So what do we look for?
What our kids have to eat greatly effects how well they function mentally and physically. If we want them to have balanced energy through the day, balanced moods, a strong immune system and a brain which is able and willing to learn, we must feed them all the nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins, carbohydrates and water) the body requires in order to achieve this.
There are a lot of things to consider when looking at food to include in your child’s lunchbox, however it doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, if you just stick to food that doesn’t come in a packet you don’t even need to worry about reading labels! We need to be eating whole foods which come as nature intended, all properly prepared to ensure optimal digestion and absorption of all the nutrients within.
When putting together a snack or meal we want to try to keep to the 40-30-30 rule as a very general guide. This means each meal should contain 40% carbohydrate, 30% fat and 30% protein. As we are all bio-individuals this will vary slightly and some may need more fat and less carbohydrates, but this is a good place to start. As a benefit of balancing meals you will also be likely to find that your child is less likely to snack and hassle you for food ALL the time!
So what foods?
When looking for healthy protein you want to ensure it is free from any preservatives, additives or sugars. There are some great butchers around who sell smallgoods without the nasty additives or preservatives. The Naked Butcher is one (they also deliver), Paddock to Plate is another.
You want your meat free range and grass fed where possible. Fish needs to be wild caught as with anything farmed they are fed grains – which they are genetically unadapted to which like us means illness! Poultry and their eggs must be free range, preferably pastured as their natural diet includes insects and worms. We must always remember the healthier the animal, the happier and nutritious they are! I should also note that pastured animals are also higher in the anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids.
Fresh vegetables and fruit. When dealing with fresh foods it is always best to try to get organic, local and seasonal produce. This ensures the food is not tainted with pesticides and if picked in season and hasn’t had to be in storage or transport for a long period, it is also higher in nutrients. When this isn’t possible try to steer clear of the ‘dirty dozen’.
The Dirty Dozen. A list of the 12 most highly sprayed foods. Best to buy these organically grown only. Be sure to wash any non-organic fruits or vegetables well in vinegar and water, then rinse.
The Clean Fifteen. This is a list of the 15 least sprayed fruits and vegetables. I would still steer clear of corn as it is often genetically modified, it is actually a grain, not a vegetable. We can’t digest it, so it is a stressor on our bodies and many people have an undiagnosed sensitivity or allergy to it.
Grains and starchy carbohydrate such as sweet potato should make up no more than 15% of calories. In order for grains to be digestible and for us to utilise the nutrients found within, they should be soaked, sprouted or fermented before eating. Always avoid gluten as it is extremely damaging to the gut lining and can cause sensitivities or allergies even without showing outward symptoms.
This all may be seeming a tad complicated but hang in there and I will show you in fact just how simple it can be!
Fats are very important for many, many functions in our body as well as for energy production, it can be full of nutrients and the cell walls in our body are made of fats and most of our brain! In saying that, the quality of the fats we eat is HUGELY important. Trans fats, Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils or oils which have been heated or incorrectly stored are extremely inflammatory and toxic for us and must be avoided at all costs. Again this involves avoiding most processed foods. Even those claiming ‘baked not fried’. These items are usually sprayed with oil before being subjected to high temperatures.
Being school lunches and snacks nuts are usually off the cards but some healthy sources are; butter or ghee from grass fed cows, fats from animals, cold oils such as olive, flax hemp or sesame.
How on earth do we figure this out?!! I hear you asking.
Well there are some handy dandy apps that you can use. You will find you will only need to do this for one or two meals and you will get a pretty good idea of how much of each thing to include in your child’s (as well as your) meals. Two handy apps for tracking macronutrient ratios of meals are; My Fitness Pal and Chronometer.
Finally, some examples of some health giving lunches. Personally I keep it really simple with my son’s lunch. The main part of his lunch is actually leftovers from the night before. I just make extra to be sure we all have lunch for the next day. I will also include a piece of fruit and some cut up vegetables for ‘crunch and sip’ plus an extra snack. This is sometimes some toasted coconut and goji berries, some homemade seaweed chips, some beef jerky (without the nasties) or maybe some cucumber and avocado wrapped in a nori sheet. There are so many options and most require very little effort. I mean I know there aren’t many parents out there who have spare time to be making gourmet meals.
Here are some snack ideas;
Egg muffins (just make an omelette and pop the mix into a muffin tray with some coconut flour mixed in)
Jerky (nasty free)
Cut up vegetables and fruit, if your child likes a dip include a yummy guacamole dip
Boiled eggs if your school will allow
Nuts and seeds (preferable soaked and dried) and coconut –, again if your school will allow
Roasted sweet potato slices – again a dip is nice to include
Celery with seed butter
Leftovers!! Or leftover protein with some cut up vegetables.
Preservative/additive free sold meats. Can be eaten on their own or you can use lettuce, eggs or nori sheets to wrap.
Get a thermos for winter and put some yummy warm soup or stew in there
For a special treat I will make up some paleo bread (grain free, dairy free) and make a sandwich of leftover steak avocado and salad.
The options are endless. There are some great websites that can offer you much inspiration.
A quick word on drinks
The only drinks your children need is water. Preferably filtered and pure. Any other drinks contain too much sugar. Even ‘pure’ juices are not ideal as they are pretty much pure sugar. The body cannot tell the difference between cane sugar or fruit sugar. All sugars illicit the same response in the body. As we want to avoid any spikes in blood sugar, theses should all be avoided.
Just remember keep it simple! Find things that can be made in bulk so you have things already on hand and think about making extra dinner to have leftovers to serve for lunches the next day.
Think of how you will be supporting your children’s health and wellbeing, and hopefully your own!
If you would like more information on anything in these articles, or healthy eating and living, don’t hesitate to contact us here at the clinic.
In Good Health,
Chloe Brooks. Nutritional Therapist.