Hello to all the hardworking parents out there! The school year is winding down, but if you’re like most parents, then you’re already gearing up for the next school year. When families are on the go, it can be hard to maintain healthy eating habits for self and children. Here’s a list of healthy lunch ideas for children to enjoy over the summer and into the new school year.*
Who doesn’t love avocado? Though originating south of the border, the salty fruit has wormed its way into the hearts of Americans everywhere. And for good reason! The avocado contains healthy fats that are important for a child’s development. Unlike unhealthy food that sneak in trans fat, the monosaturated fats in the avocado are what your child needs.
How to eat it: blend it into a smoothie, spread over toast, eat it in slices alongside your favorite breakfast
If you’re looking for a meal that’s high in fiber, look no further than the sweet potato. This versatile vegetable can even be made into toast. Slice it, pop it into the toaster, spread almond butter or your favorite spread across, and go! It’s also nutritious, filled with vitamin A, C, potassium, and fiber.
How to eat it: bake it, slice into fries, cut into cubes
A great energy boosting side to any lunch for children not allergic, nuts of various kinds provide all types of vitamins and nourishment, including fiber (almonds, cashews, and walnuts), protein (almonds, cashews, and walnuts), healthy sugars (cashews) and vitamin E (almonds). It should be noted that some centers and schools forbid nuts on the premises due to allergies. A great alternative to nuts are seeds, specially sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
How to eat it: eat a serving size along with other favorite foods, mix a variety of nuts and seeds together to create trail mix
As nature’s sugar, fruit is naturally palatable, and often one of the first meals children have. Fruit is a quick source of energy and a trusted on the go meal. Apples are rich in antioxidants, which help protect the body against cell damage. Bananas offer high fiber, potassium, and vitamin B6, making them great sources of energy. Bananas are especially helpful for children who are involved in sports or other extracurricular activities that extend further than a normal school day. And if you’re looking for healthy carbohydrates, look no further than the mango. This tropical fruit may require patience until ripened, but the sweet reward of the fruit and juice it provides is worth it. A single mango alone holds the daily value necessary for vitamin C, and 35% of the recommended daily value for vitamin A.
How to eat it: cut up apple slices and serve with peanut butter, pack a small bushel of grapes for the go, spread banana over toast, cut mango and serve in squares, serve a variety of fruit in a fruit salad.
*Here are gluten free, non-dairy, red dye-free options for children and families with allergies and/or dietary restrictions. (The author’s personal favorite are the YumEarth’s lollipops!)
Red Mill Gluten Free Oats
A reputable company, Red Mill promises to deliver quality oats to people who have celiacs, a gluten intolerance, or a similar dietary restriction. Their oats fall under 19 parts per million gluten, and are high in healthy carbohydrates for energy.
How to eat it: serve hot with either almond milk, soy milk, or water in a heat-sealed tumbler; soak them in milk and fruit over night to eat on the go, blend with your favorite berries or nuts to make homemade granola bars
Coming in an assortment of yummy snacks, most Kind products will carry a proud label declaring themselves to be free of gluten and wheat, trans fats, dairy, and GMOs. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms, and the food created by these organisms, whose genes have been taken from or added to in order to produce a sturdier, more flavorful, or longer lasting food. The downside to GMOs is that what is done to organisms and the food made from these organisms may not be healthy to our bodies. Because of this, other brands and foods have developed non-GMO products, such as the snacks Kind makes.
How to eat it: Kind creates snacks such as oats, chewy bars marketed specifically for children, and fruit bites.
Boom Chicka Pop
This light airy popcorn is rewarding to eat and even more rewarding for a healthy digestive system. Not only is Boom Chicka Pop gluten-free, it is also cholesterol-free, and GMO-free. The company also touts that the delicious popcorn is only 35 calories a cup! The convenient packaging of their ready-to-eat flavors helps kids eat lunch on the go if they’re on a fieldtrip or decide to school-work through lunch.
How to eat it: Boom Chicka Pop comes in an assortment of ready-to-eat flavors, as well as microwavable bags.
“Gluten-free, no-dairy, no nuts,” is printed at the top of YumEarth’s organic pops packaging. The label is a beacon for parents who may realize there’s a lack of options when accounting for how many ingredients in popular food and snack items may potentially harm children. In addition to slicing these ingredients from its recipe, YumEarth also colors food with natural ingredients and without the use of red dye. Snacks that are free of red dye may promote more natural activity and energy levels in children.
How to eat it: YumEarth makes gummy bears, licorice, fruit snacks, hard candies, and lollipops
There is a plethora of healthy food options out there for children and parents alike. If there is a time to sit down and have a meal, sweet potatoes, avocado, and oats make great lunch options. If your child is on the go during lunch or any other part of the day, nuts or seeds, such as almond or sunflower, or fruits, such as bananas, are convenient, energy boosting, and healthy.