Tote your own treats

March 18, 2014 Updated: March 23, 2014

You get to work. No time to leave for lunch. Stomach starts to rumble. Get distracted. Get tired. Start to yawn. Chug a bunch of coffee or energy drinks. Grab a bag of chips from the vending machine. Reach into your desk drawer and fish out a bag of year-old Halloween candy you pillaged from your kids and proceed to go into a caffeinated sugar and salt coma in the middle of your manager’s meeting, and fall head first onto the ground…

OK, maybe a little dramatic but not far from reality, right?

Packing your own meals and snacks when you are away from home is an important way to manage your food intake, balance your blood sugar, and make sure you are eating quality vs. quantity. You won’t feel “stuck” with having to settle for junk. You’ll save a ton of dough, too!

When it comes to kids, here’s the reality:

It clicked when I found out that my son, who was in kindergarten at the time, got a whopping 10 minutes to eat lunch at school. If they’re standing in the lunch line for 10 minutes, they’re practically jamming food down their gullet and swallowing it whole to finish eating in time.

Childhood obesity has grown to epidemic proportions, literally and figuratively. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the prevalence of obesity has tripled in the last 30 years.

It isn’t just about being heavy. It’s about the chronic diseases that can take years from your kids’ otherwise healthy lives—heart disease, liver disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, sleep apnea—the list goes on and on.

It would be very easy to succumb to those nondescript, pre-packed wrapped lunch meals and neon-coloured “phood” snacks, but you know better than to slap such super-processed, phony baloney onto your kids’ buns. I mean, white bread and fluorescent snacks are so 1982.

Instead of making your kids’ school lunch, have them help you. When they are old enough, have them make it with you the night before. Offer them cookie cutters to make sandwich shapes, teach them how to roll a wrap, and give them the tools to safely chop their own fruits and veggies.

When you make it creative, they won’t see it as a chore. Slip them a caring, thoughtful note that lifts their spirits at lunchtime and lets them know that you’re thinking about them. That little bit of love satiates a deeper appetite and will make them look forward to what’s in the bag.

Tips:

  • – Make a list and buy it once. Make your list and head to the store on the weekend and buy one or two weeks’ worth of supplies so you’re stocked up. Being prepared is half the battle (and half your sanity!).
  • – The night before lunch. Prepare lunches the night before and put them in an insulated container to keep them cooler longer. Add in an ice pack if food is sitting out for more than three hours.
  • – Chemical-free is the way to be. Always opt for BPA- and phthalate-free plastic or glass storage containers.

Mareya Ibrahim is The Fit Foody, an award-winning chef on Everyday Health’s Emmy-nominated show “Recipe Rehab,” and author and founder of EatCleaner.com. Her book “The Clean Eating Handbook,” a guide on how to eat cleaner and get leaner, was released in May 2013.

Photo of girl eating fruit from Shutterstock. com