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What’s For Lunch?

August 23, 2012

 Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.  –Tom Hanks as Joe Fox in You’ve Got Mail

It’s that time of year!  SCHOOL!  If your children go to a public or private school you’ve likely been busy with the dreaded back-to-school shopping!  Clothes, backpacks, school supplies.

If you’re like us and you home school, you’ve likely still been stocking up on school supplies while everything is on sale.  Also cleaning out last year’s curriculum, writing lesson plans, cleaning out the school room.

(Daja’s nephew, by Cory Plowman Photography)

One thing none of us spend too much time on (preparation nor planning) is lunch!  What is for lunch???

We all try to start our day with a good breakfast.  The most important meal of the day, right?  Oatmeal, eggs, milk.  YES!  And dinner is important, too.  It’s the time when everyone is usually together and we prepare something great together from our menu plans.  But, lunch?  In many families lunch gets the short end of the stick.  It’s every man for himself.  Sometimes for busy mamas it gets skipped all together, unless we nibble the crusts of PB&J someone left on their plate.  By the middle of the afternoon we are starting to crash!  And the kids?  If they are in a traditional school, it’s likely that the lunch isn’t top-notch and no one making sure they are eating all their vegetables.  As with everything, we have to be INTENTIONAL and PREPARE!

According to LiveStrong:

  • Eating lunch, several hours after breakfast re-energizes your body by raising blood sugar levels at a crucial time when your focus and concentration can start to diminish.
  • Eating lunch helps to keep your metabolism active.  Large time gaps between meals can keep your metabolism from staying active.
  • For us grown-ups, skipping lunch can actually lead to weight gain, because it increases our cravings and the tendency to overeat at the next meal.

OK, so we know we need to eat lunch, but WHAT should we eat for lunch?  Here’s some of our guiding principles:

Lunch, like breakfast and dinner, is eaten sitting down at a table.  It’s not eaten in the car off a wrapper, at the computer or standing over the sink.  It’s a moment to pause, receive nourishment for our bodies and a bit of rest.  We honor the one who prepared the food and the food itself by doing this.  This actually makes us more productive in the afternoon!

Lunch should be nutrient dense!  The space of time between lunch and dinner is the biggest time-gap between meals for our family.  So, lunch needs to have enough nutrients to offer sustained energy,  not just a short-term burst of energy.  This means we include whole grains, protein, and fresh produce.

Lunch must also not be low-fat.  What was that?  Yes, that’s right.  We do not do low-fat at lunch.  Because lunch has to satisfy us through the afternoon, it must include a healthy source of fat.  Now, fat gets a bad rap, because we live in a world of processed, nutrient stripped food.  But, fat is actually one of the most important macro-nutrients in our diets.  (The other two macro-nutrients being protein and carbohydrates.)  Fats provides us with energy and insulation, but also fat is the building block of our cells–including those brain cells!  In addition to all this, many vitamins are fat-soluble, which means that fats are essential for the digestion, absorption and transportation of those vitamins.

What are some healthy sources of fat?  Fats in as close to their natural state as possible without refining and hydrogenating.  Whole milk and other whole milk dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, and kefir; coconut oil; Butter (not margarine!!!); olive oil dressings; avocados; nut butters.

Here are some recent lunches at our home school co-op (with some definitely health conscious and foodie mamas!): Mind you, these are the meals for our children!  Have a picky eater who wouldn’t touch this stuff?  Start here.  Notice, also, that we serve all 14 children on real dishes with a tablecloth.  When eating for the glory of God becomes a value, it changes the presentation, too.

Veggie sandwich: cheese, garden fresh tomatoes, lettuce and avocado spread.
Apple slices.

quesadilla and mixed green salad

Homemade veggie pizza and garden salad

Peanut Butter and Jam on Challah with green salad and whole milk.

Salami, mascarpone, and garden fresh heirloom tomatoes, on whole wheat bread and grapes

The challenge with lunch is often the time crunch.    The lunch “hour” is more like 15-20 minutes in a lot of work and school environments.  So, you can’t spend the whole time preparing something gourmet.  Or can you?  We encourage you to check out our tips for Real Fast Real Food.  Here are some more ideas:

  • Make use of your crockpot by cooking a whole chicken or a roast.  Shred the meat and keep it in the refrigerator.  Use it all week to put in quesadillas, sandwiches and wraps.
  • At the beginning of the week boil a bunch of eggs, so they are cool and ready when you need to grab some protein.
  • When you get home from the market, chop your veggies and place in serving sized bags or small reusable jars, so they are ready to add to any lunch or snack.
  • I’ve begun to keep small jars of kombucha with chia seeds (as we mentioned in this post) in the refrigerator.  I send one with my husband to work almost daily and the rest of us really enjoy them–a lovely source of healthy energy that is also very filling.
  • In the morning, during breakfast clean-up, I set up the rice cooker on a timer.  Sometimes I leave the rice plain, but other times I add broth, vegetables, spices or meat directly to the rice.  So, when lunch time comes we have a pot of food all ready to dish up.

What are your tips for a healthy school day lunch?

(Linked to Frugal Days Sustainable Ways.)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Leona permalink
    August 23, 2012 10:10 pm

    Everything looks YUMMY!! The kids AND I would gobble it all up 😉
    My tip (well NOT really a tip BUT), I always try and serve raw (not something I have to cook/prepare), it gives me a little break from “cooking/cleaning up”. Our lunch almost ALWAYS consists of cheese, cold meat, veggie and a piece of fruit, but some times I will make some type of meat sandwich/wrap. Lunch is my/our break-time, we take our time and relax some, before we go at it again 🙂


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