I'm back for the second time this week, chatting about how to make back to school just a little bit healthier. And today, I want to share my healthy lunch box formula. Now let's be clear here: just like when it comes to eating any meal, there is NO right or wrong way to pack a lunch box. But sometimes a little guidance is nice, no? Similar to my super smoothie formula, or my balanced plate formula- the healthy lunch box formula simply helps myself (and my clients) pack a healthy, balanced lunch to keep kids full and fueled for their school day.
There is no secret to this formula- just like I shared in my 5 Tips, balance is key. We start with a base of real food, and add snacks and extras as your kids need. Focusing on veggies, fruit and protein (and some healthy fats, thrown in there) means your kiddos will have the fuel they need to move and grow- without a ton of sugar causing them to crash and burn; but it's ok to pack snacks too-- kids need the fuel!
Here are my 5 musts to create a healthy lunch box: 1. Fruit- what kid doesn't love a nice piece of fruit? Fruit add micronutrients like vitamins and minerals and fiber-rich carbohydrates that help to mitigate that late-afternoon crash.
Add some: sliced apples or pears, mango or pineapple spears, berries, grapes, pressed fruit bars, freeze-dried fruit or mini bananas.
2. Protein. Protein is crucial for growing kids-- it doesn't provide energy like fruit, veggies and fat do, but it is necessary for building strong muscles and most importantly in the school lunch- keeping kids full and helping avoiding that blood sugar crash. Don't be afraid to mix up the protein- whether it's a sandwich or wrap with deli meat, meat and cheese roll-ups, cottage cheese, hard cooked egg, or leftovers- just make sure it's included! Healthy fats usually go along with protein- but if you're only focusing on lean protein (like turkey), make sure you have some healthy fats in their snack, as well. Add some: deli meat and/or cheese, hard cooked eggs, cottage cheese, leftover meat, egg cups
3. Veggies- raw or cooked, whatever your kids prefer-- make sure there is at least one veggie in their box!
Add some: cucumber, baby carrots, sliced bell peppers, steamed asparagus, raw or cooked broccoli or cauliflower, kale chips, homemade zucchini bites (the list is endless!) Dips are a fun addition too- try hummus, homemade mayo or ranch, salsa or nut butters. 4. No-sugar liquids. By no sugar liquids, I mean WATER, mama! Kiddos need water just as much as adults do (though yes, in slightly lesser quantities). Avoid fruit juice and sugary sports drinks. Some kids like milk with lunch, that's fine too-- but make sure they're staying hydrated with good old fashioned water, too. Add some: water or milk
5. Healthy snacks. Here is where the healthy fats come in- healthy fats keep kids fueled and satiated, so snacks like full-fat yogurt, string cheese, nuts or trail mix are a great choice. (Notice most of these contain some protein to keep them full, as well!) Carbohydrate-rich snacks are fine, too- just be mindful of balancing them with those fat-and-protein rich snacks, too. Add some: full-fat yogurt, string or sliced cheese, olives, almonds, cashews or walnuts; meat sticks, trail mix; homemade granola; snap pea crisps, plantain chips, smashed fruit bars, Larabars, RX bars or other clean ingredient granola bars; homemade energy bites, mini muffins, Jilz or Simple Mills Crackers, Annie's Cheddar Bunnies.
Do you have a balanced kids lunch your kiddos happen to LOVE? Share with us!