Back to school can be challenging time for any household. And this year's comes with increased concerns -- namely a possible flu virus, and protecting your kids' health.
In addition to educating youngsters about regular hand-washing, now is the time to boost their immune systems. With a lunch-box full of healthy, tasty foods and snacks, you can do so naturally.
Step 1: Get Kitchen-ready. Clean-out your kitchen cupboards and fridge, removing nutrient-void foods such as processed meats, white bread, cookies and sugar-filled goodies.
Step 2: Load-up on these all-natural, immune-boosting lunch foods: 100 percent whole grain breads, pita and wraps: Rich in fiber, vitamin B, folic acid and other nutrients, these slow-burning carbs will keep kids' energy steady for hours.
Colorful veggies and fruits such as apples, berries (fresh or frozen), cantaloupe and kiwi; tomatoes, kale, broccoli, romaine lettuce, carrots and avocados. Naturally rich in antioxidants and important vitamins and minerals, these foods are essential for overall health, including immunity, growth and development.
Lean, protein-rich sources such as organic (nitrate-free) lunch meats, grilled chicken, tofu or tempeh. Eating lean protein helps maintain energy, increase metabolism and boost immunity too - so load up!
Healthy, essential fats such as Omega-3 fortified eggs, flaked, light tuna, olive oil and/or an omega 3-6-7-9 blend. Omega-3s are absolutely essential for kids' overall health, including brain development and function.
Raw, natural nuts and seeds, including almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews, walnuts and raisins, as well as 100 percent natural peanut butter (soy or nut-butters): Rich in healthy fats, fiber and protein, as well as immune-boosting Vitamin E, Zinc and iron.
Step 3: Using the above ingredients, prepare these lunch-box items for your kids to eat and enjoy. Peanut butter and jam wraps: Layer peanut butter with jam on a whole grain wrap, roll, slice into multiple shapes and sizes, and enjoy.
Tuna or egg salad stuffed pitas: Mix low-fat mayonnaise, chopped celery, mustard or curry powder with flaked light tuna or hard-boiled chopped eggs; scoop into pita halves with lettuce and tomato.
"TLT" sandwiches (Healthier BLT alternative): Stack low-sodium turkey slices with lettuce, tomato and your kids' favorite spread (low-fat mayo, mustard or hummus) on whole grain bread, slice into fun triangle shapes and go.
Step 4: Don't forget immune-boosting snacks and beverages, such as:
100 percent fruit (unsweetened) drink boxes for cold- and flu-fighting Vitamin C
Probiotic (low-sugar) yogurts for healthier digestion and immunity
Homemade trail mix (raw nuts and seeds, with dried cranberries or raisins)
Sliced apple or carrot sticks with hummus for dipping
Snack-sized chocolate bars or candy-treats
Other tips to keep your kids healthy and happy:
Keep it fun! Alternate the bread or spread you use on sandwiches or try cutting their sandwich on different angles; The more appealing it looks to eat, the higher the chance it will end up in their stomach and not the garbage bin.
Include them: When kids are involved in grocery shopping, preparation and packing of their lunch, they're more likely to eat and enjoy all of it, with less food wasted.
Start them off right: More and more research shows the importance of a healthy breakfast for proper fuel before, during and after school! To feed your kids something tasty and nutritious, try making a smoothie combining a green food supplement such as greens-plus kids with yogurt, berries, a fish oil liquid such as o3mega with water or juice.
Consult with your family doctor for any health concerns: If you notice your child is experiencing unusual symptoms beyond a typical cold or cough, call your doctor and make an appointment. If there's one thing you won't regret, it's being overly cautious when it comes to their health and well-being.
(Dr. Joey Shulman is Naturally Savvy's Weight Loss Expert. She is a chiropractor, registered nutritionist and author. NaturallySavvy.com is a Web site dedicated to educating people on the benefits of living a natural, organic and green lifestyle. Visit www.NaturallySavvy.com)
(c) 2009, NATURALLY SAVVY DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.