Packing a nutritionally balanced lunch that your kids will actually eat can feel like shitty business at times – once you think you’ve got your lunch game locked up, the day is the day they go after the elaborate bento box Coming home that you have packed intact.
As parents, we feel responsible for the health of our children and that understandably means a lot of stress about what they or don’t eat.
“Your job as parents is to offer healthy, nutritious foods on a consistent schedule as often as possible,” said Aubrey Phelps, a functional perinatal and pediatric nutritionist. “But it’s up to your child to decide what to do with you.”
The best way to become a happy, healthy eater is to keep offering your child what you ideally want to eat – and not take it personally if they choose not to eat it. At school lunch, Phelps recommends keeping it simple: “Focusing on certain vitamins or minerals can miss the big picture,” she said.
If you use the following macronutrient formula to package your kids ‘lunch and vary each one’ s sources, you are almost guaranteed to have a healthy, balanced meal that will keep them focused and energized at school.
50% vegetables and fruits
25% lean protein and healthy fats
25% starch or whole grain products
The ideal formula for school lunches is often called. designated the plate method – a visual representation of what a well-rounded meal looks like.
“Every child needs a healthy balance of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fat) and vitamins and minerals”, Nicole Avena, a New York-based health psychologist and author of What to feed your baby and toddler said HuffPost. “The plate method helps ensure that no nutrient overwhelms the rest.”
For example, if your child has a lunch that is mostly carbohydrates or whole grains and some protein, they will likely feel tired in the afternoon. Not only do carbohydrates make you drowsy by increasing tryptophan and serotonin levels in the body (both are sleep-inducing compounds), but they can also make your blood sugar levels rise quickly, and the subsequent drop can make you sleepy, called avena. A larger serving of protein and fewer carbohydrates can also make your child sleepy.
“Proteins and fats are often harder to digest than carbohydrates and nutrients from fruits and vegetables,” says Avena. “This can potentially lead to fatigue as your body has to use more energy during digestion.”
If you make sure the lunch box contains all of the elements of this formula, your child will get the nutrients they need to focus and enjoy their school day without feeling sluggish.
Let’s break down the formula.
Vegetables and fruits – 50%
Try: carrot sticks, pepper strips, grape tomatoes, cucumber, grapes, apple slices, watermelon, berries.
The largest portion or half of the lunch box should contain 2-3 different types of vegetables and fruits – ideally two types of vegetables and one fruit, as the daily vegetable intake of children according to a. tends to be lower than the fruit intake 2019 review published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
This is actually an example of what NOT to do. Don’t eat more fruits than vegetables, as most children tend to eat more fruits anyway.
“Vegetables and fruits provide antioxidants for warding off disease, including vitamin A for skin and eye health, lutein for eye protection (from blue light), and vitamin C for immunity,” said Amy Shapiro, registered nutritionist and founder of Real nutrition.
The product is also rich in water to keep the children hydrated and contains fiber for continued energy and improved digestion.
Lean Protein and Healthy Fats – 25%
Try: Chicken, Turkey, Tofu, Edamame, Hard Boiled Eggs, Greek Yogurt, Cream Cheese, Nuts, Seeds.
“Protein is the nutrient that is digested the longest. So if your child eats it as part of lunch, they’ll stay full and their blood sugar stable, ”Shapiro said.
Depending on the type of protein provided, it may also contain amino acids for growth and muscle repair, zinc for immunity, and iron and vitamin B12 for energy supply.
Regarding healthy fats: “Fat helps you stay full, provides energy and enables the bioavailability and absorption of many vitamins that we ingest from other foods,” said Shapiro. “By including fat in your child’s meals, you will help them stay full longer and have more energy.”
There is often enough fat cooked in your food or part of the meal that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a separate addition, Shapiro said. (Eggs and nut butters, for example, offer a double punch of protein and healthy fats.)
Starch or whole grain – 25%
Try: Whole Wheat Bread, Granola, Muesli, Brown Rice, Quinoa, Crackers, Air Popcorn.
