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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Healthy Lunch Ideas For Kids (and Grown-Ups!)

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Half of Gabby has moved to a new kickass website! 

Read this article, in it’s updated version, HERE.
 The page that you are on right now (www.halfofgabby.blogspot.com) is no longer posting new articles and information. Half of Gabby has moved to www.halfofgabby.com and will continue to post new material regularly! In addition, all older articles have been updated on the new site!

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Are you loading your kids up with junk for lunch? 


Well, you might be without even realizing it. Or you might be because it's just so damn easy to do. I don't know about your house but mine is a mad dash in the mornings. There's always something causing us to run late. Between missing shirts, bathroom wars, trying to locate a hair brush, fluffing up clothes in the dryer, wardrobe arguments, last minute belly aches and bathroom trips, the realization that homework wasn't finished, oh and IDK... a hundred other morning hiccups that occur, the task of making my girls' lunches seems to eat up precious time. So I don't have time to be sending homemade healthy foods all the time. It's just not realistic. But on the other hand, I refuse to feed my kids the poison that sits on all the grocery shelves. So what it really comes down to is making the best possible choices with what there is to pick from and the time available to me. It comes down to common sense... and labels.

There are so many products out there geared for the convenience of packing lunches. A lot of these items claim to be "healthy" but you need to be careful. Packaging is going to say whatever it has to in order to get you to buy it, but the proof is in the label.

Here's some quick tips regarding labels:

1. Just because something is organic, doesn't mean it's good for you. Yes, organic is a good thing. It means the ingredients were derived from and in an environment that was free of chemicals, additives, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, dyes, and preservatives. It also means that the ingredients were not processed using industrial solvents, genetic engineering, or irradiation (using radiation to sterilize or preserve food). So yes, these are all good things but just because the ingredients are natural, doesn't mean they are good for you.

For example, here is a label from an organic granola bar. Cane syrup is listed 3 TIMES in the ingredients list! 



Cane syrup is just as unhealthy and bad for you as high fructose corn syrup. It may be processed differently but your body doesn't know the difference between the two. It's just as unhealthy. Cane syrup is liquid sugar and is even sweeter than molasses.

2. If there are ingredients on a label that you can't pronounce or have no idea what they are, put it back on the shelf. If it's made of natural ingredients, you will recognize them. Our bodies were not designed to process chemicals and preservatives. Our bodies are designed to only run on what the earth provides. We are really pushing the limits to what our bodies can handle when we eat foods that contain chemicals, preservatives, and other poisons. And we are already full-grown! Imagine what this stuff is doing to our babies who are still growing and developing!

3. Try to stick with products that have 5 ingredients or less. I know it's hard but think about it. If a product has a bazillion ingredients, it's not very natural. The key to making the best possible choices is to try to find foods that are as close to their whole form as possible. I can guarantee you if you are reading a label with 30 ingredients, there's some stuff you never even heard of. I know it's harder to find products that meet the healthier requirements, but it's not impossible and your children's health (and yours) is worth it. Let the labels make the decisions for you.


SOME HEALTHIER OPTIONS

Again, some of these aren't perfect and if you're buying something in a bag or box, chances are even if it is a 'healthier' option, it's not the best choice. But in a busy, fast-paced world, we have to do the best with the time we have. Just make the best decisions that you can. It's not the end of the world if occasionally you put a piece of candy or a bag of chips in your kids' lunches, just try to fill their bellies with mostly healthy foods most of the time.

Here are some of the foods/drinks that I put in my little girls' lunch boxes (and my own too!).

FRESH FRUITS & VEGGIES

First and foremost, always try to get at least one fresh fruit or veggie in their lunch. Grapes and berries are a super easy and quick fruit to throw in a baggie. Olives, grape tomatoes, and baby carrots are also quick. I usually cut up cucumbers, carrots, and celery on the weekend and pre-bag them for the week. Same goes for some fruits. Watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew hold up pretty well when pre-cut.


Applesauce is usually a big hit with kids and can be a good option for your child's lunch. They come in easy and convenient packaging and are available in just about every grocery store. But beware of all the new flavored applesauces that can contain unnatural chemicals and dyes. In addition, when buying regular applesauce, make sure it doesn't have added sugar. Apples are sweet enough on their own, there is no reason to be buying applesauce with refined, white sugar mixed into it. 

It's important to get our children used to tasting the sweetness that the earth provides for us. 

Children (and adults) are so used to the sickening sweetness of all of the processed junk that if something isn't intensely sweet, we don't want to eat it. Tastebuds adjust according to what you get them used to. If you stop feeding your kids all of the refined sugar products, they will start to taste the sweetness in foods like fruits much easier.

Here's one of the applesauce packs I buy for the kids (I eat them too!).






