Dr. Marcel’s Strategies for Packing Healthy Lunches for Kids

Paper lunch bag on desk with apple

So I’ve been scouring the Internet for healthy packed lunch ideas ever since I posted on the school lunch dilemma this past Monday. I did find some great resources, which I wanted to share with you all. I also wanted to reprint, with Dr. Marcel Hernandez’s permission, his article below on strategies for packing a healthy – yet palatable – lunch for your child. Enjoy!

Great web resources chock full of healthy packed lunch ideas for kids:

  1. Home-packed lunches your kids will eat
  2. Healthy Sack Lunch Tips
  3. Vegan & Vegetarian School Lunch Tips (& Recipes)
  4. Pack a Lunch with Punch! (from PETA)
  5. A 3-Week Menu from YoungVeggies.org for Packed Lunches

And, here goes Dr. Marcel’s article, “Packing a School Lunch,” reprinted from Pediatric Nutrition & Natural Health Protocols:

Packing a school lunch can pose creative challenges to caregivers. Very often a conscientious parent will pack a healthy lunch for a child, only to find that the child has not eaten  it, has tossed it, or traded it for questionable food. What follows are some suggestions that may make a difference.

  1. Vary foods to provide a variety of nutrients, to avoid toxins, and to prevent allergic response. (Even foods thought of as healthy can be problematic when taken in excess. Peanuts, for example, are highly allergenic for many people, and contain a mold called aflatoxin. Alfalfa sprouts contain a toxin, canavanine).
  2. Use organic foods whenever possible. Pesticides stress children’s livers, food source antibiotics kill beneficial bacteria, and food source hormones disrupt natural hormonal balance.
  3. Use fresh, local foods whenever possible. Aim for foods low in fat, low in salt, low in sugar, and with few additives. Use blue ice to keep food cold if you’re worried about spoiling.
  4. Try to balance carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Complex carbohydrates (as opposed to simple sugars) are high-quality fuels, and give energy for long days. Fats are a problem even in kids, so avoid fried food snacks such as potato chips. Nuts and legumes and low-fat yogurts are good vegetarian protein sources.
  5. Aim for a plant-centered diet: grains, seeds and legumes, vegetables, fruits. (Meat-centered diets are associated with heart disease, chronic disease, and cancer.)
  6. Substitute healthy alternatives. Non-fat quark for cream cheese. Sesame, almond, pistachio, cashew, sunflower butters for peanut butter. Soy or almond cheese for dairy cheese. Soy, almond, or rice drinks for milk. Rice dream, frozen yogurt, natural sherbets for ice cream. Maple syrup, date sugar, succanat (cane juice), organic honey, barley malt, or brown rice syrup for sugar.
  7. Balance color nad taste in the lunch. Different nutrients are found in different color foods. And colors are appetizing and fun. The bitter, sweet, spicy, salty, and sour flavors are associated with the strengthening of different organ systems.
  8. Think of variety in shape and texture when preparing foods. Oranges can be simply peeled, or broken into sections, or sliced in half rounds, or skewered with strawberries, or stacked with apple slices. Carrots can be offered as a large whole carrot, baby carrots, carrot sticks, carrot rounds, etc.
  9. Vary presentations of the same food. If your child insists on peanut butter and jelly, put it on a bagel, a pita, chapati roll-ups, rolls, bread. Use different nut butters and different fruit spreads. Try nut butters with honey, or nut butters with mashed banana spread.
  10. Use small plastic containers of various sizes and shapes to keep foods separate and offer more appealing presentations.
  11. Concentrate on finger foods…easy to eat, not so messy. Try introducing some unusual finger foods, like sushi, rice balls, or stuffed grape leaves.
  12. Think of themes or surprises to add interest value to lunches. Travel around the world with food tastes.

About Mare

is a Master Herbalist, Certified Aromatherapist, and enthusiastic natural mommy to a beautiful tot of 2, the Little Apple. She shares her parenting adventures (sometimes mis-adventures) via this blog.
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