Back to School Nutrition Tips
By: Melissa Lee, ND
As the incidence of food allergies increases, schools have ban certain foods for children to pack in their lunch box. Due to fear of anaphylactic allergic reactions, some schools have listed bans on peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, sesame seeds, melon, avocado and dairy products. These bans tend to make it a little more difficult for parents to pack key nutritious foods for their child (ex. almonds, walnuts, cashews, avocados) and foods of convenience (ex. peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, yogurt, granola bars). So what do you pack?
In balancing nutritious and convenient foods to put in your lunch and your children’s lunches is not as difficult as it may seem. This does require some preparation. A general rule have you and your child look at their lunch and ask: does it look like this?
This will help you ensure there are sufficient amount of macronutrients (Protein, Fat, Fibre, and Carbohydrates) in your child’s lunch.
Here are some additional tips to make life a little easier to promote a healthy food day:
- Start off the day with a delicious smoothie.
This will give you comfort that you are starting your child’s day with at least 1-2 cups of fruits and veggies. Put all good things in here: fish oils, vitamin D, all kinds of fruits/veggies, hemp seeds. In a blender make a delicious smoothie for the whole family.
- Gradually create lunch ideas with your child. Create a meal rotation plan that consists of 7-14 days.
When it comes time to pack a lunch for one week, planning and preparation is required. You can do this over the weekend, but make it into an “activity.” This will create parent-child fun time; education and involvement of your child in the creation of meals (which makes them more likely to eat the food); and lets you know what tastes they enjoy.
- Sandwiches aren’t the only lunch option. Try to move away from bread and use fruits and veggies as your base. Try other items like:
- Veggie sticks: celery, carrots, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, spinach leaves, green beans and peas.
- Fruit: orange slices, cut up apple rings, strawberries, grapes, peaches, pineapple, the list goes on!
- Nut free trail mixes consisting of: pumpkin and sunflower seeds, dried apricots, dates, raisons, dried blueberries and perhaps some dark chocolate chips.
- Homemade granola bars
- Gluten free crackers (ex Mary’s crackers), rice crackers + hummus/bean dip + salad
- Veggies wraps: use collard greens and wrap it with vegetables and meat in the middle
- Vegetables wrapped with a piece of meat: ex. Some prosciutto wrapped around asparagus never hurt anyone.
- Sulfite/nitrite free meats/freshly roasted meats.
- Gluten free pasta/ pasta primavera
- Quinoa salad
- Dinner leftovers
- Homemade muffins with WOW butter
Here are some examples below. You may want to try a fresher meat or nitrate/sulphite free organic meats instead of the typical lunch meats as displayed in these lunch boxes. This gives you ageneral idea of sandwich free lunches inthe right macronutrient proportions.
A ban on peanuts, dairy, eggs, nuts in the schools can be frustrating because it does get rid of some common convenience food lunch items. On the other hand, it can help you and your children focus more on a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, complex carbohydrates, and better quality protein sources.