Summer Lunchin’

I’m baaaaack! It’s been a while and honestly, I wasn’t inspired enough to give you content that I felt would be worthy of you reading. I took on too much and my brain/heart just wasn’t in it BUT today I felt super inspired because I was trying to wrack my brain about what to give the boys for lunch. Summer is coming and if you have kids who are going to be home or you are going to need to pack them lunches for summer camp, you came to the right place!

I decided to pull together a list of delicious, quick, healthy, and low-cost lunches for you and your kiddos this summer. So what makes a healthy lunch anyway? Welllll I’m so glad you asked! A healthy lunch doesn’t have to be gourmet, take forever to make, or break the bank! It just has to be balanced enough for you and your kiddos to get nourishment and energy that you’ll need to conquer all of the summers most fun moments!

A healthy lunch consists of:
– Protein (for snack/hunger control): turkey lunch meat, peanut butter, beans, peas, cheese, greek yogurt, chicken, tuna, ground beef/chicken/turkey
– Carbohydrates (for energy): whole grain bread, brown rice, potatoes, pasta, pizza crust, corn, beans, peas, lentils, fruit (yep it counts!)
– Veggies (because I said so): carrots, celery, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, veggie soup, tomato soup, snap peas, cauliflower, etc etc etc

From there, get creative! Keeping it low cost is a cinch…seriously, don’t make this too hard on yourself and too time-consuming either! If you use SNAP benefits, these ideas will help your access money stretch! If you get food from your local food bank/pantry keep your eyes peeled for these things! If you’re watching your food budget (like I do) take these tips to heart!

  • Make a meal plan and stick with it. Check your pantry for foods you already have and use them up! Cans of tuna? Tuna salad/casserole this week. Pasta sauce, yep you guessed it! Some kind of pasta dish! From there create a grocery list (if you get food bank items, meal plan around them). ONLY BUY WHAT IS ON YOUR LIST!
  • ROTATE IDEAS! Seriously, don’t reinvent the wheel. Your kiddos (and you) will have your favorite lunches so use them once a week/once every other week. They’ll love you for it and so will your brain ūüėČ You know that works, they’ll eat it, and it’ll be budget friendly, right?!
  • Because it’s summer, get your fruits and veggies FRESH! They’ll be much cheaper (especially if you plant a garden) and definitely tastier! Check local farmers markets to see if they accept the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (WIC and senior assistance). Many farmers markets also accept access cards. SNAP also covers fruits and vegetables you can plant! You’ll find the SNAP logo on the approved ones.

10 Fun Ideas For Summer Lunchin’

  1. Tomato soup and cheesy flatbread – canned tomato soup will work just fine for this but if you want to make homemade, go for it! I use flatbread or thin pizza crusts…brush with oil, sprinkle with garlic powder/oregano/basil/black pepper, and a small layer of cheese. Bake or broil until cheese is melted! Cut in strips for easy tomato soup dipping!
  2. Tuna salad with crackers and celery – tuna, mayo, and diced pickles are how I like to make my tuna salad. Shoot for a cracker that gives some fiber like wheat thins or triscuits. Serve with a side of celery sticks (these are great to dip into the tuna salad too)!
  3. Garden fresh pasta salad – whole grain or high fiber pasta makes a great base but you can use regular pasta too! Use any veggies you have and add some cubed cheese for protein. My favorite dressing is an Italian style (I make it homemade) but use whatever you like.
  4. Grilled chicken salad with black beans – after making grilled chicken for dinner, use the leftovers in a salad! Top with black beans and your favorite dressing and you’ve got yourself a balanced lunch.
  5. Corn tortilla chips, guacamole, and salsa – my sister makes the.best.guacamole.ever…seriously! Her secret ingredient is sour cream! A great substitute for sour cream is Greek yogurt AND it adds tons of protein! Making guacamole with avocado, limes, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and greek yogurt and serve it with corn tortilla chips (whole grain plus more protein), and salsa!
  6. Sushi-like hummus wraps – grab your favorite hummus flavor, very thinly sliced cucumbers, julienned carrots and peppers, and whole grain wrap. Make it and roll it up tightly! Cut it into small slices like sushi!!!
  7. Turkey bacon BLTs – Turkey bacon, lettuce, garden fresh tomatoes, and whole grain bread. It’s old school but it is SO GOOD! PS if your kiddos don’t like tomatoes, try it with cucumbers instead ūüôā
  8. Egg salad sandwiches – Hardboil up a dozen of eggs (use them for this salad, chopped up in a veggie salad, for snacks, etc), I like pickles, celery, and mayo in my egg salad! Gives it a little pop and crunch. Spread on whole grain bread with tomato and lettuce…mmmmmm.
  9. Turkey and cheese kabobs – go to the deli and get turkey breast in a chunk. Buy block cheese and then cube both into one-inch cubes. Along with the cubes of meat and cheese, add cherry tomatoes, pepper squares, lettuce pieces, mushrooms to the kabob sticks…whatever veggie your kiddos like! On the side use honey mustard dressing for dipping!
  10. Apple slice PBJ – Instead of using bread, make it super fun with apple slices! Cut the apple with the core still in the middle OR use an apple corer to take out the core before cutting them in slices (like a sandwich). Put the peanut butter and a small amount of jam or jelly on one apple slice and then top with another apple slice! Fun and delish!

