As we devote the month of August to healthy back-to-school snacks and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle when things get busy, we want to chat about how to pack a balanced lunch for work or school instead of opting for the processed and sugar-filled ones in the cafeteria.
While the USDA and FDA are slowly making changes in how school lunches are served and the nutrition requirements that need to be met, there is still a ton of work to be done. Schools receive less than $3 for free lunch meals to give to students which means schools must choose a lower quality of food in order to feed everybody. Something as simple as offering fruits and vegetables becomes difficult when the processed foods are cheaper options.
The USDA has put in place multiple programs such as the “Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program” to make sure that students create healthier habits. However, schools tend to work around the requirements. For example, schools can choose what produce they give out and even how many days a week they distribute it (they must do a minimum of two).
Although we might not be seeing paleo, gluten-free and grass-fed options in our school and work cafeterias s for a while, we can fuel ourselves (as well as our little ones) with these options by creating our own healthy lunches in BPA-free lunch boxes like bento boxes or eco lunchboxes to name a few.
Packing a lunch sounds easy - but coming up with ideas of what to pack? Not always.
We like to pack our lunches with a majority of fresh fruits and vegetables, always picking what’s in season if we can. Eggplant, kale, cherries, carrots and green beans are just a few things that we’re loving this month.
To get a protein punch in the afternoon, we love adding grass-fed and organic meat or plant-based foods like quinoa (an excellent source of complex carbohydrates), lentils and chickpeas to our lunchbox. Foods like these are filled with iron, calcium and Vitamin D - all of key importance for kids growing! Other fun proteins to create salads, bowls and stir-fries with are tofu, tempeh and edamame. The key for a healthy lunch is to get a balance of everything from carbs and protein to fat and fiber.
Since we love our healthy fats (almonds, we’re looking at you), opt for switching out salad dressings for mashed avocado or a drizzle of tahini, a sprinkle of hemp seeds on a salad or spiralizing some zucchini noodles in coconut oil for a make-shift pasta. Better yet, make our pizza dough with organic marinara sauce and meat for an easy 30 minute meal, or pop one of our muffins into a ziploc bag for an after-lunch treat.
Last but not least, don’t forget forget to sneak in a few healthy versions of the processed snacks we’re all familiar with. Peanut butter cups? Skip the hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup and pick a paleo option with coconut sugar and cacao like Eating Evolved’s Coconut Butter Cups. Packaged yogurt tubes? Skip the added sugar and dairy but keep all of natural fruit with Ruby Rockets non-dairy yogurts.
At Simple Mills, we know how important it is to feed our little ones healthy, delicious foods that contain ingredients that work hard for their bodies. We also know how busy life can get and the challenges of finding time to feed your kids the right way. That’s why our products are easy to make and even easier to incorporate in your daily lunch routine. The ingredients are good and good for you, just the way it should be!