What’s For Lunch? Ideas For School Lunch
August’s arrival brings brisk mornings, hot afternoons and getting ready to go back to school.
The return to school always pops up the question–school lunch or homemade lunch? Are school lunches wonderful or awful? Answer: It depends.
As a Holistic Nutritionist, I focus on the best quality, local and organic food. It’s an ideal, however, I fully recognize that nutrition in America is in a crisis state–swinging wildly from excess to starvation. Many people are fortunate enough to afford a broad variety and excellent quality of foods, while others may while others may struggle for a meal each day.
The lunch program may be hideously dismal or a bounty–how you view it will be reflective of your current life situation. Speaking professionally, the school lunch program is strongly lacking and filled with low quality food–rootbeer flavored milk?? Ick! Yet, we have to realize there kids that are amazed with abundance and variety that school lunch has to offer.
Food is absolutely a place where we can do better as a culture.
Don’t go running after the Lunch Lady–she’s not in charge of funding. We are seeing change through local groups and organizations like Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, but change takes time and persistence, especially with something so fundamental as our food.
Okay, that was a slight tangent–and not the primary purpose of this blog. My goal is to create awareness when it comes to eating. We all want our children to grow and thrive, to do well in school and have more opportunities than we’ve had. Learning how and what to eat is one of the major building blocks to living well–a lesson that is invaluable to our children.
Chinese medicine isn’t just about healing–it’s education and prevention at the core. “To heal the child you must heal the parent.” Unless your child is the one shopping and cooking, it is up to the parents or guardians to teach them.
Below are a few tips and ideas to help simplify meals and school lunches.
Make a menu and involve the family
This helps on so many levels! Sit down for 15-20 minutes and write out a menu for 5 or 6 days. Involve the family. Being able to get up and look at list of the fridge that says “oatmeal with fruit and nuts” is what’s for breakfast and knowing that you are roasting a chicken for dinner that will become part of lunch tomorrow makes life easier–really. I base my menu around when I have time to cook and make sure there are left overs. Make your first menu based on what’s in the house and your work schedule, or write up your menu before you shop. Need some more ideas? Check out 13 Tips to Simplify Your Meals.
Here’s a big one–write up a list with your children about what you can put in a lunch and post it on the fridge. Sandwich? Soup? Hummus and veggies, wraps, leftovers? The trick is to create habits of thinking creatively. Once you have a menu and a list of fo
ods to nosh on–go shopping. Make sure you have containers to pack lunch in. There are hundreds of re-usable environmentally friendly lunch containers available now. Pick something out that fits your budget and appeals to your child–whether that is a stainless steel bento or brown bag.
Pack the night before
Pack lunch the night before so you avoid the ‘morning rush and forget something’ syndrome. Dinner leftovers are fantastic for lunch. As you pack away dinner, have out your lunch containers and portion a little into each one. Pop them into the fridge and grab them the next morning. But, what about heating them up? Honestly, not necessary in most cases. I leave my lunch out on the counter at work all the time, it’s room temperature by lunch. Nope–that is not enough time for it to go bad–that takes a day or two.
What’s for Lunch? Just a few ideas
Soups and Stews
Sandwiches and Beyond
Bored with sandwiches? Maybe you have to clear gluten out so many breads aren’t an option. Think out of the box. Sandwich doesn’t have to be the main feature. How about hummus and veggies, baked sweet potatoes with a few nuts and cinnamon, leftover roast chicken? Try veggie wraps, sushi and miso soup, mashed potatoes and turkey, pot stickers–Clara was a plethora of ideas today.
Snacks are must in school lunches and after school….but they are just that–a little something to tidy you over until the next meal. They don’t need to big or heavy, sweet or overly processed. How about an apple, a handful of mixed nuts or seeds, rice cakes with almond or cashew butter, dried fruit, grain salad, nosh on some seaweed or have a little black bean dips with crackers? A little yogurt and granola, carrots and celery, kale chips–you know–real food. Make up a specific list of snacks to have on the fridge so ideas so ideas are there for the you and the kiddos.
More than milk and cheese
Despite what the dairy industry would have you believe, milk and cheeses aren’t perfect foods. Often milks are highly sugared and flavored, and unless organic it’s loaded with hormones and antibiotics. Same is true of cheese. Dairy also creates a tremendous amount of phlegm, so if allergies, asthma or obesity are an issue, pull it back or out of the diet. Calcium!?? Calcium is in many foods, especially greens and seaweeds. Sure a little here and there is fine, but 3-5 servings a day is way too much. Check out the list of foods high in calcium in Boning Up on Calcium.
What’s to drink?
Water–really. We need water for hydration, and it isn’t actually necessary to get calories in liquids unless your diet is greatly lacking in nutrients. Today’s school lunches are often packed with sugary sodas, vitamin drinks, smoothies and juices. Add a slice of lemon to water, or move to herbal teas or vegetable juices. Sure, a little here and there is okay, but put it into perspective, are you burning through boxes of vitamin drinks or sodas? To help wean off of sweet juicy drinks, dilute them with water or a fruity tea.
Remember–school lunch can be healthy and it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Pick one or two ideas and focus on those for a few weeks–build a new habit then add in another.
Here’s to a healthy school year!
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