We always hear breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but what about lunch? Lunch is the glue that holds the day’s events together. Without it, we’d have nothing...nothing in our stomachs that is. Have you ever tried to learn algebra on an empty stomach? (Warning: Don’t try this at home). A hearty lunch provides us with the fuel we need to keep our bodies and our minds going strong! We decided this mid-day meal deserves a celebration, which leads us to National School Lunch Week. Research has proven that proper nutrition affects school performance. Kids need adequate energy for academic achievement.
We all have a routine before the school day begins. Wake up. Get ready. Grab a bite...And run! The homemade school lunch is often left in the dust, neglected, with no return. A grab-and-go bagel, lunch from the cafeteria, and a take-out dinner sure is convenient. There must be some kind of solution that fits in this time crunch. So, we sat down with Sharon Palmer, The Plant-Powered Dietitian, to discuss the super easy and nutritious lunches she packs for her two children.
1. Do you pack a lunch for your kids or do they buy lunch at the school cafeteria?
Sometimes I pack a lunch, other times they eat at the cafeteria. When my sons were younger, I packed a lunch every day, now that they’re in high school the prefer eating in the cafeteria.
2. What goes into packing a lunch for your child? (Thought process, preferences, nutrition?)
I always try to make it as healthy as possible, while still providing their favorite foods. For example, my kids have always loved peanut butter sandwiches, which I think is a great, heart healthy, high-protein plant-based meal. There is one brand of whole wheat bread that they have always loved, so I make sure to keep it on hand. And then I include little portions of wholesome foods, such as grapes, bananas, nuts, whole grain pretzels, granola bars, raisins. I try to stay away from the chips and low-nutrient snacks.
3. What is your child’s favorite school lunch?
When I pack a lunch, it’s a peanut butter whole grain sandwich, with grapes, an organic oatmeal granola bar, and popcorn.
4. Do you plan your meals for the week in advance?
No, I keep their favorite lunch ingredients on hand so that I can make it up quickly.
5. What does your typical shopping list look like?
I always maintain my pantry basics, such as whole grains, legumes, olive oil, spices, pasta, tomato sauce, canned fruit. And then I add fresh ingredients, such as fruits, vegetables every week I’m at the store.
6. What ingredient can you not live without during the school week?
7. What snacks do you pack with your child’s lunch?
I find granola or nutrition bars that I like, based on their nutritional profile. These are great to tuck into backpacks when kids are hungry between meals. I also love to get the little pouches of nuts.
8. What is your go-to meal for the week?
For meals, I love to do an Indian meal once a week—my kids love it! Samosas for appetizers, a curry dish for entrée, and a cucumber salad, served with brown basmati rice.
9. Do you pack a lunch for yourself? If so, what does it usually consist of?
Sometimes I need to pack a lunch, so I make a nut butter whole grain sandwich and pack fruit or veggies, such as snow peas or carrot sticks.
10. Do you have any favorite food brands?
I love Amy’s products, as well as Kashi. I like some of the Morningstar plant-based foods. I also like to look for store brands, such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods 365, because they can be less costly.
11. Does your child eat breakfast every morning before leaving the house for school?
12. What does a typical breakfast look like?
They like whole grain breakfast cereal flakes with milk. They also like frozen waffles on busy school days. On the weekends, I make homemade waffles or pancakes, “monkey” bread (whole grain biscuit with cinnamon), hash browns.
13. Do you believe quality meals are important for school success?
Yes, definitely! They’ve been shown to improve athletic and mental performance.
14. What is the hardest part about making breakfast or packing lunch?
Being creative; kids tend to like the same things! Also, finding things that are non-perishable that won’t spoil during the day.
15. Do you have trouble incorporating vegetables into your child’s meals?
It’s always a challenge, especially in packing non-refrigerated meals. I try to include more fruits during the day, and the vegetables at other times.
16. What would you like to give your kids for lunch that they disapprove of?
Green leafy vegetables!