Lunch is easily one of the most important meals your child will eat each day. Research has continually shown that the right meal spells kids performing better in school and remaining alert throughout the day. If you’re not there to monitor what she eats, though, how will you know if she’s getting the right foods? Packing a healthier school lunch is a good start. These ideas can help.
- Think about the drink. Many parents include fruit drinks and sodas in a kid’s lunch because they simply don’t think twice about what to add in there. If you go with low fat milk or water, you’re going to make sure she’s getting exactly what she needs without the added calories.
- Stay versatile. No one ever said that your child’s lunch had to include the standard fare. It’s actually optional whether or not you put a cookie in your child’s lunch box each day. Get creative. Take the leftover chicken and throw some veggies and cold noodles in for a quick stir fry style dish. Grab a whole wheat tortilla and add in some deli turkey and your child’s favorite cheese for a healthy sandwich alternative. Get creative, and your child is less likely to get bored and more likely to eat the healthy stuff you’re packing.
- Go with wheat. If you tend to pack sandwiches day after day, make sure you’re using a higher fiber wheat bread. White bread offers more calories and less fiber, which could leave your child feeling far hungrier after lunch than she might have been if she’d eaten the same sandwich on wheat bread.
- Go for fresh. Adding fresh fruit and vegetables to your child’s lunch is a great way to keep things on the healthier side. Adding sliced apples, carrots, or even something as creative as zucchini is a wonderful way to make sure your child is getting all of the fruit and vegetable servings she should while increasing fiber intake and lowering the amount of sugar she consumes. It’s a far better idea than adding fruit snacks, chips, or a fruit roll up, and your child will love the fresh taste you’ve added.
- Consider finger foods. Kids love finger foods, and many of them love dipping options as well. There are lots of ways to make easy finger foods at home, too. Chopping up some vegetables is a good choice. Dried fruit is another good one to include. For your child’s main dish, consider a veggie skewer with last night’s leftovers on it. The more fun it looks, the more likely your child is to go for it.
- Stick with balanced. Too much of any food category isn’t going to work well for your child, so as creative as you get, make sure you go with balanced choices, too. You always want to include a solid source of protein to help fill them up, whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and a good source of dairy.
No matter what you decide to pack for your child, don’t forget to factor food safety into the equation too. Use a thermos for hot and cold items, and consider an insulated lunch box too.