Packing "SuperNatural" Lunches For Healthy Kids


by Nancy Mehagian

Thanks to Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution, school lunches have become a hot topic and it’s about time.  Now that kids are back in school it’s time for a little revolution of our own.  How we are going to nourish them so they can, as Oprah would say, become theirhealthy lunchbest selves—healthy, attentive and energetic?  

What we as parents, grandparents and caregivers can do is provide children with quality fuel.  It’s such a basic fact that we are what we eat.  White flour, white sugar, processed meats and fried fare only lead to sluggish minds and bodies.  It’s impossible to be healthy if we aren’t eating healthy foods.

And what are these healthy foods?  The biggest portion would be organic fruits and vegetables, quality proteins, nuts and seeds, whole grains and dairy products from goats and cows that have not been given hormones to produce larger quantities of milk.  When watermelon crops in China were given growth chemicals to create bigger melons they exploded—an apt metaphor.

When my daughter was in elementary school I packed her lunches.   I’d usually cook a few dishes on Sunday afternoon so I’d have some choices during the week. Her friends were always curious about what she had in her lunchbox and usually tried to trade some of their own not nearly as appetizing packaged food for her fresh fare.  

She knew better than to trade though she’d often share a few bites of the special salads I’d make her.  Several of her friends remarked that they would eat salad if the salads tasted as good as what my daughter brought to school.  As a single, working mom it wasn’t always easy to pack a daily lunch but my daughter’s health and well being were important to me so I made the effort.  It was certainly better than having to take time off to care for a sick child.  

I highly recommend getting an insulated lunch bag or using freezer packs for perishable foods.  A thermos is always good for keeping soup, stew or chili warm during winter months. Variety is an important factor in preparing lunch. I certainly wouldn’t want to eat the same thing everyday, would you?

Take kids shopping so they can choose things they like. They will be more likely to eat what you’ve packed for them.  For inspiration take them to a local farmer’s market if there is one nearby so they can taste produce in its natural state. Even better, allow them to help out in the kitchen.  It will give them a sense of pride that they have actually helped prepare their own meal.

Here are ten tips I hope will help with packing a supernatural healthy lunch:

1) Every lunch needs to contain some quality protein like sliced turkey, individually wrapped string cheese, hard-boiled eggs or edamame (steamed whole soybeans).

2) Sandwiches should be made with whole grain bread, whole grain bagels or whole wheat pita and wraps can be made with whole wheat tortillas for variety. Use cookie cutters to make sandwiches into different designs or prepare small tea sandwiches.  Use your creativity to create a different sandwich every day.

3) Fruit smoothies can have all kinds of healthy additions like frozen fruits, yogurt, soy milk and nut butters.  Kept in a thermos they are wonderful on warm days.

4) Add different veggies each day—carrots, celery, jicama, sugar snap peas and tear drop tomatoes for example—along with hummus or any of the other wonderful bean dips.
5) Include whole fruit or a chunky fruit salad with some Greek yogurt.

6) Kids like to graze throughout the day so pack some energy pick me ups, such
as natural fruit leathers, almonds, walnuts, cashews, raisins, dried cranberries or a nice trail mix.  Kids enjoy mixing their own trail mix too.

7) Don’t forget to use yesterday’s leftovers. You can even change them up with a
skewer and make a kabob. If it’s chicken, cut up the pieces and add items
like cheese cubes and steamed veggies.

8) Bean and cheese burritos are easy to make at home with healthy tortillas and refried beans and can be eaten hot or cold.

9) Pasta salads are also excellent choices made with whole grain, fresh vegetables and a protein.

10) Seal the lunch with love.  Kids, no matter what age, love a personal note as
a surprise in the middle of the day.

Nancy Mehagian is the author of The Supernatural Kids Cookbook 

Posted October 2011