Pack a healthier school lunch
Over the years, the nutritional content of school lunches has improved because we’ve learned eating healthier foods means children have more of the right kind of energy for learning and after-school activities. Lunches brought from home should offer just as much nutrition and could be even healthier for your child. One study completed in 2014, by the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found 75 percent of children bringing their lunch from home met only three of the five national standards for good nutrition. So, what can you do to pack a healthier school lunch for your child and still get them to enjoy it?
Try these simple changes to increase the nutritional value of your child’s packed lunch:
- Change from white to whole grain bread. Sandwiches are one of the most popular items in packed lunches because they are quick and easy to make and most kids like them. Switching to whole grain bread increases your child’s fiber intake. Look for 100 percent whole grain or 100 percent whole wheat on the label.
- Replace chips with crunchy veggies or baked pita chips. Raw vegetables such as baby carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, celery sticks or sliced peppers are great with low-fat ranch dressing or hummus for dipping.
- Pack fruit for dessert instead of cookies or prepackaged cakes. Sweet and healthy fruits include seedless grapes, Clementines, strawberries and dried fruits such as raisins or cranberries. Low-fat yogurt is also a great addition for dipping fruits or as a stand-alone dessert.
- Provide water or low-fat milk instead of sugary drinks.
- Choose lunch meat wisely. Opt for grilled or baked chicken breasts or go meatless more often than not. Processed lunch meats typically are loaded withsodium, various artificial ingredients and saturated fats.
- Don’t dismiss nutritious left overs. Invest in a thermos to offer left over chili, whole grain pasta with sauce, or beans and whole-grain rice.
Tips to increase the likelihood of kids eating their more nutritious lunch:
- Involving your kids in making decisions is one of your best bets to help yourchild accept small changes and ensure that you’re packing something they’ll most likely eat. Let your child help you find new recipes, go shopping with you and let them help prepare and/or pack their lunch. Make this part of your weekly routine and you’ll find it is a great way to spend quality time together.
- Switch up the sandwich you offer. Wheat tortillas, pita pockets, and vegetableflavored wraps (such as a spinach wrap) keep things interesting.
- Make subtle changes. If your child is opposed to wheat bread, look for whole
white wheat bread that is just as nutritious as regular whole grain bread, but
lighter in color and texture. If your child isn’t ready to give up their potato chips
for veggies, change to baked whole grain chips or pita chips, or whole grain
crackers first. Try a sparkling fruit water (watch the sugar content though) if your
child needs fizz or 100 percent fruit juice if they like to keep their drink sweet.
- Finally, be sure to keep your child’s packed lunch at safe temperatures by
keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Chose an insulated lunch box and
utilize freezer packs to keep perishable items cold and fresh. Find high quality
insulated food jars and/or a thermos and make sure the foods are heated up to at
least 140 degrees before you pack them.