When there is a bit of a chill in the air, curling up on the couch with a nice cup of hot chocolate is a delicious way to warm up. My kids love hot chocolate – but I don’t love the kind made with those hot chocolate packets – each cup contains 20 grams of sugar (5 teaspoons!) and a bunch of other no-so-healthy ingredients we try to avoid. Here is the ingredients list from a popular brand:
SUGAR, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, VEGETABLE OIL (PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED COCONUT OR PALM KERNEL AND HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN), DAIRY PRODUCT SOLIDS, COCOA PROCESSED WITH ALKALI, AND LESS THAN 2% OF CELLULOSE GUM, NONFAT MILK, SALT, SODIUM CASEINATE, SODIUM CITRATE, DIPOTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, SODIUM ALUMINOSILICATE, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, GUAR GUM, ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS.
Then I found the perfect solution – delicious and healthy hot chocolate – thanks to Barleans Chocolate Greens! First of all, these greens are like no other – they do not taste “greenish” or look at all green – so they are great for kids, especially picky ones. They are not grainy at all either – they stir in totally smooth into your liquid. Each serving contains more than 5 servings of vegetables, probiotics, superfood greens, and much more! So when I read that it makes a yummy hot chocolate – we decided to give it a try – and it definitely makes a delicious and super healthy cup of hot chocolate (or chocolate milk, or chocolate smoothie)!
I wasn’t expecting my daughter to like it, who is a mostly reformed, but still a little bit of picky eater, and definitely a supertaster – so when she gave it the thumbs up, I was totally elated.
There are a couple ways to make it:
Pour your hot chocolate into a mug, and serve. Optional – you could even use a mini organic
candy cane to stir – it will give it a nice minty taste. Or top with some Elyon gluten free mini marshmallows, available at Whole Foods markets.
It’s Back to School time again. That means it is time to ditch the “summer brain” and get ready to focus and pay attention in class. These 5 foods can literally feed our brains, boosting it’s functioning and focus to help kids stay on task at school.
One of the best sources of omega 3s is fish, especially fatty fish like salmon or tuna. Omega 3 fatty acids are brain foods, critical for healthy brain functioning and focus – and unfortunately, many Americans are deficient in omega 3s. My kids love tuna salad for lunch, which offers a mid-day brain boost. You can roll it up into a wrap, do a tuna salad with crackers, or I have even rolled it in seaweed to make “sushi.” But big fish like tuna can be high in mercury, so we choose Wild Planet brand tuna, because it has half the amount of mercury (compared to conventional brands), and a higher omega 3 content. Omega 3s not only help with brain functioning, but also are shown to boost mood, reduce inflammation, protect the heart, improve skin, and much more – one of the most important nutrients all Americans need. Additionally, tuna is a good source of protein and B6. People with focus or sleep issues tend to be B6 deficient and can also benefit from B6.
Taking a fish oil supplement is another good way to get EPA and DHA omega 3s – in our house, we like Barleans Omega Swirls, which now is available in a convenient to go packet. Omega Swirls 9 times more absorbable than other fish oil, and come in several delicious flavors.
2. Chia seeds
Walter Willet of Harvard Health recommends that we have fish or fish oils a few times a week, and a vegetarian omega 3 source every day. My favorite vegetarian source for omega 3s are chia seeds – because in addition to the omega 3s, these little seeds offers so much more. Chia seeds fill you up, offer lasting energy/endurance, and form a gel which helps to slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. In addition, chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber, antioxidants & minerals. Chia seeds are rich in the ALA form of omega 3s, which the body needs to convert to the EPA/DHA forms. Chia doesn’t really taste like anything and can be easily added to many foods. Top your oatmeal, boost your smoothies, or add to your baking. I also like to make a quick chia pudding – just add a couple Tablespoons of chia seeds to a half cup of your favorite non-dairy milk (I like coconut), add a little vanilla, and a touch of your favorite all natural sweetener (like agave or stevia), and let it thicken for a few minutes. Voila – you have a delicious & nutritious pudding!
