How to Pack the Perfect Lunch

For Moms and Dads: How to Pack the Perfect Lunch

It’s fair to say most kids manifest little or no interest in the appearance of their Abs. This is (generally) a good thing. Nonetheless, much of their future potentially does hinge on what goes on in that kitchen, and that’s of great importance. For this reason, it’s time to examine the art of packing The Perfect Lunch.

Facing the Future

While it’s certainly easier and more convenient to rely on the school cafeteria for the kids, along with fast food meals – particularly for those of us who are on the busier side – this method still leaves a lot to be desired. As of now, in fact, many parents would agree it still leaves far too much to be desired. The preeminent food advocate and Chef Ann Cooper (source) has stated: “We’re seeing sick kids get sicker and sicker. And the reason this is happening, by and large, is because of our food system…” These words are on the stronger side. Their purpose, however, is to make sure children everywhere have the chance to grow up that same way – strong, as well as healthy, happy, and ready for their own future.

Our Own Hands

As of now, the only way to ensure that you and your kids are eating a nutritionally balanced, healthy lunch is to pack it yourself. We’re here to help.

Use the following 6 Steps as your personal guide for packing The Perfect Lunch -healthy meals for your children that cover the full spectrum of nutrients all growing kids need. 

(don’t happen to have kids? It’s OK – keep reading; you’ll need these steps when packing your own nutrient-dense, filling and fulfilling lunches too)! 

Step 1: Water

Daily ServingsSources

Children age 5-8:
5 glasses (1 liter)
Children age 9-12:
8 glasses (1.5 liters)
Teenagers:
10 glasses (2 liters)

While The Tap is the obvious choice, there are some extra improvements available to make The Tap that much healthier, along with some helpful, ready-to-go bottled options.

We’re fans of Epic Water Filters!

Every function of the human body requires water, so let’s make that number one for what we include in The Perfect Lunch…8 ounces is great, 16 ounces that much better. On this topic, we understand: it’s easier than ever to fall into the trap of giving kids juice or soda. It’s also true that once that path is taken it can be a battle to pull them back… This is a battle worth winning, however. Studies have shown children aged 4 to 12 who drank 16oz (500ml) or more fruit juice daily were twice as likely to be overweight or obese as those who drank none. Our suggestion is for you to dig in on this one. Remind yourself that these sugary drinks are just not good for them – or for you – and that the data tells us kids are already under-hydrated at school (source).

Step 2: Protein

Daily ServingsSources and Portion Sizes

2 – 3

2 – 3 oz meat, fish or fowl
2 – 3 oz meat alternative
2 – 3 Eggs
½ cup Beans (any variety)

Protein is also an essential part of eating, both for you and your kids…

It is the single best macronutrient available for the growth and repair of our bodies. Surprisingly, however, it is also the one we carry the least of within our bodies for immediate use. This means it needs to be replenished on a daily basis and included in the Perfect Lunch.

It’s important that these protein sources are unprocessed most of the time. Again, we know it’s not always easy, but we suggest you do your best to keep the Hot Dogs and Pepperoni Pizza as an occasional treat or weekend event.

Step 3: Whole Starches and/or Grains

Daily ServingsSources

Children age 6-9:
4 to 6
Children age 10-14:
5 to 8
Teenagers:
6 to 9

4oz Potato (any variety)
½ cup Beans (any variety)
½ cup Cooked Rice (any variety)
½ cup Cooked Pasta (any variety)
½ cup Cooked Oatmeal
1 slice Bread

Of course, we enter the shadowy realm of the Great Carbohydrate Controversy here. In the interests of keeping it simple, we’ll say this…

If you’re lucky, your kids are at least as active as you are, and maybe more.

As such, they – and hopefully you also – require an external source of energy for working muscles. For this purpose, carbohydrate sources like the ones above are the best candidates by far…

We recommend evaluating the quality of these sources. It’s important to realize refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta and rice have been stripped of most of their vitamins and minerals.

While we did not strike those varieties from the list, it may represent a useful distinction for you as a parent. A similar distinction and decision can be made whether you care to include the above grains at all. You may prefer to source your carbohydrates only from gluten-free starches such as beans and rice…

You’ll find no controversy on our side here. We leave those choices to you!

