Baggin' It... Weekday Lunches

Posted in Nutrition Tips

Baggin' It... Weekday Lunches

Summer is winding down and families are back to the grind of school, work, and extra-curricular activities. Fall is right around the corner and welcoming a new season seems like a good time to start fresh and get back into healthful habits.

When life gets hectic and time becomes strapped, one thing we can and SHOULD continue to prioritize is a lunch (with snacks) from home, most days of the week. I don't just mean for the kids either. We are inundated with access to food, and not always the healthiest of options. Foods available outside the home - whether at a restaurant, drive-thru, cafe, vending machine or cafeteria - seem to consistently suffer from portion distortion, excess sodium, saturated fat, or sugar. Yes, it is possible to find healthful meal options, but the salads gets boring, fast!

Taking a lunch from home can help to meet your nutrient needs, balance your diet, maintain your energy, and meet your health-related goals. Not only that, nutritious meals for your kids can help contribute to their growth and brain development, a healthy immune system, improved classroom behaviour and energy levels. I have four tips to help you and your kids (yes, get them involved) create healthy weekday lunches:

1) Include a source of carbohydrate, preferably whole. Whole carb sources include: whole grain breads, wraps, cereals and pasta, or whole fruit. This is the brain's preferred energy source, and whole foods allow for a slower digestion, providing a more consistent release of energy over time (as opposed to a spike and crash from a refined, sugary source).

2) Include a source of protein from either the meat and alternative group or the milk and alternative group (or both:)). This will help to satisfy the appetite, and help busy muscles to repair and grow. Choose lean sources of protein such as: low fat yogurt (2% or less milk fat), milk and cheese or eggs, fish, chicken and legumes (beans, peas, lentils).

3) A lunch must ALWAYS include a whole vegetable, no exceptions. Portions do not have to be large and be sure to choose a vegetable that you like (you, or your kids, won't eat it otherwise). Vegetables are full of fibre and water (remember the filling effect), antioxidants, and immune-boosting nutrients that help to keep our bodies functioning properly.

4) When it comes to beverages, stick to water, milk or 100% pure unsweetened fruit juice. Children (and adults for that matter) are over-consuming added sugars in beverage form. Fruit juice should not replace having a whole fruit or vegetable and does not contain the same fibre and antioxidant capacity as a whole fruit - nutritionally, they are not equal.

Example lunches:

- Mixed green salad with walnuts and goat cheese; plain yogurt with fresh raspberries (sweeten with a teaspoon of maple syrup or liquid honey if needed); rice cakes with avocado slices and a dash of sea salt

- Mini whole wheat pitas stuffed with tuna and lettuce; mini raisin packets; light Baby Bell cheese; celery sticks lined with Wow Butter (non-GMO, nut-free, peanut-free soy spread)

- Grapes; 15 cherry tomatoes; whole wheat pasta salad made with veggies and chic peas; 100 gram mini yogurt container

- Baked potato with 1/3 cup baked beans 1/3 cup shredded cheese and 1 tbsp plain Greek yogurt; side salad

- Mini pizzas made with whole wheat English Muffins (tomato sauce, cheese, spinach or pepper, pineapple, shrimp); side raw carrots and snap peas with yogurt dip (plain Greek yogurt + cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, oregano); cherries

- Egg salad wrap in a whole grain tortilla with lettuce and celery; canned fruit (in water)

- Plain yogurt with 1-2 tbsp chia seeds, fruit and honey to sweeten; quinoa salad made with black beans and your favourite veggies in a oil, lemon and vinegar dressing

- Banana wrapped in a whole grain tortilla with Wow Butter; 8 cubes of cheese; mini cucumber(s)

Anyway, get creative! Stock your cupboards and fridge before the week begins. Get your kids involved in making their own lunches and do it the night before so it's ready to grab-and-go during the busy morning. Yes, dessert can be part of the meal, just make it small:)

Submitted by: Brooke Bulloch, RD