Look for foods boosted with chia seeds, like San Diego based Whales Tails torchia chips, and Nuttzo peanut free multi-seed nut butters – both great additions to the lunchbox!
3. Cacao –
A recent study showed that eating chocolate helped people to perform math problems better. Instead of a Hershey bar before math class, I recommend having something made with cacao, the key ingredient in chocolate that is good for our brains. I like to add local brand Sunfood‘s raw organic cacao to smoothies (try this Choco Banana Smoothie), I also make raw energy bars with it, dark chocolate black bean brownies, and you could even make homemade chocolate almond milk, just add cacao and your favorite natural sweetener. Cacao also is one of the best food sources of magnesium, which tends to have a calming effect on the nervous system, and introduces more oxygen rich blood to the brain. The majority of the population and up to 95% of kids with ADHD are magnesium deficient. Some signs of magnesium deficiency – poor memory/focus, headaches, dizziness, fear/anxiety/uneasiness, increased bone fractures, restless leg syndrome, hyperactivity, insomnia, constipation, apathy, and more. Kids who tend to fidget or are hyperactive might benefit from taking magnesium before school, because it will help to calm them down and boost focus. Another way to get magnesium is by taking a magnesium supplement, my kids like the raspberry lemon flavored Natural Calm. Too much magnesium can have a laxative effect, so start with the lowest dose possible.
Protein-rich eggs offer lasting energy which is key for focus and attention. Another focus-boosting nutrient that eggs offer is choline – which is important for brain development and memory. Over 90% of Americans are estimated to be deficient in choline. But don’t just eat the egg whites, because the choline and other important nutrients like lutein are all found in the egg yolks. I always recommend buying the organic or pastured eggs, which are naturally richer in omega 3s. A 2010 Penn State University study showed that hens raised in pastures laid eggs that had double the vitamin E and 2.5 times the amount of omega-3 fatty acids compared to eggs from their caged conventional counterparts. If you can’t find pastured eggs, go for organic eggs, or organic omega 3 rich eggs that come from Chickens that are fed flax. Learn more about pasture-raised eggs, and read more about the many nutritional benefits of eggs. You can find pastured eggs at your local Whole Foods market.
Rich in antioxidants, berries help to reduce oxidative stress in the body and the brain. Strawberries also contain a flavenoid called fisetin which can improve the memory. Blueberries have Vitamin K, manganese, and vitamin C and have been shown in lab tests to help improve the cognitive function of elderly lab rats.
Getting Back On task
Getting back into the swing of school after Summer break can sometimes require a short adjustment period. Eating foods (or supplements) rich in Omega 3s, magnesium, zinc, antioxidants, protein and B Vitamins can help kids to focus and get on task throughout the year. Also avoiding foods with artificial colors, preservatives and too much sugar is a smart strategy. A supplement called On Task might be another option to consider for kids that continue to have trouble staying focused in school. On Task contains magnesium, B vitamins, Vitamin C, and zinc, to help improve the brain’s ability to focus and stay on task. Invented by parents whose child was diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, and Tourette’s disorder, who were looking for a natural solution like On Task. They could not find one, so they created On Task. Read about their story, and some of the testimonials of customers.
Remember Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No campaign from the 80’s dedicated to educating kids about the dangers of doing drugs? One memorable commercial had the egg frying in the pan and the slogan – this is your brain on drugs. The slogan for the commercial with the fried egg today could be “this is your brain on sugar.”
Not Just Empty Calories
We all know that super sweet foods and drinks are not good for us. But mounting evidence is revealing that they are not just harmless empty calories. Several studies have already linked consumption of sugar and high fructose corn syrup to obesity and increased risk of a host of diseases – including diabetes, heart disease, and even certain cancers. But one of the newest
studies out of UCLA, indicates that added sugars might just “make you dumber.” Fortunately, the study also revealed a magic bullet that can make your brain work smarter, even reversing some of the effects of fructose – omega 3s.
