In partnership with and written by Mercedes from liveitallin.ca! Check out her blog for the original post and tons of amazing content!
5 Tips for Healthy Kids Lunches- They Can Be Fun!
Lunches can be such a daunting task. Often, I feel like to make good ones, they’re time consuming, expensive, and inadequate compared to the fancy lunches I see on Instagram. I don’t have the time or the energy to make everything from scratch and I’m often left feeling like I’m not offering my kids the best although I try and find as much pre-made healthy foods as I can. For these healthy pre-made foods, one of my favourite places to shop is Amaranth Whole Foods at the Enjoy Centre. My goal with this post, along with the help of Amaranth Whole Foods, is to share with you some of the tips that I use to make lunches and leave you feeling a little more excited about lunch prep throughout all seasons. All of the foods in this post were purchased at Amaranth Whole Foods at the Enjoy Centre, unless otherwise noted.
Tip #1- Find your child(ren) a lunch box, container, or toolbox (kidding…maybe) that makes it easier and entertaining for you to pack lunches in.
Depending on the age of your child, this can be fun for both you and your child! My favourite lunch box is the stainless steel “Rover” by Planetbox but there are so many other cool ones out there too! I love organizing food into the different compartments! It’s a challenge and so fun to make it “look pretty”. They’re also great for assisting in portion control. Now, I don’t mean portion control for the purpose of restricting what my children eat, but because otherwise I pack mondo amounts of food in separate containers, in fear that they’ll starve otherwise, and this helps to prevent waste. The following are some examples of how I organize portions into the Rover Planetbox Lunch Boxes. *Take note too on the colours for Tip #2.
LOVE the colours of this lunch day! Those orange peppers complete it nicely! 🙂
Instead of a “sandwich” day, this was a “dipping” day. Kids (and adults) love the chance to dip all kinds of different foods. I offered cucumbers, zucchini, lentil chips & baked peas for dipping to be dipped in homemade hummus. Switching up the sandwich routine can make a huge difference in lunch enthusiasm!
Wrap day!- Again, to switch up the typical sandwich routine. Wraps, I would say, are one of the most successful things to include in kids’ lunches. They are also super easy to vary day-by-day. Whether you’re wrapping sandwich meat in them, cheese, peanut butter & jam, fruit & cheese, etc… they are just plain fun! Also take note of the gorgeous orange from those peppers again and the delicious peaches added this day! The fuzzy skin of the peach also adds texture variety which is important when planning for children of any age.
This was more a red & green day. Less rainbow variety, but still super healthy. I waited 3 days before offering pitas again for a sandwich. I added cashews today to include something totally knew from the previous few days. Also prepared “Green Drinks” for us all with organic fruits and veggies.
Tip #2- Let the colours guide you!
Often a great lunch is a rainbow coloured lunch! Or often a great lunch is the colour choice of the day (ex. all green or red). I try and pack a lunch with the general rule of thumb to not repeat colours. This helps me include all food groups with great variety and encourages me to get creative. B & C also get super pumped when they open up their lunch boxes and all different colours are staring at them! On the other hand though, some days the entire lunch is green. This doesn’t mean that it’s not balanced or of excellent variety, it’s just often more boring to some children. Please see photos & their descriptions from the previous tip for colour variety.
Tip #3- Pack for activity level and purpose.
The lunches that I shopped for last week at Amaranth Whole Foods, were made with the intention of focusing on brain and energy boosting foods, iron-rich ingredients, and hydration due to the heat wave that traveled through YEG. See photo captions for explanations of certain food choices.
Baobites (see next couple of photos for package description) for Vitamin C, fibre, and healthy energy boosting components. Homemade Gummies for brain boosting components, gut health, joint and bone care, mood lifting, increased cognitive abilities, and overall immune system health. MamaChia Green Magic for healthy fats (brain food), protein and immune system health due to the awesome vitamins and minerals included in the ingredients. Black Cherry Daiya yogurt (dairy & soy-free) and Freeyum Hemp bars for gut health and source of iron, fibre, protein, and healthy fats (brain food). In the Spinach Indian Life wrap is fermented cashew cheese from Truffula Living Deli for gut health and strawberries. Fruits and veggies were included for their regular benefits.
Homemade Organic Hummus for dipping (all organic- 1 can chickpeas, 2 cloves garlic, 2 tbps tahini, 3 tbsp lemon juice, 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil, salt & pepper to taste, all blended together). Baked peas are super high in iron so I try and offer those as much as possible. Lentil chips for healthy fats (brain food), fibre, and iron. Peanut butter stuffed pretzels for iron and healthy fats. Gummies, yogurt, baobites, fruits, and vegetables all included for reasons previously mentioned above.
I love to add these as a treat to lunches every once and a while. Amaranth carries pomegranate and blood orange flavours. Both are delicious. Excellent source of fibre and vitamin C. Awesome alternative to the typical fruit snacks, fruit roll-ups, candy, etc. I purchase these all year round, but most definitely during cold and flu season to help increase that vitamin C intake. Non-Gmo, vegan, kosher, and sustainable. LOVE!
