Healthy Lunchin': Three Back-to-School No-Nos
Everyone wants the best for their children. That goes without saying. And while we all also know there are worse things you can do to your kids than sending them off to school with Lunchables, there aren't many. So we get up early and pack what we hope is a healthy lunch. Parents find it comforting that they're sending their precious cargo off to school with home-packed meals, but there can be some hidden evil in that lunch.
Here are three of the biggest mistakes we make when feeding our kids during the school year and ways we can prevent them.
1. No Skipping
One of the biggest mistakes that we make (or our children make) starts before school. Skipping breakfast. This is a no-no for sure. Not eating breakfast reduces learning and decreases ability to focus and pay attention. In addition, it can be a contributor to obesity. When you skip breakfast, you may get overly hungry later, and this can lead to poor food choices, eating too much and eating too fast. So, give your kids a healthy breakfast each morning (and take this as an opportunity for you to have one - because you need it, too). Start the day off well with oatmeal, a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter, scrambled eggs or egg whites. Even a healthy, protein filled smoothie works great for fueling the day.
2. Lukewarm Lunches?
Unsafe home-packed lunches can be a major problem. Bacteria are evil little buggers, and when our cold food isn't kept cold enough and our hot food isn't kept hot enough, they have a perfect environment in which to multiply. Perhaps that stomachache or intestinal upset little Johnny came home with wasn't a bug he caught from a classmate; it may have been his lunch! Hot foods need to be kept at or above 140 degrees, and cold foods should be kept at or below 40 degrees.
A recent study from the University of Texas at Austin, which was published in the Journal of Pediatrics, found that over 90% of preschoolers' home-packed lunches were not at a safe temperature for eating once lunchtime arrived. Be sure to pack several ice packs in your child's lunch box and use insulated lunch boxes to maximize staying temperatures. Freeze liquids (and even yogurt) the night before, then in the morning place them in the lunch box. Avoid using lunch foods that spoil easily, such as egg salad and things mixed with mayonnaise. There are even lunch boxes that can be placed directly into the freezer the night before use.
3. Attack of the Snack Attacks
Careful with the after-school snacks! Now, don't get me wrong, snacks are good for us, and I encourage several small snacks throughout the day. The problem isn't the snacks; it's what a child may choose for a snack (especially if mom or dad isn't around).
Many people store convenient snack packages in their pantry or cupboards, such as chips, cookies and the like. If they're around, it's guaranteed the kids will snack on them. Instead, choose to have fresh and healthy snacks easily available. Good examples are dried fruit, fresh fruit, trail mix, low-fat cheese and whole grain crackers, yogurt, cut-up veggies and hummus. Also, many kids will drink their calorie allotment for the day without realizing it, so don't have sodas, punch and other high-calorie drinks around.
A healthy treat such as my Very Berry Smoothie from my latest cookbook "Flavor First" makes an ideal after-school snack. Get the recipe here.
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