Written by Dr. Keith Kantor, PhD, ND
Recent studies have predicted our children’s generation will be 50% obese. Obesity is defined as a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or more. Obesity is a precursor for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, thyroid disease and cancer. Obesity will affect a child’s quality and overall health.
Start implementing healthy habits by making small changes, the first thing that you can do as a parent is make your child’s lunch every day. Take control of your child’s nutrition. If you think your child is getting a healthy lunch at school visit them one day and observe what they actually eat (or do not eat).
Kids who Skip lunch or eat a processed hot lunch at school are setting themselves up for failure. A processed school lunch will contribute to weight gain and skipping lunch or having empty calorie snacks for lunch (chips, cookies, etc.) will affect their ability to concentrate in school. Some parents argue that it takes a lot of time to pack a lunch but it really only takes a few minutes if you get a system down and prepare in advance, plus you save money!
Packing a school lunch is beneficial for both teens and young children. Teens are at a higher risk for gaining unwanted body fat and metabolic issues because they have more freedom and are exposed to unhealthy fast food options or sugary coffee shop drinks. Also consider your child’s practice schedule. If they skip breakfast, eat a junk food lunch, go to practice on an empty stomach and get partially dehydrated, not only will their performance suffer; they could be putting their immune system at risk.
If you find you are in a time crunch in the mornings, pack it the night before, this way you have no excuse to send them to school with lunch money. Make sure you include 4 components, a protein, fruit, vegetable and healthy fat (and possibly a gluten free carb option).
Here are some simple healthy lunch box ideas for your child:
- Twist on PB&J (2 slices gluten free bread, 1-2 Tbs. all natural almond or sunflower butter and all natural fruit spread or better yet real berries as jelly + 1 apple + 1 serving carrot sticks with 2 Tbs. hummus for dipping.
- Lettuce Wraps or gluten free sandwich with nitrate free deli chicken or turkey, tomatoes, spinach, 1 oz cheese and mustard + 1 c chopped melon + and ¼ c nuts or homemade trail mix
- 1 serving almond crackers + 1 c chicken or tuna salad + 1 banana + 1 c cucumber slices with salsa and guacamole for dipping
- 6-8oz Greek yogurt + ½ c all natural granola + ½ c berries and 5 celery sticks with all natural peanut/almond or cashew butter and raisins (ants on a log)
I recommend packing water as their drink, but if you insist on a juice box make sure it is 100% juice with no high fructose corn syrup in the ingredients. Don’t forgot to keep it cool, make sure you are packing their lunch in an insulated lunch box/bag with ice packs to avoid any potential bacteria that could develop if perishable food hits room temperature. If you have a picky eater ask them to help you pack their lunch this way they will take ownership in what they are eating while maintaining healthy lunch options of whole grain, lean protein, fruit and vegetable.
A Bento box is a great tool for making life easy and greener, you can find them in cooking stores or online. Forget going through endless plastic baggies, get a Bento container and packing lunch will be a snap.
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Be sure and order your copy of Dr. Kantor’s highly praised new book What Matters: Leadership Values that Just Might Save America. Proceeds from sales benefit the American Diabetes Foundation, the All-Natural Food Council of North America, the Natural Products Association.