Naperville single mom Jules Prokop couldn’t figure out why her 10-year-old son Brayden was coming home from school everyday claiming to be starving. She did some investigating and figured out that he was not eating a nutritious lunch.
“I started to look at what he was eating and the time he had to eat, and realized I needed to make some changes,” Prokop says.
Since Brayden spent only 10 to 15 minutes eating lunch, the food she gave him needed to be both easy to eat and nutritious.
“Too many moms think that lunch has to be a sandwich, chips, a junk food snack and a drink,” Prokop says. “But there are many other better choices out there that are far more nutritious.”
After a few tries, Prokop came up with lunches that were more nutritious. She focused on feeding her two children reduced sugar, balanced diets for every meal and found that their behavior and school performance improved. The children also seemed to be less prone to illness.
Prokop says that making healthy changes isn’t difficult and suggests coming up with a new plan for lunches.
“I plan a protein, a fruit, a vegetable, a carb and a drink,” she says, “and think small bites.”
Instead of popping an entire chicken breast into the lunch, she cuts the meat into bite-sized pieces that her children can pick up and eat.
“Be creative when you can,” she adds.
Prokop puts short straws into strawberries to make strawberry pops or uses cookie cutters to cut items into shapes.
Instead of using brown paper lunch bags, Prokop has invested in sectioned BP-free plastic lunch containers that have a slot for freezer packs. The sturdy lunch containers keep food safe and the appearance appetizing. She has found that her children will eat many foods typically served hot at room temperature in a lunch. Macaroni and cheese, chicken legs or nitrate-free organic corndogs are two of the many leftovers that can be packed in a lunch.
Since her children love breakfast foods, Prokop sometimes packs breakfast for lunch. Whole-wheat waffles cut into shapes or strips of baked nitrate-free bacon are two of her children’s favorites.
Prokop also suggests rethinking the drink that goes into a lunch.
“Try reading what is in the drinks you give your kids,” she says. “If the first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup followed by a bunch of words you can’t pronounce, it isn’t the best choice.”
She likes to make lemonade to send in water bottles for her children’s lunchtime beverage.
Finally, Prokop notes there are many prepackaged options to make life easier for busy moms.
She has found blueberries nestled in throwaway plastic containers, apple slices sealed in little bags, pre-packaged low-sugar fruit and granola bars, and many other convenient lunchtime options.
Prokop, who is a professional life coach for Life Made Better Coaching and Events, says that making a change to healthier eating is worth the effort.
Her 5-year-old daughter Ava claims her favorite snack is “carrots and green beans with ranch dressing.”
Her brother Brayden is always happy to see strawberries and raspberries when he opens his lunch box.
“My big rule is that too much of one thing is not a good thing. Everything in moderation,” Prokop says.