What to Pack for Lunch

December 26, 2011

in Breakfasts,Guest Post,Recipes,Snacks

Laura Wendling is an freelance blogger and food photographer who contributes articles to Robb Wolf and Dr. J. Renae Norton. She graciously offered to write a guest post for Three Squares about what she feeds her two gluten-free kids for lunch. Take it away, Laura!

Popped Amaranth

My kids, like many, love cereal. I am convinced that they would eat cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner if they had the opportunity. The internet is full of information that questions how healthy store-bought cereals really are. The Cornucopia Institute recently found pesticides and genetically modified ingredients in “natural” breakfast cereals. The Weston A. Price Foundation also warns against how unhealthy processed cereals can be.

So what is a parent to do when their child insists on taking cereal for lunch at least once a week? The solution is simple: popped amaranth!

Amaranth is a gluten-free grain that offers a ton of nutritional benefits. Here’s the low-down:

  • Amaranth has more protein, magnesium, iron and fiber per serving than any other gluten-free grain.
  • Amaranth contains a good amount of calcium (second-highest amount when it comes to gluten-free grains).
  • Amaranth is a good source of polyunsaturated fats.
  • Amaranth contains almost as much vitamin E as olive oil.
  • The amino acid content of amaranth is another health benefit, especially lysine, cysteine and methionine.
  • Amaranth is a complex carbohydrate with a high protein content. A “near complete” protein, amaranth slows down absorption of glucose.
  • Amaranth is one of the best sources of plant protein available.
  • Amaranth contains an impressive amount of linoleic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid).
  • Studies show that this gluten-free food could help prevent and relieve hypertension and heart disease, boost our immune system, prevent osteoporosis, improve brain function and prevent anemia.

What about the kids? How would they describe the benefits of popped amaranth? Well, it’s super fun to watch me pop it on the stovetop, like popcorn (they call it their “popcorn cereal”). And they get to customize their own lunch with a variety of toppings. The possibilities are endless.

Some of our favorites are: cinnamon, freeze-dried fruit, almonds or whatever nuts we have on hand, pepitas, coconut, dried fruit, cacao nibs (not all at once, of course. Although, I do remember a time when I once left the room and came back to catch my toddler adding a little of this, a little of that, a lot of this, a lot of that!).

When we eat this at home, we sometimes add almond butter, fresh fruit, preserves, maple syrup or honey (again, not all at once. Although, there was this one time….). These toppings are difficult to pack, and we can’t mix them in at home, because the cereal will get soggy. Nothing turns a smile upside down faster than a soggy bowl of popcorn cereal.

Popping amaranth is easy, as long as you’re careful not to turn your burner up too high.

1. Heat a covered skillet over medium-high heat.
2. Add 1 tablespoons of amaranth and cover with a clear glass lid or screen to prevent it from popping all over the kitchen.
3. Repeat with additional amaranth, popping 1 tablespoon at a time. Each batch will yield about a cup of cooked amaranth.

Once popped, we store our popped amaranth in an airtight container. It stays fresh for at least a week, but really it has never lasted that long in our household.

Every Saturday morning we gather to talk about the weekend’s upcoming adventures over a “create your own” amaranth breakfast. It’s a fun meal that allows everyone in the family to be involved, while giving us the energy we need for the day. Our Saturday morning breakfast is something we all look forward to and creates memories we will remember forever.

Laura Wendling’s dream is to work full-time for individuals in the health community as a contributing writer, social media consultant and assistant. A wife and mother of two, she has successfully converted her family from the typical diet of highly processed convenience foods to a clean-eating, Paleo lifestyle. Follow her on twitter at twitter.com/lwphotographics and keep up on articles she contributes to at www.eatingdisorderpro.com/blog and twitter.com/drrenae.

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