Quick switches for healthier kid lunches

“I love packing school lunches!” said no mom ever!

School is starting again soon and I am already dreading the chore of packing school lunches. Just being honest here!

How are busy mom’s supposed to get this done when they have to be healthy but still things the kids will eat and won’t get boring? They have to be quick and easy to pack but don’t require short-term refrigeration or heating up. They have to be easily transportable without getting soggy or dried out. If you’re not a pinterest lunch making mom, then these requirements can be a little frustrating!

And isn’t it true that the easiest things to pack are often the least healthy for the kids? If you pack those, you’ll probably get “bad mom” judgement or even have the teachers send a note home about it.

30652226_2025800137683720_3884400209555357696_nHere are a few things I’ve learned to make packing healthy kid-approved lunches easy and fast:

  1. Main Items: For sandwiches or wraps, switch white bread or regular wraps with the whole grain (whole grain is more nutritious than multi-grain) version. If your child refuses to eat whole grain (ours did at first but gradually accepted it when it was the only thing available haha), there are many whole grain breads that look just like white bread. Check out “Daves Killer Bread” for a few great options! You can also use thinner sliced bread or smaller wraps and add more veggies and meat for a more filling meal. My kids loooove pinwheels – whole wheat wrap topped with low fat cream cheese and low sodium turkey slices. Sometimes my kid love to eat lunch meat with no bread at all. That’s super easy and fast too! If your kiddo is a chicken nugget fan, look for the healthier versions that look like real chicken instead of ground up mystery meat. Nitrate free options are always a good choice too.
  2. ¬†Sides: Switch sweetened apple sauce with the unsweetened kind. You don’t even notice the difference in the cinnamon flavors. Throw in low fat cheese sticks and avoid sugary flavored yogurts (also avoid the fake sugar ones!). Instead, if you’re feeling ambitious, you can grab some plain 0% yogurt and mix in some strawberries or other fruit on your own the night before. When it sits in the fridge overnight, the fruit juices sweeten the plain yogurt naturally – this is one of my personal favorite snacks for myself too. Whole grain crackers like Triscuits and Sun Chips are a better choice than greasy crackers or potato chips. Look for “low sodium” too. If your child enjoys veggies, those are an easy and nutritious option, as well as fruit – bananas, grapes and blueberries are my favorite because they require almost no prep other than rinsing.
  3. Treats: Graham Cracker snacks and animal crackers are a better option than regular cookies and will still make your kiddos happy! If you bake at home, there are a few recipes for making healthier desserts on my post “4 Recipes with no Sugar” that you can make with your kids.
  4. Drinks: Water is best, of course. If your child doesn’t like drinking water, try adding fruit to it. If they are juice drinkers, look for the all natural, no sugar added versions. Hint: fill a water bottle half way with juice and the rest water to further reduce the sugar content without them even noticing a difference! Soda is a tough habit to break as an adult. If your child drinks it now, perhaps considering breaking the habit early would be a good idea. Whether the sugar free or sugar full kind, there is nothing good about drinking soda for children or adults.

 


Getting Sensory Kids to EAT

My daughter has been diagnosed with a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). She’s mostly a sensory avoider but also has a few sensory seeker tendencies mixed in. For mom’s of kids like this, you know how challenging meal time can be. From her first solids all the way to now at 9 years old, finding food she will eat is an adventure.

Sensory kids often have issues with strong tastes and anything they deem as a weird texture. The biggest challenge I have with my daughter is with healthy protein and veggies.¬† I know all sensory kids will be different but I wanted to share a few of the healthier meals I’ve found that she’ll actually eat and that I actually feel good about giving her.

Breakfast: Whole grain mini bagels with cream cheese; Bacon or turkey sausage with protein pancakes/waffles; Granola (we make our own because she also has a peanut allergy – I like this recipe as a base but without the brown sugar: http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/kid-safe-nut-free-granola-465337); Fruit;

Snacks: Healthy smoothies – fruit and yogurt smoothies with some veggies hidden in it are great or even better, my daughter loves Daily Sunshine which is a pediatrician approved, kid formulated smoothie powder that comes in chocolate and strawberry banana. It’s packed with a serving of fruits and veggies, healthy fats, protein, and vitamins my kiddo needs but tastes like a chocolate shake so she actually thinks she’s getting a treat. It’s a win-win! Other snacks she enjoys are granola bars, carrots, sweet peppers dipped in a healthy ranch I make with 0% plain greek yogurt and a tiny bit of ranch soup mix, “ants on a log” – aka celery sticks with cream cheese and raisins, whole grain baked crackers like triscuits or gold fish, graham crackers with Sunbutter;

26172939_1976125785984489_6903273852973535921_oLunches: This is TOUGH because she would prefer to eat boxed mac & cheese and chicken nuggets with fries every day if she could. I’ve found she enjoys pinwheels – whole grain wraps with a layer of cream cheese (she loves cream cheese obvi) and deli meat like low sodium turkey. Homemade lunchables are usually a hit too. For those, I use deli meat, cheese slices, whole grain crackers, and a small treat like animal crackers or one cookie.

Dinners: Spaghetti is a big hit so we will healthify it by using whole wheat noodles and adding tiny cut veggies in the sauce. Tacos are a hit and she’ll actually eat them with lettuce wraps instead of taco shells so we often do that to increase her veggie intake. Sweet potatoes are popular and she loves regular potatoes with toppings but we make it healthier by using just a little sprinkle of cheese and plain greek yogurt instead of sour cream.

The biggest thing we have found is to request that she at least takes one bite of whatever we make for dinner (which can sometimes be a serious challenge) and if she hates it, she is allowed to have something different but no treats if no veggies are eaten. Overall, her diet could certainly be healthier but she is not malnourished or overweight. We feel that as long as that is the case, everything is ok and we will continue trying!