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Nutritious Packed Lunch Recommendations (Posted On: Monday, August 21, 2006)

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After starting the day with a nutritious breakfast it is necessary to sustain your child’s focus with a healthy lunch packed providing a steady level of glucose. Simple carbohydrates such as white bread and cookies provide a short-lived energy boost, which is followed by extremely low energy levels.

Complex carbohydrates, good quality fats and protein will provide satiety and alertness for up to 3 hours after consumption. These foods will allow your child to stay on task and maintain healthy physiological well being as well as assist in preventing behavioral problems.

Children require high quality foods rich in micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) for growth and energy. Constant consumption of highly processed and packaged fast foods contaminate young bodies and minds and create health problems which can be difficult to reverse.

It is recommended that the same number of fluid ounces as the child’s weight in kg is needed in water per day. This also helps remove toxins from the body. A wide variety of fruits and vegetables coupled with whole foods is a recipe for success.

Tips For Sandwiches/Wraps

  • In general, whole or multi grain breads should be used wherever possible. The same goes for crackers, and wraps. These foods provide more fibre and nutrients as well as a slow release of energy.
  • Most sliced and prepared meats are full of nitrates and preservatives, as well as additives and extra sodium and sugar. For these reasons it is best to use leftover meat and chicken for sandwiches.
  • Completely stay away from hydrogenated margarines, and use other fats such as butter or margarine sparingly. There are excellent flax oil margarines, which are non-hydrogenated, and have no cholesterol. They are an extra source of Essential Fatty Acids.
  • Add as many vegetables as possible to sandwiches and wraps. This is a great way to sneak in extra servings of vegetables to a daily meal plan.

Think “Outside the Sandwich”

Some children who are not fussy about sandwiches can benefit from your creativity when it comes to packing their nutritious lunches. Here are some ideas to consider.

  • Homemade soup or stew in a thermos
  • Build your own tacos with the hot ingredients in a thermos
  • Leftover pizza (whole-wheat crust is best)
  • Pasta salad or warm pasta in a thermos (whole wheat pasta is best)
  • Vegetable/rice salad
  • Cold quesadillas
  • Homemade macaroni and cheese in a thermos (Store-bought Mac/cheese is acceptable, but choose one of the new organic selections that have no preservatives or colourings.
  • Salads can be packed in tupperware with the salad dressing separate, and tossed when ready to be consumed. Adding chicken for example, can enhance the protein level of the salad.
  • Tuna, chicken, or salmon salad served on wheat crackers or whole wheat melba toast.
  • Edamames: Soybeans in the shell. These are a great source of protein that children love and are fun to eat. They can be bought in the frozen organic section of the grocery store and are available in the shells or without.

Other packed lunch items:

  • Milk, rice milk and soy beverage are a good source of calcium and protein at lunch. It is also important to pack an adequate supply of water.
  • Fruit (at east 2 servings) Whole fruit is best since it increases the amount of fiber consumed. Organic fruits are free from pesticides, but can sometimes cost more. Make sure all the fruit you pack is thoroughly washed. Fruit cups in their own juice are acceptable. Bananas are an excellent source of potassium.
  • Cut up vegetables are an excellent way to add more vitamins and minerals into your child’s diet. Dip can be transported in a small container to make the vegetables more appealing. Stay away from dips made from hydrogenated oils or ones containing trans fats. Homemade dips using flax oil can add to the Omega 3 content of the snack.
  • Chickpeas, lentils and legumes are great in salads, spreads, or on their own, and are a great source of protein and fiber.
  • Yogurt is an excellent snack and contains probiotics, active bacteria that helps to boost your child’s immune system.

Healthy, sweet options:

  • Yogurt/granola mixture (fruit can be added as well)
  • Dried fruit, dehydrated fruit
  • Homemade or store-bought trail mix. (If you make your own trail mix you can create your favorite combinations and leave out nuts so it is suitable to take to school.)
  • Homemade or store-bought cookies, granola bars or sweetbreads, providing that ones from the grocery store do not contain trans fats, additives, colouring or preservatives.

Remember that children learn by example. If you pack lunches in reusable containers your child will learn respect for the environment. By including your child in the selection and preparation of their packed lunches you will ensure that they will experience the health benefits from the food choices and take an active role in their well being.

This article was submitted by Abby Stec, a Certified Nutrition and Wellness Specialist who works with children and adults to help provide excellent dietary options to promote overall health and brain development. She worked with the Canadian Centre for Functional Medicine under the direction of Dr. Michael Lyon to create the Smart Nutrition Program for schools. Abby provides nutritional support to numerous children with learning and behavioural issues.

Abby is currently teaching Food and Nutrition with chef Eric Madden at Pretty River Academy and continues to develop tailored nutrition programs for individuals and families in the Collingwood and Barrie area.

If you would like to contact Abby, you can reach her at 705.443.2295.

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