Healthy Back-to-School Lunch Ideas

I think we all agree that outstanding academic performance and behavior start with a nutritious diet.  But, what foods are most effective at helping children think, focus, manage their behavior and mood, and learn efficiently? Following are lunch ideas for foods that have improved focus and concentration for my clients ranging from children with autism to a recent valedictorian at North Carolina State University.

Lunch and The Gut Brain Connection

To understand how food choices can enhance focus and concentration, one must first understand the connection between microbes in the gut and the brain of both children and adults.  Our gut (digestive tract) is populated with an abundance of bacteria.  Some of that bacteria is beneficial and some is pathogenic.  This bacterial soup is called the gut flora.  Too many pathogenic bacteria in our gut impacts our brain.  For some of us the impact is mild.  We feel brain fog or forgetfulness.  For others, the pathogens have a significant impact on quality of life as in ADD, anxiety, speech delays, learning disabilities, autism, etc.

You can improve your children’s mental clarity and help them reach higher potential (even if they are already performing at high levels) by starving the pathogenic bacteria.  One of my clients, I’ll call him Jack, is a great example of what’s possible for even the most focused and high achieving students.  Jack, a recent valedictorian from NC State, came to me to learn about disease prevention and to lose a few pounds.  He had no complaints about his ability to focus.  However, when he adopted a way of eating that starves pathogenic bacteria, not only did he lose weight with ease, he was thrilled to gain greater focus, energy, and productivity.

What feeds the pathogenic bacteria?

The foods that feed pathogenic bacteria are all types of sweet and starchy carbohydrates except fruit.  The Standard American Diet is full of sweet and starchy foods.  It’s almost impossible to avoid sweet and starchy foods on the kids’ menu at most restaurants … mac and cheese, pizza, or breaded chicken with a soda and desert.  These foods are guaranteed to please a child’s palate – and they’re cheap.  Excess amounts of sweet and starchy foods is one reason so many American children (and adults) have ADD, anxiety, speech delays, learning disabilities, autism, etc.  These same foods cause weight gain – another epidemic in American children.

Another challenge with sweet and starchy foods is that they are inflammatory, and general inflammation can cause neurological inflammation – another cause of the “brain fog” issues that can prevent our children from reaching their full potential.


What foods should my child eat to enhance academic achievement?

The good news is that the foods that don’t feed the pathogens are also the foods that are most nutrient dense:  meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, and nuts.  Foods such as bread, pasta, and processed foods have minimal nutritional value.  The truth is that these foods have so few naturally occurring vitamins and minerals that they are “enriched” with man-made vitamins.

Here are some ideas for great school lunches that keep the pathogenic bacteria at bay:

Meats and Fish

o   Turkey* roll-ups either plain or with your child’s favorite vegetables

o   Chicken salad

o   Salmon salad

o   Chicken legs

o   Grilled chicken breast cut in cubes or fingers

o   Shrimp

o   Deviled eggs

o   Chicken or turkey sausage*

o   Hamburger patty

o   Thermos foods such as soups and chili

o   Left over meats from dinner, e.g. pork chops


* Be sure to choose nitrite and nitrate-free lunch meats.  Applegate Farms is a well-known brand.



Portable Vegetables

o   Carrot sticks

o   Cucumber slices

o   Broccoli

o   Red, yellow and green pepper sticks

o   Salad greens

o   Cherry tomatoes

o   Roasted vegetables

o   Sugar snap peas

o   Green beans

o   Cauliflower


*Include dips or dressing if desired.  Be sure to buy high-quality dressing with no sugar from the refrigerated section as it usually has no preservatives.



o   Berries of all types

o   Melon

o   Cherries

o   Banana

o   Peaches

o   Apples

o   Grapes

o   Pineapple

Nuts and Seeds

o   Peanuts

o   Almonds

o   Pecans

o   Walnuts

o   Hazelnuts

o   Cashews

o   Pistachios

o   Other nuts

o   Sunflower and other seeds


Nut butters*

o   Peanuts

o   Almonds

o   Sunflower


*Serve nut butter on celery, apples or even straight on the spoon.


Sweet Treats

o   Trail mix made with nuts, seeds and dried fruit

o   Lara bars

o   Yawp bars

o   That’s It Bars

If you’re not ready to eliminate all starchy foods, replace foods with wheat (gluten) with gluten-free varieties.  Modern wheat is inflammatory for all of us – not just those of us who have a gluten sensitivity.  See Dr. William Davis’ book, Wheat Belly, for more information on the health consequences of consuming modern wheat.

Watch out for dairy too.  The lactose feeds pathogenic bacteria.  Many people are lactose intolerant or have a sensitivity to dairy and may not know it.  Lactose intolerance and dairy sensitivities cause inflammation which then can lead to neurological inflammation which causes all the conditions discussed in this article.

Whether your child has attention, learning, speech, mood issues or not, he/she can benefit from a diet centered on meat, vegetables, fruits and nuts.  Give these foods a try, and you’ll be pleased to see your child reach higher levels of achievement.




Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride

Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis


Gut Bacteria Might Guide the Workings of Our Minds — NPR

Can the Bacteria in your Gut Send Messages to Your Brain? – NPR

Inflammation in Neurological and Psychological Diseases — National Institutes of Health

Why Modern Wheat is Considered Frankenwheat — Prevention Magazine

Safe Low-Toxin Sunscreen Lotions

Sun screen may prevent sun burn and possible skin cancer.  However, what impact does it have on other aspects of our health?  In this post, I will explain why choosing a low-toxin suntan lotion matters, resources for finding the healthiest and most effective suntan lotion, and our family’s picks this year so you can have worry-free fun in the sun!

