Yesterday, I shared two of the most unhealthy lunch options. And then there were just more unhealthy lunch choices loaded with misinformation that I wanted to clear up for you. Unfortunately, I think I also made a big mistake. One of the unhealthy lunch options on today’s list definitely should have been on my top two. Read on to find out which one…
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It’s beyond frustrating to work so hard to provide good nutrition for our children when we learn that labeling on food products isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be and often, it’s downright misleading. Labels that proclaim “natural, contains Vitamin C” the claims go on and on. And yet, those claims don’t necessarily make a food a good option.
Unhealthy Lunch Option: Sweetened Yogurt
Misinformation: Yogurt is a great thing to pack for lunch. This is a partial truth. The problem comes with the fruit/sugar that’s added. Many yogurts have up to 30 grams (7 1/2 teaspoons) of sugar added to them!!!!
Alternative: Plain yogurt is a great snack or lunch item. Greek yogurt, especially, packs a punch in the protein department helping kids stay fuller longer through the afternoon. Adding fruit to add more flavor and sweetness is a great idea. You could even add some jelly or jam – in moderate amounts – and you would have cut the sugar significantly and it could still be a great choice!
Unhealthy Lunch Option: Packaged Lunchbox Meals
Misinformation: Because these lunches are marketed toward children in the 2-5 year old age group, we assume that they are healthy for these precious growing bodies…Not so fast.
Now that I’ve considered this option, I should have made it one of my top two unhealthy lunch options. Please, please, please let’s find an alternative to these meals!!! I haven’t personally used them, so I wasn’t familiar with them until I was doing this research.
Some of these prepackaged meals have up to 61 grams of sugar!!! That’s 15 teaspoons of sugar! And even though this series is about sugar – let me give you some of the other low down on many of these meals: sodium in excess of an entire day’s allowance; trans fats; unhealthy saturated fats; and processed lunch meats which have been linked to increased risk of some cancers. Many of these packaged lunch meals contain over 60 ingredients! I’m speechless now…
Alternative: Many of the items in these packaged lunch boxes can easily be duplicated at home without the added serious dose of unhealthy. You can offer crackers, ham, turkey, cheese, and you can easily throw in a piece of fruit and some carrot sticks and dip. Any “goodness” most of these packaged lunches have comes only from their convenience and I bet you can throw something together faster than you think!
Unhealthy Lunch Options: Some Snack Bars
Snack bars might seem like a healthy choice for those munchie moments, with images of wholesome berries and nuts on the wrapper and claims such as “superfoods in every bite.” But the truth is that not all bars are a healthy snack—some have about the same calories, fat, and sugar in every bite as a candy bar. (source)
That’s not what you’re looking for in a lunch…
Alternative: You have two decent alternatives here. First, you can carefully check the label on your bar and remember that 4 grams of sugar is one teaspoon. Make your decisions from there and don’t be fooled by the wrappers and all . Also check for trans-fats – which you do not want. Second alternative, make your own! There are so many great recipes out there for bars…just check Pinterest. I’ll share one of my favorites with you soon!
Unhealthy Lunch Options: Juice
When you juice a fruit, all of the fiber is removed from the juice. You are left with a dosage of concentrated fructose. Just like refined sugar, fructose causes your blood sugar levels to rise. You get a burst of energy (aka what you’d call “hyperactive” in a kid). The burst of energy doesn’t last for long though. High blood sugar levels triggers your body to store the energy as fat. After the sugar is stored, your blood sugar levels come crashing down. This leaves you feeling tired and cranky.
But what goes up must come down…
…Here is where things get really bad. Our blood sugar levels are one of the factors which regulate hunger. When blood sugar is low, the hunger hormone ghrelin is produced in the brain and hunger is triggered. And what do you start craving? Your body craves more sugary foods to replace the sugar it just lost. So, you end up in a cycle of craving sweet stuff, crashing, and craving more sweets. (source)
Alternative: Water. Water. Water. Did I mention water? Also, unflavored milk can be a good option. There are also many non-dairy milk alternatives.
Peanut Butter & Jelly Doesn’t Have To Be An Unhealthy Lunch Option
I shouldn’t even really label this one as an unhealthy lunch option, because it is such a lunch staple for so many and it doesn’t have to be an unhealthy lunch option. Nut butters can be terrific sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals. And if you have a nut free classroom or school, or allergies, you can always go with sun butter which make a great alternative. I’ve done PBJ with high fiber wraps as a roll-up. I’ve also done peanut butter and sliced strawberries instead of the jelly. Both are great alternatives to add fiber and reduce sugar. Another option is an “apple sandwich.” Spread slices of apples with peanut butter and put them together as a sandwich. The boys love it! Maybe I should share how I do that!
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