Don’t reinvent the wheel either! I know ya’ll like looking on Pinterest for ideas but what do your kiddos like? Expand on that! If they enjoy mac ‘n cheese MAKE IT FOR THEM ONCE IN A WHILE! They should have a veggie with it, so give them an option of green beans, broccoli, salad, whatever they like. Hot dogs on your kid’s favorite list? FINE! It’s not an everyday kind of thing but once in a while have fun with it! Make them their favorite veggie side dish and have a picnic outside.

Remember parents…you only have 18 summers (sometimes less if they decide to get a summer job when they are 16) with your kiddos. Don’t make the lunch menu a point of contention with kiddos. Keep it fun, incorporate the things they like too, help them try new things, and eat together!!!!! The love and skills they will gain eating together this summer at lunch are going to be taken with them throughout life. Nurture that as you eat your BLTs on a blanket in your back yard ūüôā

Let Them Play

I am an adult dietitian. I’m not an expert in child nutrition…at all. So far I have one semi-picky child and two boys who eat just about anything you set in front of them. Like these dudes genuinely enjoy eating. I have pictures to prove the joy they get out of eating/playing. Is it a fluke? Maybe. Maybe not. Just last month I went to a conference¬†and heard a¬†speaker talk about eating behaviors in children. Letting children play with food can actually make them¬†less picky. Seriously, no one wants a picky eater. So maybe letting them play can actually encourage them to eat better, healthier.

Because I have 2 kids who eat just about everything and one who eats fair (there are many¬†frustrating meals and also some good ones thrown in there), I’ve learned that the oldest child is definitely the experimental one (I was the oldest too). Kids following the first may have a significant advantage! HAH! All kidding aside here’s what¬†I see between my kiddos in how I fed them/allow them to eat. This may be the key to lessen picky eating…or it could just be a coincidence? Eh either way it’s worth a shot to try!

With my daughter I was going to do everything “perfect”. First-time parent¬†syndrome. I was going to be the perfect dietitian-mom. All organic, low sugar, homemade everything, no fast food, etc. etc. etc. blah blah blah. Yep I was one of those. I made all of her food for the first 2 years of her life. Seriously. Day care provided lunch but I packed hers. I spoon fed her (obviously) when she was a baby. She never got very messy when she ate…at all. Despite my best efforts I made the same few foods over and over and over and over again because, as a working mom, I could only do so much.

The boys are a different story all together. They are rainbow babies and after a high risk pregnancy my outlook on raising children changed a little…and they aren’t my first AND there are 2 of them. I ain’t got time to be perfect! ūüėČ Besides watching their dairy intake, (they have an allergy) those dudes eat whatever. ¬†I let them eat with their hands mainly because I can’t feed them fast enough before they go ballistic so I let them have-at-it. They are 17 months old and have¬†eaten everything from sauerkraut to Thai food to salads and even spicy chili.

This is a Thai cabbage salad the boys devoured!

Meals are messy and, although clean¬†up isn’t awesome,¬†they enjoy eating. Surprisingly more goes into their belly than their¬†highchairs or the floor. They feel their food, squish it, pick it up, pinch it, scoop it, lick it, taste it, and enjoy it. Would I have let my daughter do this? No. Should I have? Maybe.

 
Recently I started inviting¬†my daughter to help me cook and it has worked wonders! She has tried everything she¬†makes and is excited about new recipes, baking, and helping me prepare the food. It’s awesome! She’s playing, learning, trying, tasting, and expanding her palate!

So my conclusion is: let kids play with their food. No matter the age! There are researched benefits to allowing babies, children, and teens play and cook with food…it’s not just me ūüôā

  1. Let babies explore food. Feel it, squish, mold, pinch, pick up, lick it, and smear it all up.
  2. Give toddlers a spoon and even if they have a difficult time, let them try to hit their mouth!
  3. Let pre-schoolers start to help in the kitchen.
  4. Kids can begin to help meal planning (and continue to help cook).
  5. Older kids can meal plan and cook simple meals.
  6. Teens can take over in the kitchen! Let them plan, try new cooking techniques, and find recipes.

Check out this great website for kids cooking by ages.

Other great tips:

  1. There is¬†no such thing as “kid foods”. They can eat whatever adults eat…seriously.
  2. You are not a short order cook. What you make for dinner, the family should eat (outside of a food allergy).
  3. Kids do not need to clean their plates but they should taste everything on their plate.
  4. Even if they don’t want to eat everything, taking a “thank you bite” gives your child the opportunity to try the food without the pressure of eating it all. Thank you bites are shown as gratitude for the cook.
  5. Let your kids have foods they like too! Make your kids a meal they truly enjoy once in a while shows them you do know what they like. For instance, macaroni and cheese as their starch or having pizza night (with a veggie of course)!