“Carbohydrates are broken down into sugars in the body, providing energy for immediate use and reserves for later use,” said Shapiro. “Ideally, whole grain or whole-grain bread should be included as it is rich in nutrients, digests more slowly, and is high in fiber to support balanced blood sugar and digestion.”
They also contain B vitamins, which are important for energy and metabolism.
But if your child isn’t the biggest fan of whole grains, don’t worry: “Vegetables and fruits also fit into the carbohydrate category so you don’t always have to think about bread or cereals when your child doesn’t like them,” Shapiro said.
Starchy vegetables and fruits include carrots, corn, potatoes, winter squash, and bananas.
Even slight dehydration can lead to a decrease in cognitive function.
“Dehydration can affect reaction time, alertness, memory, and thinking,” said Avena. “Children are potentially at a higher risk of dehydration because they are more dependent on someone else for their fluid intake.”
Send your child to school with a large water bottle to keep them hydrated during the school day – and remind them to keep them at their desk.
“Out of sight is out of mind,” said Phelps. “I also recommend a water bottle that will keep the water cold or at room temperature (whichever your child prefers) so that drinking warm water doesn’t turn it off.”
It doesn’t have to be pure water either: You prefer it with fruit, coconut or fizzy drink or a completely different liquid such as milk or 100% fruit or vegetable juice.
“If your child is really struggling to drink enough, consider sending hydrating foods,” Phelps said. “Soups, smoothies, juicy fruits like grapes and melons, peppers, and even yogurt are all hydrating options that can help kids stay up to date.”
The easiest way to measure lunch box portions
Children are intuitive eaters – they eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full because the amount of lunches they eat fluctuates each day – so there really aren’t any perfect portions to pack.
The easiest way to make sure you are at the ballpark? Use your child’s hands as a guide.
Think of your child’s hands as a plate – palms up, little fingers together. Half of your “plate” (or one hand) should be vegetables and fruits. The palm of the other hand protein and fingers complex carbohydrates.
“With this method, the amounts you need will change as your child grows (and so will the portion sizes you need),” Phelps said.
She is also a fan of the Bento box style lunch boxesthat are already divided into child-friendly portions. You can fill a section with vegetables and fruits, one with protein and healthy fats, and one with starch or whole grains without guesswork. These ratios do not necessarily need to be adjusted if your child has special dietary needs.
“Appropriate substitutions are needed to ensure they have a filling and nutritious meal regardless of the dietary changes required.” Maya Feller, a Brooklyn-based registered nutritionist, told HuffPost. However, the general rule of thumb generally remains the same.
Ratios and formulas should only be used as guidelines, not as hard rules, as children should determine for themselves how much to eat.
“If parents find that their child is consuming 100% of the packaged food throughout the day, it could be a sign that they are going through critical stages of development and need more energy,” said Feller.
It’s also important to keep in mind that this is a full day meal – so when a lunch box comes home practically full, the game isn’t over. “We want to look at diet throughout the day, not a meal,” Shapiro said.
When in doubt, check in with your kids: find out how lunch was and make food and portion changes based on the feedback.
Remember: nutrition is cumulative
Look at your child’s diet over the course of a week, not a day – or a meal. “You will get what you need in time,” Shapiro said. “Some days are great and some are free and everything balances out.”
The most important thing parents can do is develop a good relationship with food. It’s more important than creating the perfect lunch.
“Children are more likely to be black and white thinkers, so I don’t recommend focusing on ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ or ‘funny’ foods,” said Krystyn Parks, a California-based Pediatric Registered Dieter. “All food is food. All food has a purpose. “
Perfection is not the goal, but routines that work for you and your child.
“Find your own routine, involve your children in the decisions and don’t measure yourself against another person,” said Feller. “No day – or meal – will be perfect in terms of nutrition.”
New Study Claims The MIND Diet Can Help Prevent This Common Aging Problem
By now, if you are looking to live a long, healthy life, you probably have a sense of how different foods affect your body. For example, you may even have noticed which breakfast items make you feel drowsy all day compared to those that give you the energy boost you need in the morning.
