School lunchtime is probably one of the biggest challenges our family faces when it comes to clean eating. I’m not even talking about the school lunches they can buy. That could be a post all in itself! No, I’m talking about the foods we moms intentionally put in our children’s lunch bags each day. If you’ve ever done a stint as a lunch helper at school then you know what I’m talking about. Junk food as far as the eye can see. It’s bad. Soda, chips, cupcakes, candy, and those prepackaged box lunch kits which will go unnamed, even soda. Moms, we seriously need to talk about these lunches. We can do better. We have to do better! Our kids deserve lunches that will fuel their bodies and send them back to class full and ready to learn-not on a sugar high that is destined to turn into a major crash long before the end of the day.
Now, I’m not against kids having some fun treats in their lunches. I’m really not. My kids get an occasional bag of chips or snack cake so they don’t feel like they have the meanest mom ever. When I’ve put off grocery shopping too long their lunches can be a little questionable. I’m human, I give in sometimes just like everyone else! And I do get the appeal of quick and easy when you’re already rushed in the morning. Prepackaged is certainly quick but with a little prep work fresh and healthy can be quick and easy too!
The first step to a lunch box makeover is rethinking what a kids’ lunch should look like. A typical American student’s packed lunch may include a sandwich, fruit or applesauce cup, chips, sweet treat and juice box. Holy sugar overload. Let me break this down for you:
Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich = 12 grams of sugar
Regular Potato chip single serving bag= 1 gram sugar
Popular brand Chocolate Cupcake = 37 grams sugar
Popular brand applesauce= 22 grams sugar
Popular brand Fruit Punch drink pouch = 16 grams sugar
Grand total = 88 grams of sugar / 17.6 teaspoons of sugar
17.6 teaspoons of sugar. Go to your sugar bowl and measure out 17 grams of sugar. Would you let your child eat that in one meal? In one day? Of course not. The truth is; we all live very busy lives and we don’t always have time to read labels. Most people probably would never guess that a typical lunch would have that much sugar. To put it into perspective, the American Heart Association recommends 3 teaspoons of sugar daily for children 3-8 and 5-8 teaspoons daily for preteens and teens. The World Health Organization recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar daily.
So let’s rethink our choices. Where does it say we have to pack a sandwich every day? Let’s get creative and replace processed and packaged with fresh and healthy! We can reduce the sugar and sodium content of our kids’ lunches while increasing the fiber, nutrients and vitamins their growing bodies need.
I’ve created a list of mix and match lunch ideas to help you break free from the standard lunch. Pick from each column and feel free to get creative and add your family’s favorites to the list. Don’t forget leftovers! Pick up a thermos and you’ll open up a whole bunch of options for lunch time!
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Hi! I'm Erica, a fitness and healthy food loving wife and mother of three here to inspire you on your wellness journey!