Okay, summer’s about over and it’s back to school and back to work. Now what are we going to do about healthy lunches?
There are numerous websites providing “healthy” lunch box ideas.1-2 And their ideas aren’t limited to just school-age children, but they apply to all of us hard-working stiffs including those who work at home.
Of course, what some advisor/marketers believe is healthy won’t fill the bill. To be completely healthy a food selection needs to pass these three tests:
● Be low glycemic. High glycemic foods cause debilitating energy spikes that are associated with ADHD, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and fungal issues.
● Have balanced essential fatty acids (EFAs). The overall diet must have an Omega-6 EFA to Omega-3 EFA balance of 2:1 or lower. This is critical for nerve, immunity, and brain function.
● Be nutrient dense and diverse. A diet of nutritionally deficient foods cannot contribute to all of our body’s requirements.
Many parents are quick to say that getting their children to actually eat healthy lunches is very challenging. That’s because their children want tasty, crunchy, salty, sugary processed foods followed by candy and pastries rather than the boring old healthy stuff. Well, that is a problem. And guess what, it’s the same for adults because they too would rather have the same junk.
On the other hand, I know that children whose parents set good examples at home usually act responsibly when they are at school. Children will most likely follow their parents lead when taught the importance of why they should eat particular foods, are involved in meal planing and food selection, and are taught how to pass on foods they should avoid.
Learning from parents is a life cycle pattern that’s repeated over and over. As children grow up, in spite of what parents may think, they actually hear what they’re told. Amazingly their parent’s voices will still be in their heads the day they die.3-4 If they were spoiled with unending treats and never taught the importance of discipline, it’s unlikely they will ever develop the will power to ignore treats and focus on eating healthy food.
So, let’s assume we’re outliers and all our family members are on board with healthy eating. Yes, I know, maybe that’s not realistic but for the sake of a column about creating healthy lunches let’s assume the best.
The old standbys of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, crackers and cheese, raisins, candy bars, roasted nuts, fruit juices, soft drinks, bread, deep fried anything, and carrot and celery sticks just don’t cut the mustard. These selections are loaded with Omega-6 EFAs and deficient in Omega-3 EFAs. A raisin, like all dried fruit, is loaded with sugar. Crackers and bread are loaded with carbohydrates. So let’s use our imagination and our food chemistry tables and see what we can come up with.
In this day and age where a lunch can be packed with a reusable gel ice pack the food options are endless. Grass-fed meats and Omega-3 meats certainly fit because they provide all the required nutrients in proper balance. The selection of precooked grass-fed meats is quite broad and they make life really simple. Depending on the appetite, one grass-fed sausage weighing 3.5 ounces may be a meal.
A little more culinary skill opens up a world of grass-fed and Omega-3 meat options that can be cooked up in convenient sizes in advance. Grass-fed beef or Omega-3 pork hamburger paddies are always favorites as are thin cut strips of leftover steaks or ham slices. In chicken there are thighs, drumsticks, and skins which, as they say, are “finger lickin’ good.” A can of sardines packed in spring water is always a super Omega-3 block buster for nutrition.
For variety do not forget the hard-boiled Omega-3 egg option. Pieces of grass-fed cheese with Granny Smith apple slices are a really good combination. Vegetable options include green beans, zucchini, cucumber sticks, cauliflower, radishes, or a cup of salad greens with oil and vinegar dressing. Fruit snacks can include strawberries or orange and grapefruit slices. For nuts, macadamia nuts have the lowest Omega-3 deficit of all the nut options and they provide lasting energy. (Ten macadamia nuts weigh one ounce.)
Meals consisting of low glycemic, healthier whole foods provide long-term energy rather than energy spikes. Most selections can also provide the full spectrum of nutrients everyone needs over the long-term for healthy bodies with strong immune systems and brains that function best.
There are many more healthy food options than those suggested here. But, coming up with them depends on knowing the chemistry of various selections.7 Don’t just take anyone’s word about this or that being healthy. Virtually everything has at least one positive attribute that marketers exploit while ignoring the big picture. That’s why so often the heavily marketed “solutions” don’t pass all three of the healthy food criteria.
Compare the food choices in my suggestions above with a typical school lunch program.5 Then take note of the following quote from “The Relationship of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) with Learning and Behavior in Healthy Children: A Review.” It states:
“Low blood levels of n-3 LC-PUFA, as well as high n-6 to n-3 ratios are reported in children with certain developmental and behavioral disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, or dyspraxia. Although inconsistent, various fatty acid supplementation strategies, some of which included DHA, proved to benefit measures of learning and behavior in these children.”6
Lowering the EFA ratio plays a big role in cognitive performance from conception to old age. This is why a personal lunch protocol is important. Most school lunch programs totally ignore the EFA ratio, glycemic indexes, and nutrient diversity and density. So what are we waiting for?
To your health.
Ted Slanker has been reporting on the fundamentals of nutritional research in publications, television and radio appearances, and at conferences since 1999. He condenses complex studies into the basics required for health and well-being. His eBook, The Real Diet of Man, is available online.
Don’t miss these links for additional reading:
1. 5 Ways to Beef up Your Kids' Lunch Boxes by Amanda Radke from Beef Daily
2. Beef Up the Lunch Box and Create a Meal that Will Satisfy and Nourish from the Meat Institute
3. The Way We Talk to Our Children Becomes Their Inner Voice from Your Modern Family
4. Shaping Our Children’s Inner Voice by Kathryn Anne Casey
6. The Relationship of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) with Learning and Behavior in Healthy Children: A Review by Connye N. Kuratko, et al.
7. New Food Analysis Tables by Ted Slanker