In the study, UCLA researchers put rats in a maze and gave them a few days to navigate and remember how to get around. Then they removed the rats from the maze for a 6 week period. During this time, one group of rats were fed an omega-3-rich diet, the other two groups consumed omega 3 deficient diets; one of which also drank a fructose solution in place of water. After the six weeks period on these diets, the researchers put the rats back in the maze to see how well they recalled it and performed.
The average American consumes roughly 142 pounds of added sugar a year (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture). The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting added sugars to 8 teaspoons a day total. Not an easy task considering 1 can of soda contains about 10 teaspoons alone. The average American consumes more than 3 times the recommended amount of added sugar each day. Over half of all 8 years olds drink a soda each day, and one third of teenage boys are drinking 3 cans of sodas per day.
Researchers point to insulin – which affects not only blood sugar, but it also the way in which brain cells function. When we consume too many sweetened beverages and foods, our bodies become less able to process them, leading to a condition called insulin resistance – which can also lead to stubborn weight gain and even diabetes and other diseases overtime.
UCLA researchers were sure to clarify that there is a difference between naturally-occurring sugars, and those that are manufactured and added to foods and drinks. This is an important distinction, because the brain relies on sugar or glucose as it’s primary fuel. Research shows that too much added sugar, can actually deprive your brain of glucose, compromising the brain’s power to concentrate, remember, and learn.“We’re not talking about naturally occurring fructose in fruits, which also contain important antioxidants,” explained Gomez-Pinilla. “We’re more concerned about the fructose in high-fructose corn syrup, which is added to manufactured food products as a sweetener and preservative.” Whole fruit also contains fiber, which helps to prevent insulin spikes and many American diets are lacking. But once a person has insulin resistance or diabetes, their body can even have trouble processing the naturally occurring sugars in fruits and other foods.
Luckily, taking omega-3s appears to counteract the negative effect of the fructose, even potentially reversing insulin resistance. The omega 3 rich diet had other protective effects beyond our brains. The rats who consumed less omega-3s had higher triglyceride, glucose and insulin levels: which is associated with a condition called Metabolic Syndrome. But the good news – the study found that omega 3s could reverse the insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes).
The best sources of omegas 3 fatty acids are fatty cold-water fish like salmon, fish oil supplements, chia, flax and hemp seeds, tree nuts, and seaweed/algae supplements.
So what is the bottom line if you want your brain to work smarter? Get your omega-3s, and limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks. And researchers say it is never too early to start. “Our findings suggest that consuming DHA regularly protects the brain against fructose’s harmful effects,” said Gomez-Pinilla. “It’s like saving money in the bank. You want to build a reserve for your brain to tap when it requires extra fuel to fight off future diseases.”
Here is a list of eleven other foods that can boost brain functioning too.
One of nature’s perfect superfoods – coconut oil has almost endless uses and is definitely on my must-have healthy shopping list! In Sanskrit, coconuts are called “Kalpa Vriksha” which means: “The tree that gives all that is necessary for life.” When choosing a coconut oil, I like to look for quality unrefined, organic cold pressed oils – such as Barleans. Each & every Barleans coconut is sourced from the Phillipine isles and hand selected and picked fresh from the tree at it’s peak of flavor, aroma & nutritional value.<
1. A Healthy Fat:
Many people think because it is a saturated fat, that it is not good for you. But that could not be further from the truth!
2. Ideal Cooking Oil:
3. Great for Skin & Hair:
4. Boosts Immune System
Breakfast foods that boost focus, attention, mood, and provide lasting energy – to avoid the “Seven Dwarf Syndrome” at school.
“Presence is more than just being there.” – Malcom S. Forbes
Just being seated at their desk is not enough, kids need to be ready to focus, pay attention, and really connect to the material. Skip breakfast, or make poor choices, and kids might find themselves feeling like one of the Seven Little Dwarfs – Sleepy, Grumpy or Dopey.
