How to pack healthy lunches for school
According to the Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition (AADN) kids need to eat three meals and one or two snacks every day for optimal nutrition. One of the most important meals is lunch. Eating a nutritious lunch helps kids stay healthy and alert and helps them have the energy to learn. That’s why it’s so important to plan lunches that are healthy and that your kids will actually eat.
For years the U.S. followed the Food Pyramid but more recently the FDA released the MyPlate standard for balanced eating. MyPlate is a new way to visualize a healthy plate with vegetables and grains making up more than half the plate and proteins and fruits making up the rest. MyPlate includes one serving of dairy as well. Using FDA suggestions as a guide creating healthy lunches for your kids can be fun.
Follow these five tips for making delicious nutritious lunches your kids will love.
1. Include all five food groups
Be sure to include foods from all five food groups in your healthy lunches for school: fruits vegetables grains protein and dairy. Cutting foods into smaller portions can help encourage your child to eat them. For a quick and different lunch try including cubes of low-fat cheese and meat on small toothpicks veggie sticks and nut butter or dressing dip. Send kid-sized fruits like tangerines grapes and plumbs. Double up on nutrition when you can. For example many dairy products are an excellent source of protein as well. Using small cookie cutters cut low-fat cheese into fun shapes and combine with whole grain crackers. Consider using low-fat milk and yogurt as well. Make sure half of the grain intake includes whole grains.
2. Plan ahead
Cut fun-shaped cheese fruits vegetables or bread and assemble portions in bags or reusable containers. Purchase sliced meats fruit salads or crudités on the weekend so that making lunch is as easy as adding items to a lunch box or bag the night before.
3. Get creatively sneaky
Bread muffins pasta and crackers are all wonderful ways to sneak vegetables and healthy grains into lunch boxes. Pack muffins with hidden healthy surprises – shredded zucchini in blueberry muffins veggie pasta rather than wheat in salads or pureed carrots and tomatoes in dipping sauces. Purchase whole grain sandwich bread or crackers and chips made from vegetables other than potatoes. Make homemade gogurt that inludes veggies says Jennifer Stachler Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator with Reid Health.
4. Make it colorful
Colorful fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients which are very healthy boosting the immune system and helping to decrease inflammation. Kids are naturally drawn to bright colors so including colorful foods in your child’s lunchbox can help make eating lunch an adventure.
5. Involve the kids
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports when kids help prepare the food they eat they are more likely to try new foods and to eat healthier options. Getting your kids in the kitchen and helping to make their own lunches will not only get them excited about lunch but it will help them learn the importance of meal planning. Lunch prep can become a fun activity you share with your kids. You can also bring them along shopping which is agreat way to teach them about healthy options and the variety of foods available.
Lunch is an essential part of every school day and it can be hard sometimes to think of creative options for this daily task. But with a little planning and little helping hands making lunch can become a fun part of every week or even every day. If you’d like more information about ways to keep your children healthy and need a pediatrician visit Reid Pediatric & Internal Medicine.