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Packing Your Child a Healthy School Lunch

If a trip to Target is any indication, the school year is just around the corner. The colorful school supplies are in abundance and according to my daughter, Natalie, she "needs" at least one of each item. The new school clothes are grabbing her brother Lucas' attention. And, since his twin, Jacob, remembers the P.

E. teacher saying, "Your shoes need to be clean on the bottom to participate in gym." he lifts his foot to show me how he "has to have a new pair of gym shoes ." Even though the enthusiasm for these new supplies wears off quickly, I love their excitement as they get a fresh start at the beginning of a school year. The truth is it feels good for me to have a fresh start as a mom.

I get to begin the year being more organized than I was at the end of the last school year, with no searches for lost paperwork for at least two to three weeks hopefully. Our morning routine will be tweaked to be smoother. Our homework places will be cleaned and ready for practicing all that new learning - and no whining about doing homework for at least a few days.

And, I'll dig out our Laptop Lunch Boxes and start thinking about packing healthy lunches. You see, of the things we spend time and money on each August as we get our children ready to go back to school, one of the most important things we can be planning for is making sure our child eats a healthy lunch every day. For our child to be on top of his or her game at school - focused, enthusiastic, good behavior, healthy - Real Food needs to be fueling his or her body. A lunch with healthy protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and lots of phytonutrients is key. What does that look like in a lunch box? A healthy protein might be nitrate-free deli meat, Sunbutter, cottage cheese, hard-boiled eggs or a black bean burrito. Healthy fats can include nuts, seeds, avacados or full-fat yogurt.

A variety of whole grains and colorful fruits and vegetables provide complex carbohydrates as well as the phytonutrients for a healthy immune system. This combination of foods helps feed the brain for sustained focus and good behavior, as well as providing a stable source of energy. One of the best things you can do to help your child be a successful learner, be on his or her best behavior, and have the strongest immune system possible throughout the school year is to plan out and prepare your child a healthy school lunch. When we pack a lunch of Real Foods, we eliminate Fake Food ingredients that set our children up for being unhealthy and less successful at school.

When lunch items are loaded with sugar, artificial flavors, artificial colors like Red 40 and Yellow 5, and sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup, children's bodies are burdened with processing those Fake Food ingredients. Children are reacting to these ingredients with poor focus, fatigue, hyperactivity, and weakened immunity. A recent comprehensive meta-analysis of the medical literature concluded that Yellow 5, Red 40, and six other widely used artificial colorings are linked to hyperactivity and behavior problems in children. ( If, for cost or convenience your child is purchasing a school lunch, go over the menu ahead of time and choose which items your child is allowed to purchase. With your child, pick the healthiest lunch choices possible.

If you have questions about ingredients, contact your school and ask. Also let your school know if you would like to see healthier choices made available. Find out if your child is purchasing ala carte items, like 'fruit' roll-ups, chips, and other Fake Foods. If you have children in middle school and high school, talk about healthy choices, as they have more opportunities to purchase Fake Foods. It is important not to hand over your opportunity and responsibility for feeding your child to schools and daycares So, while enjoying your last weeks of summer, remember to put 'packing healthy lunches' near the top of your To Do list as you get ready for your well-deserved fresh start this Fall.

Healthy Kids, Happy Moms Angelle Batten, M.A., H.H.C., Mom of 3

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