Now that kids are back in school, parents are packing lunches and trying to do the right thing for their kids. Rather than letting them eat the pizza and chicken nuggets the cafeteria supplies daily, they pack what they think is a healthy alternative.
But is it?
Let’s look at 7 popular lunch box foods that are actually not good at all for kids (or anyone else – these apply to adult lunches too), plus better alternatives for each.
And be sure to read to the end for your chance to win our contest with your kids’ alkaline lunch boxes!
Because remember, the alkaline lifestyle isn’t about depriving yourself or your kids of certain foods, it’s about replacing them with better, more alkaline options that are equally delicious.
This lunch box favorite is one that even many nutritionists and pediatricians push as good for you. Unfortunately, yogurt is full of acid because its top two ingredients are usually cow’s milk and sugar, both highly acidic. Even the “no sugar added” variety is full of toxic artificial sweeteners and should be totally avoided.
Yogurt and other dairy products that are a source of calcium don’t actually lead to healthy, strong bones. Read more about this myth here. It’s also not as good of a source of probiotics as taking a probiotic supplement daily, and in addition, it’s loaded with yeast which is highly acidifying and will ultimately cause you to crave more sugar.
Better alternatives: Unsweetened nut milks are a great alkaline source of calcium, as are white beans and dark, leafy greens. Starting your kids’ morning off with a smoothie made with kale, almond milk, a little probiotic powder thrown in, and your favorite fruit and veggie add-ins is a much better way to get them the calcium they need than a cup of yogurt.
- Organic fruit juice
The science is in: juice is out.
Even most of the medical community has caught up to the facts on this one. Packaged juice drinks, even if they are marked organic or 100% juice, is nothing but empty sugar that kids (and adults) don’t need. It doesn’t deliver the same nutrients as fresh fruit or the same hydration as water, so it’s a total waste. They are loaded with fructose which is the worst kind of sugar to put into your body.
Better alternatives: Water is the new juice! If you or your kids are used to drinking juice and it seems like a tough habit to break, incorporate veggies into fresh-made juices at home. Gradually add more and more veggies and less and less fruits to get the most nutritional bang for your buck. And speaking of bucks, you’ll save a ton at the grocery store check out when you stop buying juice boxes and start sending water in lunch boxes instead. You can also add a lemon or lime slice into their water to give it a little extra flavor.
Wheat bread with sliced turkey and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, and other lunch box classics may appear to be nutritious, kid-friendly options. But appearances can be deceiving.
- That wheat bread? Even whole wheat bread is acidic, full of gluten, and other processed ingredients like high fructose corn syrup.
- Peanut butter? It’s acidic and a carrier for mold and 21 different types of aflatoxin, a fungus which causes cancer, so even if you don’t have a severe peanut allergy, peanuts may be causing an allergic reaction in your digestive system.
- Jelly? Highly processed and filled with acidic sugar (or worse, artificial sweeteners) and not a good source of the nutrients in fruit.
- Deli meat? Along with nearly all animal proteins, deli meat is acid-forming. Plus it usually contains nitrates and other nasty additives you and your kids don’t need.
- Cheese slices? Dairy backs up the digestive track, causing constipation and holding onto toxins that you want to get rid of. Plus, many people have a sensitivity to the proteins found in cheese.
Better alternatives: Ezekiel bread with hummus, avocado, and your kids’ other favorite veggies like cucumbers and tomatoes.
Lots of parents send crackers made with whole grains in kids’ lunches because it’s a source of fiber their kids will eat.
But here’s a secret I’ve learned as a parent of a toddler – kids won’t starve. Even if they don’t eat what you give them for one meal, pretty soon they’ll go ahead and eat when they’re hungry. So you might as well give them nutrient-rich foods because even if they only eat a bite or two, that’s better than eating processed crackers that are filled with gluten and all kinds of acidic ingredients.
Better alternatives: Pre-cut veggies and hummus like celery, cucumbers, broccoli “trees,” carrots, or cherry tomatoes.
- Fruit snacks
These seem like they might be nutritious because they have the word fruit in the name, so let’s call fruit roll ups, fruit snacks, and even fruit cups what they really are: sugar delivery systems. Most of them use high fructose corn syrup and other nasty additives, even though they claim to be “all natural.” Don’t buy it.
Better alternatives: Washed and ready to eat fruit like green apple slices, berries, and cherry tomatoes. Here’s a great tip if your kids won’t eat apple slices that have browned in their lunch during the morning. Core and slice the apple into even wedges, remove the core, and put the slices back together with a rubber band around them to keep them fresh.
- 100-calorie packs
These processed foods full of sugar, gluten, and MSG are disguised as healthy, but they are anything but. Especially when it comes to what kids eat, why are we counting calories? It makes no sense!
One of the things I love about the alkaline lifestyle is there is absolutely no need to count calories when you’re eating low-acid foods. Stick to whole, nutrient-dense foods you know are good for you and avoid these tiny junk food packages at all costs.
Better alternatives: Make your own snack packs like trail mix in advance so the prep work is done for you. Bonus: This will save you money at the grocery store too. If you need quick options that are prepackaged, go for energy bars like Chia Bars or Bija Bhars that are marked vegan and be sure to pay close attention to sugar and carbohydrate levels as well.
- Sports drinks
Vitamin water, Gatorade, and Powerade claim to be great ways to rehydrate and refill electrolytes lost while working up a sweat. Many parents add them to lunch boxes or kids’ gym bags, thinking they are doing the right thing. The truth is, they contain as much sugar as a typical can of soda, and they are just as bad for kids and adults.
Better alternatives: Water is the best way to rehydrate when you or your kids have worked out. If you want the Gatorade of the 21st-century, look no further than a tall glass of alkaline water with a serving of Alkamind Daily Greens before a work out and Alkamind Daily Minerals after a workout.
Lunch Box Photo Contest!
Snap a picture of your kid’s alkaline lunch box and post it to Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #alkalinekids AND #getoffyouracid for your chance to win our latest Fall Alkaline Recipe Ebook with 120+ nutritious recipes your family will love!
Enter as many times you want by September 20, 2016.