According to an Australian study, people who follow a “Western”, or Standard American Diet (SAD) are more likely to have attention issues and receive an ADHD diagnosis. The SAD is characterized as more sweets, processed, fried and refined foods – in general, more packaged and convenience foods. Although there really isn’t a “Seven Dwarf Syndrome,” Dr. William Sears coined the term NDD – Nutrition Deficit Disorder, and he says that some cases of ADD are really just NDD. Read: Is it ADD or NDD?: 12 Inattention Culprits.
The Power-up Breakfast:
The first meal of the day, breakfast literally means “breaking the fast.” For kids to be able to stay on task and engaged, the morning meal should help them power-up and provide lasting energy. The right choices will properly fuel our kids’ bodies, brains, and even their mood. The wrong choices could put kids at a disadvantage to learn. Critical to provide a good foundation for learning and attention in school, the ideal power-up breakfast will be a good source of one or more of the following:
1. Healthy fats
The brain composition is over 60% fat, so in order for the brain to develop and work well – diets must have sufficient amounts of healthy fats. Fatty acids are basically what the brain needs to think and feel. The no and low-fat diet craze of recent years was literally starving our brains! One of the most important fats for the brain is omega 3s – known as essential fatty acids. Essential means that our body can not manufacture them, so they must be consumed. A 1996 Purdue University study revealed that kids with learning and behavior problems had lower levels of the omega 3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in their blood. A 2000 study showed that adding DHA fats to infant formula increased their intelligence. Conversely, declines in DHA levels of the brain are associated with cognitive decline. Consumption of fish (omega 3s) is also associated with lower levels of depression. The US Military is spending over $1 Million to study the effects of fish oils on the prevention and treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the lead doctor on the study refers to fish oil as “nutritional armor” for soldiers.
Omega 3s are found in: fatty fish like salmon, some nuts and seeds (like flax and chia seeds), and fish oils. Since most American kids don’t like fish for breakfast, taking a fish oil or another omega 3 supplement in the morning is an easy way to boost those omega 3s. Kids definitely will run the other way if it smells or tastes fishy, so here are some delicious options, with no fishy taste or smell:
Fats also provide the body with an important source of energy after they are metabolized. Other healthy fats are found in olive oil, avocados, and coconut oil. Coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides which are shown to be metabolized more quickly than other fats, so they can be more quickly converted to energy and will be less likely to be stored (as fat).
A good component of a solid power-up breakfast, protein gives kids lasting energy – key to help them stay energized and focused throughout the morning.
Eggs are one of the highest quality protein sources, providing about 6 grams of protein per large egg. Another important nutrient that can be obtained from eggs is choline, which supports memory and brain functioning. More than 90% of Americans were found to be deficient in choline according to a Iowa State University study. Many people have been led to believe that egg yolks raise our cholesterol, and have been advised to limit egg consumption, or skip the yolks. But researchers at Harvard School of Nutrition have found that the majority of the population, eggs do not raise blood cholesterol. Egg yolks are a rich source of lecithin, needed for proper nerve functioning, and which play a role in memory and concentration. Kansas State University discovered that the lecithin in eggs reduces the absorption of cholesterol. So go ahead and eat the yolks, and please – do not be tricked into buying those boxed “eggs” to avoid the cholesterol! Choosing organic eggs is worth the extra pennies, as they are naturally higher in omega 3 fatty acids.
