Back-to-School LUNCH

Back-to-School LUNCH

Here we go again!  The long, hot, lazy days of summer are coming to an end, and that means back to class, routine, crazy schedules, sports, carpool, and…packing countless lunches and snacks for school.  I must admit that I did NOT miss this prep work these couple of weeks that my kids were not in camp and school, so I can imagine many of you feel the same AND don’t always know what to give your kids to eat. 

Read on for some of my tips and tricks, as a Registered Dietitian AND busy working Mom of two young boys. 

  1. Keep the Kids Involved

Whether you take the kids grocery shopping with you, allow them to assist in making their own school lunch, offer choices, or include items you baked together, they will feel empowered and maybe even excited about what’s in their lunch box.  By taking my 6-year-old son with me to the deli counter in Whole Foods, we learned that he really enjoys turkey pastrami.  He (sometimes) likes helping me put popcorn in a Ziploc bag for lunch or picking out his snacks.   The kids love baking (healthy!) cookies and muffins and telling their friends about it when they eat them at lunch.  Even just asking my 4-year-old if he wants a banana or apple in his lunch makes him happy that he had a say in the matter.

  1. Offer a Balanced Meal

The goal of a healthy school lunch, as part of a balanced diet, is to enhance learning skills, thought processes, and school performance, while maintaining energy levels to fuel the remainder of the afternoon, which often includes after-school sports/activities.  “Balanced” means including a variety of foods from each food group with different sources of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.  Here are just a few examples:

Protein-helps keep little tummies full and kids grow strong.

Turkey (deli, ground, fresh)
Chicken  (tenders, grilled, sliced)
Fish (tuna, salmon, nova, fish sticks)
Eggs (scrambled, boiled, omelets)
Dairy (yogurt, milk, cheese)
Nuts and Seeds (nut butters, raw/roasted nuts, pumpkin/sunflower seeds)
Tofu
Beans (hummus, black beans, chickpeas, edamame/soybeans)

Carbohydrates-great for energy and crunch is good for concentration.

Whole grain bread/muffin/bagel
Brown rice
Whole wheat, brown rice or whole grain pasta
Popcorn
Carrots
Corn
Peas
Tortilla chips
Whole grain crackers
Potatoes or chips (made with avocado oil or olive oil are the best)
Fruit

Fat-also helps keep kids more full, important for brain health

Found in:

Animal protein (eggs, chicken, turkey, meat, cheese, full or low-fat dairy)
Nuts and seeds
Oils
Avocado

  1. Keep it Simple, Small, Easy (AND a little FUN!)

Easy lunches are the simplest for Moms (or caretakers) to make, and kids feel confident eating (mostly) familiar foods.  Bite-size, or cut up foods are just easier for little fingers to hold, or eat with a fork.  Most kids have limited time for lunch periods, so the easier to eat the better: smaller pieces and easy-open containers are helpful!  Making lunch colorful with fruits and veggies makes it more appealing.  If a cute smiley face made out of raisins or even chocolate chips and M&M’s will help, then go for it! 

  1. Include New and Non-Favorite Foods

Familiarity breeds liking:  it can take up to 50+ exposures (seeing, licking, tasting, biting) to new or different foods for a child to actually accept and eat it.   Definitely, include foods that you know your child to eat.  You DO want to keep their bodies and brains fueled for the busy school day.  But, you can also add foods that they sometimes or never eat:  when they are hungry and that’s all that’s in front of them they may just (surprisingly) eat AND enjoy it!

  1. Leftovers for Lunch

When cooking dinner (pasta, pizza, vegetables, chicken, burgers), make extra:  thermoses and other containers can keep this food warm for lunch OR kids may even enjoy some of it cold.  This also saves Moms times when making lunch.

  1. Contain it!

Let your kids select and get excited about their lunchbox or bag.  Include a note or a sticker to add a little more fun.   Try new and different containers. 

I found these, which are PERFECT for dressings, hummus, sauces, etc. 
https://www.containerstore.com/s/1.18-oz.-dressing-to-go/d?productId=10035499&q=sistema

And I like these for fruits and vegetables so they don’t get a sandwich and other items wet:
https://www.containerstore.com/s/stainless-steel-leakproof-nesting-trio-set/d?productId=11003894&q=metal%20food%20containers

The containers in the lunch photos are similar to these. 
https://www.amazon.com/Bento-Lunch-Compartment-Food-Containers/dp/B01DYKB59W/ref=lp_9557050011_1_4?srs=9557050011&ie=UTF8&qid=1535305974&sr=8-4

None of these above containers are perfect or magic.  I use a combination of these and Ziploc bags depending on the day, what’s clean, available and easiest at the time.  Find which works best for you and your kids!