CONVENIENT HEALTHY SNACKS

My kids love cheese and nuts. Fortunately, there are a lot of convenient options to choose from. With cheese sticks being super popular, there is a wide variety to pick from. In the last few years, the nut companies have jumped on the bandwagon too. It seems every time I'm at the grocery store, there's another kind of nut pack on the market. Try to avoid the nut packs that are loaded with sugar and syrups mixed in with the nuts. Instead, go for the natural nut packs. Nuts are great to pair with fresh fruits.






HEALTHIER PROCESSED FOOD OPTIONS

Processed and refined foods are not healthy; however, there are some that are better than others. Always choose the lesser of the evils when you can. I really try to steer clear of processed foods. But I do buy the low-salt Triscuits for my girls. They both love them and there are only a few ingredients in them. 


 ONLY 3 INGREDIENTS

Triscuits also are a great substitute for bread in a lot of lunches. I often pack them with chicken salad, tuna salad, or egg salad. The girls use the Triscuits to scoop up the salads. These are some of the girls' favorite lunches. And as for the different salads, that's another thing that I will prep on the weekend. This cuts down on morning time and helps me get through making lunches quickly. My husband and I also love the salads, so we eat them for lunches too.



LARABARS are a big hit in our house. There are a ton of flavors to choose from and they all have only a few ingredients. Yes, they are made in a factory and they are obviously not a whole food, but they are made with natural ingredients and are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy free, and GMO-free. At any given time, there are at least three or four different flavors in our pantry. Larabars give you the desserty feeling that most of us crave with a meal, but yet are a much healthier option than the cookies and lunch cakes out there.


 Most LARABARS have 5 or less ingredients in them and never have refined sugar. Their sweetness comes from fruits such as dates and figs.



They even came out with MINI LARABARS which are a great little sweet extra to put in the kids' lunches (and yours too). I get my minis at Target.






DRINKS

Juice boxes and individual drinks geared for school lunches can be filled with an enormous amount of sugar and offer hardly any nutritional value at all. Luckily both my daughters love water so for many days, they get a mini water bottle in their lunch. 


If I have time, I'll take off the water label and put some cool duct tape around the bottle to decorate it. Lately, my girls have been putting the tape on for me. They like to pick what design they want. I got the idea off of Pinterest and my girls love it.

Kids get excited about the most simple of things and anything that helps them drink more water is a winner in my book... and worth the little bit of extra time.


There are a ton of different duct tape designs out there, but you could use any kind of decorative tape or even tape a strip of decorative paper around the bottle. I'm not sure why but I am so enthralled with decorative tapes. I had a collection going way before I saw the water bottle trick on Pinterest. I know, I'm weird.



VITA COCO JUICE BOXES

This is really the only juice box I will buy for my girls on a regular basis. They are 50% juice and 50% coconut water. They have very little sugar in them (only 8 grams) whereas the regular leading juice box brands have anywhere from 16-30 grams of sugar in them! They are also very low in calories, coming in at only 35 calories a pack.

Coconut water has many health benefits and is often a very overlooked drink option for both children and adults. Coconut water is the water inside of young coconuts (when they are still green). Coconut water is sweet and contains vitamins, minerals, amino acids, electrolytes, enzymes, and cytokine (proteins that are vital in cell health). And when kids are sick or dehydrated, coconut water is an excellent drink to replace electrolytes instead of the chemical laden gatorades and sports drinks. 



 These drink boxes are sold in many stores, I usually purchase mine at Wal-Mart. They are not on the same shelf as the regular juice boxes. They are usually with the bigger bottles of juice and boxed organic milks.




I even love just plain coconut water and drink it often; however, my kids say it doesn't have enough flavor. They prefer the Vita Coco drinks, which is fine by me.



Packing healthy lunches for your kiddos and yourself doesn't have to be hard. There are options out there, you just need to take the little bit of extra time and read the labels instead of just chucking things into the grocery cart.  Any extra time you spend on making your family healthier is well worth the effort. 

You may encounter some resistance from your kids initially in regards to the healthier food in their lunches. If they are used to Cheetos, Oreos, cupcakes, and soda in their lunch, you will hear it when you make the change. But eventually they will adjust and their tastebuds will learn to love the healthier foods. Besides, they can't eat what you don't give them. You don't have to make every change at once. You can ease them into it. It may also be helpful if you don't mention that their lunches are about to get 'Healthified.' Sometimes it's good to fall back on a long-tested, tried, and true mommy method of straight up trickery and dupery. Moms have been tricking their kids into eating their veggies for decades. Why stop now? ;)

*I was not asked nor was I paid to endorse this product. It is simply a product that I use and love and wanted to share with my readers.


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*The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content in this article is for general information purposes only. I am not a doctor, nor am I a dietitian. Talk to your physician before making any changes in your diet or exercise regimen. The information found in this article is from various sources which include, but are not limited to, the sites listed above. I encourage you to do your own research and talk with your physician before making any changes in diet or exercise. What has worked for me may not work for you. This information in this article or on this website should never replace or serve as medical advice.

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