Thinking Outside the Lunch Box

It’s back to school time already! Do you know what your kids are eating for lunch?

Although giving your child money to purchase a meal from the cafeteria on a daily basis can seem like an easy out – less time consuming than having to pack a lunch and less pressure on you to pack a healthy meal that they will actually eat – you may be doing more damage on your kid’s health than on your wallet. Do both yourself and your kids a favor and learn how to pack a healthy lunch that they will enjoy.

A recent study found that high-calorie packaged foods and beverages are more common than fruits, vegetables, and dairy in a child’s packed lunch. Let’s work together to change that! Here are our suggestions on how to pack a healthy and hearty lunch for your kids that will be not just nutritious, but also delicious!

Create a Kid-Approved Menu

My-LunchboxEnlist the help of your children to come up with a list of healthy foods that they approve of. Separate items from the list into categories of food groups and then allow each child to pick items from each group to combine together into a meal. This encourages them to choose foods that they will eat while keeping within the guidelines. Make sure to update the list with new ideas so you can keep things fresh and switch it up.

Make it Easy for Them

Your child may have a very short lunch break so creating less work for them to eat their lunch is ideal. Be sure to peel, chop, spread, and slice in advance. Choose seedless varieties of grapes, watermelon and mandarins if possible. They will be more likely to eat the fruit in their lunch box if they don’t have to work to get to it.

Make it Safe

It is extremely important to wash your hands and make sure all food preparation areas are clean prior to handling food. It’s also good idea to teach your child to wash their hands before lunch at school as well. Refrigerate cold lunches until the kids are ready to walk out the door and then include an ice pack. If packing a reusable lunch box, make sure to wash it out at least once a week.

FOODS TO INCLUDE

Fruits and vegetables

kidlunchboxfruit

A lunch box packed full with fresh fruit, veggies and protein is a healthy meal for any kid.

Fresh fruit is easy to pack (select fruit that is a suitable size for a child to easily hold in their hand and eat). You can also pack fruit cups (make sure it is preserved in fruit juice, not syrup) or chopped fresh strawberries, pineapple, or melon. Fruit salad is the ideal lunch box solution; it’s colorful, easy to eat, and bursting with vitamins. Offer different seasonal fruits each day for a change in flavor, color, and texture.

Vegetables are just as important as fruit. Raw veggies such as carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, or celery are popular as a snack or in a sandwich. Include peanut butter or light ranch dressing as a dip. Make salads or sandwich fillings interesting by using a range of vegetables like grated carrots, snow peas sprouts, kale or baby spinach, sliced celery, tomatoes, avocado, and cucumber.

Lean protein

Kids need a serving of protein at lunchtime. Make certain you include lean meats like beef, chicken, tuna, or salmon. Besides lean meats, good protein sources include nuts, cheese, beans, egg, peanut butter, and chickpeas. Some easy-to-pack examples include cheese cubes, almond butter (like peanut butter, but made with almonds instead), trail mix, and hummus.

Reduced fat dairy

Use reduced fat dairy foods like reduced fat yogurt, reduced fat cheese or reduced fat milk (remember to pack with an ice pack). Include milk money or pack calcium-enriched orange juice, soymilk, or rice milk.

Bottle of water

Your child needs to keep hydrated all day. Avoid soda and other sweetened drinks. Water and 100% fruit juices are better choices.

Healthy choices

Look at food labels to help you choose the products that are lowest in saturated fat, total fat, sugar, and salt. Avoid high fat spreads and try a little avocado, low fat mayonnaise, mustard, or ricotta cheese instead.

Nutritious snacks

All you need for this "ants on a log" tasty snack is celery, peanut butter, and raisins.

All you need for this “ants on a log” tasty snack is celery, peanut butter, and raisins.

Try a small box or bag of dried fruit, rice cakes, unsalted and unsweetened popcorn, or “ants on a log.” Remember, treats like cookies and chips should only be included occasionally, not every day.

Here are some great lunch box recipes for kids!

 

What kinds of healthy food do you include in your child’s lunch box? Let us know in the comments below!

Originally from Massachusetts, Lora came out to coLORAdo for college and decided she had found her permanent home (who can blame her since her name is in the state name)! She loves the outdoors and exploring all it has to offer by way of her favorite activities which include snowboarding, ATVing, hiking, and camping. Recently married, Lora lives with her husband and 2 dogs and hopes to expand her happy little family in the near future.

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