Editor’s note: Christie Clinic is a sponsor of Chambanamoms.com.
By Laura Jacob, Registered Dietitian, Christie Clinic
One-third of our nutrition comes from lunch. It’s a great opportunity to get more nutrient-dense foods into our day. A healthy satisfying lunch can keep us from feeling starved before dinnertime. My patients often tell me they are so hungry by mid-afternoon they are making trips to the vending machine, or hitting the drive-through on the way home. Many adults skip lunch or choose fast food; kids lunches are often low in nutrition and high in added sugar, salt and fat from processed foods and sugary drinks. These eating patterns are contributing to the obesity epidemic.
According to the CDC, the rate of obesity among kids in the US has tripled since 1970; 1 in 5 kids is obese, and the rate of adult obesity increased from 30% in 2000 to 42% in 2018. Health consequences of obesity that were once rare among children, including high cholesterol, insulin resistance, Type II diabetes, sleep apnea, and fatty liver disease are becoming common.
What is leading to these troubling trends? According to the National Institutes of Health, childhood obesity is linked to increased consumption of fast food and sugar-containing drinks (including juice as well as pop), frequent intake of chips, baked goods, and candy, increased screen time (leading to being more sedentary), and inadequate sleep (also linked to screen time). Even for kids that are at a healthier weight, poor diet and low physical activity has effects that we may not see on the outside. A healthy eating pattern for adults and kids includes vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean protein, and high calcium foods, from mostly whole food sources. Lunches are a great opportunity to include more nutrient-dense foods, and provide fuel until dinnertime.
A healthy lunch can be a turkey sandwich on whole wheat, an apple and a yogurt, but you can improve the fun-factor!
Replace sliced bread with whole grain mini- pitas, lavash (for pinwheels), wraps, or mini bagels.
Tasty spreads include reduced fat garden vegetable cream cheese, hummus, pesto, or spicy mustard.
For an Asian flair: diced chicken breast and shredded cabbage/carrot mix tossed with light sesame ginger dressing stuffed in whole wheat mini-pitas.
Or skip the sandwich:
Cheese tortellini pasta salad: boil tortellini according to package directions; drain and rinse, add some halved grape tomatoes, sprinkle with oregano, and drizzle with light Italian vinaigrette. Refrigerate and serve.
Make ahead Southwestern power bowl: brown rice or corn, rinsed black beans, grape tomatoes, shredded cabbage/carrot mix, sprinkle of cheese, salsa, topped with a teaspoon of light sour cream or slice of avocado.
Grape tomatoes and baby carrots with hummus or light ranch dressing for dipping.
Lemon yogurt with jicama sticks or cucumber slice dippers.
Mango, banana, or pineapple cubes dipped in vanilla yogurt sprinkled with coconut.
An easy piece-together lunch that checks all the boxes: Shredded wheat crackers with 1-2 slices natural cheese, low fat yogurt topped with diced fruit (thawed frozen fruit works great), celery with peanut butter and raisins.
*If kids are carrying their lunch to school, don’t forget food safety. Start with cold ingredients and send in an insulated bag with a freezer block.