BASIC RULES TO FOLLOW FOR “COOL SCHOOL FUEL”: THE LUNCH BOX:
- At least 2-3 VIBRANT COLORS: this means fresh or frozen fruits and veggies.
- A PROTEIN,
- A STARCH,
- SOMETHING CRUNCHY,
- A LITTLE SOMETHING SWEET.
VEGGIES: Steamed/microwaved fresh or frozen green beans, peas, corn, broccoli, squash, zucchini, baby carrots, black beans (strained so they don’t make such a mess) FRUITS: Go for what’s fresh and in season. It is generally better to have tropical (or cooling) fruits in the summer vs. the winter as they help to cool the body somewhat–not that this really matters in Texas–these include banana, mango, melon in chunks…(and I sometimes cut them in triangles and squares and we talk about the shapes) apple slices, pears, grapes cut in half, plums and peaches. Fresh berries: blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries – if fresh are not available, frozen ones work great!
Chicken breast – grilled or sautéed the night before and cut up. Soy chick’n nuggets (such as Boca). Mild fish-salmon/mahi mahi/tilapia, thinly shaved ham, turkey breast and roast beef from the deli. I don’t do sandwiches that often, but a favorite is a mini ham and cheese using the little cocktail pumpernickel bread.
Go for whole grain breads (be careful with whole wheat bread as it sometimes really is no different from regular white bread and sometimes has more sugar added!). Quesadillas – varying from chicken/cheese and mushrooms/cheese.
Choose a good quality all-natural cheese for optimum protein and to avoid yucky hydrogenated oils. Add a little avocado for some good fat. String cheese is a big hit, as are the mini baby bel cheese, or any cheese for that matter!
Roast beef in small chunks. The winner in this category is SAUSAGE! We get the market-made chicken, turkey and pork sausages at Whole Foods…there are great frozen options too. I just cook them in a skillet on the stove and cut them up in to little bite-size rounds. I sometimes even send the frozen breakfast sausage links that are fully cooked and only need microwaving for a minute.
Pasta…whole wheat pasta and colored swirly pasta are great. Udon noodles are really fun too…you can make these or get them at WFM or ZEN – a big side dish is only $1 at Zen and it’s good for at least 2 servings! Mac & Cheese is a hit for sure. We love Annie’s and Whole Kids Organic. The bread/tortillas above serves as a carb/starch as does the something crunchy below.
Our goal here is to completely avoid hydrogenated oils. Nothing at Whole Foods has it and many of the big companies like Nabisco and Frito Lay have removed trans fats from their products. Pepperidge Farm took it out of Goldfish too! We like pretzel sticks, wheat crackers, Earth’s best Sesame Street (Elmo) crackers, cheerios, Whole Kids Quack-n-bites, Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies.
A LITTLE SOMETHING SWEET:
Raisins, dried cherries, craisins, dried or freeze dried fruits, fruit leather and little individual cups of applesauce or yogurt. Be careful with the yogurt as it can be loaded with sugar.
COOL SCHOOL FUEL
While some of these may not be the first choices one considers for children’s lunchboxes, the list below are nutrient powerhouses that contribute to a comprehensive diet of essential nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital for brain development, as well as vitamins A, C and B, calcium, and fiber, all of which are proven elements of a healthy diet. Start incorporating these foods into your children’s diets now in fun, creative ways so they will accept them as regular staples as they get older.
THE COOL SCHOOL FUEL LINEUP:
Avocados, with their smooth texture and mild flavor, are an optimum choice for children as they pack plenty of potassium, vitamin C, folic acid, and carotene. They also contain monounsaturated fat—the “good fat.” Send them to school with a spoon to be eaten right from the skin.
Blueberries top the charts with antioxidants. They are low in sugars and are an excellent source of nutrients for brain, eye, and vascular health. Their portability and availability in fresh and frozen form make them easy to incorporate into smoothies, baked goods, and fruit salads year-round.
Eggs are the prize winners for value and high quality nutrition because of their protein, vitamin B2, vitamin A, and iron content. Their versatility makes them a super option for all three meals and even snack time.
Kale is the number one nutrient powerhouse in the greens category since it is a plentiful source of vitamins A and C, calcium, and antioxidants. Finely chopped, it can be added to all kinds of dishes like soups, meat loafs, and lasagnas.
Beans are a versatile, inexpensive protein power source and a great source of fiber, folate, magnesium, and selenium. Certain colored beans such as kidney and black have high levels of antioxidants. Enjoy them in bean dips, hummus and spreads or add to tacos, soups, and chili.
Salmon is a top source for omega-3 fatty acids that promote heart and mental health. Have some frozen fillets on hand for quick and easy grilling or pan sautéing. Try salmon burgers or salmon tacos made from wild Alaska salmon, which is the best environmental seafood choice.
Sweet potatoes are convenient, delicious, and easily portable, and they are an excellent source of vitamins A and E. Make oven-baked sweet potato fries to please the kids.
Tomatoes are a highly nutritious staple food loaded with vitamin C and lycopene. Cherry and grape tomatoes are easy, portable snacks as are packing pastas with tomato sauce and a Thermos of tomato juice.
Yogurt is a versatile and enjoyable snack, meal, or dessert and is a super source of calcium for growing bones. It contains probiotic bacteria for intestinal and overall health. In addition to ready-to-go portions, add it to smoothies or dips.
SMART CHOICES FOR KIDS:
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three out of four overweight teenagers remain overweight into adulthood. In addition, about 15 percent of children and adolescents (age 6–19) today are overweight–almost double the rate of two decades ago.* Because of these and similar trends, there is national interest in providing nutritious school lunches and after-school snacks to help parents and children make smart choices about their diet and to maintain a healthy weight.
Many thanks to Kate Lowery, former FUMP mom and Global Public Relations Director for Whole Foods Market for compiling this helpful resource for FUMP parents.