This fall a big change is happening for my family. My daughter starts kindergarten in September. Although she has attended day care on occasion, most of her care to this point has been at home with the help of our extended family. Having a child in school presents a couple of challenges that make me exceptionally grateful for naturopathic medicine and my awareness around the importance of wholesome food.
So, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that healthy meals are always a big focus in my life.
With the first day of school around the corner I’ve had to do some outside of the box thinking as to how I can pack a kid-friendly, healthy meal that travels.
Let’s begin with a few general tips about healthy meal planning.
1) Involve the entire family in meal planning, grocery shopping, and meal prep. Kids who engage in the kitchen activities are more likely to eat the meals that are prepared and have better long-term eating habits!
2) Set time aside to prep and batch cook so there’s less to do throughout the week. I like chopping all my veggies into sticks for snacking or grating a few cups of purple cabbage, carrots, and celery to easily toss into salads, wraps, or stir fry. Things like quinoa, hummus, energy balls, salad dressing, overnight oats, yogurt bowls, soups, chilli, sauces, etc. can all be made several days in advance or even frozen for long-term storage.
3) Plan ahead. This is THE KEY to healthy eating. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Live by it. If you have time and are making a lovely, nourishing meal think about ways the leftovers could be incorporated into the next day’s lunch or supper. Make a plan for a week or at least 2-3 days in advance (and stick to it).
Here are some great ideas I hope will help inspire healthy, creative, and most importantly delicious lunch boxes!
Overnight chilli or pasta sauce
– Place all chilli ingredients in slow cooker overnight and in the morning, simply fill a thermos with the goodness. Send with toasted spelt pita chips.
Note: My daughter has turned against the texture of some of the veggies we put in sauce and chilli, so I do appease her by using a hand immersion blender or our Vitamix to create a consistent texture. When making chilli, I simply add the beans after blending.
Boost your Sandwich
– Add sprouts
– Use lots of veggies such as shredded cabbage, carrots, and celery
– Include “real” meat (ideally high quality, local/grass-fed/free-range) or wild fish
– Try using mashed avocado or hummus instead of mayo
– Be choosy with your bread, go for ancient grains like spelt and kamut. Many local bakeries offer options like this OR wrap it up with lettuce or a sheet of seaweed!
– Get creative! Anything goes when it comes to salad (aka Goddess Bowls!)
– Add lentils, chickpeas, or beans for protein
– Vary the greens (and use more than one kind at once!)
– Toss in fruit and veggies!
– Pump up the volume with seeds, sprouted grains, or sprouts
– Modify the ingredients for less sophisticated palates and wrap them up in a spelt pita or brown rice wrap
Pack a punch with pasta
– Switch up the noodles for black bean or lentil varieties for added protein and fibre
– Try a veggie noodle using a spiraler (zucchini and spaghetti squash are naturals for this!)
– Make your own sauce (we load ours with veggies and then blend it to please our daughter’s texture preference)
– Take every opportunity to add in veggies, like in this Mac and Cheese
– Hummus and veggie sticks
– Energy seed balls (of course being mindful of no-nut policies)
– Cheese and crackers
– Smoothies to go-go
– Wholegrain rice cake with pumpkin seed butter, hummus, or avocado
– Plain, full fat yogurt with chia or ground flaxseeds, topped with berries, cinnamon, and a splash of honey or maple syrup
– We’ve all heard about the dark side of fruit juice and I recommend avoiding it. In my experience, when juice is not available kids will drink water! Send them to school with a cool, stainless steel canister and encourage them to refill throughout the day!
Let’s face it, eating clean, wholesome foods takes preparation. But I think you and your kids are worth it. I hope you do too!
Happy lunchbox packing!