Diet

Allergy-free lunches for kids

Between allergies, food advertising and picky eaters, putting together a healthy lunch for school can be tricky. We've got some tips on what to look for and avoid, and a healthy pasta salad recipe

Masterfile

Packing your child’s lunch for school can be tough. First you have to sort through all the commercials and media promoting seemingly “healthy” additions to a balanced lunch. Then there are the serious allergies that must be considered, including peanuts, nuts, eggs and milk. Finally, some kids are just particular about which foods they do and don’t like. It’s easy to see how things can get complicated quickly, especially if you have more than one kid to pack for.

The trick is to keep lunches as clean and simple as possible. You don’t have to go out of your way to make things that are “kid friendly” — the truth is, if you are eating healthful and balanced meals at home, your kids should be doing the same. Keep that philosophy in mind when putting their lunches together.

Remember, what you pack for lunch not only has an impact on health and well being of your children, but it can also affect how they feel each day and their overall performance in school.

What to avoid in the lunch box:

  • High-sugar snacks — cookies, cakes, juice boxes, canned fruit
  • Additives like colour and MSG, which could be linked to poor behaviour and attention span — cheese slices, jams, non-fat yogurts
  • Bad fats, which may interfere with nerve function — lunch meats, fried foods, processed cheeses
  • Caffeine — found in chocolate and soda
  • Too much salt — from potato chips, crackers, lunch meats

Some tips for what to pack:

  • EFA-rich foods to feed the brain — like a sunflower-seed-butter and apple-butter sandwich sprinkled with flax seeds and fruit trail mix
  • Protein to even out energy throughout the day — think brown rice cakes with hummus, bean salad
  • Calcium-rich foods help to support cell membranes and improve behavior — try sheep yogurt with fruit and pumpkin seeds

More meal ideas:

  • Pasta salad with raw veggies
  • Homemade nut-free granola bars
  • Leftover quinoa
  • Hummus and veggies

Confetti pasta salad

Ingredients:
1 package of brown-rice pasta (Tinkyada is the best brand)
2 carrots, chopped into small pieces
2 stalks celery, chopped into small pieces
1 red pepper, chopped into small pieces
1 handful of snap peas, cut into slices
1 handful spinach, chopped into small pieces
Optional: 1 can organic chickpeas — (Eden Organics) rinsed and drained

Dressing:
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp grainy Dijon mustard
1 clove minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
 
Directions:
1.   Have all of your veggies, chopped and ready to go, in separate bowls.

2.   Cook pasta to instructions on package, then rinse under cool water to drain any excess starch.

3.   Place pasta into a large bowl.

4.   In a large bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients. Then add the cooked pasta and chopped up veggies and mix together.

Marni Wasserman is a culinary nutritionist in Toronto whose philosophy is stemmed around whole foods. She is dedicated to providing balanced lifestyle choices through natural foods. Using passion and experience, she strives to educate individuals on how everyday eating can be simple and delicious.