In September, they are fun to make. In November, you are in the routine and they just happen. By January, you don’t know what to make anymore. And by March, you never want to make another one again. School lunches: love them, hate them, no-choice but to make them.
Now imagine having food sensitivities, following special nutritional needs, or WANTING to transition to healthier eating as a family. This can seem super overwhelming. I mean if I had a dollar for every time I heard: what DO you put in your sons school lunches? At first sight, being mostly dairy free, gluten free and minimal refined sugar free, can seem VERY difficult to others, especially when it comes to school lunches (can we say nut free too).
Here’s the thing: it’s not as hard as it looks AND it is totally worth it. Focusing on real food (Whole foods that are more of a product of nature than a product of industry) is the key to strong immune, gut, and mental health and the base of life long healthy eating habits. AND it’s our way of controlling my really crappy genetics that I passed on to my kid. Is it always easy to focus on foods that make us healthy and strong? Is it always smooth to give structure, guidance AND knowledge to a five year old on why we eat the way we eat? Frick no. no. no. But is anything worth doing ever really easy? I think you know the answer to that.
Everyday my kid is at school the teachers and kids are literally excited to see what’s in his lunch container. He can often be overheard telling other kids what gmo is and will always ask if that particular food has gluten or dairy in it. When you start young, kids get in the groove easily. When you arm them with information, then kids get confident. So what are our favourite lunch contents for school. Here’s our top five rotations:
1. Beet crackers with hummus, carrot sticks, pepperoni stick, black berries, and a Made Good bar
2. Quinoa with spinach, hemp seeds and olive oil on the side, orange slices, and a homemade banana muffin
3. Chickpeas with olive oil and nutritional yeast on the side, with strawberries, a homemade cookie, snap peas, and toasted coconut
4. Sprouted grain bread with raw honey and sunflower seed butter, grapefruit slices, seaweed snax, cherry tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, and a piece of dark chocolate
5. Rice wrap rolls, homemade energy balls, cucumber slices, apple slices, coconut clusters and some raisins
See that really wasn’t that out of this world was it? Was it really that different from your school lunches? This of course is just a glimpse into our school box, other days you might find leftovers, homemade pizza, soup, homemade chicken fingers or the like. Though are contents change, these guidelines don’t and I find they help with process and acceptance:
1. Cool lunch divider containers make things easier for everyone involved.
2. Add as many colours as possible into every lunch
3. Make sure you have your fruit, veggie and protein source
4. Add one treat that is homemade or is low in sugar
5. When in doubt go picnic style
6. Get them involved. Would you like peas or carrots? Oranges or apples?
School lunches can be a pain in the ass. Eating real food can too. It is easier to just make a cheese sandwich and add in some pretzels and candies daily. BUT it doesn’t have to be difficult. I spend 5 minutes on school lunches every night at dinner time. I follow my guidelines, rotate my options, and make it as simple and easy as possible. I educate my child on why we eat this way and why others might not be able too. I challenge you to strive for 80% real food in your kids lunches this week, do you think you can do it?