Despite federal guidelines to make lunches served in school cafeterias healthier, not all kids like the choices they’re given. Some students would rather bring their lunch to school. Parents have plenty of options to pack something that is both delicious and nutritious everyday.
It’s a great idea to get your child in on the menu planning process. But that doesn’t mean Twinkies, Doritos and soda should fill the lunchbox. Providing options with healthy choices and a “treat” each day should result in a satisfied student. Make a complete meal by adding something from each of these categories.
Whole grains: bread, pita pocket or pasta
Lean proteins: turkey or chicken breast, beans, hard boiled eggs and nuts (be aware of peanut allergies at school)
Low fat dairy: skim milk, string cheese or yogurt (read the label for sugar levels)
Fruits & vegetables: apples, grapes, carrot sticks and celery are all popular options.
Make lunch fun. If you don’t think your child will eat healthy, disguise the nutritious parts of the meal with fun shapes. Use a cookie cutter on bread, meat and cheese. Melon ballers can be used to give fruits a new look too. Replace processed snacks with healthier options. Celery with cream cheese or peanut butter topped with raisins can create the image of eating “ants on a log.” You can make your own fruit leather too by following these simple instructions. Mirror the eating habits you want to see in your children by eating healthy too.
Remind your kids to stay hydrated all day, not just at lunch. Start the morning off with a glass of ice water to help boost the metabolism. Pack a bottle of water in their lunchbox or send them to school with a refillable bottle. Recommendations vary on age about how much water kids should be drinking. The best rule of thumb from urologists is your urine should be pale yellow or clear.
Now that you know what to pack in the lunch box each day, make sure you’re keeping cold foods cold throughout the morning hours prior to lunch. There are freezable lunch bags now on the market that live up to the expectations. Or freeze the bottle of water the night before and wrap it in foil so as it starts melting it won’t sweat all over the food in the bag or box. By the time lunch rolls around the ice has melted enough to drink the water.
Bon appetit and enjoy the school year.
Check out lunch packing and healthy breakfast ideas on our Pinterest Board.