Back to School- Tools for Healthy Lunches

If you have kids in almost any Northwest Arkansas school, their first day of school was yesterday. For me, this means planning lots of lunches. My kids have been taking lunch to school for years and I’ve learned lots during this time. Learn from my mistakes. Save yourself. Please.

Stainless Steel, Fancy Schmancy Bento Boxes, etc.- While I love all of these things and have purchased them, I found my kids tended to lose too many things. That adds up. Quickly. Especially when your child loses a $20 stainless steel container in the first week of school and then loses a lunchbox maybe a week after that and then a water bottle and then… you get the idea. 🙂

I realized I needed a more cost effective way to send the kids real food lunches that was mostly waste free and non-toxic.

Glass containers- My first idea was glass containers. I take my lunch in glass containers, it’s cost effective, unless your kid drops things like mine do….and then I realized, maybe this isn’t a great idea. Most schools don’t allow glass containers anyways and honestly, it’s a pretty good rule. Most kids can’t be trusted with glass. Especially teenagers. Their brains are still developing and they don’t always make good decisions. My 14 year old son likes to do this thing called ‘ water bottle flipping ‘ and I could see him doing this with a glass bottle, dropping the bottle instead of catching it and well yeah… you see where this is going.

Ziploc/ Gladware-  I use either ziploc or gladware disposable plastic containers for items that are cold or room temperature. This has worked great. If they get lost or broken (seems impossible but it happens) it isn’t a huge loss. They also have a pretty wide variety of sizes and they have some that are sectioned like bento boxes. Check Amazon for those, they aren’t as easy to find in stores.

Here’s a pic of most of the usual containers that get used in lunch boxes in our house. We use the stainless steel thermos for hot items, usually dinner leftovers from the night before.  I found the thermos pictured at Walmart recently and it was less than $10 and also a pretty good size for teenage appetites. The little bitty round containers are for sauces or dressing for salad. Beverages are either water in their reusable water bottles or sometimes a can of La Croix.

Now that you have an idea of which containers to use, head over to Nom Nom Paleo. She has some great posts with recipes and ideas for paleo/real food style lunches.

How Happiness Affects the Immune System

Did you know that your mood can affect the way your immune system functions? As you know, our immune system helps to keep us healthy. It fights off various invaders and keeps us from getting sick. Pretty great, but what happens to your immune system when you’re under a lot of stress? Or suffering from depression?

Studies during the 1980s and early 1990s revealed that the brain is directly wired to the immune system — portions of the nervous system connect with immune-related organs such as the thymus and bone marrow, and immune cells have receptors for neurotransmitters, suggesting that there is crosstalk. It’s even been scientifically shown that happiness can alter your genes!  A team of researchers at UCLA showed that people with a deep sense of happiness and well-being had lower levels of inflammatory gene expression and stronger antiviral and antibody responses. This falls into the realm of epigenetics—changing the way your genes function by turning them off and on.

Negative mental states, like loneliness and stress guide immune responses by driving broad programs of gene expression, shaping our ability to fight disease. Negative emotional states have also been linked to higher levels of inflammation in the body. We now know that higher levels of inflammation have been linked to heart disease, cancer, chronic pain, and Alzheimer’s to name a few.

What can you do?

  1. Practice Gratitude- Keep a gratitude journal and jot down a few things everyday that you are grateful for. It can be as simple or as complex as you like. Gratitude is linked to happiness. By being thankful for what you already have, it allows you to appreciate it and turn around negative thought patterns.
  2. Meditation- It relaxes the mind and body and lowers level of stress.
  3. Exercise outside- Studies have shown that a 30 minute walk outside in the sunshine is as effective as antidepressants.
  4. Spend time outside in nature- Studies have shown that wali
  5. Massage- lowers stress responses in the body and can also act as a boost to immune function.
  6. Heal relationships- Examine your relationships. Negative friendships? Work on healing and improving.
  7. Self-improvement- Do you have areas in your life that you aren’t satisfied with? Unfulfilled dreams? Career goals? What can you do to put yourself in a situation that brings you fulfillment?