Back to School Nutrition: Pack Those Lunches

Back to School: Pack Those Lunches

From enticing lunch ideas to health and safety tips, our naturopathic doctors have offered some advice for parents to help their kids make healthy food choices all year long.

In the flurry of back to school activities, parents should take a pause and consider how to fuel their child’s success at school. With a little forethought, it is easy to prepare healthy breakfast, lunch, and snack options.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez, AANMC Executive Director and mom of a picky eater, swears by “keeping healthy and portable snacks handy.” It’s easier to make better choices when you’ve done a little preparation ahead of time. She’s also is a proponent of getting kids involved in growing and preparing their food. “It helps get them excited about things they may not have tried otherwise.”

Daemon Jones, ND, says that children respond to a challenge, and she recommends making a fun game out of eating more fruits and vegetables.

She calls it the ‘rainbow challenge’ and says to ask your children to track how many different colors of the rainbow they eat. Put a sticker for each color on a chart on your refrigerator door. Then, reward your child with the most stickers with a prize.

Making healthy food enjoyable is easy with Dr. Dae’s approach. She advises, “pack lots of hand held foods that can be eaten or dipped in the lunch box.” Keep them separate for quick assembly by your child in the school lunchroom. Bento boxes come in many sizes and can make this task a bit easier and more sustainable on the environment by decreasing packaging waste.

Bento Box

Healthy Lunch Ideas:


  • Veggie strips with dip (hummus, egg salad, herbed yogurt)
  • Sliced apples with almond butter on the side
  • Hot or cold Soups in a small thermal container
  • Butter lettuce wraps with chicken or egg salad
  • Pita bread for stuffing with tomatoes and chickpea salad
  • Paleo wraps with lettuce and sliced ham or turkey

A pediatric naturopathic doctor also weighs in on healthy school lunches.

Dr. Kat Martin is a graduate of Bastyr University where she now serves as adjunct professor, teaching maternity, pediatrics and botanical medicine. Her Seattle based practice focuses on mother-child medicine. She offers these suggestions:
Start teaching healthy habits before your child is even going to school. “I suggest you begin when your children are 1-3 years of age. This is when kids are figuring out how to eat, what to eat. Teach them to eat the rainbow.”
“Always pack a protein, dairy, meat, nuts and seeds (check your school’s policy on nuts). Also, include fresh cut up veggies, one or two fruit options, apple sauce, cut up apples, peaches, pears. Smaller children do better with cut up fruit. Let kids choose what goes into their lunch, and they will be more likely to eat it. Include more food items than you think they are going to need. Kids self-regulate. Packed with an ice pack, the items that return home can be after-school snacks.”

Dr. Martin’s Safety Tips:


  • Don’t put hot foods in plastic. Use stainless steel than plastic containers.
  • If you are going to use pre-packaged foods, check food labels carefully to monitor the sugar content in order to avoid hidden or added sugars and preservatives.
Courtesy of Wendolonia

Lunch is important and so is building immunity through other means.

Dr. Martin advises parents to give age appropriate doses of Vitamin D3 and Vitamin C for a healthy immune system.

You can also give them a botanical boost with elderberry syrup. Dr. Martin says it is a good antiviral and can be used preventatively during cold and flu season. Ask your naturopathic physician for more details. Click here to find an ND near you in the US and Canada.

One last back to school tip offered by Dr. Martin is to “send your kids off to school with a reminder of the importance of handwashing prior to eating their lunch and remind them again to do so when they return home. Frequent handwashing is the best defense against getting sick.”

Dr. Yanez adds, “singing the alphabet while hand washing can make sure that they’re doing it long enough to count.”

Here’s to a healthy school year and creating good habits that will last a lifetime!

Learn More About Becoming a Naturopathic Doctor

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Food as Medicine

Want to learn how to find health and healing in your kitchen? Join the AANMC and Dr. Aaron Wong for a free informative webinar to learn how your food choices can nourish your mind, body, and spirit. Good nutrition is core to overall health and fundamental to the naturopathic approach to wellness and disease management.

*Webinar does not qualify for CE

Register Now!

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To view the archive of past webinar recordings, please click here.

About the Presenter

Aaron Wong, ND is a big proponent of food as medicine and growing your own food. He has been doing public talks on the importance of food and its impact on health from a mind, body, spirit perspective for many years. He is an avid gardener and an enthusiast of local plant medicine. After completing his degree in chemical and biological engineering at the University of British Columbia, Dr. Wong suffered a debilitating back injury that completely changed the course of his life. Through years of recovery and trying numerous conventional and alternative treatments, Dr. Wong found healing within mind, body and spirit medicine. Dr. Wong is a graduate of the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine (BINM) and has additional training in acupuncture, IV therapy and chelation. He is also a Registered Therapeutic Counselor. Dr. Wong is the clinical director at Butterfly Naturopathic in North Vancouver and is an experienced Clinic Faculty Supervisor at BINM supervising third and fourth-year clinicians.