Yogurt is produced by fermentation of dairy (or dairy alternatives). Not only is yogurt high in protein, it is one of the richest sources of calcium, and contains probiotics. Probiotics promote a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut, which promotes good digestion and boosts immunity. Gut disbiosys is an imbalance of bacteria in the intestines, and is a evolving theory for the etiology of Autism, ADHD, sensory processing and related disorders. But watch out for the flavored varieties – they can have too much sugar and even artificial coloring. Look for brands that have lower sugar content, and I always choose organic whenever possible. You can buy plain yogurt, and sweeten it yourself with a little Natures Agave, Barleans Omega Swirl, or your own fruit. Try these brands I like:
Nuts and Nut Butters – Spreading some nut butter on their toast will give kids some protein and healthy fats for longer lasting energy. Nuts and nut butters are great on apple slices, you can even add a spoonful to oatmeal. Nuts are also a good source of healthy fats. But read the labels to make sure that there is no added sugar or trans fats. If if you do choose peanut butter, look for the all-natural varieties with no added sugars or oils. I prefer the nutrition of almond butter over peanut, but if you do choose peanut – look for a brand that is made from Valencia peanuts, they are less likely to contain aflatoxins, a carcinogen. Read: Perplexed About Peanuts for more info. This brand is a particularly good nut butter:
Smoothies are a great way to pack in protein, fiber, and omega 3s- I like to put frozen berries, banana, vanilla protein powder, a greens powder (such as Barleans Greens) and 2 Tablespoons of chia seed. I also like to add some So Delicious coconut keifer, or yogurt. Add some Good Belly mango – it contains probiotics, and will add mango flavors and a little sweetness. Smoothies are great because they are portable in case you are running late – just pour into a water bottle or glass – voila! A power-up meal in a glass.
3. Whole Grains/Fiber
Many kids (and adults) just simply do not get enough fiber in their diets. Fiber is important because it keeps our digestive system working well, and it also provides longer lasting energy – because unlike white flour, foods made with whole grains takes the body longer to use/digest. Many kids miss school because of “tummy toubles” that could be solved by increasing the amount of natural fiber in their diets. Good sources of fiber are whole grains, whole fruits, and vegetables. A food is considered a good fiber source if it has at least 3 grams of fiber per serving, excellent if it has over 5 grams. Foods with fiber in them are considered complex carbohydrates – digesting complex carbs with fiber takes longer than digesting simple carbs (sugar and all processed “white” grains). High fiber foods stay in the system longer and and provide the body with more energy for longer periods. When grains are processed, the fiber is removed along with most of the natural nutrients. Processed grains are simple carbs – and are quickly converted to sugar in the body. Some good whole grain options:
Fruits – fruits are a delicious start to your morning, and a good source of nutritious fiber. A bowl of berries with some yogurt, a half of a grapefruit, a fresh fruit smoothie – all will provide extra fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins to your kids’ morning. Each meal of the day is an opportunity to eat some fruits and veggies – the new My Plate suggests we fill half our plate with plant-based foods! What about fruit juice? Definitely avoid any juice that is not 100% juice, or has the artificial colors. Drinking juice (even 100% juice) can do the same thing that sugar does – it causes our blood sugar to spike and then shortly after, it will fall. So you are always better eating the whole fruit instead of drinking the juice. The fruit contains fiber which slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, gives us lasting energy, aids digestion, and fills up our tummies. If you do choose juice, make sure it is real juice, serve a small glass, and pair it with some protein, fiber, and/or healthy fats to prevent the sugar spike and crash.
Vegetables – not one of the foods we typically think about for breakfast – veggies are a great addition to our morning routine. Add in some spinach, tomatoes and peppers into your morning omelette. I like this recipe for a kid-friendly veggie omelette. Roasted and pureed sweet potatoes are a wonderful addition to your pancake batter. I like to sneak in some veggies into smoothies – carrots go great in a mango/peach smoothie, and add lots of extra color. Baby spinach is a wonderful addition to smoothies too. I like to use Greens Powders in my morning smoothies too. Try Barleans Greens, they come in a variety of flavors, or just plain.
Just Don’t Skip It!
If your child frequently is running late for school and skips breakfast, having some healthy on-the-go options on hand is a good plan. When I make smoothies, I like to pour any extra into popsicle molds – they make a great after school snack, and also a quick on-the-go breakfast. Cereal or granola bars can also be a good option – but watch out! Many bars are full of sugar or high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, low in fiber, and even have artificial coloring! Here are some better choices:
Top 3 Breakfast Ingredients to Avoid for Focus:
1. Sugar. We all know that eating sugar is not nutritious. But besides being empty calories – a sugary breakfast is a disastrous way to send a kid off to school. Sugary foods give us an initial burst of energy; but then shortly after it is followed by a ‘crash,” something I call “The Sugar Rollercoaster.” When we crash, our blood sugar drops, and we can lose focus, energy; some individuals who are hypoglycemic or pre-diabetic can even become shaky, sleepy, and lethargic – not the ideal state for our kids to learn.
