School has started for many Portland students – and will soon begin for children in Oregon City, Gresham, Milwaukie and surrounding areas. The new school year brings the food challenge all busy moms and dads face: keeping one’s child healthy at school.
Not only are children usually exposed to potential allergens and germs at school, they are also more likely to eat poorly. They may trade other kids for candy, eat out of school vending machines, or have a particularly unhealthy school lunch that day. Even with all of these factors, there is hope for parents. This article will give you information on how to help your child enjoy healthy meals both at school and at home.
Sweet, Salty, Creamy & Crunchy
Certain food combinations trigger the desire eat in the brain. The fast food industry hits these desires on the head. For example, food with a crunchy outer shell and a creamy middle can excite brain receptors, making it feel as if you are eating something novel and delicious. Additionally, sweet and salty foods activate the salivary glands, which “makes your mouth water”.
While many foods with these four factors are unhealthy, there are healthy options:
1. Add a spray of citrus where you would usually lay on the salt. Citrus fruits like lemon or lime activate the salivary glands much like salt would, making a dish taste seasoned with salty goodness when it’s really rather healthy. Foods you can activate with citrus include:
- Salad and salad dressings
- Stir fry
- Soups, stews, and chowder
- Chip dips, salsa, and guacamole
- Homemade baked chips
- Potato, tuna, or egg salad
2. Pickle veggies. It’s incredibly simple to pickle different vegetables in your refrigerator. You can pickle anything. Delicious and crunchy options include radishes, red onion, cucumber, carrots, and cauliflower. Here’s how to do it:
- Cut all veggies into thin strips
- Make a brine of 1 cup of rice vinegar, 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar and 1 tsp of salt.
- Toss everything together.
- Leave in the fridge in a sealed container. The pickled veggies will be ready to eat in 30 minutes and can be kept in the refrigerator for about a week.
As a quick note, this is also a great way to get rid of leftover raw veggies.
3. Add some crunch to your creaminess. This is something you, your child, and food industries have been doing for years. However, if you’re drawing a blank on how to make something both creamy and crunchy, here are some ideas:
- Add granola or nuts to yogurt or cottage cheese.
- Make chia seed pudding (you can find a great recipe here).
- Put a nut butter on rice cakes or celery.
- Sprinkle a pureed soup with seeds. One yummy suggestion is sprinkling roasted pumpkin seeds or pepitas over a pumpkin or squash soup.
- Send your child to school with a homemade jar of “instant cup of noodles.” There’s a great recipe for this here.
4. Go all natural. Many foods are naturally crunchy and sweet, creamy and sweet or crunchy and salty. Pack foods like apples, carrots, edamame, olives, avocado (which you can preserve naturally by coating in citrus juice), watermelon, pepper slices, broccoli, cauliflower, nuts, and more.
5. Make sure to pack food your child likes. The last thing you want to do is spend time creating fun and healthy meals that your youngster doesn’t eat. While it’s a good idea to expose your child to new foods, don’t do it in a packed lunch setting. Instead, expand his or her culinary horizons at home, where you can see the reaction to your newest creation.
Transporting all of this healthy food
Once you have healthy snacks and lunches ready for your child, it’s time to transport everything. This may seem challenging, but it can be made very simple.
First, it’s important to have the right tools. This article provides excellent information on what you need to pack and preserve a healthy lunch. You can read the article in full, but here is a quick rundown of what you will need:
- Thermal bag
- Ice packs (or frozen water bottle)
- Containers with dividers, mini containers
- Thermos to hold hot or cold food
- Snack size Ziplock bags
- Silicon cupcake holders
- Smoothie pop molds
- Cloth napkins/reusable plastic ware
- Paper for notes
Next, include your child in buying, preparing and packing his or her meals. You will see what he or she prefers to eat simply by asking them to add a snack or two – or giving them the option to pick out which premade lunch they would like to bring with them. It may be disappointing to find out they never pack carrots, or they dislike cashews, but it’s important for you to know what your child will actually end up eating.
Finally, get your youngster to help you during cleanup. Usually cleanup occurs at the end of the day when you and your child have more time to chat about the day. Not only will you be able to connect with your youngster and get him or her to take responsibility for any messes they have made – you will be able to discuss why particular foods are and are not delicious. You may find out that your sweet tooth isn’t shared by your child. Or it could come up that they trade their olives to another kid for a fruit candy. This is valuable information that you can use later to guide your child in healthier eating habits.
Do you want to learn more about helping your child eat healthily? Attend our September 15th Class: Healthy Dinners for a Busy Mom and School Lunch Ideas. Just RSVP here.