Why Low Toxin Sunscreen Matters

Humans are exposed to higher levels of toxins today than at any period of history.  We think of toxins causing cancer, which they do.  However, toxins also contribute to just about every chronic condition people experience today – even seemingly unrelated conditions such as obesity, autism, and depression.  We all carry a “toxic load” of one level or another.  So, we all need to seek ways to keep this load to a minimum because when our “toxic load” exceeds a certain level, we will experience disease.

According to the Environmental Working Group, sunscreen and other personal care products are produced with 10,500 unique chemical agents – some of which are carcinogens — toxic to the reproductive system (know anyone who has had trouble conceiving?), and known endocrine disruptors.  In the US, no health studies or pre-market testing are required for sunscreen and other personal care items/cosmetics.  By contrast, the European Union has banned hundreds of chemicals in cosmetics.

The Sunscreen Dilemma

Sun burns can cause cancer, yet most sunscreens contain carcinogenic substances!  In my opinion, the ideal solution to the sunscreen dilemma is to build a base tan so you no longer need suntan lotion.  Even the best sun tan lotions have some type of preservatives that are not ideal.  Plus, sun screen prevents us from absorbing the maximum levels of vitamin D which is an incredibly important factor in our health and longevity.  My son has a very high toxic load, so I like to avoid even the best skin care products when possible.  Fortunately, he has a dark complexion.  I experimented this summer with letting him play in the sun for increasingly long periods of time without sun screen.  I was thrilled to find that his dark skin is capable of tanning without burning.

However, many of us, including myself, will burn in the early summer without sunscreen.  So, how do you find the ideal sunscreen for you and your family?

How to Find Low Toxin Sunscreens

Check out the impressive app created by the Environmental Working Group.  They give each sun care product a hazard score ranging from low hazard (0 – 2) to moderate hazard (3-6) to high hazard (7 – 10).  The score also takes into account effectiveness and other factors.  Their phone app even allows you to scan in the bar code of a product while in the store to determine the product’s hazard rating.  Check it out at or search the App Store for “Skin Deep”.

Our Family’s Picks

My husband is an analytical-type and loves to study and analyze products.  So, thanks to him researching our options, we have found products for our family that strike a balance between safety and cost effectiveness.

In his research, my husband quickly learned that stores like drug stores did not carry the low hazard products, so he spent a good hour studying the various sun screens at Whole Foods.  Ultimately, he found the sunscreens that were in the “low hazard” category then picked the ones on sale.  Here’s what we’re trying on this year’s trip to the beach:

    • Kiss My Face Obsessively Natural Kids Defense —  (It’s in a blue bottle – see front page of Kiss My Face website)
      • EWG Score – 2
      • More lotion-like consistency – easier to rub on
      • Dried a little white on skin
      • Unscented


Enjoy Your Summer!

Enjoying your time in the sun doesn’t have to be a toxic experience.  Exposure to the sun is healthy and fun so give your skin ample opportunities to take in the sun’s vitamin D rays without burning.  If you do need sunscreen, use the Environmental Working Group’s free app to find low hazard sunscreens to protect you from burning and allow you to have lots of FUN IN THE SUN!


Great Health Documentary & A New Health Food Restaurant in Raleigh

While eating breakfast at Whole Foods yesterday morning, I sat across from a guy who seemed to know everyone who walked by.  Everyone asked him about “Friday morning.”  Curious, I asked him, “What’s happening on Friday?”  It turns out, his name is Matt Whitley, and he and a friend are opening a new juice bar and health food restaurant, happy+hale, on the plaza at the end of Fayetteville Street.  There will be a grand opening early Friday morning at happy+hale that sounds like it’s going to be a blast!

Starting at 6:30 am they’re offering a Sunrise Yoga class.  Then at 7:15 am the party begins.  They’ll have a DJ and dance party, free massage therapy, samples of their fresh pressed juice, smoothies, kombucha, and more.  Plus, there will be an opportunity to meet one of the hyper-local farmers who will be supplying food to the restaurant.

I had a great conversation with Matt, and he is a true believer in the healing power of food.  In our conversation, he turned me on to a new documentary that is out, FED UP.  Here is the trailer:  It’s still in the theater.

I watched the trailer, and I’m thrilled to see some of the most effective health proponents out there are featured — Dr. Mark Hyman, Gary Taubes, and Dr. Robert Lustig to name a few.  Here is a description from the FED UP website:

“Everything we’ve been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years is dead wrong. FED UP is the film the food industry doesn’t want you to see. From Katie Couric, Laurie David (Oscar winning producer of AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH) and director Stephanie Soechtig, FED UP will change the way you eat forever. The film opens in theaters across the country on May 9th.”

Before I started on my journey to health, I believed that my discipline and my genes were the cause of my weight and health challenges.  However, I learned that it’s specific foods that cause health/weight problems.  I realized that I was a victim of misinformation and not a gluton or a sloth.  This documentary clearly points out that the media has pushed the message on us,  “It’s your fault you’re fat.”   In fact, it is inaccurate advice that is causing our health problems.  This documentary sets the record straight.

FED UP has the information you need from well-respected experts that will allow you to protect your and your family’s health.  Watch it with the people you love.  It will arm you and your loved ones with the knowledge you need to maintain or transform your health.

I hope to see those of you who live in Raleigh at the happy+hale grand opening on Friday morning!

Let me know your thoughts about FED UP when you watch it.