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Healthy Meals for Back To School

Health_0911b_imageWhen writing this article I turned to friends who are members of the Holistic Mom's organization. These are women who are diligent about the quality of the food their children receive on a daily basis. They know the importance of proper nutrition and what is needed to build strong, healthy minds and bodies.

Best Way to Pack a Nutritious School Lunchbox

When I asked each woman what she recommends for the lunch box, they each responded that the "laptop" lunch boxes are great ways to serve a variety of different foods ensuring a balanced meal. Kendrya has two boys and a girl, ages 6-10, and is a member of an organic Community Supported Garden (CSA) with this to say,

"The "lap top" lunch boxes are great, they are like the Japanese bento boxes that allow individual sections for small amounts of different types of food. I do a lot of cut up veggies with hummus for dipping, wraps with veggies and hummus, peanut butter and jelly is a staple. I also make sure we have a thermos for each child so they can take something warm to school, which is usually a leftover from dinner such as, pasta, fried rice, noodles or soup. Anything for dipping is good, such as apples to dip in peanut butter is a favorite. I also do homemade brown rice cereal bars for dessert, using brown rice syrup instead of sugar."

Supplement with Healthy Snacks

Liz Fenton, mother of two and a Holistic Health Practitioner shares her wonderful ideas about feeding children healthy meals.

"I feed the kids a protein with every meal on school days." She recently wrote to me. "I pick them up from school with food in hand because they are so hungry by the afternoon. Sometimes it's bar-b-que chicken legs; soups like chicken and rice or lentils with beans; sometimes it's a gluten-free pancake that I've added an extra egg to the recipe's requirement. I also grind pumpkin or sesame seeds into a fine powder for iron and extra protein and add this to the pancake batter. I then spread a little fruit juice sweetened jam over each pancake and my kids love them. For snacks I include serving size portions of pistachios or peanuts in the shell. This prevents them from eating too many too fast because they have to remove the shells. And there's always Hummus, served with sliced cucumber or peppers. I find that little meals throughout the day are better than three big ones right now. Most important is water! I make sure my children drink water in the morning and when I pick them up in the afternoon; and I make sure to supplement with vitamin D as we lose sunlight here in the wintertime."

Dairy or Dairy Substitute?

Many of the women I interviewed avoid serving dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, to their children. Pasturized, homogenized dairy products have a controversial history for causing intestinal problems and allergies in children. Chronic ear infections in children have been linked to the consumption of milk and cheese. Dr. Tricia Pingel, NMD writes that, "The most common food allergy is milk, which accounts for 98 percent of cases, and is often found to be the cause of chronic ear infections."

So, what foods can replace string cheese and yogurt? Foods containing the highest amounts of calcium include dark leafy greens, fortified soymilk, tofu, blackstrap molasses, baked beans, oranges and almonds. Consider this an opportunity to involve your children in exploring the many delicious food alternatives now available in the market place. Dairy-free milks and yogurts made from brown rice, almonds, oats, hemp, and even hazelnuts are common replacements. Try one at a time until you find the alternative your kids like the best. Make sure, however, to read labels carefully as sugar cane juice has become a common ingredient. According to the American Heart Association children ages 4 to 8 should have a maximum 12.5 grams of added sugar per day. The natural sugars from raw fruits and whole grains are a separate form of sugar and really your best choice for snacks and small meals.

Healthy Breakfast to Start a School Day

Breakfast is every child's most important meal of the day. It can set them up to function until lunchtime or see them crashing from a sugar slump by mid-morning. A warm, whole grain, such as oatmeal or brown rice can be set up to cook overnight in a small crock-pot, so it is ready for the family in the morning. Raisons, raw nuts or seeds, even hearty root vegetables can be cooked with the grain for added flavor and essential nutrients. A quick scramble of organic eggs or crumbled tofu sautéed with frozen spinach and rolled up in a spelt tortilla is an easy protein rich start to the day.

Children don't need to eat a whole lot of food, but they do need to eat nutrient dense meals that include a protein, a carbohydrate (as in whole grain and vegetables), and small amounts of quality fat (oils such as extra virgin olive oil, flax seed or cod liver oil) to ensure the growth of healthy bones and tissue. You can find many delicious recipes on my website http://www.brcleanse.com/bodyrejuvenationcleanse/recipes.html. Meanwhile, here are a few recipes to start you off towards a healthy school year.

Recipes for a Healthy Breakfast and School Lunch Box

Maple Quinoa Pudding

Children and adults love this gluten-free pudding for breakfast, especially when transitioning off of sugar laden cold cereals. Rice or agave syrup can also be used in place of the maple syrup.

Serves 2

3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup coconut milk
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup, or to taste
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped and soaked
2 tablespoons roasted walnuts

Preparation: 

  1. Heat 2 cups of water in a large saucepan over medium heat until boiling, and stir in quinoa.
  2. Cover pan, reduce heat to low and cook until quinoa turns translucent, for about 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the coconut milk, maple syrup and vanilla extract together in a bowl.
  4. Stir the coconut milk into the quinoa and blend well.
  5. Spoon quinoa into a bowl and top with apricots and some of the apricot juice, then the walnuts. Serve warm.

Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Chili

The squash resembles pasta when it is cooked and compliments the turkey chili beautifully. This can be served for dinner and used for lunch the next day.

Yield: 4 - 6 servings

1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbs. fresh basil, minced
1.5 tsp. cumin
pinch of cinnamon
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 package ground turkey
15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup water or vegetable stock
2 cups chili beans, such as kidney
sea salt to taste
fresh cilantro (optional)
toasted pumpkin seeds

Preparation:

  1. Set up a large, saucepan or stock pot with a steamer basket and one inch of water.
  2. Halve the squash, lengthwise, then in half again. Scoop out seeds and discard.
  3. Place the four pieces on the steamer basket, cover, bring to a boil and steam until tender, about 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the oil and sauté the onion and garlic until tender. Add the basil, cumin, cayenne and cinnamon and cook for another 30 seconds.
  5. Add the turkey a little at a time, mashing it a bit as it cooks to separate pieces.
  6. Pour in the tomatoes, stock, and beans, salt to taste, bring to a simmer, cover, reduce heat and cook for 20 minutes.
  7. Scoop the flesh of the squash into a bowl. Divide the squash between individual bowls and ladle the chili on top. Finish with minced cilantro and toasted pumpkin seeds. Serve immediately.

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Delia Quigley is a holistic health practitioner, author of seven health books and an experienced yoga instructor. She also teaches the exquisite science of preparing whole, organic foods to support and strengthen the mind, body and spirit.