It's that time of the year - school is here! If you’re a parent or caregiver, you may already feel overwhelmed just thinking about packing school lunches for your kiddos. Lunch planning and packing are actually great activities to involve your kids in. As the parent, your roles are to ensure nourishing food options are available to pack and to provide guidance/assistance to your child. Your child’s jobs are to communicate their food preferences, give feedback on how much food is satisfying for meals and snacks, and to assist or independently pack their own lunch, depending on their comfort or maturity level. This may be a work in progress, but with time, your child will learn how to pack healthful food to fuel them for a day of school.
As you ease into passing along lunch packing duty, assess your child’s readiness level. Children in grades 1 to 3 may not be ready to pack independently, but they can certainly help with making decisions about what they’d like you to pack. This would also be a good time to brainstorm and plan together with this handy chart! Have discussions with your child about what should be included in a healthful lunch. Aim to always have “growing food” (protein and whole grains), fruit, and veggies on hand.
By grade 4 to 6, your child may be ready to pack all or part of their lunch independently. Maybe they could assemble a wrap, sandwich, pasta salad, or leftovers, but they may need more assistance with slicing fresh fruits and veggies and packing food up properly to ensure food safety. And don’t forget to involve your child in grocery shopping so they can take pride in their selections for the week.
Last month, the Sound Dietitians team had a blast talking about planning healthy lunches and doing some hands-on prep with kids and families at Verdant Community Wellness Center. This was an excellent way to conclude Kids Eat Right Month and prepare for the start of school. Here are some tasty recipes from our class!
Leftover chicken breast or rotisserie chicken can easily be chopped or shredded to be used in lunches and additional dinner meals. Toss shredded chicken on salad or pasta, season for tacos or quesadillas, or make a batch of this delicious chicken salad. It is perfect for school lunches or snacks and can be enjoyed as a sandwich, wrap, or with whole grain crackers. Just remember to pack it with some cold packs so it stays chilled until lunch time.
Nutrition per 1/2 cup serving (with almonds and grapes): 240 Calories; 12g Fat; 27g Protein; 7g Carbohydrates; 1.5g Fiber; 300mg Sodium
Rainbow Power Bowl with Easy Red Wine Vinaigrette
This bowl was a HUGE hit with our class! The kids loved shaking up their own dressing and choosing a variety of colorful veggies for their bowls. One kiddo commented “the cucumbers are so crunchy and refreshing!” After assembling, these grain bowls are too pretty to pass up.
Makes 2 Cups
Recipe adapted from: https://www.superhealthykids.com/rainbow-buddha-bowls-kids/
Red Wine Vinaigrette:
Nutrition per one example bowl (½ cup quinoa; 1/3 cup each cucumber/peppers/tomatoes, ¼ cup roasted sweet potato, 2 Tablespoons roasted chickpeas; 2 Tablespoons vinaigrette dressing): 355 Calories; 19.5g Fat; 7g Protein; 38g Carbohydrates; 6.7g Fiber; 210mg Sodium
Chocolate Cherry Energy Balls
These energy balls are a great alternative to packaged, processed snacks because they are only lightly sweetened and also provide protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. You can have fun mixing them up on the weekend and enjoy throughout the week.
Makes 24 Energy Balls
Recipe adapted from: https://www.smartnutrition.ca/recipes/mix-n-match-energy-ball-recipe/
Nutrition per energy ball: 55 Calories; 2.5g Fat; 1.5g Protein; 7g Carbohydrates; 1.2g Fiber
Fun extra: Check out America's Test Kitchen's "Kid Friendly Recipe & Activity Testing" to encourage food, cooking, and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics)!
Happy planning, prep, and packing ~ Wishing you all an excellent start to a new school year!
Last Tuesday, at Verdant Community Wellness Center, the Healthy Living Coaching Group took participants through a crash course on metabolism. The Healthy Living Coaching Group meets weekly to discuss specific ways to improve dietary and physical habits to lead healthier lives. In previous classes, individual factors that affect weight management have been explored. In this class, we introduced the science and revisited previous topics, to illustrate the complexity of metabolism. It was also demonstrated that we all have the tools to develop habits to support a healthier metabolism. Here are the main takeaways from the class.
What is Metabolism?
When thinking about metabolism we often think about weight and how fast or slow someone burns calories. We hear phrases like “oh he has a slow metabolism” or “she has a fast metabolism” to account for why someone is of a particular weight. In part this is true. But it’s also so much more.
Metabolism is all of the physical and chemical reactions in the body that maintain life. It’s a balancing act between the reactions that build products up and consume energy (anabolism) and break things down (catabolism) for energy (ATP). The food we eat contains the building blocks for these reactions. Essentially, food is fuel. We use this fuel for immediate energy or store it for later use. Metabolic rates are determined by how fast energy can be produced and used. These rates are affected by various factors. Some are out of our control like age, gender, and genetics, but others we can regulate.
What, when, and how we eat play a large role in supporting our metabolism. Three manageable changes are: eating breakfast, eating small frequent meals, and mindful eating.
Listen to your mom (and dad)! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it “wakes” up your metabolism. While sleeping, your metabolism slows way down so it needs a jump start first thing in the AM. It is recommended to eat within 1 hour of waking. Make sure to have a meal that contains a protein, fat, carbohydrate and fiber source to set the stage for the rest of the day.
Eat Small, Frequent Meals
Although metabolism can be greatly improved through dietary changes alone, there are some daily activities that also play a large role.
Exercise & Activity Level
Length and quality of sleep is such an important factor and really could be a discussion all on its own. But I am running out of space, so here is the short version. You want to get enough sleep to avoid fatigue during the day. Fatigue means less activity which will lead to decreased metabolic rate. Fatigue can also impact stress which impacts appetite hormones which then impacts if we eat too much or too little which then affects our metabolism. The domino effect of poor sleep is real. So, try to aim for 7-9 hours a night of undisturbed sleep.
Metabolism is complicated and multifactorial. These are just a few factors from a very long list. However, they are within our reach. Create healthier habits by focusing on one or two factors at a time. Here are some recipe ideas to inspire you along the way!
Shakshuka with Greens
Nutrition per serving (1/4th of pan): 217 Calories; 15g Fat; 10g Protein; 13g Carbohydrates; 3.5g Fiber; 216mg Sodium
Fruit & Yogurt Parfait
Nutrition per 8 ounces: 150 Calories; 4g Fat; 7g Protein; 26g Carbohydrates; 3.5g Fiber; 85mg Sodium
Analyzed using KIND Cinnamon Chia Granola and sliced almonds
~Kelsy, Dietetic intern
A place for our consultant Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) to share nutrition science, yummy and healthy recipes, tips on seasonal ingredients, and other nutritional musings. Enjoy!