Last week, in the post, “Hidden Dangers In Your Child's Lunchbox”, I told you some pretty scary facts about hidden dangers lurking in your child's lunch.
So what can you do about it?
You can pack your kid's lunches, and you can do it the smart way.
In this article, I'm going to give you 3 simple steps to creating a healthy lunch box for your kid, and then give you some sample healthy lunch boxes to get you started.
Step 1: Start With Fat.
Fat makes your kid smart and grows their brain. It's essential for brain development and neuron health, and is also used for cell membranes, hormones, appetite satiation, and many other critical functions for a growing human body. Choose any of these healthy fat sources as the first ingredient in your child's lunch box*:
Avocado or guacamole
Olives or olive tapenade
Hummus (make with lots of extra virgin olive oil)
Nuts, seeds or nut butter (Bear in mind that many public and private schools have nuts they do not allow in lunch boxes)
Wild salmon, sardines, or other fatty fish
Chicken with skin or fatty source of red meat
Butter or Coconut Oil (this counts as the fat source if used generously to cook vegetables or as part of a spread in a wrap, sandwich, etc.)
*you'll note that cheese is not on this list. Cheese is a source of fat, but not the healthiest, so I recommend using in moderation by sprinkling over food or adding as a non-primary ingredient, the same way that you would use a condiment or spice.
Step 2: Add A Growing Food.
The growing food is going to be a protein source for your kids. It doesn't matter whether your've vegetarian, vegan or Paleo – your child needs a source of protein in their lunch box. Here are both vegetarian and carnivore options to get you started (note that these “protein” choices also cover your child's complex carbohydrate needs):
Beans or lentils (i.e. making hummus out of soaked chickpeas or adding mashed pinto or black beans to a wrap is a good way to add these)*
Soaked and sprouted grain source, like Ezekiel 4:9 brand wraps, breads or buns*
Cooked quinoa, amaranth, millet or other “high protein” alternatives to rice and pasta
Meat (choose any of the sources listed above in the fats section and remember to to worry about how “lean” the meat is – your kid needs healthy fat!)
*These days, many folks are concerned about grains and legumes, because “antinutrients” like phytic acid in grains can bind minerals and cause inadequate absorption of nutrients from food, and gluten in grains can cause inflammation in the digestive tract. These are completely legitimate concerns, but if you carefully prepare these foods by presoaking, sprouting or fermenting, you can significantly reduce or eliminate these risks.
My wife Jessa and I teach these concepts in the BenGreenfieldFitness Inner Circle, and I also highly recommend you purchase and peruse cover-to-cover the cookbook “Nourishing Traditions”. If you're bent on avoiding grains completely, just use kale, butter lettuce or swiss chard as a “wrap or sandwich” alternative.
Step 3: Add Color
By adding generous amounts of color from fruits and vegetables, you're going to satisfy your child's vitamin, mineral and nutrient needs, and you're also going to ensure that they have enough carbohydrates to fuel all that physical activity you should be encouraging them to do! Here is a list of colorful foods to add to your kid's lunch box:
Baked or boiled sweet potatoes or yams
Sugar snap peas
Steamed green beans or asparagus
Sliced green apples
Plums or pears
Nectarine, kiwi or melon slices
Strawberries or blueberries
Fresh pineapple chunks
That's it! Those three steps – Fat + Growing Food + Color – will give your child everything they need in their lunchbox for a healthy, growing brain, developing body, and surging energy levels.
What about hydration?
While water, preferably in a “good plastic”, is recommended to add into your child's lunch box, Jessa and I also like to include a healthy beverage for our kids as an alternative to water – and we usually go with coconut water, kombucha, or even just Orange Flavored Kid's Calm Liquid Multivitamin added to regular water.
Using these three steps, what are some healthy lunch box meals?
Try any of these five easy lunch box ideas for starters:
- Sprouted, whole grain wraps with avocado, olives and hummus + red grapes
- Cooked quinoa mixed with extra virgin olive oil, chicken slices, pumpkin seeds and feta cheese + sugar snap peas
- Almond butter sandwich with sliced green apples + carrot sticks
- Chunks of cooked wild salmon + boiled sweet potatoes and fresh pineapple
- Thin sliced ribeye steak and olive tapenade wrapped in butter lettuce + nectarine slices
None of these meals need any Lunchables “Sour Tongue Teasing Fizz” dumped over them to taste good, and you can guarantee your kids are getting a tasty and guilt-free meal.
Fat, protein, and color. That's all it takes folks. Now go make your child a healthy lunch.
I'd love to see your other ideas and healthy lunchbox solutions that you've created, so please feel free to leave comments below, or to post photos of your healthy lunchbox ideas over at the BenGreenfieldFitness Facebook page.
If you enjoyed this article, and want to learn more about children's nutrition for exercise, I'd highly recommend you read my previous post: 5 Ways That Workout Nutrition Should Be Different For Young People.
Also published on Medium.