If you do choose a food with some sweetness, try to select one with primarily naturally occurring sugars (not added), that are a good source of fiber, protein and/or healthy fats. Sugary cereals, pastries, donuts, or anything swimming in syrup is not likely to give anyone the lasting energy they will need to get through first period, never mind getting them to lunchtime. Avoiding cereals with more than 10 grams of sugar per serving is a smart approach, or anything that lists sugar as the first or second ingredient. Also watch out for the sneaky sugar sources – foods that seem healthy, but are loaded with sugar. Although they can be a good source of protein and calcium, and some of the sugar is naturally-occurring, certain brands of yogurt can also have a lot of added sugar. Read labels – look at the grams of sugar, and also the percentage of calcium in the yogurt. The higher the percentage of calcium, typically – the less sugar, choose brands that are closer to 30% calcium. Some other sneaky “health foods’ are muffins and granola – both can be full of sugar. Try to choose the lowest sugar option, or better yet – make it yourself! The best way to watch your sugar intake is to make it yourself and become a label-reader – get familiar with the sugar content in the foods you are feeding your kids. Next time you are at the store, see if there is a better choice – there often is! Have you ever added up all the sugar you or your kids eat in a day? Try it – it might shock you!
2. Trans fats. Do doughnuts Make you Dumber? Increasing all fats in the diet is not the answer. There are some fats that we want to avoid: trans fats. Trans fats are “altered fats,” which are created when food heated in fats for a long period (ie: deep fried), or when they are hydrogenated (ie: margarine). Trans fats tend to be solid at body temperature, and therefore act more like saturated fats, making cells more rigid and inflexible, and interfering with normal functioning of cell membranes. Studies have shown that trans fats can interfere with DHA utilization in the brain, leading to diminished brain functioning. Additionally, trans fats have been shown to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol. Foods that contain trans fat include; doughnuts, margarines, mayonnaise, salad dressings, french fries and other fast foods, and many processed/packaged foods like cakes, pastries, cookies, etc. Even if the package says “contains no trans fats”, it can contain them – in small amounts (if there is less than 1 gram, they can claim no trans fats). Avoiding or limiting processed and packaged foods, or anything that says “may contain partially hydrogenated soybean, sunflower, safflower, or corn oil” on the label will help you steer clear of trans fats.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is generally too high in omega 6 fats, and deficient in omega 3s. This imbalance leads to chronic inflammation, a foundation of most degenerative diseases. Besides behavior, focus and attention issues, some other signs of fatty acid imbalances are: dry or cracked skin, dandruff/dry hair, dry eyes, allergies, poor wound healing, fatigue, frequent infections, and excessive thirst. Other disorders that have been linked to fatty acid imbalances: Alzheimers/dementia, autoimmune disorders, MS, Schizophrenia, Depression, aggression, migraines, neurological diseases, tinnitis, and more.
3. Artificial Colors, Preservatives, other Chemicals. The jury is still out as far as the FDA is concerned, but several studies have revealed that certain susceptible kids are negatively affected by the chemicals in artificial coloring, especially kids with ADHD and Autism. So when there are plenty of alternatives, why would we feed our kids a cereal or another food that has artificial colors in them? According to the Mayo Clinic, kids who are prone to hyperactivity should especially avoid foods with yellow dye numbers 5, 6 and 10, as well as sodium benzoate and red dye number 40. Look at the ingredients list on all cereals, on the sparkly toothpaste your kids uses in the morning, some brands of flavored yogurts, some strawberry flavored milk, and some “fruit” drinks. If it is brightly colored, chances are the color came from artificial sources. Choosing organic cereal, yogurt and natural toothpastes is a good approach, as you can be sure that there are not artificial colors in anything that has the USDA certified organic label. But even some natural compounds can be a problem – salicylates are naturally occurring chemicals that can create issues in individuals with ADHD. Dehydrated fruits, fresh berries, tomatoes, tea, licorice, peppermint candy/extract, cucumbers and spices such as curry powder, paprika, thyme and rosemary can all contain salicylates.
