Welcome back to school! I know that I for one, am happy when September rolls around. We made it through heat waves, earthquakes, hurricanes and even a tornado warning here in Philadelphia, but now the golden days of fall are upon us and it is time to get back into the daily routine, which for many of you includes packing your child’s lunch. Dum, Dum, Duuuummmm.
Never fear, my trusty intern is here with some healthy tips for sending your child off with a box full of nutrition.
Tips and Ideas for a Healthy Lunchbox by Kelly Sipala
It’s the end of the summer and school is starting. For parent’s, one of the biggest things on your mind when it comes to school can be what to pack in your child’s lunchbox. It is important to start thinking about what types of healthy lunches to pack, preparation and planning are key! Sometimes it can be a challenge to satisfy your child and keep them from getting bored. So, having a wide range of foods is important, this way you can rotate items to keep boredom at bay! A typical peanut butter and jelly sandwich can only be used so many times before the child gets sick of it. Trust me!
So what should be in the lunchbox? Well in order to have a balanced and healthy lunch there needs to be at least four food groups. The most critical food groups for children are whole grains, fruits, lean meats, and of course, dairy. Having a healthy lunchbox and providing the essential nutrients gives a child energy to learn and play. Many studies have shown that children who eat balanced meals during the school day perform better academically and are more fuocused.
Here are some quick and easy healthy lunch ideas!
- Whole wheat bread or tortillas with lean meats
- Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread
- Low fat yogurt, cottage cheese
- Whole wheat crackers with low fat cheese
- Apple sauce
- Quesadilla pieces with cheese and chicken
- Air popped popcorn
Did you know that having a child help make their lunch the night before can result in a more satisfied, less bored child? If you want to get fancy with sandwiches, cut them into shapes with a cookie cutter or have a bagel with cream cheese and use raisins to make a face on it. Instead of the typical sandwich bread, try pitas, tortillas, English muffins, and bagels. When packing vegetables include a dip because children like more flavor on foods they think are bland. For beverages, stick with the basic 100% juices, milk, or water; avoid sodas and other sugary drinks. Don’t forget an ice pack to keep everything cool, no child wants a slimy sandwich.
Besides packing lunch, snacks in between meals are important to give a boost of energy. Some great snack ideas are ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables, hummus, cottage cheese, yogurt, trail mix, whole grain cereal, whole wheat pretzels, applesauce, raisins. Snacks should not be too high in sugar or calories and ideally would include some amount of protein. If you child adores chips, offer popcorn in its place, since popcorn is a whole grain.
Overall, packing a healthy lunch for your child does take time but it is time well spent. There are many effects from poor eating habits that parents need to be aware of like obesity, under-nutrition, and iron deficiency. Don’t think of lunch packing as a task, but as an adventure or a challenge. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel either, there are many great sites that can give lots of lunch box ideas. Packing lunches the night before can be a fun way to spend time as a family and having your child be involved is a great way to teach about nutrition. Parents can also review MyPlate.org with their child before making lunch so they have a better understanding and can put what they learned into action!