins and fats to keep their energy up and blood sugars stable. For the last three years, my daughter attended a home-based Montessori where nuts were fine but meat was not (it is a vegetarian home), so this year is a new learning curve, although I do think based on our lifestyle this will be way easier. I found it challenging to really boost protein in her lunch so I relied a lot of nuts and hummus- which contain protein but are still majority fat and starch, respectively. My basic lunch planning is veggies, fruit, meat and a treat, grains optional. Veggies and fruits are pretty self explanatory, but meat ideas can be a bit more challenging:


  • Veggies
    • Raw Chopped veggies- carrots, cucumber, bell peppers, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.
    • Roasted root veggies (left overs)
    • Kale chips
    • Turkey Meatballs with Mustard
    • Add dips, guacamole or hummus to make it more exciting
  • Fruit
    • Apple slices with cinnamon or sunbutter dip
    • Berries
    • Sliced Banana, Melon
    • Avocado Slices
  • Meat/Protein
    • Chicken Salad with Avocado Mayo
    • Grilled chicken with different marinades like Basic Greek with tatziki dip (if okay with dairy) or Honey Mustard
    • Chicken Salad- mix chopped grilled chicken with avocado or mayo
    • Eggs- boiled or egg salad
    • Chicken/Veggie/Pasta Salad- this is a staple in our house. Often, I will make a big bowl on the weekend and use throughout the week: red onion, red/yellow/orange bell peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, broccoli, grilled chicken, brown rice noodles and goat's feta (optional) with olive oil and vinegar dressing.

Easy Chicken, Veggie, Pasta Salad

  • Treats
When it comes to treats, I try to keep it on the healthier side, so I avoid the pre-made stuff and try to make my own. Even the 'healthier' versions (like the newest Made Good bars) are mostly just sugar/starch with very little actual nutrition. This 'make your own' might seem like a tonne of work, but most recipes for healthy bars just blend all the ingredients together in a food processor and only some times with baking. So what I will do is set aside a couple hours on the weekend and make a bunch of recipes/batches, then slice and freeze them. That way I have health snacks on hand whenever needed. Depending on how much your kids eat and how much you make each time, this can last a month or more. The one draw back is that instead of using sugar to bind everything, often nut butter is used which is a no go for schools that are pretty much all nut free now. However, there are nut free alternatives that will work in place of nut butter. Sunbutter is made from sunflower seeds and is certified tree nut and peanut free so (depending on your school's rules) is school friendly AND is a simple 1:1 substitution in any recipe. Pumpkin Seed butter is another option but tends to be a lot more expensive, so I stick with Sunbutter. If chopped nuts are called for, simply substitute pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds. For back to school (and Wellness Wednesday) I prepped four different treats which means I currently have 2 full containers of bars in my freezer which should last well into October. I made all four in about 2 hours. (From top, clockwise)

    • Against All Grain Breakfast Cookies by Danielle Walker
      • Substitutions: Sunbutter for Almond butter, Pumpkin Seeds for Chopped Walnuts
    • Blueberry Macaroons on Blendtec Instagram
      • Skipped the dipped chocolate
    • Soft and Chewy Sugar Free Granola Bars by Oh She Glows
      • No substitutions needed by used cherries instead of cranberries because that's what I had on hand
    • No Bake Workout Bars by SkinnyMs (Pinterest find)
      • Substitutions: Protein Powder used was Vega Protein and Greens, Chocolate chips for chopped semisweet bakers chocolate (what I had), Raisins for Cherries (what I had), Peanut butter for Sunbutter, Skipped the honey completely- but were a bit dry so might add a bit next time.

The Staples

The best way to make lunches and lunch prep easy is by having a well stocked pantry. You may be surprised to see that many healthy items can be found at your regular grocery stores like Zehr's, Bulk Barn and Costco. By making sure to have options on hand, you'll be able to toss things (like trail mix) together quickly when needed. Here are a few staples I like to keep in our home all the time, and where I get them:

  • Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, flax, chia, etc)- Bulk Barn or Costco
  • Shredded unsweetened coconut- Bulk Barn
  • Medjool dates- Bulk Barn
  • Raisins- Costco- organic
  • Dried Fruit (cherries, blueberries, cranberries)- Costco
  • Avocado Mayo- Costco (Chosen Foods)
  • Apple Chips- Martin's Farm in St Jacobs
  • PC Organics Unsweetened Apple Sauce- Zehr's
  • Sunbutter- Zehr's
  • Seed Crackers- Costco
  • Organic Hummus- Costco
  • Canned Coconut Milk- Freshco or Zehr's

The Prep

The best way to avoid lunch packing stress AND provide healthy and nutritious lunches is to be prepared. Get into the habit of setting aside a couple hours to  plan for the week. Make a few batches of snacks, meatballs or other foods you can freeze to keep on hand for a quick grab and go when you don't have time to prep or plans go awry. Keep an eye on your pantry and refill as you start to run low to avoid last minute panic. Impressive lunches don't need to be overly time consuming but do require some time to be set aside to have things prepped to make your busy mornings a lot less stressful.

Stay tuned throughout the year for inspiration and new recipes! 

Happy Lunch Boxing!


Disclaimer: The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. This information shouldn’t take the place of seeing a Naturopathic Doctor or your primary care provider for individualized health recommendations.

No comments:

Post a Comment