It’s that time of year, the rush to be on time, organized sports, music, and dance lessons. As a working mom, I have excitement and anxiety when the kids go back to school. Traffic increases, downtime decreases, getting up earlier, packing all the items needed for school and the rush of getting one place to another causes my heart rate to increase 100 times. However, I have found a few things to help me alleviate the stress. One of those things is prepping healthy snack and lunch choices for my kids. If possible, prep some of the snacks the night before so there is minimal work to do in the morning.
When meal prepping, you should be sure to include, fruits, vegetables, protein, and dairy (if they require substitute a non-dairy option). It is important to provide a vegetable as it aids with digestion. Children who only eat carbohydrates have something called carb crashes. This means that they get energy from the carb that is easily digested causing a spike in the blood sugar levels, then those sugar levels crash. As a result, your child will appear hyper then tired. When proteins and vegetables are part of the diet, they reduce this making your child’s blood sugars more stable.
Here are some nutritious and fun ideas that you can mix and match or replace with Gluten and Dairy Free options.
So many kids like eggs, they are high in protein and nutrition. I make a few hard-boiled eggs Sunday night, and peel them Monday morning (although sometimes my kids enjoy the peeling process and so I leave it on). I pack a cheese stick, grapes (they have so many delicious choices like Cotton Candy grapes or Moon Drop), pretzels (or gluten-free pretzels), and sliced cucumbers.
I make my daughter a yummy turkey roll. I make Russian Dressing, slice pickles into spears. I place a little bit of the dressing on the turkey, add the pickle and roll it. I slice apples then mix blueberries and raspberries. This is a delicious alternative to a turkey sandwich. We have also used vegan deli meat and it tastes great.
I make a vegetable wrap (lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, and avocado), sliced cucumbers and carrots, and potato chips or gluten-free crackers. This healthy lunch is a huge hit in my house. My kids love vegetarian options and feel good when they eat them.
Delicious salad. My kids love any salad including Caesar salad, Greek salad, or a homemade garden salad. I prep the salad and dressing the night before. I put each one in reusable containers, keeping the dressing separate so the salad stays crunchy. There are so many alternatives to use from goat cheese to quinoa. I pair this lunch with a clementine to give them a little sweet after they ate something savory.
PB & J is a necessity. My kids love a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You can use gluten-free bread, a peanut butter alternative (Wow butter or Sun butter), and your child’s choice of favorite jam. I use a cookie cutter to make a fun shape and get rid of the crust. I love to send this with sliced apples, cheese sticks, and grapes.
These are just some fun easy ideas that you can mix and match or create your own versions. I feel it is crucial to make healthy choices at a young age for a well-rounded diet. A healthy diet helps your child sleep better, attend to tasks better, and feel good.
What are some of your favorite lunches to pack?
Sarah Appleman MS, OTR/L is the author of “Play With Your Food” and is a specialist in her field.