“Happy and Healthy School Lunches” – By Staff Nutritionist, Sarah Marrs, RDN
School is back in session, and for some parents this means back to the grueling task of packing your child’s lunch. We all want to pack our child’s lunchbox with foods that are both healthy and appetizing, but this can be a little tricky, particularly for those with picky eaters. If you’re feeling a little stuck or are having a hard time thinking outside the sandwich, here are a few tips on how to liven-up your child’s mid-day meal!
- Make it attractive.
Presentation is key and is probably the #1 most important thing when it comes to packing a healthy lunch that your child will actually eat. Even the container(s) you put your child’s lunch in will make a difference! Check out bentology.com or laptoplunches.com for some fun container options and ideas for your child’s lunchbox.
- Include a variety of foods from all food groups.
The five food groups include fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. Each of these groups provides different nutrients and is vital for your child’s growth and development. Below is a list of some out-of-the-box healthy foods from each of the five food groups. Try to choose one food from each group when building your child’s lunchbox.
- Fruits: fruit kabobs with yogurt dipping sauce, sliced strawberry and nut butter sandwich, tuna salad with diced apples. Even 100% juice can be a good option if your child isn’t keen on fresh fruit, however it’s important that we limit how many sugary beverages we give our child each day. It’s good to set boundaries on juice because it can fill our child up, not leaving much room for other foods.
- Vegetables: veggies and dip (kids love dipping!), veggie soup, salads, celery and nut butter, cucumber and hummus sandwiches. Also try mixing veggies into dips and tuna/chicken salads, or into baked goods or smoothies!
- Grains: pita pockets, corn tortillas, wraps, quinoa, brown rice, whole grain bagel thins, sandwich thins, hotdog buns, pasta, pancakes or waffles, crackers, popcorn. *Tip: Look for the words “100% whole grain” on packages when seeking out whole grain options.
- Protein: meat and cheese kabobs, grilled chicken strips with honey mustard sauce, nut butter and apple slices, trail mix, bean salads, hot bean or chicken soup in a thermos, tuna salad with wheat crackers, tofu and hummus for dipping.
- Dairy: yogurt parfait, cheese and fruit kabobs, cottage cheese, skim or low fat milk, low-fat cheese shapes using mini cookie cutters, string cheese, cheese and crackers. Make your own lunchable with turkey and cheese slices, whole grain crackers, and sliced apples!
- Make it tasty!
This one is pretty obvious. If it doesn’t taste good your child isn’t going to eat it. At this point you probably know what your child likes and does not. One suggestion might be to ask for your child’s help in packing his or her lunch. Give them a couple of healthy options (i.e. “Would you like yogurt or string cheese?”) and allow them to choose which one they want packed in their lunch. *Tip: Pair a new food with a favorite food! Studies show children are more likely to try a new food if paired with one of their favorites.