Scientists continue to research how what we eat affects not only our bodies but our minds as well. This is why the MIND diet is of particular interest – it combines elements of the Mediterranean diet with those of the DASH diet to create a nutritional plan that will promote your cognitive health. New research shows that This diet can help older adults fight dementia, even if they have physical signs associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
RELATED: The Best Foods for Your Brain After 50, Say Dietitians
The study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, examined data from 569 deaths. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center compared their performance on cognitive tests taken late in their life with information about their diet, as well as their autopsy reports after death. The researchers found that people who followed the MIND diet did better on cognitive tests. even when their brains showed the physical signs – plaques and tangles – that are typical of Alzheimer’s disease.
This suggests that the MIND diet could play a role in helping older adults maintain their sanity even when their body is working against them.
“This study suggests that our food choices can strengthen resilience to cognitive decline with age, even when the physical signs of Alzheimer’s disease are in the brain,” said Maggie Moon, MS, RD, bestselling author of The MIND Diet Eat this, not that! in an interview. “This is especially important because drugs don’t work, at least not right now. Even if they removed some of the plaques from the brain, they couldn’t reduce or slow down cognitive decline.”
The story goes on
The name MIND Diet is not just a statement of the intended benefits of the diet, but also an acronym. It stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. Researchers suggest that The more people stick to this diet, the lower their risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Recommended foods for this diet are “leafy greens, a variety of vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, beans, berries, poultry, fish, and wine in moderation,” says Moon.
“There are also a number of food recommendations that you should limit in your diet,” says Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, CD, FAND, author of The Brain Health Cookbook: MIND Diet Recipes to Prevent Disease and Enhance Cognitive Power. “These foods include fried foods, processed and red meats, full-fat dairy products, and sweets and pastries. These foods can still be included in your diet – say if cheese is your favorite food, however, it is recommended that you cut them down and focus more on the superfoods of the MIND diet. “
The researchers behind this study also point to previous studies that suggest the foods in the MIND diet are high in antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory properties, and have been linked to protecting people’s cognitive health.
To learn more about how to choose foods to keep you spicy, check out these 10 Best Foods to Boost Brain Power. Then don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter!
Are Restaurants Exacerbating the Obesity Epidemic?
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, almost the entire discussion about health in the restaurant sector has revolved around one topic: how to protect guests and staff from the virus. Yet another health concern has largely been overlooked: How restaurants are putting Americans’ health at risk by selling dishes that are high in calories, fat, added sugar, and sodium, but low in essential fiber. And during a pandemic where obesity and other pre-existing conditions were risk factors for serious illness, this discussion couldn’t be more relevant.
It is common knowledge that fast foods sold by chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and the like have poor nutritional profiles. But the starters, main courses, and desserts sold in full-service restaurants aren’t much better.
This was made clear in a study by the Friedman School of Nutrition published last year. It was found that around 70% of the meals in fast food restaurants were of “poor quality” and only 30% were even of “medium” quality. In full-service restaurants, 47% of meals were medium quality and 52% were poor quality.
Perhaps most notably, less than 0.1% of the meals consumed at these restaurants met the American Heart Association’s definition of “ideal quality”; saturated fat and sodium.
Franchise outlets – fast food and others – have tried to balance their menu offerings a little. Burger King offers a garden salad, for example. But more common are offerings – like a triple cheeseburger with bacon and pretzel sold by Wendy’s – that are high in calories, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
Beyond the nutritional profile
Another problem area is the portion sizes in restaurants. While the cheesecake factory’s monster servings may seem like an outlier, the CDC reports that the average serving of a hamburger and french fry in a restaurant is about three times what it was in the 1950s.
Similarly, the authors of a 2019 study analyzed the menus of 10 popular fast food chains in the United States from 1986 to 2016. They found that the number of calories and serving size (in grams) of the main dishes increased by 12% and 25%, respectively. ; Desserts had increased 46% and 37%, respectively; and the calorie count on side orders was up 21%.
