Guest blog: School lunches from @100daysofrealfood

I met Lisa Leake at BlogHer Food and I was intrigued by her blog 100 Days of Real Food. She expressed interest in writing a guest blog post and I thought it would be a great fit. Read on…

At the beginning of last year our eating habits were just like those of any other average family. We thought we were making fairly healthy food choices, although we certainly didn’t mind the occasional fast food meal or bag of chips. Then came a series of events including an Oprah show, a book by Michael Pollan, and the documentary Food Inc., which forever changed the way we looked at food. As it turned out, a lot of what we thought were “healthy” food choices were actually highly processed and not the best choices at all. So not only were we motivated to completely revamp our diets, but we decided to inspire others to do the same by starting a blog about our experience called “100 Days of Real Food,” which is also now a nationally syndicated weekly newspaper column.

When we were first transitioning from “normal food” to “real food” I lost sleep over what I would feed my family if I could no longer rely on Goldfish, white bread, flavored yogurt, and fruit snacks. But after a year of avoiding all highly processed foods this new way of life has finally become our new normal. And while we initially cut out processed food because we thought it was the right thing to do we couldn’t help but be convinced after watching this transition “cure” our daughter’s asthma and constipation among many other unexpected and positive changes to our health.

Since the topic of Mrs. Q’s blog is school lunch I want to share some of the “real food” lunches I’ve been packing for my kindergartner this year. We are in the public school system and, like Mrs. Q, have been appalled at some of the things the “buyers” are eating. At the same time though, it is by no means easy or convenient to come up with portable, nutritious, and creative lunches every night that also abide by our school’s “nut-free” policy. But, since the health of our daughter is of course a top priority I do my best with the task at hand. Since the school year is coming to a close these lunch examples could also be considered for the office, picnics, or long summer days at the pool. If you have any additional “real food” lunch suggestions please share them in the comments below!

Frozen smoothie pop, dried fruit trail mix, homemade whole-wheat easy cheese crackers, strawberries, and apples

Hummus sandwich on whole-wheat bread, oranges, and bell peppers with tzatziki dipping sauce

• Homemade whole-wheat pizza lunchables with cantaloupe

• Homemade whole-wheat cinnamon raisin bread and cream cheese sandwich, applesauce, local carrots and hummus

Hummus and cheese on homemade whole-wheat tortilla, strip of local bacon, strawberries and mango, and Kettle brand “baked” potato chips (made from real potatoes)

Frozen smoothie pop, grapes, whole-grain brown rice crackers, and egg salad

• Sunflower butter and peach jelly (all fruit spread) on whole-wheat bread, whole-grain brown rice cake, mango, and plain yogurt mixed with frozen berries and a little honey

• Leftover cold whole-wheat pasta topped with a little olive oil and grated parmesan cheese, fruit mix, and carrots
Bio: Lisa Leake is a wife, mother, foodie, newspaper columnist, and blogger who just over a year ago radically changed her family’s diet by cutting out all processed food and refined ingredients. With growing attention from both readers and the media she chronicles her family’s journey on as they seek out the real food in our processed food world. Lisa and her family reside in Charlotte, NC.
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17 thoughts on “Guest blog: School lunches from @100daysofrealfood

  1. Those lunches look great! It's great to see a family taking the time to put together wholesome meals and setting an example.

  2. This is really inspiring. I eat healthy and I want to cut out processed foods too. I am so glad I saw this post on twitter! I am going to read your blog and replicate these meals. My daughter is still on baby food, but when she eats real food it will be REAL. Thank you for the ideas!!

  3. This is a well programmed meal. Nice have it especially when you bring your own food at work.

  4. Thanks Mrs. Q for hosting this post! You and your guests are changing our world for the better…one plate at a time.

    Eleven years ago I changed what's on my plate and our families after experiencing breast cancer at the age of 38. I too thought we were "eating healthy."

    Glad to hear your daughter's asthma has cleared up.

    Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food. – Hippocrates

    Best health always!

  5. Mrs. Q, thank you for posting stories like these. As someone who brings my lunch daily, I'm always interested to see what others pack for lunch.

  6. I loved this! It's heartbreaking to see some of the things my young (K-5) students bring in their lunch boxes for "lunch". These are great ideas!

  7. Lisa, I applaud you for removing processed foods from your family's diet! It looks like you've been incredibly successful at doing that and I know it has taken a tremendous amount of research, planning, and just plain old determination to accomplish.