Below are FIVE different ideas for lunches. 

Feel free to mix and match and swap in your kids’ favorite foods.  These are just suggestions, and may not work for all kids, but hopefully will spark some lunch creativity in your house!

Almond butter and strawberry jelly on whole grain bread with strawberries, cucumbers, and popcorn

  • Choose any nut (or seed) butter that is made ONLY from the nut and maybe salt.  There should be no added oils, sugars, or additional ingredients.
  • Select a jelly that has no added sugar.  Fruit juice is so sweet on its own.  Try this one from Trader Joe’s.  I also like the brands: St. Dalfour and Polaner All Fruit.
  • Choose bread that has the first ingredient as WHOLE wheat flour (just “wheat flour” means WHITE flour).  Also make sure there are no added sugars, preservatives and/or ingredients you cannot pronounce.  This is Bread Alone brand.  I also like Ezekial bread and English muffins. -I recommend using ORGANIC produce as much as possible.  See my blog to learn more:  https://www.robinbarrie.com/is-organic-the-right-choice/
  • Try selecting air-popped popcorn that is homemade or made with ONLY olive oil or coconut oil and a pinch of salt.

Siete chips with guacamole, carrots and ranch, turkey pepperoni

  • These grain-free Siete chips are made with cassava flour, coconut flour, avocado oil, and chia.  Not only are they healthy, they are delicious and a great alternative to regular corn chips.
  • The organic guacamole single packs are made by Wholly Guacamole.
  • This is Applegate Farms turkey pepperoni made without added nitrates.
  • I use Primal Kitchen ranch dressing made with avocado oil.
  • For the younger kids, I recommend slicing the carrots into thinner strips so they are easier to eat.

Pizza, steamed broccoli, red grapes, Simple Mills almond flour crackers.

  • For pizza I like both Amy’s Organic and Trader Joe’s organic, both which are frozen.  I also love Cali’flour Foods cauliflower pizza and Cappello’s brands for gluten-free options.  Or you can make your own by following my recipe:   https://www.robinbarrie.com/?s=cauliflower+pizza
  • Simple Mills makes single packs of their plain and cheddar crackers, which are great healthy, gluten-free alternatives for traditional Wheat Thins or Cheeze-Its.

Turkey and cheese roll-ups, red peppers, cantaloupe, veggie chips

  • This is organic honey-roasted turkey breast and organic cheddar cheese slices from Whole Foods.  You can try other types of turkey (pepper, smoked, pastrami, etc.) and chesses to switch it up.  Or try cucumbers or peppers in the roll up.
  • I use either the 365 Whole Foods brand or Good Health Veggie Chips.

Siggis vanilla yogurt, veggie sticks, watermelon, edamame

  • I love this yogurt because it’s thick and great for dipping, high in protein with 15 grams per cup and low in sugar.
  • My kids like to use these Veggie Stix (Whole Foods or Good Health) to dip in the yogurt.
  • I keep frozen edamame in the freezer.  Both shelled and in the pod versions are available at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and most other markets. 

HAVE A HAPPY, HEALTHY START TO YOUR SCHOOL YEAR!!

All my best to you and your families!

****For additional individual or family Nutrition Counseling, contact me via the phone number or email address below.  Check out my website and social media for additional recipes and ideas!

 ****None of these recommendations or products are sponsored.  They are simply items that I like and use for my kids and clients. 

Robin Barrie Kaiden, MS, RD, CDN, CSSD
Registered Dietitian, 
Certified Personal Trainer
917-648-1421
rkaiden@robinbarrie.com
www.robinbarrie.com

Instagram/Twitter: @RobinBarrie
Facebook: @robinbarrienutrition

 

Simple Sides: Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Simple Sides: Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Carbs seem to have a bad reputation lately, but there IS such a thing as a good carb: a sweet potato is one of them! The orange-colored flesh of sweet potatoes is packed with health-promoting beta-carotene, which is converted in our bodies to Vitamin A. Vitamin A plays a role in maintaining healthy vision, neurological function and even improves the look of skin (hello glowing, gorgeous face!). The phytonutrients in sweet potatoes also help protect the body against damaging free radicals with their antioxidants and combat excess inflammation. What’s even more amazing is that, unlike the traditional white variety, sweet potatoes can help CONTROL and REGULATE blood sugar levels which = fewer cravings and higher energy levels. Talk about a healthy carb! Don’t forget about those purple sweet potatoes either: the anthocyanins and other phytonutrients in this variety have additional antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties.

