My name is Lisa Tsakos, Registered Holistic Nutritional Consultant, corporate speaker and author. This blog provides professional advice from a nutrition and weight loss expert (me!) about corporate and family health. Here you'll find recipes and articles that address work-related challenges like eating on-the-go and maximizing your productivity with the right foods. You'll also find out about how you can help your children develop strong immune systems and healthy bodies. As a nutrition instructor, I often found myself thinking, "When I have kids, this is how I will feed them." With two toddlers, I have the opportunity to practice what I have been preaching and to try out my theories. So far, they seem to be working! Follow me on my journey and also on Twitter @NuVitalityHW.

29 Sep 2016

Fun & Allergy Friendly School Lunches

Parents and caregivers love to complain about school lunch preparation. It's yet one more thing to do at the end of a long day. Word on the playground is that parents are already getting tired of the routine… and it’s only October!

There is a lot to consider when you're planning a packaged lunch: What is safe to eat at room temperature? Will it get soggy? Will it smell? And the all-important question, will it get eaten. It’s disappointing when lunches come home untouched. The other day, my daughter threw out $5 worth of smoked salmon because she thought the dark meat was rotten. Sigh.

For parents of kids with food allergies or intolerances, preparing lunch for school isn’t just another cumbersome daily task. It’s risky. Even life-threatening.

The most common food allergens are: 
·      milk
·      eggs
·      peanuts
·      sesame seeds
·      soy
·      wheat
·      tree nuts
·      fish
·      shellfish
·      and the food additive, sulphites, found in dried and canned fruit and vegetables, many condiments, deli meats, dressings, jam and more.

These ingredients account for 90 percent of allergic reactions in kids. The remaining 10 percent includes practically anything - oats, strawberries, kiwi, chocolate... You name it, someone's allergic to it.  

And then there is gluten. Whether or not a child has been diagnosed with celiac disease, many parents have found that removing gluten from the diet has resulted in improved behaviour, better digestion, and fewer symptoms overall.

How do you prepare a packaged lunch for a child who must avoid gluten, dairy, nuts, and eggs, especially when homemade meals are the only safe option? Just as importantly, how do you ensure they won’t end up back at home uneaten at the end of the day?

Start by making a list of the foods and ingredients safe for your kids to eat, and foods that they will eat. From that list, prepare a list of specific ingredients needed to prepare those foods. Keep both lists handy – on the fridge, your phone, at the office for the after-work stops at the grocery store. 

Presentation is important in food prep, so put your creative thinking caps on and let’s have fun with our food! Here is a little inspiration to help you keep lunches interesting.

Pancake Sandwiches
Sandwiches have come a long way from bologna & cheese (hello Taco Tuesdays and Falafel Fridays), but they're as popular as ever.

For kids with gluten or wheat allergies, preparing sandwiches with gluten-free bread is the obvious go-to, but GF breads typically contain a lot of ingredients – many that kids with allergies can’t consume. Instead, how about sandwiches made from gluten free pancake batter? If you make your batter from scratch, you control exactly what goes into the mix.

It’s a Saturday morning ritual at our house. We make a double batch of pancake mix – one batch for breakfast and a batch to use for sandwiches throughout the week. They should keep in the fridge but can be frozen for later use. Use your favourite pancake recipe or try the recipe below.   

And now for the fun part… break out the cookie cutters! 

Sure, heart-shaped sandwiches are cute and easy to handle, but a T-Rex sandwich – now, that’s something else entirely. If your child isn’t into dinosaurs, check out the princess, safari, farm animal and Star Wars cookie cutters available (Williams-Sonoma has an awesome selection!), or tap into your inner artist and create your own designs.

Pancake Sandwiches Recipe
Dry ingredients:
1 cup flour or gluten free flour* (read the ingredients label carefully to ensure your child is not allergic to any of the ingredients used to make the flour)
1 tsp. baking powder (gluten free if avoiding gluten)
½ tsp. baking soda
2 tbsp. ground flaxseed
¼ tsp. sea salt or Himalayan salt
*I use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour. Ingredients: garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, white sorghum flour, and fava bean flour.