    The packed lunches you shared contain little in the way of vegetables. Does your kindergartner have an aversion to vegetables or is this just family habit kicking in?

    What's in your frozen smoothie pops and how do you keep them frozen until it's time for your daughter to eat them? I clicked on your 'frozen smoothie pop' link but it led me to a discussion of the molds you use and I don't see info on ingredients or your method for keeping them frozen in a packed lunch.

    This was such an inspiring post, Mrs. Q! Thanks for bringing it to us.

  8. I, too, noticed that the lunches were light in the veggie department…

    I have been packing my son's preschool (nut-free) lunch for two months now and find it pretty easy (though I could be a little more creative) – I don't know why so many resort to Lunchables and other prepackaged fare! Always enjoy seeing what others pack for "real" lunches and getting new ideas.

    Luckily, my son is fine with cold cooked vegetable leftovers – i.e. broccoli, cauliflower, green beans. I also tend to send carrots or cucumbers, sometimes with hummus or ranch (careful with the ingredients on the ranch). People are often suprised he likes hummus – I'm alway suprised more people haven't tried it 🙂

    I should try the sunflower butter – I had forgotten about it being a nut free alternative to peanut butter and almond butter.

    Lastly, I was wondering where you got your divided container and how it did with the "wetter" ingredients (i.e. yogurt)?

  9. I haven't visited the blog for awhile because I was tired of the judgmental tone that you take occasionally. I decided to give it another try and stumbled on the overweight co-worker thread. That's it for me, I am done with your blog. I wanted to comment just to let you know that your judgmental comments drive people away from the larger message that you want to convey. You can try to defend yourself by saying, "I was just being honest." Well I honestly think that comment was unnecessary, rude, and downright nasty. Go ahead and remove my comment if you like, but just know that I was being honest.

  10. Mrs. Q, can you please post more of these? i love getting lunch box ideas!!!

  11. I work in the wellness industry, and I applaud any parent looking to move away from the processed stuff that is practically shoved down kids throats at every turn! The lunches are light on protein & veggies – so that would be a next step I'd like to see her take. The processed stuff is out, now sort out the nutrient ratios, ensuring a bit of carbs/fat/protein are in every meal. It is NOT easy for parents to handle their kids health, but little steps at a time add up to a big change in a family's long term health. Keep it up!

  12. I would love to cut out all processed foods from my diet – but frankly, I just don't have the time. I have cut down a lot, and I am very conscious of reading ingredient labels, but I don't have the time to find and buy all my food from local sources, or cook everything myself – especially since most farmers' markets are during my work hours.

    I think the rule I would amend first, though, would be the 5-ingredients rule. I do read ingredients, and I do try to avoid processed foods, but I don't count ingredients – instead, I look for products where all the ingredients are things recognizable things. I can't find a box of cookies, for example, with less than 5 ingredients – but I can find cookies that only list things I'd have in my own home baking supplies. And there are plenty of products that just by their nature would require more than 5 ingredients – a jar of salsa, or a can of soup, for example. I have a carton of vegetable stock with 8 ingredients: water, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, oil, salt, and spices. That wouldn't count under these rules, but it's not what I'd call a processed food.

  13. Thanks so much for all the great feedback! And here are some responses to your questions/comments…
    1. In regards to veggies for some reason I've always thought of lunch as the meal to eat fruit and dinner as the meal to eat veggies so adding more veggies to her lunch is definitely something I could work on.
    2. Here is the link to our basic smoothie recipe that I put in the freezie pop holders (which we love by the way!)
    3. I got the divided container at Target. It is Ziploc brand and works beautifully with liquids and yogurts. Nothing leaks to the other compartments at all.
    4. The 5-ingredient rule is mainly to draw the line somewhere. Since we ask people to sign up for a 10-day pledge (where they follow our same real food rules for a shorter period of time) it is helpful to have some general and easy-to-follow guidelines that a large group can follow. Now that our pledge is over I will buy something like a trail mix even if it contains more than 5 nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc.
    5. In regards to protein every single one of these lunches actually does contain protein even if it isn't in the form of meat. Some great alternate sources of protein that we eat often are dairy products, hummus, eggs, and beans.

  14. When I was at school I ate the school lunch and my mother would pack me on other days. As a child I was well fit and happy. Maybe parents should stop packing their kids mouths with McDonalds and get them off their computers and gaming consoles. The blame always is on someone else but the parents themselves.

    Again there was maybe 3 obese children in my school. So what is the real problem? I do not agree with blaming school lunches. People need to get a life!

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