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September can be a bittersweet time of year.  Summer break is over and new routines are a go.  Packing lunches for our kids can be an overwhelming task as many parents worry that their children will not receive the nourishment needed to get them through their day with ease.  No need to stress. With a little planning and preparation, kids can be out the door with a lunch bag full of tasty, nutritious food. Here are some tips to help parents simplify the lunch box challenge.

Balancing Act

In order to help prolong energy, enhance cognition, boost immunity and balance mood, kids need all three macronutrients in their lunch bag:  protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates. Protein provides amino acids which are the building blocks to a healthy body. Good fats nourish the brain and nervous system while also supporting happy hormones, healthy immunity and proper digestion. Complex carbohydrates provide fuel and fiber for a full day of work and play. Not to mention that complex carbs such as colorful vegetables contain antioxidants and phytonutrients that work that protect cells and enhance vitality.

Here are some examples of a balanced, healthy lunch box:

  • Salad (whole grain pasta, bean, quinoa, coleslaw, deluxe green with seeds, chicken, tuna , avocado or egg), whole grain crackers and hummus, sliced peppers and and seaweed snack, fruit skewers or fruit salad.
  • Chili or soup in a thermos, rainbow carrots, organic nachos and salsa or guacamole, a whole grain muffin, power bites or bar and berries.
  • Whole grain sandwich or wrap (wild caught tuna or salmon, egg, chicken salad or sunbutter and jam) with sliced cucumbers, fruit and seed trail mix or avo-caco mousse and an apple or smoothie.

Drink Up!

Water is absolutely essential for the proper function of all cells in our body.  Water is considered the “river of life” as it acts as a transport system, carrying nutrients to the cells and waste out of the body.  Water hydrates and nourishes the brain, replenishes lost fluids, flushes toxins and supports all bodily functions. Kids should be going to school with 1-2 bottles of fresh, filtered water everyday.  Try adding fresh lemon, lime, berries, cucumbers or herbs which will not only add flavour but enhance digestion.

Supplements: Added Insurance

Even with a healthy, whole food, rainbow diet, it’s impossible to get all the nutrients we need strictly through food. Common agricultural practices, demineralized soil, environmental pollution, food processing and stress are all causes of nutrient depletion.  There are many supplements that kids can take in addition to a healthy diet to support their active, growing bodies. The basic essentials are:

  • A multivitamin mineral supplement:  Each person requires all nutrients to function optimally.  A deficiency in just one vitamin or mineral may create health problems and imbalances. A good multivitamin acts as an “insurance policy” ensuring kids get all the nutrients they need for the day.
  • Essential Fatty Acids: EFA’s (omega 3, 6, 9) have many critical functions in the body and are especially necessary for proper brain function.  The brain and nervous system are about 70% fat and requires EFA’s (particularly omega 3) for memory, focus, concentration and mood. We just don’t get enough through food.
  • Probiotics:  More and more research is showing the critical importance of health gut flora not only for digestive health but for the brain, heart and immune system.  Probiotics help to restore and maintain a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut which may help reduce tummy upset, regulate the bowels, reduce food intolerances, support brain health, and boost immunity.
  • Vitamin D: Research show that Canadians are typically severely deficient in this bone building, immune boosting, sunshine vitamin and that everyone, even children need to supplement, especially throughout the cold winter months.

Planning and Preparation

Without meal planning and preparation strategies, it’s easy to fall into the rut of throwing together last minute lunches filled with quick, processed foods high in sugar, preservatives and low in nutrients.  These simple and practical tips will help you stay on top of your game:

  • Create a weekly menu/meal plan.
  • Try at least one new healthy recipe per week chosen by you and the kids.
  • Keep a collection of your family’s favourite recipes (your staples).
  • Dedicate time for food prep and cooking at least once per week.
  • Keep various food storage containers on hand.
  • Make, store and freeze leftovers in portion sizes for later in the week or month.
  • Keep it fun, colorful and get the kids involved!

Nourished kids are thriving kids!  Relying on these back to school nutrition tips can help create a healthy foundation for you and your family.  Wishing all kids (and parents) and healthy first month back to school!

Blog written by Natasha Villeneuve CNP, Holistic Nutritionist & Lead and Educator of NFP Education Initiative....and mom of three!

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