Kids Lunches: Basic Concepts
The Nutrition List
What your child needs in the meal is something from the three essential groups:
protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
Include all three for a healthy lunch!
Remember the plate analogy that divides the plate into nutrients?
¼ protein, ¼ carbohydrates, and ½ vegetables.
Each group may contain fats. If you put nuts or seeds in a meal, you have protein and good fat. Add some bread or chips and raw vegetables or fresh fruit and you’re done.
Kids need lots of carbohydrates for running, playing, and for their rapidly growing brains. Remember that brains burn carbohydrates, so you may be able to weigh in a little more heavily on carbohydrates for children’s meals.
Fresh Foods vs. Processed Foods
Processed foods are foods that come in boxes and plastic containers that don’t look like the original foods. They contain way too many unpronounceable chemicals that are not food.
Stick to the whole foods and raw organic foods wherever possible to ensure that your child will not be exposed to pesticides and nasty additives that manufacturers put in processed food to stabilize ingredients, preserve them indefinitely, and make the nutrition-less food look and taste great. Who wants to feed this stuff to their kids?
Help your beautiful child avoid ADHD and other conditions that afflict kids by feeding them clean, wholesome food! Leave the processed foods on the supermarket shelves. It takes a little extra energy to eat cleanly, but it takes a lot of extra energy to take your child to doctors and therapists to control ADHD.
Kid’s Meal Portions
Even though he is gone, Mr. Roger’s mantra about kids’ meal portions lives on.
Serve children’s portions to children!
Especially if you are a stickler about eating everything, give kids the portion size that they can realistically eat. Their stomachs are much smaller than adults’ stomachs, their digestive systems are still developing, and consider their taste buds “in training.” They are learning about new tastes, but it’s safer to try new tastes at the dinner table at home or when you are together in restaurants and can talk to them about new tastes.
We used the ideas in the List of Lunch Ideas to get pre-school and elementary school kids to eat their lunches rather than give them away. The goal is to send a lunch with them that looks appetizing. Sometimes it’s just the presentation. Who cares what the motivation is, as long as they eat what you have prepared?
Think Finger Foods
Kids enjoy finger foods because it’s the natural utensils they were born with. Finger foods are less likely to get mashed in a backpack than a bread sandwich. Energy bars, apple or orange slices, nuts, cheese sticks, cornbread muffins, and raw vegetables all fit in this category.
Don’t expect children to do any microwaving or assembling of their meal. Microwaves ovens are seldom available so work out the cooking ahead of time.
Steaming Vegetables in Advance
If your child does not like raw vegetables, steam them half way on Sunday night and refrigerate enough for several days’ supply. Then repeat on Wednesday for the remainder of the week.
If you have a steamer or a pan of water with an inset for steaming, you can steam most vegetables for 4 or 5 minutes to soften them, then plunge the vegetable into cold water to stop the cooking and preserve the beautiful vegetable colors. Refrigerate for a day or two until they are needed.
Carrots are an exception; steam carrots 6-7 min.
Dipping sauces add great flavors to vegetables, breads like pita and naan, and fruit slices. For the sauces, think peanut butter, almond butter, tahini, hummus, salsa, and yogurt sauces. You can probably come up with others, too.
Sorry, no sodas.
Sorry, no juice boxes or other juice containers.
These are at best empty calories, and at worse, way too large a dose of sugar or artificial sweeteners for any growing child. Pregnant women are advised to avoid juice, so why should you feed juice through a straw straight into the baby’s or child’s mouth later on?
Eat the fruit and drink a glass of water.
See the rationales for all of these in our page devoted to Lunch Drinks.