by Robin D. Everson
Now that new school clothes, shoes, and supplies have been purchased many children and adults have returned to school, it is time to look at what is in your lunchbox.
Planning nutritious, energy-packed lunches that taste great need not be a challenge. The Vegan Voice asked researcher, adjunct associate professor of nutrition at George Washington University School of Medicine, president and founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine Dr. Neal Barnard for advice and tips so that you can provide your family with healthy, tasty meal options.
“Remember that children are at risk. The heart attack that occurs when a person is 55 years old has its roots in dietary habits set at age 5, 6 and 7. In research studies where researchers examined the bodies of children who have died in tragic accidents, it was found that children have the beginnings of heart disease before they get their high school diploma,” said Barnard.
“We have to start early with a healthy diet from conception – a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. This means not having meat, eggs or dairy at all in your diet. This also means consuming healthy plant-based foods that are as natural as possible, along with having a good source of vitamin B-12 and vitamin D if you are not getting sunlight,” said Barnard.
This simple, healthy diet is not what you would typically find in a school cafeteria. Dr. Barnard suggests parents meet with the school principal to inquire about having plant-based options offered.
“Cafeteria managers are happy to serve anything but, they do not want to throw away a pan of food that nobody chooses,” said Barnard.
Parents are the initial source of patterned lifestyle routines for their children. It is important for parents to have healthy eating habits in providing positive role models for good health. Healthy foods are popular if they are consumed at home, and that translates to healthy foods being picked and consumed outside of the home.
“Children do not need milk at any age. They do need mother’s milk when they are nursing (hopefully as long as possible) but after the age of weaning there is no requirement or need for dairy milk. There is no need for cow’s milk or goat’s milk,” said Barnard.
Many parents worry about their child’s development especially if they engage in sports. Barnard said, “They do not need meat at any age. No matter how vigorous an athlete your son or daughter may be, plants will power them and you more effectively than a piece of meat or dairy product.”
When it comes to packing a lunch for your child, Barnard has these tips.
- Make it look appealing to the child so that your child does not stand out as having something weird.
- It is fine to have bologna slices made out of soy or wheat gluten.
- Colorful wraps and sandwiches taste great and are easy to put in a lunch.
- Pack a little extra because children like to share and swap.
“The thing not to do is compromise your child’s diet out of fear that it will be socially unacceptable to feed your child a healthy diet. It is really good to make it work. If you are having a party serving tofu hot dogs are perfectly fine – they all look the same. Having the neighborhood kids over at your house and showing them that a vegan pizza can taste just as good as the cholesterol-laden variety, and vegan ice cream can taste just as great as the dairy variety will make these foods well-accepted,” said Barnard.
To help parents get their children on the road to good health, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has created a Nutrition For Kids booklet. This kit includes up-to-date health and nutrition information, advice on forming good habits, tips to help your family achieve their health goals and includes plenty of delicious recipes. For more information on healthy lifestyles, go to www.pcrm.org.
Now that you have the tips and resources to create healthy lunches for you and your family, packing them in insulated containers by BUILT New York is a great way to transport your meals. They provide sturdy, PVC-, BPA-, vinyl- and latex-free colorful lunch containers and totes that have been tested for lead safety and phthalates. For a full selection of insulating neoprene sleeves and containers, visit www.builtny.com.