Lunch, A Family Affair
A Guest Post by Christine Leventhal
Food. Aaron loves good food and, especially, nutritious food. I do love a good meal but, for me, I am more concerned that our four kids (ages 4, 8, 10, and 12) eat something they like and that’s nutritious. So, we have the task of trying to appease Aaron’s appetite for the new and interesting while getting our kids to eat something wholesome without complaining. As a family of 6, you would think that the toughest part of family life would be bedtime, discipline, and keeping track of schedules. Not the case! The most challenging part of it is preparing meals and having snacks readily available. If you have had to pack a healthy lunch for a kid, you know my pain! Seven years into it, I definitely know a lot more but getting them to eat it is still hard!
We are a family that works diligently to figure out what is effective from a lifestyle point of view. We are constantly trying to find nourishing foods for our kids that not only support healthy bodies but provide sustainable energy. When done right, we see that the food we give them has a strong impact on their ability to focus, feel good, and have a strong immune system.
I do most of the work when it comes to packing lunches for the kids. This can be tough because, like most anybody, the kids want variety. And, naturally, each of our kids is a bit different. Then, we add in the challenge that they need to be nutritious! Here’s how I plan a kid’s lunch:
- Protein: This is the easiest place to start. I like to use leftovers or deli meat from the co-op. This might look like a chicken leg, cut up chicken breast, or thick cut turkey slices from the deli counter. We do our best to pick the least processed meats. Luckily, all our kids like meat!
- Raw Vegetables: Since they all like carrots, that is something we always have on hand. We are constantly “trying” to get them exposed to more variety so we also throw in veggies like bell pepper, cucumber, or jicama.
- Fruit: Apples or grapes are easy, go-to fruits. When the season allows, there is much more variation. But not everyone likes strawberries or blueberries (I can’t believe it, either!) so we tend to buy an assortment of fruits.
- Fat: I like to add in a healthy fat. For that, we give them a variety of olives, individual sized guacamole, or sunbutter. They all like something different!
- Gluten-free Carbohydrate: Somedays, but not every day, we have a gluten-free option to add a little more sustenance to their lunch. Now, I wish I could say they like leftover sweet potatoes and beets, but… yeah… no way. So, they can either take a slice of gluten free bread to make a sandwich or they can have some variety of gluten free crackers or potato chips.
- Treat: They also get some form of a treat like gluten free cookies or fruit sticks, but, again, not every day.
The goal of our meals is to lay a foundation for what their bodies need for fuel and optimum health. I want them to understand what healthy forms and amounts of sugar, fat, and carbs are and what they feel like.
Now that we have eaten this way for a few years, the kids know what will happen if they stray too far from eating like this. I often remind them to make good choices when they are out with friends or at a party, but, ultimately, they have to figure it out. I can tell you that all of my kids have gone to a party and eaten what the other kids ate. Cupcakes AND pizza! It doesn’t end well. Their bodies no longer tolerate junk food. So, meals. It takes a lot of time and persistence to constantly come up with whole-food choices that my kids will eat. But the added work and long-term benefits outweigh the negative outcomes that come with eating a poor diet, day in and day out. What challenges do you have when you plan a lunch? Do you have any good tips?