 

Parenting isn’t about being perfect, it’s about doing your best and knowing what’s best for your children. My daughter probably won’t be picky for the rest of her life (many times it is a power struggle not necessarily the food itself).¬†There are many picky eating “fixes” out there. Try them¬†but don’t make yourself crazy. I hope this helps for some of you out there.

Mom Diet

I got a rare opportunity to share lunch out with my mom last weekend. She’s my hero and honestly couldn’t do life without her. It’s funny that the mom-daughter relationship morphs into a friendship the more past 20 you get…I think that’s when our’s started because I became less immature and more appreciative of her and her awesomeness.

We were talking about some of the “side effects” of being a mom that you don’t really think of. Nope, not the physical, although my body still hasn’t snapped back into the 25 year old body it once was…who knew!? ANYWAY we were talking about how mom’s rarely¬†eat hot meals. How it’s normal to eat lukewarm or cold meals and how we long for a hot, uninterrupted meal. After thinking about this I realized, a lot of my diet has changed since having children and especially having twins.

I have 14 month old twin boys and¬†a sweet (sometimes sassy) 4 year old. My oldest¬†never climbed on furniture, needed baby gates, and truth be told we never even baby-proofed. She wasn’t that kind of baby/toddler who got into things. I now have the opposite. These boys are…boys. Baby gates are jokes and there are not enough barriers in my living room to keep these boys contained and safe. Baby-proofing is an art in our house because what one twin doesn’t think of the other one does. Singleton parents, you have no idea…I certainly didn’t before these two came along. Twins are a different beast. Put these two in one of those escape rooms everyone raves about and they’ll find their way out in a matter of minutes.

My mom diet goes like this: cold (not iced…cold) coffee, a Lara bar for¬†breakfast because it’s fast, lunch at 2pm so I can eat in peace while they nap, cold dinner at 6 because I’m feeding them. My husband is awesome and he¬†takes care of our daughter during dinner (she sometimes “needs” encouragement). If I do get bites of food, usually I hardly taste it because I’m shoveling it in quickly¬†so that I can feed Boy 1 and Boy 2 before they go ballistic.

This is¬†temporary, I know it. I also know how blessed I am for these kiddos and most of the time I’m overwhelmed with the realization of¬†how amazing it is to be their mom. You see, these twins are rainbow babies after losing our second early on in the pregnancy. They are also preemies and NICU babies. I’m very aware of how blessed I am by all of my children but especially these 2 rough and tumble boys. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Look moms (and dads), I get it. I get it when you’re too tired to make dinner or when breakfast is a rare occurrence because you’re running out of the house or when you eat so fast that you don’t even know what it tastes like. I know that it’s hard to eat, let alone to eat well sometimes. I feel you when you only made mac and cheese for your kids lunch and should have also made a vegetable with it but you just survived lunch and that’ll have to do…and then you eat the leftovers (don’t eat off of them, they are germ cesspools). I’m there, in the trenches with you. You are doing a good job if you’ve kept your kids alive, showed them a lot of love and discipline. You are doing a great job if you took a shower. You are doing an excellent job if you kept them alive, showed love/discipline, AND took a shower…shoot, if that happens you’re a freakin rock star!

Yep that’s one towering on the chair while the other one just fell off of it…without his sock. No he did not cry.

Let me give you some tips that I use (and some that I’m going to use) to make my diet better while doing life in the mom-trenches:

  1. Get up before the kids so you can eat breakfast (and drink at least 1 cup of hot coffee) and get yourself together before everyone else. This is my Bible and hot coffee time. It’s my favorite time of day. Just me, Jesus, and a cup o’ Joe. I’m working on getting a more balanced breakfast.
  2. Keep steamer bags of veggies on hand so that you can just pop them in the microwave for those mac and cheese lunches or dinner. These are a staple in our house. Broccoli, snap peas, and cauliflower. Quick, easy, and delicious.
  3. Slow cooker (crock pot) meals are where it’s at. Just this week we did pork tenderloin with BBQ sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray’s and doctor it up). Served that on a whole wheat roll and some vinaigrette based coleslaw and boom, delish (picture below)
  4. Snack. This came from one of my dear friends who I talked to this week. She said “Amanda, you’re not eating snacks! You need to get them in so you can keep up with those boys!” She’s right. She also had a great suggestion that these snacks be portioned out, bagged, and ready to go in a pinch. Thank you Hilary!
  5. Keep fruits and veggies on hand and prepared in the house. We always have grapes on the counter and cut up broccoli and carrots in the fridge. This limits the temptation to reach for something else. We also keep yogurt, Lara bars, fiber bars, dried fruit, and popcorn on hand.
  6. Focus on one improvement at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself thinking you have to make your diet perfect (hah) all at once. Work on one thing at a time and work your way down the list of improvements. For me, this week was focusing on eating breakfast every day. Sure I had to pick a Lara bar once but I also made myself eggs, had cereal, and guac-toast.

Mom’s, working or stay-at-home, we have the hardest yet most important job on the planet. I’ve been both working and stay-at-home and neither one is harder than another. Mom’s are mom’s and we have to support each other and stick together. Help each other, pray for each other, encourage each other, and be there to help your fellow mamma eat a hot meal!