My latest project over at the MOMables blog was to do a healthy re-make of a popular pre-boxed lunch.
The chicken is cringe-worthy but I'd let my kids eat it if I were desperate, despite the added nitrates, caramel color (most often created by burning sugar with an ammonia compound that makes it carcinogenic. Yum,) and carrageenan, a thickening agent derived from seaweed that also happens to be an inflammatory agent - they use it to cause inflammation in test subjects when doing studies for anti-inflammatories. Just what our already sensitive GI tracts need!
Were we not all gluten-intolerant, I'd let my kids eat the tortillas, even though they have about 52 more ingredients than necessary - you can make them with just flour, oil, and water! And they are ah-mazing!
The sandwich cookies (Oreos) have gluten, so they'd be a no-go anyway, but the artificial vanilla flavoring (vanillin) is one of the fake ingredients my oldest one reacts to. Pass. The Kool-Aid packet not only has fake colors (not a shocker,) but also fake sugar and preservative. And the cheese crackers (Cheez-Its) have the petroleum-derived preservative TBHQ, which banned them from our house long before we went gluten-free.
So were I to buy this lunch and send it out of sheer desperation, I would have to throw away everything but the chicken, salsa (which she wouldn't touch,) "pasteurized prepared cheese product" (so processed that they can't legally call it "cheese,") and water.
So packing your own Chicken Soft Taco Lunch(able), with leftover chicken or turkey from dinner (preservative free!) actual cheese shreds, fresh salsa, and healthier versions of the treats is not only doable, but so much healthier and more visually appealing! Plus they can feel "just like the other kids" despite an allergy or food intolerance!
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The "Boxed" Version
|Water, dye-free powdered drink packet, GF sandwich cookies, Annie's Cheddar Bunnies (not GF,)|
GF mini corn tortillas, shredded cheese blend, salsa, leftover chicken, torn into bits, organic strawberries
At the time, we were allowing Z to have a little gluten per day, and increasing it over time to see if she was actually intolerant or not.* Otherwise, instead of Annie's Bunnies, I would have used Van's gluten-free "Say Cheese" crackers - closest thing I've found that tastes like Cheez-Its or Goldfish crackers. The gluten-free sandwich cookies are Kinnikinnick brand. And while a wee bit chalky, close enough to the original, and hard to put down once you've started nomming on them!
And the drink packet is Trader Joe's, but it is designed for a 16-ounce bottled water. Other dye-free brands include Flavrz and TrueLemon, and Crystal Light makes a line... "Pure," I think it's called. All for 16-oz water. I usually use a packet of Emergen-C Kidz though, since it's for 4-6 ounces, and makes it a little fizzy. She loves it! Plus it's full of vitamins! These are great to keep in my purse to take anywhere - instead of soda at a movie or restaurant or Disney on Ice, I buy their bottled water and add a packet. No fake colors, no high-fructose corn syrup, no mystery "natural flavors" - or fake ones, and one very happy kiddo!
For the chicken, I bought a pre-cooked rotisserie thing from the grocery - the one with the fewest ingredients. Then had Hubby tear it apart. (I had a hard enough time even touching it after, to arrange it nicely in the cups.) He wanted to know if I wanted big chunks or little, or shreds. I didn't know, so he did a little of each, brought them in to show me, and the kids both glommed onto these little chunks. Little chunks it is!
*While it turns out she doesn't seem to be intolerant tummy-wise like her little sister and I are, it looks like gluten affects her behavior. I used to have a little 5-year-old teenage drama queen, with the little piggy squeal and the door-slamming and the "This is the worst day EVER!" and "I wish you weren't my sister anymore!" (She doesn't pull the "I wish you weren't my mommy" crap because I tell her I love her enough to find her a better mommy because I want her to love a happy and productive life. Then I start making suggestions, or offer to go shopping for a new mommy at the mall. She changed her tune pretty quick!)
I hadn't really noticed when that went away, but boy howdy, was it obvious when it came back! It took me almost two weeks to make the connection though. Two joyous and delightful weeks with my darling little treasure, with me frantically trying to figure out where she had gotten dyed food, because the behaviors are so very similar!
The "Grown-Up" Version
|GF corn tortillas, The Good Bean Smoky Chili and Lime roasted chickpeas, |
shredded cheese blend, salsa, organic strawberries, leftover chicken
I doubled up on the chicken and tortillas (but apparently not enough salsa and cheese!) and swapped out the kiddie treats for something manlier. Plus I'm not a spicy-fan, and The Good Bean had kindly sent me an assortment of their roasted chickpea snacks to try, and I needed to use up the Smoky Chili and Lime! (I did try it though. It's good, if you like that kind of thing. I prefer the Sweet Cinnamon! Nom!)
Somehow, those cookies didn't go to waste. What? Chocolate crumbs on my shirt? You must be mistaken...
Tools of the Trade