Easy Healthy Lunch Ideas for Back to School

Maggie Roney LPC

Packing the perfect lunch for your child can be a tricky task. We all hope to choose snacks they will enjoy and finish while considering the proper nutrition they need to get through the day.

The good news: with just a few simple swaps, you can easily plan healthier lunches your kid can eat AND enjoy. 

Easy Healthy School Lunch

Unhealthy Ingredients to Avoid 

As a parent, you want to give your child the best fuel to power their growing bodies. Unfortunately, in a world where junk food is sneakily marketed as being healthy, labels are often deceiving. It can feel near impossible to make the right choice. 

The Typical Lunch 

Ninety-nine percent of the time, a typical school lunch will consist of:

  • sandwich
  • bag of chips
  • snack foods
  • dessert 
  • and even sugary drink 

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this type of meal structure. However, the problem lies in the ingredients within these food components. 

Ingredients Commonly Found in Bread

  • Enriched. The word “enriched,” means the flour contains niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, folic acid, and iron that were added after stripping the natural nutrients out during processing. In addition, this type of flour can be treated with over 60 different chemicals that are not listed. 
  • DATEM- Diacetyl Acid Esters of Monoglycerides. Known as a dough conditioner, usually derived from genetically modified crops. This ingredient is a hidden form of trans fat, which attributes to a higher risk of heart disease.
  • Calcium propionate. An ingredient that acts as a mold inhibitor, it is known to cause irritability, restlessness, and attention and sleep disturbances. 

What to Avoid with Sweet and Salty Foods

Yes, sweet desserts and salty snacks are yummy,  but they can affect ADHD, blood sugar, and other body functions and tissue. Just a little bit of these ingredients adds up over time. For example:

Polysorbate-60

An ingredient found in oatmeal pies, snack cakes, whipped cream, and frostings, but it is commonly known to be carcinogenic!

High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Regularly found in fruit snacks and gummy candy and known to cause fatter liver, mood disturbances, blood sugar disturbances, and weight gain

TBHQ

Found in soda and fountain drinks, and also linked to cancer and causes an increase in sensitivity to those with food allergies.

Glycocy

The wheat in corn is treated with this ingredient and ends up in food packages. It destroys our microbion, which we need to make serotonin and dopamine to regulate our moods.

PGPR

Added to help to blend ingredients together, and contribute to gut issues and allergic reactions.

Food dyes

Coloring and food dyes are added just for appearance’s sake, such as in M&M’s. It is banned in cosmetics but approved to be included in our foods. They can cause hyperactivity, and mood swings, and adds to allergies and allergic reaction. 

How Food Can Heal You 

Research indicates that food plays a very big role in our health. The food you choose to fuel your body with has the potential to help you heal from illness and increase the longevity of your life. 

Practitioners of functional medicine, such as myself, understand that food is the original form of medicine. We help clients strike a healthy balance between utilizing manufactured modern medicine and a proper diet to achieve optimal health and heal their own bodies. 

Some Kids Struggle More

Did you know that young people who struggle with ADD, ADHD, anxiety, and depression can suffer worse negative ramifications stemming from unhealthy foods when compared to their unafflicted counterparts?

For these and all children, striving for a balanced diet is absolutely crucial. 

Easy Healthy Lunch Ideas 

Now that we’ve identified the problem, let’s find a solution. Let’s take a look at some easy healthy lunch ideas you can use to avoid the harmful ingredients found in the most common lunch staples.

1. Sandwich Bread

  • Make your own sandwich at home, not using a prepackaged alternative. 
  • Wrap the sandwich ingredients in a lettuce shell instead of using bread.
  • Swap out your bread for a healthier alternative that keeps in as many of the natural ingredients as possible without all the additives. Two brands I recommend are Ezekiel bread or Happy Campers (which is also gluten free).

2. Fruits and vegetables

A sweet and satisfying addition to any meal, fruit is the perfect substitution for dessert. Plus, both fruits and fresh veggies are packed with fiber, which aids in digestion, reduces inflammation, and lowers the risk of chronic diseases. 

3. Beans, grains, & seeds

Throw some black beans into a burrito or pack a baggie of sunflower seeds! These foods are rich in plant compounds that have an antioxidant effect, reversing and preventing cell damage. 

4. Green Tea

Instead of giving your kid a sugary soda or an artificial fruit juice, give green tea a go! This beverage acts as an anti-inflammatory superfood and can seriously improve skin conditions like acne—making it the perfect drink for your adolescent or teen. 

5. Fermented foods

Natural yogurts, kimchi, and other fermented items aid strengthen gut microbiota and improve brain health. If you can find one fermented food your child likes, use it as a side portion for their school lunch. 

6. Sweet Treats

  • Cake mixes and snacks: I recommend the brand, Simple Mills.
  • Candy treats: Try Justin’s organic PB Cups
  • Make your own with organic ingredients you can trust!

The Bottom Line 

Now that a new school year is just around the corner, it’s time to start developing better habits, beginning with what we eat for lunch. Making wise food choices is important for helping maintain good health and proper development of your child. Read the ingredient list carefully and consider the long-term effects they can have on your family’s health.

If you’re interested in learning more about functional medicine or have more questions about your child’s lunch choices, please contact me. I would love to hear from you!