It is hard to believe summer is almost over. We had great weather in Minnesota this summer. My highlights include time spent on the lake, long walks, picnic lunches on the screened-in porch, and a more relaxed schedule. My children, Jack and Grace, spent their summer playing tennis and golf, getting ready for hockey tryouts, fishing, hanging with friends, and attending summer camp.
To be totally honest I am anxious about the start of school. Both Jack and Grace will be attending new schools, and our schedule becomes very busy. A sense of dread comes over me when I look at our September schedule. I wonder how are we going to fit in homework, hockey, tennis, choir and flag football along with all day school? Will there be anytime for family dinners or weekend lunches on the porch?
Every fall I go through a re-adjustment period. I miss my kids and I miss having lunch with them. I treasure our summer lunch time: 30 minutes of bonus Jack and Grace time. We do our best connecting when we share a meal. During lunch, just like family dinners, the kids are somewhat held captive by our kitchen table. We laugh, share our highs and lows of the day, and talk about current events in the world and in our lives.
This September my goal is to plan more family lunches on the weekend. I will let you know how it goes. I realize my goal is pretty lofty. Have I not just told you that our calendar is packed? Oh well! I might need to readjust this goal. My new goal is to plan at least one family lunch a month on the weekend.
My daughter, Grace, was diagnosed with Fructose Malabsorption 6 years ago when she was in preschool. Over the last six years I have had a lot of opportunities to practice making healthy, low fructose and kid friendly school lunches. For fun I just Googled how many days a year kids attend school. According to Google, the average is 180. Multiply that by 6 you get 1080. Times that by two (because my son, Jack, eats low fructose too) and that is 2160 lunches. Holy moly! I have had a lot of practice!
Grace and I took pictures of six of our favorite school lunches from last year. As you can see my kids do like sandwiches, but they also love leftovers, salads and "hodgepodge" lunches. What is a "hodgepodge" lunch? It's my fancy name for cleaning out the fridge and pantry, and making ordinary foods seem fun because it has a special name.
Disclaimer: I did my best to accurately calculate the amount of fructose in each lunch. However, I am not a food scientist.
My highest level of math was calculus. Which in all honesty was completely over my head. My parents paid a lot of money to my math tutor.
In addition, Grace and I have determined what foods work for us and what foods don't work for us.
Some of these foods may not work for you.
My six lunch suggestions are listed in clockwise order according to the above picture, and starting in the upper right hand corner.
Lunch # 1: Traditional Peanut Butter Sandwich, Turkey Roll-up and Sliced Cucumbers
Total Fructose: 4.23 grams
- We purchase our sandwich bread from Breadsmith Bakery. Breadsmith bakes all of their products from scratch and uses fresh, real, whole food ingredients.
- Yes, it is definitely ok to give your child white bread. Wheat bread tends to be higher in fructans and contain unsafe sugars like honey. I explored this topic on my blog: "It's Ok To Give Your Child White Bread".
- At your local grocery store look for peanut butter that is made without sugar and without any added man-made sweeteners. This will help lower your daily fructose load.
- I purchase deli turkey that does not contain any added sugars. We prefer Boar's Head Simplicity. Boar's Head Simplicity products do not contain any artificial ingredients and are minimally processed.
- Cucumbers are very low in fructose. 1/4 cup of cucumber slices contains only .225 grams of fructose.
Lunch #2: Leftover Burrito Bowl, Sliced Carrots, Double Take Verde Good Green Chile Salsa, and Shredded Mexican Cheese
Total Fructose: 1.67 grams
- If you have a dinner recipe your kids love, double it. I do this at least twice a week and then use the leftovers for lunch the next few days. Everyone is happy. My kids are happy because they get one of their favorite meals for lunch. And, I am happy because leftovers definitely cut down on school lunch prep time.
- My kids love Cilantro Lime Rice Bowls with Southwestern Chicken. It is a "go to" dinner at our house and makes great leftovers.