Wet ingredients:
1 cup milk alternative
1 egg (or egg alternative)
2 tbsp. olive oil (do not use coconut oil. You’ll end up with fried pancakes)

Preheat a lightly oiled griddle over medium heat. In a bowl or large measuring cup, combine the dry ingredients. In another bowl, beat the eggs (or egg alternative), milk alternative and oil. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well. Using the measuring cup or scoop, pour some batter into the pan or right into metal cookie cutters. When the pancake bubbles, gently flip and cook on the other side.

Fiber-rich ground flaxseed promotes good elimination and thickens the batter so you get the perfect density for shaping pancakes.

By the way, if you’re using plastic cookie cutters, make a giant pancake that fills the pan and cut out your shapes on a cutting board after cooking.

Fill pancake sandwiches with practically anything! A protein source is ideal, since it may be the main source of protein in a packed lunch. Popular filling options around here include:

·     SunButter (or other seed butter) and banana slices
·     Turkey slices (always antibiotic- and preservative-free)
·     Shredded chicken, tuna or egg mashed with avocado, hummus, other creamy spread
·     Organic cream cheese
You may have to use your cookie cutter again for the sliced meat. Add some leafy greens and veggie (tomato slices, cukes, lettuce, avo…) wherever you can.

Because we use this recipe so often, I make several batches of the flour in advance and store it in tightly sealed jars.

Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Giraffe and Triple Layer SunButter & Banana T-Rex

Another super fun food for kids is lunch on a stick. There are so many combinations, you can make a different kebab every day of the week. 

Break out the skewers and let’s explore a few options:
·      Cherry tomatoes, carrot slices, mini cucumber rounds, broccoli, red peppers, cheese if not allergic (we like goat’s milk mozzarella)
·      Chicken and pineapple
·      Pesto chicken and noodles (macaroni or penne)
·      Chicken + mini potatoes
·      Salmon, red peppers and cherry tomatoes
·      Blueberries and strawberries
·      Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries
·      Tri-coloured grapes (white, red and black)
·      Pineapple, melon and watermelon
You can also add cheese cubes, mushrooms, olives, banana slices, and so much more!

Tip: Make pancake kebabs by combining mini round pancake sandwiches with fruit or any of the options above.

Many kids will eat real sushi. Not my kids. They will, however, eat something resembling sushi. At least a couple of times a week I break out the vegetable peeler and use up some dinner leftovers to make various roll ups. 

Here are a few ideas:
·     Thinly sliced cucumbers rolled with shredded chicken and hummus or organic cream cheese (add some leftover veggies, grains, or potato)
·     Turkey* or beef* (always antibiotic-free) roll ups filled with a strip of spinach and sweet potato, brown rice or quinoa
·     Raw or lightly steamed greens cut in strips and rolled with any meat, grain or vegetable
Tip: Cut a hole in a thick cucumber round and stuff with any filling on hand.

Healthy School Snacks
Kids love their snacks, and while there are gazillions of options, if you stick to the natural food section of your grocery store, you’re likely to find tasty allergen-free and gluten free products that are safe for your kids to take to school. Still, many products labelled ‘natural’ contain ingredients like yeast extract, torula yeast and annatto that are known to cause reactions, especially in kids. Whether your kids have allergies or not, read ingredient labels carefully and avoid any products with ingredients you aren’t 100 percent sure about. 

New snacks pop up all the time and my kids easily lose interest, so we’re always trying something new, like Luke's Garden Vegetable crackers and Z-Bars. Our current fam-favourite is SkinnyPop popcorn. It’s rare to hear my 6 year old beg, “Please get these away from me, I can’t stop eating them!” and it's even more rare for me to chuckle rather than panic that she ate too much sugar or spoiled her dinner. It's nice not to worry about the kids eating too much salt, sugar, MSG, GMOs, HFCS or any other acronym. My little guy loves SkinnyPop because it's lightly seasoned (not overpowering like other snacks) and it's the only popcorn that doesn’t get stuck in his teeth! The only downside: fighting off the kids at school who insist on sharing.

Got any of your own creative ideas for allergy-safe lunches? Please share in the comments! 

No comments:

Post a Comment