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It's easy to get stuck in a lunch rut, especially if you're a parent who packs school lunches for your kids five days a week. (There are only so many healthy, creative ideas that they won't complain about, right?!)
Well, we're giving you a couple of new lunches to add to your roster that not only taste good, but also offer health benefits — with the help of dietitian and founder of lifestyle and media company, Nutritious Life, Keri Glassman!
FOR BRAIN POWER: Pasta & Broccoli Salad + Pumpkin Seeds + Dark Chocolate-Covered Almonds
Rach calls this pasta salad "bow ties and trees" — and it's so simple to whip up.
PASTA & BROCCOLI SALAD RECIPE
Cook 1 cup whole wheat pasta (any fun shape your children like) according to package directions and place in a medium bowl. Steam 1 head broccoli cut into florets and add to pasta. Mix 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons each olive oil and lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon each chopped fresh rosemary and sage, and season with salt and pepper. Toss with pasta and broccoli and, if desired, sprinkle with 8 ounces feta cheese. Serve hot or chilled.
WHY IT'S GOOD FOR YOU
"People don't realize how healthy [broccoli] is for brain power," Keri says. "Vitamin K is really important for cognition. Then it also has choline, which is important for memory and concentration."
"Studies have shown that just the smell of rosemary has actually improved people's accuracy and speed when taking a cognition test."
To add some crunch to your kid's lunch, pair the pasta salad with spiced pumpkin seeds instead of chips, Keri recommends.
SPICED PUMPKIN SEEDS RECIPE
Boil 2 cups raw pumpkin seeds in salted water for 10 minutes, then strain and dry with paper towels. Toss with a combination of 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 to 3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, and 1 teaspoon each garlic powder, onion powder and sea salt. Bake in a 425˚F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.
WHY IT'S GOOD FOR YOU
"They've got some omega-3s," Keri explains. "Those essential fatty acids are so important for overall brain health." Plus, zinc, which is also important for brain health, Keri says, is also hiding in pumpkin seeds.
Then, instead of processed cookies or candy, dark chocolate-covered almonds are the perfect sweet snack.
"Cacao in high-quality dark chocolate is actually really good for concentration and memory," the dietitian explains, "but also mood."
FOR GUT HEALTH: Herbed Chicken Sandwich + Pickles + Fruit
"Probiotics, as many people know, are those healthy bacteria that are important for overall health," Keri says.
"And if don't have that right balance of good bacteria to bad bacteria in your gut," she continues, "you can have all kinds of digestive issues."
So, what's the star of the menu? A healthy, upgraded chicken sandwich!
HERBED CHICKEN SANDWICH RECIPE
Combine ⅓ cup Greek yogurt, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, ¾ teaspoon chopped fresh parsley, ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, and ¼ teaspoon dried oregano in a bowl and season with salt and pepper; set aside 2 tablespoons and reserve. Add 4 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast to the bowl and refrigerate 15 minutes. Coat a nonstick grill pan with cooking spray and heat over medium-high. Cook chicken about 6 minutes per side, until cooked through. Spread 1 tablespoon reserved yogurt-herb mixture on 1 slice sourdough bread and top with chicken. Spread remaining 1 tablespoon over chicken and top with lettuce, cucumber and red onion slices, and another slice bread.
WHY IT'S GOOD FOR YOU
"Greek yogurt has probiotic benefits," Keri explains. "It's got those good bacteria in it."
If your kids don't like whole grain bread, swap white bread for sourdough bread instead, Keri recommends.
"[It's] a little higher in protein and a little lower in sugar," she explains. "[And] there's actually cultures in it when it's made, and even though it doesn't always survive the baking process, it does still have lactic acid, which helps absorb the nutrients."
Then, pair the sandwich with pickles and fresh fruit.
"Pickles are also a fermented food," Keri explains, "so you're getting some probiotic benefit there."
Plus, your kiddos will get antioxidants and fiber from the fresh fruit.
Now, the best probiotics to help support your kid's digestive health are the ones your kid will take, so if they're having trouble getting enough from food, a delicious gummy is a great option, Keri tells us.
"They survive stomach acid 100 times more than many other probiotic [supplements]," she explains. "So that good, healthy bacteria is going to get to the place in your gut where it's supposed to go, so it can help improve your overall health and digestive health."
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.