This post comes to you from Healthline and is written by Adrienne Santos-Longhurst. Healthline's mission is to improve health through information. Healthline provides objective, trustworthy, and accurate health information, guided by the principles of responsible journalism and publishing. Enjoy this article on real food lunches.
Knowing what to pack in your child’s lunch box isn’t always easy. From trying to balance between food that’s healthy and food that they’ll actually want to eat can be a downright pain! This can especially hard when it comes to sticking to lunches made up of real food and not just reaching for some of the quick fixes at the grocery store.
Obviously, your child is always worth the effort, but it’s perfectly okay to admit that sometimes a hectic schedule makes it hard to prepare real foods for their lunches five times a week. Before you give into your crazy schedule or your child’s pleading for cheese and cracker snack packs like “all the other kids get,” think about these facts:
-According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 in every 3 children in America is overweight or obese.
-Contrary to popular belief, fast food isn’t the main cause of child obesity, according to a recent study. Turns out that the bigger issue is what their parents and caregivers are feeding them, which often includes very little fruits and veggies and loads of processed foods and sugar-filled beverages.
-Obese kids have a higher risk of several health issues such as bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and heart disease. They also have a higher risk of psychological problems like low self-esteem.
-A National Institutes of Health (NIH) panel concluded long ago that food additives and certain foods affect some children with behavioral issues, including ADHD.
It won’t be easy to get your child to eat a lunch box full of whole grains, fruits, and veggies when little Suzy is sitting on one side with her cupcake treat and little Jared on the other eating a pizza pocket. The key to making it work is to create healthy alternatives that taste great and, since kids are visual creatures; look good too.
Since sandwiches are a lunch box staple, be sure to include them even if only a couple times a week. Make your own bread, or buy whole grain breads that list grains as the first ingredient on the label. Pack them with protein-filled natural nut butters and sweeten them up with slices of banana. Honey is also a nice alternative to highly processed jams and spreads. If getting them to eat sandwiches takes a little more coaxing, then add some whimsy by cutting the bread into a fun shape. It’s all in the details with some kids!
Fruits and vegetables can be approached much the same way, by cutting and arranging them into fun shapes. It may seem a little frivolous, but investing a few bucks into spiral slicer or taking a few extra minutes to spiral cucumbers and other veggies can make all the difference in the world! Baking veggies into “chips” is also a sure-fire way to get a child to eat their veggies without any moaning.
And, give them the special fast food treats they want without all the fat and additives. Ground turkey and chicken made into patties and placed in a whole grain bun is a great alternative to the traditional hamburger and making your own whole grain pizza dough and letting them add their own healthy toppings is a fun way to give them a healthy version of a classic kid favorite.
Other kid-friendly real food ideas are:
The way you pack their lunch is also important. It may seem silly since most of us could care less what our lunch is packaged in when break time rolls around and we’re hungry. To a kid, the way the food is packaged matters, especially when they’re surrounded by other kids drinking out of bottles with straws and slurping snacks out of squishy tubes and containers! Look for cool containers to make the “real food” look like “fun kid food”. Snack trays with different compartments like bento boxes are great, as are bright bottles, and yes, the Little Green Pouch too. Its kid and slurp-friendly design is ingenious, along with being reusable and compact, of course. Basically, when it comes to packing a lunch that appeals to kids: If you can rearrange it, squish it, or slurp it; they’ll love it!
Getting your kids to eat real food at school doesn’t have to be a struggle. Put your kid cap on and think like your 6-year-old self when planning and preparing their lunches and snacks. And, don’t forget to ask for their input and include them in the process. You’d be surprised at how excited they get about lunch when they have some say.
Adrienne is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and fitness for more than a decade. When she's not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking about her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand up paddle board.
Today's Real Foodie inspiration comes from runner and triathlete, Kristen Chang, of Real Food For Fuel.
As a runner and triathlete, fueling properly throughout the day and during workouts is an essential aspect of my training regime. While studying nutrition throughout college, I slowly began to connect the dots in terms of how great of an effect my daily food choices made on my ability to complete workouts optimally, recover quickly, and just sustain the energy levels I needed to achieve my goals.
This connection between food and athletic performance became even more real for me when I decided to adapt a plant-based (mostly vegan) lifestyle in March 2013. I began to cut out many processed foods from my diet and emphasize fruits, vegetables, plant-based proteins and unrefined grains. My energy levels simply soared and I became leaner, fitter and stronger overall. I've never looked back!