- I am currently obsessed with Double Take Verde Good Green Chile Salsa. Typically, I do not indulge in a lot of salsa because tomatoes have close to 4 grams of fructose/serving. What I love about this salsa verde is that it is made with tomatillos and tomatillos have only 1.3 grams of fructose/serving. Each day I balance my fructose loads like my own personal kitchen scale. Salsa verde makes this balancing act a lot easier and gives me room to eat additional fruits and vegetables.
Lunch #3: Caesar Salad
Total Fructose: < 1 gram
- I prefer to make Caesar salad from scratch. It is super easy and uses real ingredients.
- At our house we call Caesar salad, The Gateway Salad. Why is it the Gateway Salad? Caesar salad has a cult like following among Jack and Grace’s friends. You would think ranch dressing would be more idolized. After all, Caesar salad is made with anchovies. Gross! I love Caesar salad, but would never eat an anchovy and highly doubt my kids would either. I think the Caesar loves comes from the Romano cheese. It gives it that tangy, nutty sweetness. Once I discovered the magic of the Caesar salad I started taking advantage of it. I would micro-chope cucumbers and radishes into tiny matchsticks, and dice broccoli into minute pieces and hide it among the creamy Caesar dressing. Fork by fork Jack and Grace would eat all of the hidden vegetables. It undoubtedly is magic!
- I prefer to purchase croutons at our local bakery, Breadsmith. They are minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients.
- In this lunch I added 1/4 cup of fresh pineapple which only has .88 grams of fructose. It is all about daily balance. Yes, you can eat pineapple, but limit your amounts.
Lunch #4: "Hodgepodge" Lunch: Leftover Grilled Chicken, Clementine, 365 Pita Chips, Hummus, Frozen Broccoli and Peas
Total Fructose: 3.36 grams
- We purchase Whole Foods 365 Pita Chips. They have only 1 gram of added sugars and it is real sugar, not man-made sugar. They are the cleanest pita chips we can find.
- Hummus is very low in fructose. For those of you who are using the FODMAP elimination program hummus would be one of your test foods.
- I included in this "hodgepodge" lunch leftover grilled chicken and frozen broccoli and peas. By the time your child eats his or her lunch the frozen vegetables will thaw.
Lunch #5: Leftover Homemade Cream Cheese Puffs, Sliced Cucumbers, Clementine, Applegate Farms Turkey Pepperoni, Glutino Pretzels
Total Fructose: 2.68 grams
- I like Organic Valley Cream Cheese because it doesn't contain added sugars.
- Applegate Farms Turkey Pepperoni contains less than 2% of added sugars and is gluten free.
- Glutino pretzels only have .5 grams of fructose per serving of 24 pretzels.
Lunch #6: Wholly Guacamole, Organic Valley String Cheese, 1/4 cup Blackberries, 3 Mini Bell Peppers, 1/2 Turkey Sandwich on Breadsmith Bread
Total Fructose: 4.06 grams
- Sucrose, or table sugar, has equal amounts of fructose and glucose. For example, one piece of Breadsmith white bread has 3 grams of sugar. Therefore, it contains 1.5 grams of fructose and 1.5 grams of glucose. Glucose is like a spaceship that helps transport fructose throughout our body. For more information on the Glucose Spaceship refer to my article on Sugar Digestion.
- Wholly Guacamole has 0 grams of added sugars.
Everyone with Fructose Malabsorption tolerates different levels of fructose. It is best to make a list of what feels good and what doesn’t and remember it is all about the daily balance. For example, a 1/4 cup of pear slices can be ok if during that same day you focus on eating all other foods that are low in fructose and eat foods that are high in glucose. Everyday my goal is to have my personal fructose and glucose science scale heavier on the glucose side or in balance. I limit my daily fructose load to less than 15grams, and eat safe fruits and vegetables each day. I still choose to eat fruits and vegetables with higher levels of fructose occasionally. For me and my daughter it's not about elimination, it's about balance.
My Favorite Leftover Lunches:
I, too, like to eat leftovers for lunch. Leftovers prevent me from spending money at the many over priced salad restaurants in town. But wait, I do sneak away occasionally and indulge in the most delicious, lick the bowl $12.00 salad. We all have to treat ourselves once in a while. After all, I have packed over 2000 lunches in my life.
Here are my favorite leftover lunches (in clockwise order starting in the upper left corner):