For those of you who don’t know Jo Atkinson, she runs a blog and education site called Real Food Families and is an advocate for eating real food. She lives and breathes what she talks about so so I was honoured when she agreed to do a guest post for me here on Kidgredients. I asked her to tell us about her lunches and why her family eats real food. I think you’ll really enjoy this post, so here’s Jo:
We began our journey to good health through real food almost 6 years ago. After being overweight, on antidepressant and strong anti inflammatory medication and watching two of my sisters have weight loss surgery, I decided enough was enough, I had to change – not only for myself, but for the health of my three children!
We started by cutting out sugar, which cut out most processed foods, then I started to learn about additives and preservatives. This led me to study a Bachelor of Health Science in Nutrition, as I wanted to help other families to live well too.
Before we made these changes, a typical lunch box for my kids consisted of squeezie yoghurts, fruit roll ups, vegemite sandwiches and tiny teddies. Lots of little packets that were “treat” sized and many that were endorsed by the heart foundation as great snacks for kids lunch boxes.
I rarely made anything from scratch, and to be completely honest, I had no idea what these foods were doing to my kids bodies. I can say thought, that after school homework was a nightmare, followed by an all out war at dinner time….I just thought this was normal!
Once we started to make the changes, I sat down with my kids (the girls were almost 11 and my son was 4) and talked to them about the changed I planned to make and why. I enlisted their help to choose out a few recipes each week they’d like to try and asked them to at least try the different foods I was making.
I am pleased to say, that while we had some (ok, a lot…) disastrous attempts in the kitchen, as a family, we eventually found what worked out what worked for us.
So our lunch boxes went from highly processed, high sugar, lots of refined carbohydrate, packet foods – to no packets, nutrient dense, real foods!!
The change for us was amazing. I noticed the kids were better able to concentrate, both the girls reading level jumped up, my daughter’s non-allergic rhinitis cleared up, my son stopped having daily tantrums and homework time actually became a fun, family time!
Today, I teach nutrition and cooking workshops in schools around Perth. I also run workshops for parents who want to make changes to the way they feed their kids, but don’t know where to start, or are confused by all the “health” information out there on the internet and need some help wading through it all and making it work for their family.
My philosophy is simple – I don’t believe a child’s lunch box needs to be a party – full of panda shaped masterpieces and sweet baked goods. Simple, real, nutrient dense foods like cut up fruit and vegetables, good quality protein and some healthy fats with a bottle of water is all your child needs to get them through their school day.
Here’s what a typical lunch box looks like for my kids:
Eat Rite brown rice & seaweed crackers, cut strawberries, seedy chocolate slice, chicken bites with a salad of carrot, kale & cabbage, dressed in olive oil, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and mayonnaise.
The amount of food in the kids lunch boxes varies depending on what they’ve had for breakfast and how hungry they are feeling that day. Some days this won’t be enough, other days, too much. Whatever doesn’t get eating at school, becomes afternoon tea.
I recommend making small changes over time…focus on adding new foods in, rather than just taking things out and eventually, the real foods will overtake the processed foods. Aim for a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables, different proteins (ham, chicken, beef, lamb, fish, eggs) and different fats (avocado, cheese, nuts & seeds) each day and plenty of fresh water.
Here’s a recipe for Chicken bites from Jo that would be perfect for your lunches…it’s gluten and dairy free.
If you’d like to connect with Jo, you can follow her here: facebook, instagram, and on her website.