By Marcey Klein BS, CNC
Back to school is upon us, believe it or not – this summer went by in record speed. And what that means is plenty of preparing for school lunches, snacks, quick breakfasts, and dinners. Our children are growing at a rapid pace and need essential building blocks from the nourishing food that we give them. We don’t want kids leaving hungry from home, eager to eat whatever fast, caloric-rich but nutrient-poor, chemical-laden foods they can get their hands on. My husband says the children’s junk food of choice at the school where he works is Hot Cheetos. He says the kids go crazy for those, but my jaw drops every time I read the label on the bag. The chemicals, food dyes, and garbage they add to that stuff is completely outrageous. It’s just like a greedy company to whack out our kid’s taste buds and their sensitive nervous systems, trying to get them addicted early on so that they can make a buck.
What parents need to do is introduce children to whole foods early on to train their taste buds to know what real food should taste like. If the healthy food is there, they will reach for it. Things like bananas, strawberries, cherries, pomegranates, avocados, tomatoes, pickles, and cucumbers or carrots with hummus can make great snacks. Snack bars combining coconut with nut butters or seeds and oats, sweetened with honey or barley syrup are healthy treats to eat on the go. I also like to soak chia seeds in coconut or almond milk overnight with cocoa and a dash of maple syrup, which by morning thickens to pudding.
Oatmeal will also thicken overnight if you don’t think you have enough time in the morning to cook it; make sure to combine it with a good fat to help keep you full longer. The best breakfasts include plenty of protein and good fats to help stabilize blood sugar and mood, so having a protein shake with greens ready for your youngster in the morning might be a good idea. Eggs with some meat in the morning will also be good for their concentration and brain power throughout the day, as opposed to just having sugary cereal that can cause their blood sugar to tank along with their moods.
Send your kids off to school with a healthy lunch: Use a bento lunch box to help organize and get healthy ideas. We sell these at New Leaf and they’re on sale right now. Fresh veggies with dip is a good idea. Berries, an egg salad sandwich, apples, and a healthier version of chips called Honest Chips sound like a good combination – just keep it colorful and interesting.
For dinner, use real foods, real meats, real vegetables, real oils and fats. I just think of a protein to cook with vegetables and a carbohydrate, like potatoes or squash, or rice. Keep it simple and nutritious. Sauces add a lot. Use guacamole, pesto, and lemons or limes in your food to give a nutritional kick and a taste kick as well. Beans can add a vegetarian protein source to your foods and increase the fiber content as well. Theme nights can be fun like Taco Tuesdays and Meatless Mondays. Mix it up, keep it interesting, creative, and fun. Food is meant to give us pleasure along with sustenance.