Step 4: Vegetables (aka Veggies)

Daily ServingsSources and Portion Sizes

4 – 9

1 cup Raw or ½ cup Cooked of:
Asparagus
Broccoli
Carrots
Green Beans
Greens (any variety)
Jicama
Kale
Onion
Peppers (any variety)
Squash
Turnip
Zucchini
…and the list goes on

As you may be guessing, it’s pretty hard to go wrong on this one. We’ll just mention variety is key and the popular suggestion “Eat a Rainbow” is about as specific as it needs to get… Simply select vegetables from an array of colors like orange, red, purple, green, blue, white and yellow. This will help to ensure that your kids are getting a correspondingly wide variety of the necessary vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals they need (source). Don’t just save vegetables for dinnertime. Make them an addition at breakfast and be sure to pack each lunch with plenty.  Like the water tip above, we know this one may be a little tricky to pull off. It’s well worth it, however, so we encourage you to just get creative… Find a few veggie recipes your kids love and stick to them. Top sandwiches with peppers or shredded carrots for extra crunch. Make and use your own veggie spreads with a food processor. Remember: this is the Art of The Perfect Lunch!
Packing the Perfect Lunch

Step 5: Fruit

Daily ServingsSources and Portion Sizes

3 – 5

½ cup Cut Fruit
1 piece Whole Fruit

As compared to the vegetables above, fruit is a pretty easy sell. It’s also filled with many of the same vitamins, nutrients and minerals. Also, as with the veggies, selection is easy: just choose a large variety of colors… The hard part here – for kids, and even some adults – is sticking to fruit while also avoiding what we might call “fruit”. In other words, when it comes to fruit, it’s most important to Keep It Real. Avoid canned fruits or fruits set in syrup, and be sure to check labels on any fruit snacks for added sugar. Plain, dried fruit is best. It’s also important to realize that, unlike vegetables, it is possible to consume too much fruit (specifically, too much fructose, which we cover in this post). We therefore suggest keeping to those 3 – 5 Servings daily. On that same topic, about fruit juice… As a formal statement, we do not recommend against fruit juice entirely. On the other hand, the absolute best way to get apple juice is by eating an apple!

Step 6: Healthy Fats

Daily ServingsSources and Portion Sizes

3 – 4

1 tsp Olive, Avocado or Flax Oil
½ cup Nuts and/or Seeds
(any variety or combination)
1 Tbsp Nut or Seed Butter

It’s still somewhat popular to think of all dietary fat as being “bad” (i.e. unhealthy as a category) but in fact this macronutrient is critical for both children and adults. Fats serve as a primary energy source and are essential for cell growth and hormone production. They are even necessary for the proper absorption of many of the nutrients listed in the foods above…

Think of healthy fats as the finishing touch on your Perfect Lunch.

Regarding saturated fats, contemporary research indicates that while it may not be the best idea to actively consume, they are not a variety to be feared either. In fact, many studies show fats which are technically saturated – Coconut Oil being one example – actually convey considerable health benefits.

Our suggestion: go for a balanced approach by seeking the healthiest fat sources that square well with your and your family’s tastes, while also accepting the fact (and the possible benefits) of a little saturated fat that comes as part and parcel of many of your proteins!

Bonus: Calcium

Daily ServingsSources and Portion Sizes

2 – 6

1 cup cooked Collard Greens
1 cup low-fat Yogurt
½ cup firm or extra firm Tofu
8oz Milk

As a special and specific case, while naturally-sourced calcium is important for everyone, kids require about one-third more than adults in order to build strong, healthy bones. It is important to incorporate calcium into each meal, and research suggest food sources are superior to supplements.

It’s important to note calcium isn’t just found in dairy products, either. There are many plant sources that contain calcium that’s very readily absorbed…

The sources listed above all contain 20% or more calcium than the RDA for children, and many of the foods listed in the preceding categories are also strong contenders.

Between all of the above, big strong bones should be a guarantee.

6 Steps to Pack the Perfect Lunch

There really is an Art to it, much more importantly, it’s one of the single best things you can do for your kids.

You may never know what their day has in store for them, let alone the years ahead. What you can do, however, is give them the best help you can to prepare them for that bright future every single day…

We vote you start here. Great flavors for the kids, a parent’s peace of mind – and maybe even a tip or two for your own Perfect Lunch.
Bon Appetit!

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