Monday, February 08, 2010

Packing Veggie Kid Lunches

Packing healthy, fresh lunches for Sprout and Bird has become much easier now that I have a few years of practice under my belt. The more I read about the standard school lunch, the happier I am that we send the kids lunches with them every day. Inspired by Vegan Lunchbox, we got Sprout a Laptop Lunchbox and started planning all kinds of fun meals. The boxes work great--the kids love them, and the carriers provide some insulation. Some lunches have gone over better than others with the kids, but what I've ultimately learned as that I need to take my own advice and keep things simple. What I mostly do now is things that the kids can "put together" themselves. Don't overthink it. Use fresh, whole foods. I try to choose nutrient dense foods and always have something fresh. I'll put a big glob of peanut butter or hummus in one of the smaller containers, and then do 2 things they can dip in in the big containers--usually a veggie and something whole grain. The other small container gets some dried fruit or applesauce. Or I'll do whole grain crackers in one, slices of cheese in another, a veggie and a fruit. The kids each have favorites, and as with most things, letting them have a say, or even help with preparation and/or packing, helps a lot. I was surprised to find out that kohlrabi sticks were one of Sprout's favorite veggies, and that they thought that cream cheese cranberry sandwiches sounded good. Here are a few of our favorites to mix and match:
  • Whole grain pita wedges
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Kohlrabi sticks
  • Carrot sticks
  • Cucumber Slices
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Edmame
  • Celery
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Raisins
  • Peanut butter
  • Hummus
  • Cream Lunches
  • Almonds
  • Cheese

I'll include a knife for spreading or encourage them to make their own sandwiches with the "ingredients" that I pack. They love making their own "ants on a log" (especially with cream cheese and cranberries). I will also occasionally pack a hot lunch for them in a thermos--a baked potato with black beans on top, soup, etc. along with a whole piece of fruit. I will include a square of dark chocolate as a treat every now and then. I've also learned that they actually eat more if I keep portion sizes small. They don't have much time to eat and Bird especially would get overwhelmed by how much food I used to pack, and hardly eat a thing. You'll figure out what works for your kiddo. I used to send an organic juice pouch with them but frugality and packaging concerns have led us to include a bottle of water instead. (Sigg's tiniest bottles will squeeze into the Laptop Lunch carrier with the lunchbox if you really try, trust me!) I hope this helps you with some simple ideas to help make your child's lunch healthier and easier for the whole family.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Childhood Obesity vs. Eating Disorders

I was pleased to learn that Michelle Obama has chosen combatting childhood obesity as her focus for 2010. Let's face it, this is a growing problem in our society, one focused around our twisted American food culture. Her focus will be on promoting health, expanding the education efforts on the importance of health eating in families with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables. I probably shouldn't have been surprised, but was, to learn that there was outrage spreading about the fact that Obama had mentioned her own daughters' weight issues in a recent comment about the importance of fighting child obesity. People who have experience with eating disorders feel that by drawing attention to her own daughters bodies. I will never make light of eating disorders, but I am shocked that people are drawing this conclusion from Obama's statement. In her comment, Obama specifically said that their pediatrician had told her that her daughters were overweight and needed to lose weight. The eating disorder folks are lamenting Obama putting her daughters on a "diet" at such a young age. Surely they must see that a healthy diet goes hand in hand with preventing eating disorders? Without a doubt, our society gives our youth an unhealthy image to live up to. I would love to see less rail-thin models, especially when it comes to youth-targeted advertising. However, the other side of our advertising to children is encouraging them to indulge in fat-laden, vegetable-deprived, HFCS-filled junk. How can we try to condemn Obama for wanting to help her daughters find a healthy weight by eating healthy foods, and making it a family effort? I think Obama should be applauded for not only her efforts, but for showing that the first family deals with many of the same issues that we all deal with. I hope that she will be able to educate more families on the importance of healthy eating, and hopefully expand programs to take these educational efforts into schools as well. Our kids should be the best motivation for us to eat healthy, whole foods again.