What's in Your Lunchbox?
September is a great time to re-evaluate our snacking and lunching habits. It’s been a little while — the whole summer perhaps — since lunches have been packed daily, so there is no need to feel guilty about all the sugar or processed junk that may have crept in there over the past few months. Think of the new school year as starting with a totally clean slate.
Starting off right makes all the difference
When do you usually pack the lunches? Do you do it yourself or are the kids old enough to be involved in the process? You may be wondering why I’m asking these questions. The reason is I’m trying to help you figure out your routine.
If your family is trying to get breakfast down and lunches packed and everyone out the door in world-record time first thing in the morning, that’s going to affect your choices. If you feel rushed, you’re going to grab the foods that take the least amount of prep, which will likely affect your grocery shopping down the road, and eventually you have lots of sugar-filled snacks filling your cupboards. If, on the other hand, you find some time after dinner before everyone goes to bed to prepare the lunches for the next day then they’re sitting in the fridge waiting for you when you get up in the morning. Now, doesn’t that sound much nicer?
Another great way to spend time with your kids,and educate them on nutritious food choices is to get them involved in the lunch-making process. Studies have shown that parental modeling of good food choices, coupled with getting kids more involved in food preparation and choosing what they eat increases the likelihood of them making healthy food choices later in life (this means even when Mom and Dad aren’t around telling them to eat their peas!). Not to mention if the kids are the ones choosing their lunch then it should mean they eat it all at school, instead of bringing half or more of it home.
What to pack
When packing lunches you want to be mindful of what exactly is going into it. Ideally, you want to incorporate all the major food groups:
If you’re going to leave something out of lunch, opt to forego the grains or dairy, not the fruits and veggies or protein. In North America today, over 70% of people are not eating their recommended 5-10 servings of fruits and veggies a day. Growing children need healthy fats and protein. Both fats and protein help to fuel children’s days and keep them feeling full for longer. If you’re looking for some inspiration, the following websites give some good ideas: 5 Dollar Dinners and Weelicious.
I found these websites quite quickly by doing a simple search for “lunch ideas.” Don’t forget the internet is an almost bottomless resource when you’re running low on ideas.
Now, I didn't touch on dietary sensitivities such as gluten or dairy. For the most part, people who have these issues are aware of them and have made the modifications already. However, if you are having GI upset or other similar problems and you suspect a food sensitivity then you may want to consult with a trusted healthcare professional.