Finally found a gigantic watermelon that was absolutely delicious at Amaranth Whole Foods. I was about to give up on watermelons altogether after having purchased so many untasty ones so far this season. Amaranth came to the rescue and the size of this baby lasted us for an entire week of the intense heat wave that rolled through!
Tip #4- Find a store that you can shop at that is consistent and reliable.
Whether my children need extra healthy lunches, are sick and need speedy healing, or require foods that are hard to find at other places, Amaranth Whole Foods is my go-to place and rarely is something that I need out of stock. If you know me, you know that we require dairy and soy-free products as C has a severe intolerance to both. Amaranth has been far ahead of many other local “organic markets” at stocking soy-free vegan products. It drives me crazy when stores stock vegan everything and it is all soy based products. Amaranth Whole Foods stocks many of my favourite local products, have the best-priced supplements section from my experience (I’ve found cheaper there than at Superstore for example) and are consistently stocked through the seasons with awesome variety.
I use this organic gelatin powder from GoBio in my homemade gummies, however, it’s not Kosher. There are kosher varieties available though. I love that Amaranth carries the smaller packages and this “bulk” sized box. One of these makes a batch of gummies to last us 2 weeks (roughly 80 gummies).
Homemade Gummies ingredients! These ones were packed with iron, vitamins, and minerals, as well as added items for gut health. The benefits of these gummies are endless. I forgot the coconut cream though. I like the taste of the gummies so much more when coconut cream is added. Amaranth doesn’t carry the Feel Good Elderberry Syrup, however, they do carry the Suro brand that I love!
Gummies are too much fun to make. My children get so excited to see which shapes they get in their lunches. My favourite ideas and recipes for homemade gummies and much more are from Healthy Firsts. Randall is always sharing amazing ideas to for children and their families that you can easily include into your routine. You can also click photo above for link to Healthy Firsts.
Buff Bake is a Protein Almond Spread that I purchase every once and a while for a treat or when added diet punch is needed. As it’s a whey protein (dairy), my son cannot consume it, however, for my daughter it offers her some added nutrition. She was thrilled that the name was Unicorn, had sprinkles in it, and told everyone she was eating a Unicorn Pita. This is definitely a treat, as it does contain added sugar and that’s not something that I want her to get used to since she’s a peanut butter lover. When B gets the Unicorn spread, C gets regular peanut butter and jam with no complaints!
Amaranth Whole Foods carries an amazing variety of the Buff Bake Spreads and cookies. There is even Birthday Cake Flavour! For you protein people out there, this is a cool way to add extra protein to your diet with 11g of Hormone-Free Whey Protein in 2 tbsp in the Unicorn flavour alone.
Bo & Marrow Beef Bone Broth is a staple to our meals when extra brain boosting, gut health, and immune system boosting is required. During B’s intensive ABM treatment last week, her and her brother had it with their breakfasts. They drink it straight out of a glass.
Tip #5- Try and include something fermented or with a probiotic of some sort for gut health.
During the summer months and holiday seasons when our meal plans are derailed from the normal routine, sugar intake is high from delicious treats, and sleep lacking, I’ve found that extra probiotics and fermented foods help to balance things out. My children take a probiotic (vegan) but I do try and include other fermented food into their diets when I can. Yogurt, Truffula Fermented Cashew Cheese, Sprouted bread, and Sourdough products have been some of my go-to favourites. I think yogurt is an all-time favourite, but it is important to stay away from the extra garbage that companies put into children’s yogurt products. Yogurt can be such a huge source of unnecessary sugar intake and ingredients/labeling deceiving. I’m not going to get into all of those details in this post- that’s a topic for another day!
Truffula Fermented Cheese has been an amazing addition to our lunches. Huge bonus that it’s fermented! Dairy and soy-free cheese options can be slim picking as it is and when you do find, they often have carrageenan listed in the ingredients, making it less attractive. This cashew cheese isn’t found at Amaranth, however our favourite Non-GMO Indian Life wraps are, as well as the organic strawberries! You haven’t had a decent wrap or taco unless you’ve tried it in these wraps!
‘Daiya’ dairy & soy-free yogurt has been a great way for us to continue to include a yogurt type of option in our lunches. High in protein, healthy fats, and iron. Amaranth carries a nice variety of flavours and always keeps us stocked.
Any questions? As always, just ask! Food and more specifically organic and healthy alternatives are a passion of mine. With the changes that my husband and I made years ago to our diet through nutrition and holistic research, along with B’s preemie history requiring her to add certain supplements to her diet to stay healthy, and C’s intolerance to dairy and soy, I feel that I have a lot to offer families. Did I mention I love to talk all things diet and nutrition? 😉
Thank you to Amaranth Whole Foods for this awesome opportunity!