A real foods diet is important for athletes not only to ensure they're getting the correct balance of macro-nutrients to support their training, but to optimize vitamin, minerals and antioxidants within those calories. By focusing on the quality of food, rather than overall quantity, improvements in energy, recovery, stamina and performance will be found. After all the hard work that is put into workouts, why compromise your efforts by eating junk?
My general diet philosophy these days is "every food has a purpose," and I try to remember this when I choose what to eat each day. Eating with a purpose, real food for fuel, everything in moderation: three general guidelines that I abide by to make eating simpler yet healthier. These apply to athletes, adults, teenagers and babies alike!
And check out Kristen’s Homemade Energy Fuel: Sweet Potato & PB Banana Mash-Up. Kristen said she was enjoying one from her Little Green Pouch as she sent it to us! She says it is “Kid friendly, but delicious for adults on the go too,” and that she is “totally looking forward to using these pouches to pack real-food fuel for my longer bike rides this spring and summer. The pouch should fit well into the back of my cycling jersey. It's like a portable picnic lunch!”
We'd like to introduce Courtney Haswell, a Real Food blogger dedicated to upholding a healthy lifestyle for her and her family, while encouraging and helping others to do the same. This is Courtney's story of Real Food journey. For more information about Courtney, visit her blog—Family Gone Healthy. If you have a story you'd like to share about your Real Food experience, we'd love to hear it! Email us at email@example.com. Here's Courtney's story:
Let's be honest, most of us at some point have eaten a typical American diet. Either as kids, teenagers, or even adults on the go, quick and easy comfort food is what we usually crave. I was no different growing up. I loved boxed macaroni & cheese and hot dogs. My parents would cook most of our meals, but Dr. Pepper and Oreos were constant staples. You could say that back then we didn't know better. We assumed that if it was sold at the grocery store, it was safe to eat.
After I got married and was out on my own, I would make an effort with my husband to cook more often. At the time I thought to myself, "Hamburger Helper is better then fast food," but I really didn't consider what I was putting into my body. Even though I studied the internal workings of the human body throughout college and have a degree in biomedical engineering, I still was oblivious to just how bad these ingredients were for the body.
It wasn't until I gave birth to my first daughter at the end of 2009 that I started to take more notice. Of course, we all want what's best for our children, and I began to research the right foods to feed her. I happened to see the documentary Food Inc., and that's when I really opened my eyes. I couldn't believe some of the things I saw in that documentary. How could so many people be unaware of what's going on with our food supply? The living conditions of the animals? The genetically modified ingredients that aren't even labeled in our foods? I tried to start making changes right away.
Unfortunately, change is hard. A big move and new jobs got in the way, and we slowly crept back into bad eating habits. We were better than before, but we were still eating a LOT of processed foods. This is the story for a lot of people. They are aware that what they're eating is toxic and can really harm their bodies over time, but a lot of people just accept and trust our foods or don't have time to make change. It usually takes something big for change to happen. You get sick, become overweight, or for me it was becoming pregnant again.
While I was pregnant with my second daughter I was having a hard time putting on weight and had severe morning sickness. Most processed foods would make me sick, and I seemed to be craving more fruits and vegetables. I was also having trouble keeping foods down, so I started researching which foods had the most nutrition. I didn't want to waste my small appetite on empty calories! While researching, I discovered so much online about "clean eating" and "real food" and couldn't stop reading.
When my second daughter was born in October of 2012, I was ready to make a huge change, not just tiny ones anymore. I was going to try breastfeeding and wanted to get optimal nutrition for myself that would be passed on in my milk to the baby. I went through our pantry and tossed out everything processed or containing artificial dyes and genetically-modified ingredients. I was finally fed up with our industrial food system, and all the large companies trying to profit over cheap, processed foods. I also wanted to start supporting our local farmers and other families in our area. Regular trips to the farmers' market became a staple in our week.
In early 2013, I decided to start "Family Gone Healthy", my blog dedicated to helping other families take the same steps we took. With a little planning and a willingness to learn more about the food we put in our bodies, every family in American can take the steps to eating better!
Courtney Haswell is a Real Food blogger behind the website, Family Gone Healthy, and lives in North Carolina. She is a biomedical engineer by day and has two young daughters, ages 1 and 4. Check out her free Real Food Grocery Guide and subscribe to her weekly newsletter to follow more of her story.
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