Fat. What a controversial subject!
If you were a child of the eighties like me, you were told from a young age that fat is unhealthy and that fat will make you fat.
Fast forward several decades and we now know that nothing could be further from the truth! Unprocessed, real fats are an essential component of good health. Especially for growing kids! After all, your brain is mostly made of fat.
Packing School Lunch for Kids
As a mom of four I know a thing or two about packing school lunches. It’s not too hard to put some complex carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables in your child’s lunch. But it can be a big challenge to get those healthy fats!
A great strategy for incorporating healthy fats in school lunches is to start with the end goal in mind. Don’t just randomly add food to the lunchbox. Plan it out.
How much fat are you aiming for? What types of food contain fat that your child is willing to eat? It doesn’t do any good to add sunflower seeds if your child hates them.
Also consider allergies. Does your child’s school or classroom have any allergen restrictions?
Answering these questions will create your healthy fat guide. You’ll know your options that are both safe and enjoyable. Plus you’ll know what balance of healthy fat you want in the final packed lunch.
Getting Healthy Fats in School Lunches
In order to make your healthy fat option list, you need to have a starting point.
What is a healthy fat anyway and where can you find it? Healthy fats are unprocessed and come from natural fat sources. Some healthy fat options include:
- coconut oil
- olive oil
- avocadoes and avocado oil
- seeds (tips for incorporating chia and flax seeds)
- tallow (beef or lamb fat)
- lard (pork fat)
- fatty fish (salmon, sardines, anchovies)
- pastured eggs
- duck fat
- MCT oil
- full-fat dairy
That’s a pretty long list! Lots to choose from. But what about unhealthy fats?
Unfortunately, they are just as abundant, especially in packaged foods. The unhealthy, highly processed fats to avoid include:
- Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils
- Trans fats
- Canola oil
- Vegetable oil
- Corn oil
- Safflower oil
- Sunflower oil
- Peanut oil
- Soybean oil
- Margarine/butter substitutes
Read labels carefully. Most crackers, chips, pretzels, etc. contain some form of processed fat. There are a few that use olive oil or avocado oil. So look for those. Or better yet, keep the simple carbohydrate foods to a minimum and opt for complex carbs like fruits, vegetables, and sourdough bread. Then you can add healthy fats to them!
Incorporating Healthy Fats for Kids in Lunch
You have your end goal in mind. You have your list of healthy fats. Now it’s time to put the plan into action. Use these ideas or work with your kids to come up with your own!
- smashed avocado with Real Salt and pepper slices for dipping
- homemade sourdough bread with butter
- full-fat dairy yogurt or coconut milk yogurt
- leftover roasted vegetables (cooked in olive oil, avocado oil, or tallow)
- apple slices dipped in almond butter or sunbutter
- carrot sticks dipped in homemade veggie dip or hummus
- egg salad, chicken salad, or salmon salad made with avocado oil mayonnaise or homemade mayonnaise
- sliced raw cheese
- salmon patties
- smoothie made with MCT oil or avocado
- chocolate avocado pudding
- energy balls or mud balls made with nut or seed butter
- protein-packed cupcakes
- zucchini “cheese”
- salted chocolate milk
Avoid Hangry Meltdowns with Healthy Fats for Kids
Not only is fat good for growth and brain development, but it is also an essential component of blood sugar balance.
When it comes to those “hangry” meltdowns, protein is key (here are some simple ways to boost protein for picky eaters). But don’t forget that it’s all about balance. Not only do kids need protein, but they also need fiber-rich carbohydrates and healthy fats!
But before you start loading up on the fats, take into consideration your child’s health. Do they have optimal digestion? Can they properly break down fats? Do they have any food intolerances?
As a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) I use Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis for kids to figure out the bio-individual needs of each of my clients, including my own kids! A fast oxidizer will need to rely heavily on healthy fats for energy. While a slow oxidizer will need to use fats a bit more sparingly until digestion is improved.
Either way, all children need some healthy fats in their diets to utilize fat-soluble vitamins and promote proper growth.
Packing School Lunch with Healthy Fats
Sometimes it feels overwhelming being so responsible for your child’s health. But take heart – you don’t have to be in control of it all forever.
Start empowering your child today, teaching them about healthy fats and why they are important. Let them decide which fats and lunch ideas they like best. You can even start having your child pack his or her own lunch. It’s all possible.
Having an NTP for a mom, my kids know a lot about nutrition. My oldest son is 11 and is fascinated by it. He knows he is a fast oxidizer and that he needs plenty of fat for energy, especially during soccer season!
The other day he came to me and asked, “I need lots of fat, right? What are my options?” We talked it over and now he is in charge of getting plenty of fat in his diet. I think we’re going through butter a lot faster than we were before!
This year be intentional about school lunches. Set a goal. And make your kids part of the process. Getting adequate healthy fats in your child’s lunch will soon be a no-brainer!
Have you set a macronutrient balance goal for your child’s lunches this year?