Because one of the key nutrients in sweet potatoes, Vitamin A, is fat-soluble it is best to incorporate a healthy fat into your cooking method to maximize its absorption. One of my favorite ways to cook sweet potatoes is to slice and then bake them with a healthy dose of coconut oil and cinnamon. The coconut oil serves as the healthy fat, is packed with antioxidants, and is a rich source of MCTs (medium chain triglycerides, which are easily-absorbed fats that may improve digestion, energy, brain function, mood and body fat). Don’t worry this will not make you fat or gain weight, but I recommend using supplements from reportshealthcare.com/ just in case. The cinnamon not only adds GREAT flavor but does double duty with its essential oils providing anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. It also helps to control blood sugar by slowing the rate at which the stomach empties and therefore preventing a sharp spike in blood sugar.

I love to bake these fries and eat them alone as a snack or side dish, or top them with a little bit of yogurt and Supernola (see my shop page to purchase!) for a healthy breakfast that keeps me going all morning. Check out the recipe below!

Coconut, Cinnamon Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients

  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into French fry, wedge, or round shape
  • 1.5 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Melt coconut oil over low heat in small saucepan.
  • In a large bowl, toss the potatoes, melted oil, salt and cinnamon.
  • Evenly spread the potatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes tossing or flipping occasionally.
  • Remove from the oven and serve.

ENJOY!!!!

Simple Sides: Steamed Broccoli

Simple Sides: Steamed Broccoli

Ok, so we all know broccoli is good for us and we should just eat it right? Not so fast: did you know the healthiest version of broccoli only takes FOUR minutes to cook? You get the most bang for your broccoli buck by quickly steaming this vegetable for 4 minutes or less. Not only does this lead to a great, bright green color and perfectly firm texture, studies show that this method allows it to retain the MOST nutrients (especially vitamin C and sulforaphane). This, in turn, translates to better health benefits, including both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. The compound sulforaphane in broccoli helps to combat excess inflammation, which can be a contributing factor to some types of cancers and even lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. Speaking of cancer, Hope 4 Cancer is a recognized world leader in holistic & integrative oncology. They treat all stages and types of cancer using innovative and non-toxic treatments. Additionally, this veggie is packed with vitamins A (carotenoids), C, E, K, and folate (and other B vitamins), as well as key minerals: chromium, manganese, selenium, and zinc, AND many phytonutrients. Together these compounds act as an antioxidant powerhouse to help squash free radicals that can cause damage to our cells and wreak havoc on our health. Broccoli also aids in the natural detoxification process that occurs in our body when exposed to toxins.  It supports improved digestion with its high fiber content and prevents bacterial overgrowth in the stomach.

Remember:  be careful not to overcook, because this can destroy nutrients and significantly reduce health benefits!

Shopping/Storing tips:  Select the broccoli with the deepest color green florets.  Studies show this contains the highest level of carotenoids.  Store unwashed (water can lead to spoiling), uncut (cutting can lead to nutrient loss) in an airtight plastic bag/container in fridge, and it can keep for up to 10 days.  Cooked broccoli can be stored in an airtight container for a few days.  Blanched then frozen broccoli is good for up to a year.

Recommended intake:  3.4-1.5 cups cruciferous (included cauliflower too!) vegetables daily

Below is my favorite way to cook broccoli, which keeps its nutrients intact, while delivering amazing flavor.

Four-Minute Garlic Steamed Broccoli

Ingredients

  • 2 cups broccoli, chopped into bite size florets
  • 5 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt to taste
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional) 

Directions

  1. Place steamer basket in a medium sized pot and add water, filling just until the water hits the bottom of the basket.
  2. Bring water to a boil.
  3. Add broccoli to the pot, and steam covered for four minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat olive oil and garlic in a skillet over medium heat, until the garlic becomes fragrant.
  5. Toss the steamed broccoli in the sautéed garlic and oil in a SEPARATE bowl (NOT on stove, since this will continue to cook the broccoli).
  6. Sprinkle with salt and red pepper flakes, if using, and serve along with your favorite protein and healthy carb for a simple, balanced meal!

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