school lunches, DIY snacks, and other food for thought

06 May school lunches, DIY snacks, and other food for thought

I get a little dizzy reading all the latest studies about nutrition, specifically those regarding GMOs, processed foods, preservatives, hormones and food dyes. I do a fair amount of health-related magazine writing, so I keep up with this stuff. And, as a mom, of course I’m concerned about what the kids are eating. But, sheesh. The tide of new, alarming studies never ends.

My advice is to look at what’s available to you and choose the best foods you can. Your best options might change with your budget. It might look different when you’re traveling or when you’re sick. We like hormone-free meat & dairy, organic produce (local, if we can get it), and low sugar snacks. I’ve been able to make those a staple in our house, and our weekly grocery bill for a family of four is still reasonable (under $125 a week). Here’s a great article about how to eat organic food on a budget, including which foods you should prioritize: Delicious Living.

Others choices are tougher. I’ve been cutting back on gluten and processed foods, but I have toddlers, and toddlers love their carbs. Bread, granola bars, crackers in fun shapes. I don’t want to deny them that stuff entirely, but I also don’t have a fortune to spend on the designer-organic-non-GMO versions of every snack food.

And really… a nutritionally elite organic cookie is still a cookie, right? An occasional treat.

B starts kindergarten in August (!), and I’ve been thinking about school lunches and convenience food. I’ve been experimenting with homemade alternatives — recipes where I can control the ingredients. I work part-time from home and don’t love cooking, so any recipe I try needs to be pretty simple.

Here are three winners. I’ve made these several times now and would recommend them to anyone who wants their occasional carb fix without all the toxic side effects:

1. Homemade Cheez-Its. I found this recipe on Prudent Baby. The ingredients are just cheese, flour, butter, salt, paprika and ground mustard. I cut the flour down to about 3/4 cup and added 1/4 cup flaxseed meal, which didn’t affect the flavor & upped the nutritional value. I’m curious how this would work with gluten-free flour, oat or rice flour.

2. Easiest bread ever. Baking bread has always intimidated me (something about yeast and starters and pounding and rising). But then I stumbled upon Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day and, it couldn’t be simpler or more delicious. 🙂 The basic recipe calls for just yeast, flour and salt. From there you can customize it however you like: flax, sunflower seeds, walnut & dates (pictured above), cinnamon, cheese & olives… The recipe is very forgiving. It makes enough dough for four small loaves and stores in your fridge for up to two weeks.

3. Date bars. There are a million recipes out there for these treats, but the basic idea is that you throw about 2 cups of pitted dates (I like Medjool dates) and a cup of raw almonds into a food processor. Add a little vanilla, cinnamon, or whatever you like…dark chocolate, cashews, oats, etc. Roll into balls or form into bars and refrigerate them. You can coat them in chopped nuts or shredded coconut.

Other easy foods for lunch boxes:
mixed nuts or seeds
dried fruit or fruit leather
apples & nut butter
ham & cheese roll-ups
veggies & hummus

What else should we add to our list? Please share your faves and recipes in the comments.

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