As most of the diseases humans of all ages suffer from are self-inflicted and many of them are “food – centered”, parents/caregivers and kids making lunches and snacks together is preventative medicine. Taking to time to make kids part of the food selection and preparation process early on means they learn what their bodies actually need to support healthy growth.
Then and Now
Years ago when my friends commuted to work I became their kids’ after school caregiver. Through a succession of painful family events the kids I was caregiver for grew up but proved to be unable to parent their own children. My friends, who were looking forward to retirement in a few years from now ended up parenting their three granddaughters. The good news is I’m a temporary caregiver for three girls under ten years of age, who are filled with childlike wonder and wisdom. I’m teaching the girls how to make to make their own snacks and lunches and they are teaching me how to be forever four.
Kids are Quick Learners
No matter what their age kids feel a sense of accomplishment when they are participants in the lunch and snack making process. Crudites can be are a good starting point, as kids quickly learn how to portion out cut up fruits and vegetables in advance and package them into small serving bags kept in the fridge, ready to grab and go at a moment’s notice. Older kids can make their own make their soups, stews, granola and granola bars, trail mix and fruit leathers and a variety of other snacks.
Healthy Lunches and Snacks
There is evidence changing your diet can change your metabolism and brain chemistry, ultimately affecting your energy level and mood. Research has shown antioxidant-rich whole food diets are the best choice we can make. – Re-energizing After a Lay-Off
Eating snacks a few hours after one meal ends and about one to two hours before the next meal begins is a sensible plan. Here are a few healthy snacking ideas borrowed from my kitchen and others:
- Ants on a log – Spread peanut butter on celery sticks and top with raisins.
- Pita and hummus – Pack low-fat hummus to fill small pita pockets with.
- Pita and Tabouleh – Combine chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, red onion, mint, olive oil and lemon juice with bulghur to fill pita pockets with.
- Trail mix – Combine 1 cup whole-grain toasted oat cereal with 1/4 cup chopped walnuts and 1/4 cup dried cranberries for a healthy trail mix.
- Whole Grain Cracker with Goat Cheese - Smear a large whole grain cracker with an ounce of goat cheese, as it tends to be lower in total and saturated fat than most cheeses.
- Hard-Boiled Eggs – Prepare and pack hard boiled eggs for a protein-rich, low-calorie snack.
- Cottage Cheese and Fruit – Fill a Bento style container box with a variety of veggies and fruits and low fat cottage cheese.
- Tuna Salad or Salmon Salad with Swiss cheese grapes, and apples – Fill Bento style a container box with these nutritional goodies.
- Smoked Turkey, carrot and apple slice wraps – Turn a standard sandwich into a wrap.
- Whole-wheat bagels with hummus and sliced cucumbers.
- 20 Easy Bento Lunch Boxes – Change things up but still incorporate favorite foods and healthy snacks.
Healthy After School and Weekend Lunches and Snacks
After school and on weekends try these healthy lunches and snacks ideas at home:
Mini pizzas – Spoon pizza sauce on half a bagel, English muffin, or mini pita. Top with low-fat mozzarella cheese and your favorite veggies and toast or bake until the cheese is melted and the bagel is crispy.
Banana ice – Peel several very ripe bananas, break them into 1-inch pieces, and freeze the pieces in a sealed plastic bag. Just before serving, whirl the pieces in the blender with a small amount of water or juice. Serve right away. Add berries for a different flavor or top with fruit or nuts.
Ice pops – Freeze fresh, unsweetened 100% fruit juice in ice pop molds or ice cube trays.
32 Healthy Kids Snacks – Milk and cookies may be a classic, but these innovative after school snacks will put a new spin on snack time. Plus, get tips for feeding your picky eater.
Sandwich Recipes for Picky Eaters – Delicious, fast, and easy recipes from Jamie and Bobby Deen, sons of celebrity cook Paula Deen.
Teaching Healthy Eating Habits
Selecting healthy energizing snack foods and eating the correct amounts to restore your energy balance is a life preserving habit. Everyone ought to learn how to do that in childhood, but it’s never too late to learn how to snack right by energizing your body with real foods. – 7 Energizing Snack Foods for Optimum Health
Preparing healthy lunches and snacks together is an excellent way parents can share lessons with their kids that will last a lifetime. There are at least five reasons why packing your own lunches and snacks is good for you and your kids. Bringing your own packed lunches and snacks to school or work means you control what you and the kids eat. There’s not much choice in food types in vending machines or cafeterias, and having your own packed lunches and snacks means you can eliminate monotony by providing variety. Packing your own means you can plan a lunch and snacks that combine lean proteins with carbohydrates to provide lasting energy right up until supper time. Without doubt, packing healthy lunches and snacks is a money saver. Last but not least, snack and lunch making time with kids is an opportunity to visit with them and discover what’s going on their world.
Kids Learn by Doing
There is no substitute for the actual time parents/caregivers spend with kids and there never will be. It takes time to prepare kids well for living rest of their lives consciously. The time investment made is worth the effort, because the quality education their kids receive about the role of food in sustaining health will remain with them and will be passed on to their own children.