Food for Thought
Nutrient Dense Lunches
When it comes to feeding kids nutrient dense food, lunches and snacks tend to be some of the most difficult things to tackle. And it makes sense: most of the options geared towards children tend to be full of sugar and lacking in nutrients. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to serve balanced snacks and meals full of healthy protein, nourishing fats, and satisfying carbohydrates.
Read on to find my top tips for creating snacks and lunches that are nutritionist and kid approved!
3 Key Lunch Tips
- Always start with protein! By selecting a real food protein source to base the meal off, you are setting the meal off on the right foot. Protein is the most satiating nutrient - so you can be assured that a lunch with balanced protein (and nourishing fats) will keep those bellies full until lunch time. Some of my favorite whole food protein sources for lunch are grass-fed whole milk yogurt, grass fed meat (we love to repurpose leftovers for lunch), sprouted nuts and seeds, almond butter, organic turkey, and sardines (which are an absolute powerhouse of nutrients that kids tend to love!).
- After selecting protein, focus on fats. Fats are critical for childhood health and are necessary for brain development, healing, proper growth, and to absorb Vitamins A, D, E, and K. The key is to select the right fats and avoid denatured fats (such as highly processed vegetable seed oils). Some of the most nourishing sources of real food fats include grass fed ghee and butter, olive oil, and coconut oil. Great foods to pack in lunches that provide a healthy punch of fats are sardines, grass-fed whole milk products (if well tolerated), nuts and seeds, and coconut manna.
- Make it colorful! One of my very favorite ways to ensure a variety of vitamins and minerals in children’s lunches is to simply focus on making it colorful! At a minimum, include two different colors of produce - ideally veggies. To help encourage little eaters to actually eat those veggies, I love to include a fun dipping sauce or topping. Some favorites include ants on a log (celery topped with almond butter and dotted with nuts or raisins), carrot sticks with hummus, apples topped with coconut manna, and bell peppers with homemade ranch sauce. Naturally fermented pickles are another fantastic way to include vegetables while giving a healthy probiotic boost!
Let’s not forget about every child’s favorite - snacks! For snacks, I like to apply the same rule as meals but on a smaller scale. We want a balanced macronutrient profile (hello, hearty protein and nourishing fats) but we want things that can be quickly assembled and are appealing to little taste buds.
I like to look at foods that inherently have a mix of macronutrients, which simply means they contain a mix of proteins, fats, and/ or carbohydrates. Some of my favorites are nuts and seeds (that are soaked or sprouted to aid in digestion), hard boiled eggs, greek yogurt, grass-fed cheese, and grass-fed jerky.
One mama nutritionist tip I always love for snacks is to use them as an opportunity to fill in any missing nutritional gaps. If your child has had a lot of protein but hasn’t had any vegetables, use the snack as an opportunity to fill in that missing piece. In order to make sure that nutrients are properly absorbed, I always like to include at least a small amount of fat in all snacks.
An easy way to make sure that snacks are nutrient dense and filling (rather than a handful of crackers), is to keep fruit, veggies, and nuts/ seeds readily available in the fridge or pantry. Chopped carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers are my personal favorites to have on hand! The key to healthy eating for the whole family (at least for my wild bunch!) is preparation and this small step goes a long way!
And there you have it - simple (but effective!) tips to serving nutrient dense, real food lunches and snacks. Adopting a real food lifestyle and prioritizing healthy food for your family can be a big transition, but it is well worth it and I am cheering you on - you’ve got this, mama!
By: Morgan SimonMorgan Simon is a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (FNTP) and Nontoxic Living Expert. She works with women and children to help adopt a nutrient-dense, real food lifestyle and eliminate environmental toxins in order to live their best life possible. She lives in sunny Austin, TX with her husband, two young kids and wild sheepadoodle puppy. You can find her on Instagram @wellthymed or at WellThymed.com.