This double dose of large servings and unhealthy food helped the adult obesity rate in the United States soar from 15% in 1980 to over 42%. Weight gain is of particular concern as obesity and related conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure have been linked to an increased risk of COVID-19 complications and mortality.
The developing gastronomic landscape
Rising obesity rates are set against the backdrop of two major changes in the US hospitality landscape.
The first is the dramatic expansion of access to food outside the home. From 1977 to 2012, the number of food operations in the US rose 77%, according to the US Department of Agriculture. More recently, the number of “quick service” establishments has increased from around 150,000 in 2007 to nearly 200,000 last year.
The effects of increased restaurant density were shown by the authors of a 2015 paper. They showed a strong association between rising obesity rates and an increase in the number of restaurants per capita in a state.
The second change in the dining landscape is that people are eating out a lot more than they used to be. In 1962, groceries consumed outside of the home accounted for 27% of the total American grocery budget. By 2017 it was over 50%.
These trends, coupled with the troubling nutritional profile of the foods served by restaurants, explain the poor state of the average American diet. Most American adults and children do not consume the recommended daily amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes while consuming more than the recommended amounts of added sugar, sodium, and processed meat.
These nutritional patterns are correlated with negative health outcomes. In 2012, more than 45% of U.S. deaths from diabetes, heart disease, and stroke were associated with sub-optimal diets, according to a JAMA study. This diet is defined as being low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and high in sodium, processed meats, and sugar-sweetened beverages.
What needs to be changed
There are no easy answers to encourage Americans to develop healthier eating habits, but one step is to eat out less often and cook healthy food at home more often. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that people who cook for themselves eat 12% less sugar, 6% fewer calories, and 6% less fat.
As delivery services make restaurant meals more accessible than ever, there is an urgent need for all food businesses to improve the health profile of their food. That means more low-fat and low-sodium offers with a high nutrient density. It also means smaller portions.
COVID-19 has highlighted the vulnerability of those facing diet-related health challenges. Restaurants should take the lead in helping Americans overcome these challenges and help them achieve better health.
Vanita Rahman, MD, is the Clinical Director at Barnard Medical Center, the Clinical Lecturer in Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine, and the author of Simply Plant Based. Matthew Rees is the editor of the Food and Health Facts newsletter, a senior fellow at the Tuck School of Business in Dartmouth, and a former White House speechwriter.
Is free school lunch really free? Our kids are paying with their health
When I heard about the USDA’s free “healthy and nutritious” school meals, I felt a lump in the pit of my stomach. These lunches are far from free. In fact, our children will pay the metabolic debts they accumulate (with interest) for the rest of their lives.
Big food doesn’t care about our health.
The “free” lunch program comes to collect
Chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer, infertility, autoimmune diseases, dementia and mental health problems are on the rise – and this is no accident. It is the result of decades of destructive nutritional advice promoted by the USDA and supported by a variety of stakeholders focused solely on financial gain. These diseases are a harbinger of metabolic global warming, and they are far too widespread to continue to be ignored. But the truth is, these storms brewed a long time ago, 10 to 15 years before they presented themselves as a chronic disease. Now the damage is done.
The food pyramid is just big business
The original “food pyramid,” developed nearly 20 years ago, had major flaws, but some positive properties. Fruits and vegetables were at the bottom, suggesting they should be consumed more regularly. Proteins were up next, with whole grains and foods high in calcium on top. The dairy and bread industry was quick to respond and campaigned for lawmakers to protect their profit margins, which led to our current ineffective and destructive policies.
And yes, the USDA tried a healthier model with the launch of MyPlate in 2011, Emphasis on portion control and a more appropriate distribution of the different food groups. But that still misses the point, because at the end of the day it’s not just what’s in the food that counts, but what was done with it.
Is Ultra-Processed Food Really Food?