Register Now!

*The information you submit in this registration will be used to inform you of updates to this event and will enroll you in the AANMC newsletter. The AANMC values your privacy. Please see how we protect your data in our privacy policy .

Do You Have the Mind of an ND?

Naturopathic medicine is gaining attention in the media as people seek out alternative routes to solving their health problems. But it is also getting more attention because of the opportunities that it provides people for career paths. Regulated naturopathic healthcare is attracting more and more potential students to the field because of the flexible schedules and opportunities to make a difference in the community that come with this area of medicine. Could naturopathic medicine be the right path for you? If you are considering this exciting area, here are a few things you need to know about what makes for a great naturopathic doctor.

Do you have the heart and mind of an ND?

Do you want to shape the future of healthcare?
Do you want to spend time getting to know your patients in order to treat their whole self?
Do you believe nutrition and exercise are important for a healthy lifestyle?
Do you recognize the importance of treating both the mind and body?
Do you recognize the role stress plays into a patient's healthcare?

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A Holistic Approach

One of the main tenets of an ND’s practice is taking a holistic approach to treating patients. NDs treat the whole person, looking at how different systems and ailments are interconnected. In addition, NDs are more likely to take a team approach to treatment, looking at a variety of causes for health problems with help from many specialties.

Nutrition and Exercise

An important feature of an ND’s work is the reliance on nutrition and exercise to promote a healthy lifestyle. Naturopathic doctors are often called upon to act as educators, teaching their patients how to take care of themselves by showing them what they should and should not eat and how they can best exercise.

Mind-Body Connection

NDs look to treat both the mind and the body. Many naturopathic medical clinics feature ways of treating not only physical ailments, but mental and spiritual problems as well. These can include treatments for PTSD at veteran’s clinics or domestic abuse centers as well as providing safe spaces for migrants and the LGBTQ community.

Stress Management

Naturopathic medicine takes a proactive approach to health care, noting the importance to prevent ailments before they occur. Recognition of the role of stress in illness and teaching patients lifelong skills in stress management is core to naturopathic treatment plans. Mind-body medicine approaches are tailored to the individual patient in order to mitigate tension before it impacts our health.

Natural Approaches and Herbal Medicine

If you are thinking about becoming a naturopathic physician, you will need to become knowledgeable in natural approaches to treatment. NDs make it a point to seek out the gentlest treatments for their patients, reserving more invasive methods as a means of last resort. Herbal medicine is a key tool in the naturopathic tool belt. NDs honor cultural botanical medicine practices with modern advances in botanical research.

We’ve talked about the various areas licensed naturopathic physicians need to know in order to be a great ND and there are a few common characteristics of successful naturopathic medical students :

• Strong academic background
• Excellent communicators
• Socially conscious
• Passionate for disease prevention
• Inquisitive and excited to find the root cause of illness
• Recognizes the power of a holistic approach to patient care

All of these characteristics will help lead you into a rewarding career in the exciting field of naturopathic medicine. Find out exactly what the path to a career in naturopathic medicine looks like for you by visiting

5 Tips for a Healthy Back

Did you know back pain can impact up to 80% of adults in their lifetime?1 The causes can vary from acute accidents to long-term wear and tear/arthritis,  unstable joints, weak muscles and stress. Back pain does not discriminate. It affects men and women equally, and is a leading cause of missed workdays and poor work productivity.

Naturopathic doctors help patients identify the root cause of pain, and formulate holistic and individualized approaches, resolving issues, naturally. They conduct a thorough history and examination, with possible referrals for diagnostic imaging or specialists. After identifying the cause, NDs will help you understand how to prevent and manage symptoms with things like diet, exercise, stress reduction and even sleep!

While NDs take a more gentle approach to pain management, and will typically begin with lifestyle, nutritional and herbal/natural supplement support, they recognize that some cases require pharmaceutical management and will prescribe or refer accordingly. NDs follow the Therapeutic Order, and pharmacological intervention or surgery is likely one of the last recommendations to be made – usually once all other methods have been exhausted.

Here are a few things to consider for optimal back health.

Be mindful of your body

Pay attention to how you feel. Things to think of:

– Your position at work or at a computer. Ergonomics matter. Take breaks every hour.
– Lift things correctly, and from the legs. Avoid lifting items that are too heavy for you.
– Pay attention to your posture. Ask yourself right now, are you slouching?
– Be aware of how you carry things like bags or wallets. Avoid a bag on one shoulder and a wallet in your back pocket.

Amazingly, the repetitive stress of bad posture, an overly heavy bag or misplaced wallet can take a toll over time on our physical health.

Wear good shoes

A healthy back can sometimes start in our feet! Your feet set the tone for posture the rest of the way up the skeleton. Make sure you have good arch support if you will be on your feet all day.


