Localicious: What’s In Your Lunch Box?

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With the hubbub of the new school year and getting everyone back into the routine of early mornings, homework and afterschool activities, healthy lunches can make all the difference in your family’s ability to make it through their busy days.

What’s Important?

Be sure all meals and snacks are nutritionally complete (containing protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats). This will ensure that your children maintain optimum blood sugar levels throughout the day and their brains can focus on the tasks at hand. 

Don’t feel obligated to give your children treats in their lunch; they get more than enough of those with classroom parties and other school functions. 

Helpful ideas for making nutritious lunches more fun to eat at school or at home: 

  • Provide fresh, seasonal fruits or vegetables with every meal.
  • Pre-heated items can be eaten at room temperature.
  • Be sure to send lunches in reusable, BPA free containers.

A Bowl to Go

  • Burrito Bowl: brown rice, black or pinto beans, shredded lettuce, corn, avocado, salsa, cheddar or feta cheese and a squirt of lime juice. Serve with organic tortilla chips.
  • Teriyaki Chicken Bowl: brown or basmati rice, teriyaki chicken, sugar snap peas and steamed cabbage.
  • Chili Bowl: homemade or a healthy canned chili with cheddar cheese, diced onion, avocado and organic tortilla chips.
  • Green Salad Bowl: shredded fresh salad greens with canned  or fresh wild salmon, tuna fish or grilled meat (leftovers work well), raw veggies, and dressing on the side.
  • Soup: homemade leftover soup or boxed soup (alternative to canned), with feta cheese and multi-grain baguette.

A Snacky Lunch 

  • Wild salmon or tuna salad with ½ avocado and multi-grain or rice crackers.
  • Meat, cheese and crackers: organic turkey or ham slices, sliced cheddar cheese, and multi-grain or rice crackers.
  • Organic vanilla yogurt (low-fat or full-fat) with granola, raw nuts, fresh berries or other seasonal fruit.
  • Mini cheese quesadilla made with corn tortillas, refried black beans and guacamole.
  • Hard boiled eggs, cheddar cheese, and multi-grain or rice crackers.
  • Egg salad and avocado with pita bread slices or crackers.
  • Hummus and pita wedges with olives and cheddar cheese slices.
  • Organic cottage cheese with ½ avocado and multi-grain or rice crackers.

Sandwich Alternatives 

  • French bread or gluten-free English muffin pizza made with pizza sauce, spinach & cheese.
  • Homemade burrito: whole wheat tortilla with refried beans, brown rice, cheddar or feta cheese, avocado, salsa and lettuce.
  • Organic turkey or ham wrap: serve in a tortilla with cream cheese, lettuce, avocado, tomato and onion (optional).
  • Meat and cheese rolls: Lavosh bread (available at Trader Joe’s) with cream cheese, organic turkey, shredded carrots and lettuce. Roll up and cut into 2” pieces.

Healthy Local Snacks 

  • Beef jerky: It’s Jerky local beef jerky is made in Redding with real ingredients and is delicious. Trader Joe’s also has organic beef jerky.
  • Popcorn: POPO Organic Popcorn is locally made in Mt. Shasta with real ingredients and healthy fats, not “butter flavor,” cottonseed or hydrogenated oils.
  • Chips: Lundberg Farms Rice Chips. Made with 70% organic ingredients and all organic grains.

What to buy & where

Most ingredients can be found at your local health food store. Trader Joe’s also carries organic dairy products, nitrate-free lunch meats, hummus, lavosh bread, organic tortillas; Costco now carries organic & nitrate-free lunch meats and organic cheese; Grocery Outlet also carries organic products. 

Making Healthy Choices at School

  1. Ordering hot lunch.  It can be difficult to make healthy choices when ordering most schools’ hot lunches, but generally there are a few healthy choices, such as a salad bar and fresh fruit, and water instead of milk and flavored milk. Tip: if your child’s school does not have a salad bar or fresh fruit available, speak to the principal and request fresh, homemade items to be part of your child’s school lunch program. If you don’t speak up, who will?
  2. Classroom parties. Encourage your child’s teacher to have classroom parties in the morning before recess or after lunch so your child’s lunch is not spoiled by junk foods.

It is important for parents to make sure their children are getting adequate nutrition so busy bodies and brains can function at their best. Remember to make every meal and snack count every time!

A Snacky Lunch with Wild Tuna or Salmon

art-0914-loca3Ingredients

  • 2 cans Albacore tuna or 2 cans wild Alaskan Salmon
  • 2 Tbsp plain organic low-fat yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp organic mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp spicy mustard (not hot spicy)
  • 1 Tbsp  flax oil
  • *1/2 tsp dulse flakes
  • 2 capfuls apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt
  • black pepper to taste

Drain the canned salmon (but not the tuna). Add all ingredients together, mix well and serve.

*Dulse flakes are a seaweed, high in minerals & trace minerals and can be found at most health food stores.

[sws_grey_box box_size=”680″] Localicious is a monthly column celebrating healthy food in the North State. If you would like to suggest a food-related idea, business or organization, email us at localicious@northstateparent.com. [/sws_grey_box]

Michelle Cave
About Michelle Cave

Michelle Cave is a certified Nutrition Consultant & Nutrition Educator and has been practicing for over 13 years. She studied Holistic Nutrition at Bauman College, in Berkeley, CA and is a member of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals. Find out more: www.familynutritionconnection.com

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