Food is defined as a material, consisting essentially of proteins, carbohydrates and fat, that serves to sustain an organism’s body, including its growth, repair, vital processes and energy production. But what about processed foods? The likely processed foods you find in these “free” lunches have a ton of things to do with them before they hit the lunch table: added sugar for palatability, natural fiber removed to extend shelf life, emulsifiers, preservatives and more. This doesn’t even include synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and factory farming.
Let’s talk about sugar
Sugar is cleverly hidden on food labels; often disguised as corn syrup, brown sugar, honey, dextrose, and fructose. Pizza, bread, pasta, pretzels, goldfish crackers, yogurt, applesauce, and granola bars are all loaded with hidden sugar. Added sugar not only displaces nutritionally superior foods in the diet and inhibits energy production, but can also remove nutrients from other foods consumed and from the body’s stores. From the definition of food above, it turns out that neither ultra-processed food nor sugar is actually food.
Professor Efrat Monsonego Ornan of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem recently published an article in which he argued that ultra-processed foods actually stunt growth by inhibiting skeletal growth and the deposition of calcium in the bones, and by shortening the overall bones. The hidden sugars in our diet are sabotaging our bodies and fueling our national chronic health crisis.
These findings only add to what we already know: Highly processed foods can lead to cancer because they essentially hijack the metabolic program necessary for normal growth. Other facts to keep in mind: 74 percent of the foods in a grocery store have added sugar (fructose), and 67 percent of the sugar in their diets comes from highly processed foods, including school lunches and sugary breakfast items like fruit loops and orange juice.
Predator food and lack of nutritional education
Unfortunately, nobody teaches proper nutrition in schools – not before college, not during college, not even in medical school. In fact, talking about food has become just as explosive as politics or religion. As a result, kids with metabolic debt become bloated and don’t even realize it until they’re in their 20s and 30s. The food industry is hunting the nutritionally uneducated. It’s just like charging a credit card – you’re using seemingly invisible money … until you get the bill. Metabolic debt (which is essentially insulin resistance) is similar – highly processed foods cause invisible stress in children until they are diagnosed with diabetes or another equally dire condition 15 years later.
Insulin resistance explained
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that is responsible for transporting glucose into cells after a meal. Over time, with frequent and excessive consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates, the cells can no longer absorb glucose efficiently, so this sugar level builds up in the blood. When this happens, the pancreas pumps out more insulin to lower glucose. However, the cells no longer respond to insulin (insulin resistance), which leads to increased insulin and glucose levels. Insulin resistance is a major cause of the metabolic syndrome that precedes the development of most chronic diseases. Still not convinced: Studies have shown that one in three Americans has this silent blood sugar problem.
Proper nutrition for all population groups
Many argue that free lunch is all some families can afford; But you don’t have to shop at Whole Foods to find delicious and nutritious products for your family. In fact, national chains like The Dollar Store, Walmart, and Aldi have options far superior to the current free school lunches, like canned coconut milk, beans, tuna bags, and frozen proteins like chicken and meat.
We’re not helping our children by offering free lunch when the food is currently being served in schools across the country. One could even argue that we are poisoning them.
As the world’s richest nation, are sugary foods the best we can offer our school children – our future leaders? My children’s lunch menu is full of things that sound delicious but in no way support their growth or health. “Fueling” our kids with laden BBQ fries, mini corn dogs, nacho bites, and cheeseburgers while waiting for this diet to prepare them for a full day of study and activity is making them fail – today and 15 years from now . I am not ready to settle down. We must stop adjusting our children to diabetes and other chronic diseases. We need to advocate for more nutritious foods that help focus, as well as mental and metabolic health. Only then can we call it “free”, but until we change the offer in these lunches we just add their “tab”.
David Rambo is the Chairman and CEO of Simplex Health with over 20 years of experience in the health and wellness industry.
Dr. Avi Gurwitz is Chair of the Pediatrics Department, Head of General / Emergency Pediatrics and Medical Director of Pediatric UrgiCare at Redeemer Health. He is also the pediatric emergency room at St. Mary’s Medical Center and chief medical officer at Simplex Health, a medical nutrition group.
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