Did you know that some low back pain is actually related to tight leg, back and core muscle groups? If you are new to exercise, see a trainer or physical therapist to help you find the best stretches for you.


Drink plenty of water to keep your intervertebral disks hydrated and plump. A diet high in anti-inflammatory foods is also a great place to start.


While opinions vary on mattresses and pillows, making sure you maintain a comfortable posture while sleeping is important. Some people will find that side sleeping with knee to chest helps relieve tension on the spine.

Naturopathic physicians are uniquely trained to use a multitude of techniques and therapies to identify the root cause of pain, and formulate holistic and individualized approaches. Click here to find an ND near you in the US and Canada.

Learn More About Becoming a Naturopathic Doctor

Receive information from the accredited schools of your choice located across North America!

Four Tips for Stress Reduction: An Interview with Dr. Tyna Moore and Dr. JoAnn Yánez

It goes without saying that life in the 21st century is full of stress that our grandparents and even our parent’s generation didn’t have to deal with. We don’t want to stress you out even more, but let’s take a look at the numbers and you’ll see what we mean. In recent years:

• 77% of people report regularly experiencing physical symptoms caused by stress;
• 73% of people report regularly experiencing psychological symptoms caused by stress;
• Almost half of those surveyed (48%) feel their stress level has increased in the past five years; and
• 76% of people report that money and work were the leading causes of their stress.

While the forecast for stressful situations may seem bleak, it doesn’t have to be that way. Many people are now taking a cue from naturopathic doctors who have sought for years to determine what the underlining root causes are of poor health only to realize that many of these are inter-related. For instance, stress doesn’t just manifest itself as a feeling of anxiety or even depression; it can account for physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, stomach and digestive issues, tension, and even decreased libido as well as a general irritability and anger. All of these issues could be alleviated if the root cause—stress—were addressed. This issue also doesn’t just affect the stressed out employees of businesses—the businesses themselves are losing $300 billion annually in lost work and health care costs. So how do we fix this?

In a recent interview with Dr. Tyna Moore, Dr. JoAnn Yánez, executive director of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges, discussed how stress can adversely affect the best laid plans. While commercials may want you to feel like you must do it all, there are better ways of dealing with daily stresses. Here are a few tips Dr. Moore and Dr. Yánez shared:

Break things down.

One of the biggest feelings associated with stress is that you feel like you are overwhelmed and you can’t focus because you don’t know where to start. The solution to that is to break your main tasks and goals into smaller ones. Once you have broken it down, create a checklist. This serves a two-fold purpose: (1) you can physically see what it is you need to do, and how it fits into the larger plan and, (2) checking it off as you go gives you a feeling of accomplishment that helps motivate and not discourage you. As Dr. JoAnn Yánez says to her patients, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Work on nutrition.

A lot of people realize that their physical health impacts their stress level, which, in turn, only worsens their physical health. But many are also daunted by the idea of trying to fix their problem by eating healthier and exercising. So take a cue from the previous tip and focus on one area. Start with eating healthy. If you get your nutrition under control by eliminating refined foods full of processed chemicals, then you will see a turn around in your long-term energy level. This will then let you handle your stress levels better, but also help you towards the next step in fixing your overall health—exercise.

Get moving.

Yes, it is true that one of the best ways to overcome stress is to hit the gym and take out all of your aggressions and anxiety on a punching bag. But that’s a pretty tall order when stress has you so tired, all you feel like doing is going home and staring at the ceiling in a fit of anxiety and depression. But if you can get your energy level up with good nutrition, the next step is exercise. This releases endorphins that will absolutely help you handle your stress. Dr. Yánez also points out there is a secret way that many people don’t think about getting themselves active—get a pet. Those with animals tend to be more active because the pet gives them extra encouragement to either play around, throw a ball, or go for a walk. There is even something therapeutic about petting an animal and having it curl up with you that can help your stress.

Find your happiness.

There’s one area that is going to really go a long way towards addressing stressors. According to Dr. Yánez, “we’ve talked about stress and…nutrition and movement, but I think at the end of the day, it’s happiness.” Stress will literally melt away if you find what fills you up with that personal joy and fulfillment that makes your heart feel warm. Social support is a strong indicator of ability to manage stressful situations. You’ve probably heard about “going to your happy place.” Your place of happiness can be rolling around on your apartment floor playing with your dog or going for a walk in the neighborhood with your children. It can be calling up a loved one and talking about inconsequential matters or going out for a bite to eat with a long-time friend. If there is something that brings a smile to your face when you think about it, then that’s what you need to focus on in your life.

Stress does not have to be a life-ending or life-altering problem that keeps you awake at night with so much anxiety that you can’t enjoy the simple pleasures of the day. Instead, it is possible to conquer stress so you can live your life to the fullest and enjoy every single day as best you can. If you’d like to find a licensed naturopathic doctor to help with stress related health concerns, in the United States use this link from our friends at the Institute for Natural Medicine and for our Canadian friends, please use this link from The Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.