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We are only a few weeks away from the start of another school year in Hopewell Valley. In addition to school supplies and new clothes, parents across the area are probably thinking about how to manage the daily routine of packing school lunches.

For me, personally, I start with the ambition of packing something the night before, and sometimes actually do. But most days I’m stumbling through the kitchen shoving pretzels and raisins into my son’s lunchbox between making breakfast and chugging coffee.

However, my good friend and fellow mom of two Alissa Lawrence of Alissa Lawrence Yoga put together some great tips to help remind busy families – don’t grab for the easy bags of chips or pre-made, highly processed junk for lunch, but with a little forethought, you can easily send your child(ren) to school with wholesome, unprocessed, filling lunches they actually eat.

Here are a few of Alissa’s tips for packing a ‘real food’ lunch:

Think Outside the (Lunch)Box – As kids we all had lunches composed of PB&J on Wonder Bread with chips and a drink. But it’s no secret that many breads contain up to 40 hard-to-pronounce ingredients, often including High Fructose Corn Syrup and other GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). Instead of purchasing highly processed breads, try making a batch of whole wheat muffins (see below for an awesome recipe for carrot and applesauce muffins from 100 Days of Real Food, a blog dedicated to avoiding processed foods) and keep them in the freezer for lunches. Toss a muffin, some cheese, a banana, and some cucumber sticks together for a tasty, healthy lunch.

Let Your Kid(s) Help Pack – Even if they’re not into the actual packing, try giving them choices (red pepper slices or carrot sticks? An apple or a banana? What kind of cheese?). And make kids part of the process of buying and selecting lunch ingredients from local sources, like Honey Brook Organic Farm, Blue Moon Acres, Double Brook Farm or Terhune Orchards, among others.

Substitute – Consider what processed items you were going to buy and see if you can recreate them at home or find a less processed option. You probably can! If you were going to buy some high-in-sugar yogurt, try whole, plain organic yogurt instead and add some maple syrup and pureed berries. Instead of purchasing a pre-made lunch pack like Lunchables, try Applegate Organic deli meat, cheese cubes and some Ak-Mak crackers instead.

Look Online – There are so many great resources for healthy, nutritious and easy school lunches. Peruse Pinterest and 100 Days of Real Food for inspiration.

Find some recipes that work for YOUR family and try making them! Things like muffins and banana bread freeze well and can easily be made with nothing but wholesome ingredients from your kitchen.

Happy, healthy eating this school year!

***

Whole-Wheat Carrot Applesauce Muffins

INGREDIENTS

1½ cups whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter (1 stick), softened (but not melted)
½ cup honey
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
¾ cup carrot shreds (I used a cheese grater)

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with paper, foil, or silicone liners, and set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt.

In a large bowl fitted with an electric whisk (or beaters), mix the butter, honey, egg and vanilla together on medium speed. Turn the speed down and slowly add in the flour mixture until well combined. The batter will be fairly thick at this point.

Using a spatula, carefully fold in the applesauce and carrots. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes or until a toothpick comes and muffins are beginning to turn golden brown on top. Enjoy!

(Recipe courtesy of 100 Days of Real Food)

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Andrea Fereshteh has been writing for as long as she can remember. An avid journal-keeper as a child, she dabbled in dramatic notes to her parents and designed her own stationary. With a zest for small talk and meeting new people, she pursued journalism in college and worked for nine years in PR, writing and media relations for the higher ed and nonprofit sectors. She has a mousters and ducktorate from Disney University and is a mother to two lively boys who inspire her to just keep writing, just keep writing.

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