It’s that time of year again. You’ve likely done all your back to school shopping, bought new school supplies, and maybe even splurged on a new outfit for the first day of school. But what if I told you the most important way to prepare our kids for back to school had to do with what was in their lunchbox?
If kids aren’t properly armed with a healthy lunch, it may actually interrupt their learning.
In my newest book, Label Lessons: Unjunk Your Kid’s Lunchbox, Lisa Tsakos and I delved into all the artificial ingredients that can be found in children’s lunchboxes. An important issue, because what your child eats before and during lunch plays a role in the way they learn. A diet loaded with essential fatty acids, B vitamins, quality protein sources, and other nutrients nourishes your child’s brain and helps them to succeed in school.
The “Bad” Stuff in Our Kid’s Lunchboxes
Artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners can adversely impact the way our kids learn. I’m most vigilant about artificial colors because they make my kids so crazy. Did you know that popular brands of fruit punch flavored juice boxes can be laced with Red 40 food dye? This artificial food dye is popular in U.S. and Canadian processed foods, but it’s banned in the EU. Artificial colors, like Red 40, can cause hyperactivity in children and can worsen symptoms of ADD and ADHD. It’s also on our Scary Seven list of ingredients to avoid for this very reason. Check out what happened when I took my two-year old to the ice cream store to buy my husband a birthday cake.
Artificial flavors also made our Scary Seven list. If you see this seemingly innocuous phrase on the label, put it back on the shelf. It’s a blanket term for chemical additives that can impact the overall health of your child.
And then there are artificial sweeteners—which appear in everything from kids’ bubble gum to supposedly healthy vitamin chews. Aspartame, found in Equal and Nutrasweet, can affect the nervous system and can cause headaches, memory loss, and convulsions.
I spoke to a class of 4th and 5th grade students this year and when I asked them how they felt after chewing gum with artificial sweeteners, more than half of the class raised their hands and told me how they got headaches and felt nauseated. One student told me his sister throws up from chewing a popular brand of sugarless gum loaded with aspartame, sucralose and acesulfame potassium.
Other chemical additives found in our kids’ lunches include: high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, trans-fats, GMOs, and MSG. Each has its own host of side effects including, but not limited to: obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Label Lessons includes a handy list of ingredients to avoid at the grocery store so you can set your child on the path to healthy eating.
Better Alternatives to Junk Food
I know it’s not always easy. Kids can be picky eaters and turn their noses up to all things healthy. I have three kids of my own so I understand how difficult it can be to ensure our kids are eating healthy meals. Label Lessons discusses common pitfall foods that we should avoid, but most importantly, it provides healthier, chemical-free alternatives that taste great so our kids can enjoy healthy foods without even knowing it!
I believe in the 80:20 rule since it is impossible to eat healthy 100% of the time. However, knowing what foods build the foundation for raising healthy children is certainly a good place to start.
Editor’s Note: NaturallySavvy is giving away a $1,000 shopping spree, a $500 shopping spree, and a $250 shopping spree to the health food stores of the winners’ choice, as well as Naturally Savvy gift bags when people share the information about the contest, coupons, and e-book. There are also coupons for the healthy products in the e-book. To enter the contest, you can go here – labellessons2.naturallysavvy.com where you’ll be able to share the coupons and eBook link. For every share, NaturallySavvy will be donating $1 to Healthy Child Healthy World!