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School Lunches: Whole Foods Market Style

Here we are friends. The countdown to early morning wake up calls, arguing about which socks to wear, getting a healthy breakfast down their throats, and school bus stops. That’s right. School is right around the corner. This also means that all things lunch bag, lunch box, snack bag and lunch food will be discussed, most likely on a regular basis. Don’t go grabbing the advil and a glass of merlot after reading that line, instead, head over to Whole Foods Market – where healthy lunch shopping is made easy!

I recently had the pleasure of browsing through the aisles of our local Dayton Whole Foods Market, absorbing in all of the smells, bright colors, fresh meats, and of course, sipping on a cold brew from their coffee bar (which I highly recommend!). My purpose ? I was on a mission to search for healthy options for school lunches, both balanced and fun, embracing a rainbow of colors and a variety of nutrients. The key phrase to remember, dear mamas, is that it is all about balance and not perfection. School lunch packing should not cause you to hide in the closet with a pillow over your head while sobbing and screaming ” WHYY!” Instead, let’s get through this together, with some help from our local friends. 

You see, I am a DIY meal junkie. Of course, I enjoy an occasional trip to the local Mexican joint with the hubs, but for the most part I am a lover of all things I can cook and prepare and meditate on and invent. BUT, do not get me wrong, sometimes I need quick grab and go options for meals of all sorts. We all do. I am here to share with you some of these healthy lunch options available to you at our local Whole Foods Market, featuring the 365 Everyday Value brand.

It is all about balance. Not perfection.

During my recent trip, I quickly began snapping pics of combinations of foods that I felt could tell a story. A lunch box story if you will. Packing lunch needs to be stress free, but nutritious, so our kiddos can function on fuel that feeds both their brains and their bodies. I quickly found that Whole Foods Market encompasses all parts of my lunch box story, in ways that can be easily packed in lunches, food combinations that can be versatile, and some grab and go options that are stellar. Colors and shapes, proteins and healthy fats, veggies and fruits, whole grains and special ‘treats’. So, follow along with some of my personal recommendations, some combinations I tried, and some pictures of goodies you can find at Whole Foods, all to make your lunch box packing easier. Here we go mamas….

Grab and Go Fruits

Right away I noticed the great selection of organic and non organic fruits, especially the ones that can be easily packed. Apples, grapes, oranges, bananas, and these lovely already pre-cut containers of fruit. The containers could easily be dispersed between a few kiddos and/or last a few days for one kiddo. Fruit is a great way to incorporate a ‘sweet’ aspect to a lunch box that is not full of processed sugars, while IS full of vitamins and nutrients to feed our little growing brainiacs. Perhaps rotate different fruits throughout the week, but also stick with something you know your kiddo will eat (vs wasting). Fruit is nature’s candy!

Easy to Pack Veggies

Ahh veggies. I loved the variety of options available for packing in lunches. From baby carrots, to dried veggie chips and plantains (Have you tried plantains? Great for hummus dipping!), fresh tomatoes and spring mix. These are just a few, but they did make me think of how variety is plenty! Do not be held captive to sandwiches (though, nothing is wrong with those), but instead, its ok to pack your kiddo a salad with tomatoes, carrots and some dressing on the side so they can dip or scatter over. Whole Foods Market had a variety of options for this type of lunch. Your kids aren’t the salad type? Try incorporating veggies in with your protein or whole grain – add spinach or tomatoes to a sandwich or simply throw some baby carrots in with some dipping sauce. Think in advance so you aren’t going for every prepackaged bag of processed food. Cut your veggies and fruits earlier in the week and store in the fridge for easy grab  and throw in a zip-loc option. You won’t regret it. 

Protein and Whole Grain Goodness

So many options in this area amongst the 365 Everyday Value Brand. So many! I went straight for the nitrate free turkey breast, colby jack cheese, roasted red pepper hummus and 8 grain bread. My kids (literally) devoured the turkey breast and 8 grain bread within 4 days. It was delicious and perfect for a quick sammy to throw in little Johnnie’s lunch. We also tried the 365 Everyday Value Brand whole wheat tortillas, which again, are perfect for making a roll up versus a sandwich. What is a roll up? Grab a tortilla, throw on your kids favorite ingredients (think turkey and cheese, hummus & veggies,  pb and J, any combo) and roll it up. Cut that baby in half and throw in in the lunch box. Easy. Done.

Another GREAT option to throw in those lunch boxes, for some added healthy fats, protein and carbs, are these Cape Cod 365 Everyday Value Brand nut packs. THESE are AWESOME! 10 individual packs of nuts and cranberries bless these little serving size doses, and are perfect for an added fuel boost in your kiddos lunches. Maybe your little is in half day school, and only require a quick snack to be packed vs an entire lunch,  well these are great! Obviously pending the ‘nut rules’ at their school, these little gems would be perfect. They ran around $5 and are a great snack or lunch addition!

Snacks & Sweet Treats – Because Remember – It’s About  Balance and Not Perfection

Oh mama. There are going to be those days where we throw whatever we can lay our hands on into their little lunch sacks, and that’s ok. I do want to share with you a few easy to pack options for that more snacky food or sweet treat. Because our kids deserve something to brag about. There are tons of options within the 365 Everyday Value Brand selection, and simply collecting your kiddos favorite dried fruits and granola can make way for a delicious homemade trail mix! Throw that in their box and they are bound to brag about how you are the best mom ever. Rolled tortilla chips, cracked wheat crackers, chocolate chip bites, PB & J bites, and fruit strips are just a few other 365 brand goodies that stuck out to me. Quick. Easy. Yum. Not full of  artificial crappola. And quite frankly, are a treat the kids can enjoy.

When Creativity & Time are not an Option – Leave it to Whole Foods Market Prepared Food Area.

This. All of this right here. I was getting ready to make my way to checkout and head home and I felt called to the prepackaged foods area. Perhaps it was the smell of the housemade pizza or the hot food bar (PS. Kids eat FREE every Wednesday with the purchase of any $10 Adult entree – do it moms! Its amazing!), but regardless, my cold brew and I moseyed over there. I then stopped in my tracks and discovered these beauties – prepackaged and well balanced snack/meal options – perfect! These babies are inexpensive and well balanced. Nut butter, veggies, fruit, crackers, sandwiches with meat and veggies, pita bread, hummus (yes, I know I have mentioned hummus a million times, but it’s a great way to get lots of protein and healthy fats into your little!). These little gems are perfect to grab and go, and they are under $5 each!  

Now What?

Take about 15 minutes one day, prior to school starting, and make a list of what you desire to pack in your kids lunches. If need be, make a separate list for each kiddo, then take a step back and soak it in. Be realistic. What CAN you do and what CANT you do. The goal is balance. There are so many healthy lunch options that I did not even yet mention, but exist. Think whole grain pasta salad, avocados, ants on a log (celery with nut butter and raisins),  unsweetened applesauce cups, the list goes on and on.

Dear mama, give yourself both a break and a pat on the back, simply by reading this blog you have shown interest in providing your kids with as much healthy brain fuel as you can. Remind yourself – balance. Try to think of that lunch box as a storytelling machine. It thrives on colors and shapes and textures. Mix it up. Experiment. Have the kids help you veggie and fruit prep on Sunday afternoon. And don’t forget to hit up Dayton Whole Foods Market  and their 365 Everyday Value Brand – and that cold brew. AHHH that cold brew.

How do your keep balance and healthy food options on the forefront in your kiddos lunches? Please share!

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