Written by Colby Jenkins, Pn1, RMT
Lifepath Wellness Centre
It’s that time of year again! Kids are back in school, which means that it’s time for you to start tackling the daunting task of school lunches and snacks.
Packing lunches and snacks for your child can often feel like a chore, but keep in mind, nutrition is crucial in your child’s journey to proper growth and development. The food your child consumes fuels them with the proper vitamins and minerals that they need to learn and play.
Where to Start
A good place to begin is to design a weekly meal plan and shopping list for your child’s lunches and snacks. Although meal planning may seem like an overwhelming job, it is a great way to ensure that your child is enjoying a variety of different home cooked meals, and it’s a great way to save money!
1. Write down your “go-to” recipes- This step often saves a lot of time in the long run; when you get stuck not knowing what to make for dinner, all you have to do is choose one of your “go-to” recipes. Remember to add new recipes that you would like to try.
2. Look at your calendar- Before you start planning your meals for the week ahead; determine which days will be your busiest. On those days, plan easy prep meals such as crockpot meals, salads, prepared snacks, etc. On those extra busy days, plan a “leftovers” night. This will help ensure you don’t get caught unprepared and drive to the nearest fast food restaurant.
3. Take advantage of Leftovers- When planning your meals, take into consideration which dinners can transition into a great lunch. Rather than just re-serving the same dinner as your child’s lunch, think of ways to repurpose your leftovers, such as turning leftover grilled chicken breast into grilled chicken and veggie wraps for lunch.
4. Create your meal plan- Grab your calendar and your list of “go-to” recipes and start planning your weekly meals! Make sure to check your pantry for ingredients you already have and ingredients you will need to pick up. And remember, the most efficient way to plan your child’s lunches is to use leftovers from your healthy dinner!
5. Make a shopping list- This is perhaps the most important step. Having a shopping list when you go to the grocery store ensures that you stay focused on the foods that you need. After you have made your meal plan for the week, go through each meal and write down the ingredients that you will need. Keep a note pad and pen in the kitchen or on the fridge for jotting down ingredients as you need them.
6. Schedule a prep day- For most people this day ends up being a Sunday. Take a few hours over the weekend to prepare or precook some of your food, which will save a lot of time later in the week.
Meat: Cut and divide portions based on your meal plan, and freeze. Prepare things like ground turkey meatballs or ground beef burgers. You can also cook and freeze meat for later use!
Veggies/Fruits: Chop and portion your fruits and veggies for quick and convenient use! Save time by making containers of chopped veggies for snacks, or by washing and chopping your lettuce for salads.
Other: Find a few healthy recipes that you would like to send with your children as snacks and make these for the week! Examples would include healthy recipes for home made granola bars, muffins, etc.
7. Water- It is critical for your child to stay hydrated while at school to ensure optimal brain function. To avoid having your child consume drinks loaded with sugar, be sure they pack a water bottle. Having a water bottle will also help with less trips to the water fountain during class time. Make water fun! Try adding colourful fruit like lemon, strawberries or mint leaves. This will not only add flavour, but nutrients too.
Keep in mind that children need a healthy balance of protein, carbs and fats in their diet to ensure optimal growth both physically and mentally. Good sources of healthy carbohydrates include foods like whole grains, brown rice, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, squash, oatmeal, quinoa fruits and veggies. Healthy protein comes from foods like Greek yogurt, cheese, eggs, meat, and beans. Nutritious fats in nuts, avocados, meat, and whole-milk dairy products help with brain function and keep your child feeling full throughout the day. When planning for your child, be sure that you are incorporating each of the three macronutrients into every meal.
Nourishing Meal Guide for Your Child
Breakfast: Oatmeal cooked in milk/almond milk, topped with fresh peaches, sliced almonds and a pinch of brown sugar or stevia
Fresh cut apple slices with all natural peanut butter
Yogurt parfait made with Greek yogurt, fruit, and low sugar granola
Ground turkey meatballs with no sugar added tomato sauce and spaghetti squash. Topped with mozzarella cheese, with a slice of whole sprouted bread on the side
“Ants on a log” chopped celery sticks topped with all natural peanut butter and raisins
Sliced red peppers with hummus
Raw cookie dough bites (see below for recipe)
Grilled shrimp and veggie kabobs with brown rice on the side (Repurpose these leftovers for tomorrows lunch!)
Raw Cookie Dough Bites
Ingredients: makes 10 cookie dough bites
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup applesauce
3 Tbsp. water
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. cinnamon
12 drops liquid stevia (or other sweetener, to taste)
3 Tbsp. unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
1. Combine coconut flour and almond butter in bowl and mix thoroughly.
2. Add in applesauce, water, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and stevia. Mix thoroughly.
3. Scoop out dough and roll into balls.
4. Coat with shredded coconut if desired!