A study from the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health has found that eating a healthy diet in childhood can be associated with small increases in I.Q. Breakfast could be the tipping point to make or break students’ ability to pay attention and focus in class. But a better diet may not be the full answer for all kids. There are a number of physiological reasons that can cause behavior and attention problems, including but not limited to ADHD. Read: Is it ADD or NDD? for more information about various physiological reasons for attention and behavior issues.
Note: This article was originally written in 2011, it was edited in 2014.
Article written by Clinical Nutritionist Sara Vance with ReBalance Life, find her on Facebook.
Worry no more! Its almost Back to School time – so here are some tips and product ideas to make packing a healthy lunch easy and fun!
A working mom myself, I know how hard it is to juggle it all. These products and tips can help us think outside “the box” and make packing a healthy lunch easy and delicious – and fun! If you can bring your kid into the kitchen to pack it – they will be more likely to eat it.
Veggies & Fruit
Fill Up Half the Lunchbox!
The USDA recently replaced the Food Pyramid with MyPlate, which shows that half of all of our meals should be fruits and veggies. Most people could benefit from eating more plant based foods – MyPlate gets us thinking about increasing our fruits & veggies! The good news is there are so many great products out there now – that make fruit & veggies easy, yummy & fun for lunchboxes:
Kids Love to Dip!
Another great way to incorporate more fruit & veggies is to send in dips! Laptop Lunch containers (or bento buddies) are perfect for sending dips, because they have a really cute dip container! Also great for sending salads too – put the dressing in the mini bento buddy so the salad does not get all soggy.
Remember – if you are sending anything perishable, make sure to include a cold pack, or you can freeze some items the night before, learn more from this Today Show segment.
Buh Bye Boring Sandwich.
So many kids just get bored of the same old sandwich, so why not surprise them with:
The Chip Rule of “Thumb”
Kids like a little “crunch in their lunch” so it is no wonder that chips are a favorite. My chip rule of “thumb” is if they turn your thumbs orange, or are flavor “blasted” – we can make a better choice! We don’t even think about chips having artificial coloring, and forget about those ‘flavor blasted’ ones – that just is extra artificial flavoring! I like these options better:
Don’t Drink Your Sugar!
I am not a fan of juice boxes – I think kids already get too much sugar each day in the foods they eat, they don’t need to drink it. But it is important for kids to stay hydrated at school, especially if they head right to sports afterschool. Here are some cool alternatives that are super-hydrating:
To Dessert or Not Dessert, That is The Question.
So what about a little something sweet for dessert, you ask? Is that allowed? Yes – I like to follow the 90/10 rule that the Obama’s follow, if 90% of the diet is healthy, then 10% can be treats. Here are some fun yet healthier alternatives that are treats – but without going overboard with tons of sugar or fat; and no artificial coloring:
Most people like to buy a fresh new lunchbox every year – why not “Go Green” this year? The Go Green Lunchbox is not only ECO-friendly, but it really can make lunch fun again for your kids. No more plastic wrap needed – it has lots of fun compartments, and a little white board to write notes! Your kids will be so excited to open their lunchbox everyday to see the message. Top rack dishwasher safe, so clean-up is a snap! I suggest getting 2 liners – so one can be in the dishwasher, while the other ones is heading off to school.
If you already have a lunchbox for your child and want to make that more eco-friendly, get some bento buddies to fit inside. I especially like the mini-container the bento kits offer – perfect for dips. You can also buy the whole Laptop Lunches system. Check out this video to see what Laptop Lunches has to offer:
I know there are a lot of other great lunchbox ideas out there. Would love to hear from you…what are your favorite products and recipes for the lunchbox?
For vegan lunchbox ideas, check out these vegan kid-friendly lunchbox ideas.
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