Struggling for ideas on what to pack in your kids’ school lunches that will give them the energy and brain power to last through a full day of classes and after-school sports? Sarah Guilbert, the Nutritionist from Midtown Athletic Club in Rochester, is back to demystify the healthy lunch packing process with some great recipes to help your children have a productive year in school.
You’re not alone if you’re having trouble coming up with creative, healthy ideas for your kids’ packed lunches and snacks. There are many misleading kid-friendly “health-food” products on the market that are actually anything but, and wading through the front-of-the-package marketing claims is sometimes difficult.
By ditching the processed, prepared foods and making lunches and snacks yourself you can ensure that your child is eating healthfully. It is also a fun way to give your kids a little food education, as you teach them the preparation skills necessary to one day take over the job for you.
The following recipes will help students power through the school day with enough energy to perform well academically as well as on the sports field, track, or swimming pool.
For the Lunch Box
Whole Grain Pita Pockets with Harvest Chicken Salad
This recipe shows the versatality of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt. Tip: substitute regular walnuts for the candied walnuts in this recipe to lower the amount of added sugar.
Whole Wheat Bread, Natural Peanut Butter, and Banana Slices. Pack Milk in a Thermos.
This is a potassium-rich variant on traditional peanut butter and jelly.
Spaghetti Squash with Grilled Chicken and Low-Sodium Marinara Sauce
Spaghetti squash is a healthy and fun substitute for refined pasta. You can easily pack this dish in a thermos or a container like this. Have your kids help prepare the squash so they can see the fascinating inside of this vegetable.
Greek Yogurt, Banana, and Low-Fat Granola Parfait.
Add your child’s favorite side dish to round it out. This meal is packed with potassium and protein.
Healthy Grilled Cheese Paired with a Side Salad in an Edible Bowl
Make a grilled cheese sandwich using whole grain bread with reduced fat cheese, tomato, and spinach.
Fill a pepper with spring mix, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and an olive oil-based salad dressing for a fun way to do a side-salad.
This recipe is a good source of fiber and plant protein for the adventurous eater. Make this on a Sunday night, as it requires more preparation time than the other other recipes.
Healthy Lunchbox Desserts
Step away from the Twinkies and Chips Ahoy. A lunch box dessert doesn’t have to be filled with calories and chemicals. Try these instead:
There are many variants of these, such as those found here and here.
Here’s a recipe I developed out of frustration after reading the suspicious ingredients on just about every store-bought energy bar I’ve picked up. Energy bars shouldn’t have 30 ingredients. Here’s my simple and healthy alternative with ingredients you know and recognize.
½ cup coconut flour
2 cups whole oats
1 cup natural unsweetened appleasauce
2 mashed medium bananas
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup raisins
½ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup sunflower seeds
1 T vanilla
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Line a brownie pan with parchment paper.
3. Combine oats, coconut flour, raisins, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, salt, and cinnamon together in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
4. Chop dates, add in to dry ingredients.
5. In a separate bowl, combine mashed bananas, applesauce, and vanilla.
6. Add wet ingredients into dry ingredient bowl.
7. Add peanut butter and mix thoroughly.
8. Press into pan and cook for 30 minutes.
9. Cool to room temperature and cut into 24 bars
Nutrition information per bar (1/24th of pan): 159 calories, 9g fat (2g saturated, 0g trans-fats), 5g protein, 3g fiber, 93mg sodium, and 210mg potassium.
Nutrition before a workout or an after-school activity involving exercise should be low in fat and fiber and provide a moderate amount of carbohydrates and protein.
Full disclosure: I had no intention of registering my four-year-old twins for Midtown’s new Tennis Explorers program.
I love them to pieces, but these two are “spirited” on their best days and the definition of chaos and mayhem on their worst. And, like many preschoolers, they are very active, very boisterous, and have very short attention spans.
Twinsanity and tennis? Like oil and water, I thought.
Boy, was I wrong.
We’re nearing the completion of our first 10-week, parent-and-child session, and my twins not only love the game, but have also mastered skills I never thought they would stand still enough to learn.
A Different Approach
Tennis Explorers is unique because the emphasis is on fun, movement, and cultural awareness. Midtown created the program with childhood development professionals, so literacy, counting, and social skills are also incorporated with each lesson.
The kids spend the first 5 minutes of each lesson in a “circle time” atmosphere on-court, listening to their tennis coach read them a story about a different country from their Tennis Explorers book. They learn how to say, “Hello” in the language of that country, which was a huge hit with my kids. They’re stilling saying, “Jambo” to people they meet, three weeks after learning about Kenya.
Fun is the Focus
Rest assured that your 3-year-old won’t be whacking around a regulation tennis ball with abandon. Tennis Explorers uses large, easy-to-hit foam balls, and in class, they aren’t even called tennis balls. They are “turtles” for one drill (kids practice hand-eye coordination skills by using the strings of their racquet-the turtle’s “shell”-to stop a rolling ball-the turtle’s body) and a “kangaroo” that needs to find its way into its mother’s “pouch” (a cone) for another.
Outside of the story, the class is kept in constant motion, which is a perfect format for active preschoolers. They work on balance, coordination, both large and small motor skills, and the proper way to hold and swing the most adorable, age-appropriate racquet you’ve ever seen. The racquet was designed especially for Midtown by Wilson and each Tennis Explorer receives one, along with these backpacks.
My kids’ tennis coach flawlessly integrates parent participation with each lesson, as we’re asked to toss the kids balls to hit, or even participate in a balance drill along with our children. Parents aren’t usually able to participate in softball, or soccer, or hockey right alongside their kids, so my husband and I are happy to have the opportunity to join our twins on-court in their first foray into sports.
It took just a single class to hook my kids on the game. By the end of the first lesson, my sometimes surly son was jumping up and down shouting, “I LOVE tennis!” He was even more excited to get his first sticker in his “Passport,” the small green book where kids collect a sticker upon completion of each lesson.
While there are child-only classes on the schedule, where kids work with a pro sans parents as they do in other levels of tennis, I would encourage you to take the class with your kids, or have another caregiver take it with them, at least for the first time around. First, the class was designed this way, but more importantly it offers you a guaranteed 45 minutes of uninterrupted time each week to spend with your preschooler.
And with the fast pace of most of our lives, that kind of time is invaluable.
The next session of Tennis Explorers begins on January 8.
Has your child taken our inaugural session of Tennis Explorers? Please share what you thought of the program in our Comments section.