Monday, September 10, 2012

What's in Your Lunch Box? The Link Between Nutrition and Learning

When I am speaking to parents about nutrition for their children, I always ask if their food choices pass two basic tests. The first test I call the “grandmother test”. This means would their grandmother recognize the food they are serving? Is it something simple and wholesome that would have been around when she was a child? If yes, this is likely a good food choice. The second test I call the “chemistry test”. If you purchase pre-packaged snack or lunch foods where the ingredients list requires that you need a PhD in chemistry to understand what is inside, it is again not a good food choice. All of these chemicals are not food and have no nutritional value whatsoever. While the packaged food industry has certainly tried to make packing lunches easier, it doesn’t mean the box of snacks from Costco is the best for our kids!

Here are my top food ideas to consider placing in your child’s lunch box.

RECESS – has to be “grab and go”, right? It’s just too exciting to get out there.

Whole fruit:  take advantage of the gorgeous new crop of Okanagan apples, plums or nectarines available at your local fruit stand – no prep required!
Home-Baked goods:
make a batch of oatmeal cookies or their favourite muffins, and toss in 1/4 cup of ground flax seeds while you are making them!  They will never taste the difference and you’ve just added fibre and omega-3 brain food. Toss extras in the freezer – they will easily defrost by recess time.  Send them in a reusable snack bag – just be sure to check their pockets at the end of the day!

LUNCH – take advantage of the creative lunch containers available – they promote a waste-free lunch and will save you lots in the long run! Pop in a cool pack when sending yogurt or eggs.

·      The “Classic” Sandwich: with whole grain bread and organic chicken or turkey – the key here is a source of protein which fuels the body and the brain. Whole grains contain B vitamins and minerals while the white gluey breads have little nutritional value and convert to sugar in the body very quickly, causing a spike and then crash in blood sugar.  Organic chicken is a great source of protein and free of chemicals from regular poultry products. For a twist, swap out the bread for a whole grain tortilla wrap.
      Hummus with veggies, whole grain crackers and turkey “roll-ups” – About the 3rd week back to school, kids get really tired of sandwiches. Try this – the kids love the variety and dipping anything – so this option is packed with protein and a little more interesting.
·      Leftovers – don’t discount that pasta or soup from last night’s dinner. Invest in a great thermos and send them to school with something warm for their tummy (especially in the cool days ahead).
·      Omega 3 eggs – taken hard boiled to school, these pack a protein punch and have the benefit of also having the omega 3 source at a rate over 5 times higher than a regular egg. Eggs have taken a bad rap in the media for cholesterol, but they needn’t be cautioned for children unless there is an allergy on board. A wonderful brain food. Peel them in advance for the little ones!
·      Yogurt – one of the best sources of protein and calcium in addition to that good bacteria known as “probiotic” which aids in healthy digestive and immune systems. Look for Greek yogurt (even higher in protein) and if sending yogurt “tubes”, choose those with no artificial sweeteners or colours.

Also try involving your kids by asking them what they like.  They may just surprise you with some creative, healthy options they have seen at school that you haven’t thought of.

Guest Post: Dr. Cameron McIntyre ND, Naturopathic Doctor 

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