As summer winds down and vacations wrap up, it’s time to start getting into school mode. Just thinking about the early mornings, homework, and various after school activities can make you tired. But all the more reason to think about properly fueling your kids so that they can stay focused, healthy, and do their best.
Making a well-balanced meal for lunch is a great opportunity to do all of these things and to ensure that your kids get the nutrients their growing bodies need. Incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats make for a well-balanced meal.
So when you go to pack everyone’s lunch, here’s your challenge: Include at least four food groups in each lunch. Here are some ideas to get you started.
o Mix fresh or frozen fruit such as strawberries or blueberries with yogurt
o Throw mandarin oranges or pineapple chunks onto a salad
o Add apple or banana slices to a sandwich
o Add grated carrots, spinach, cucumber and tomato slices to sandwich
o Fill a small sandwich bag with baby carrots, broccoli, and bell peppers to enjoy with a low-fat dip or dressing
o Try vegetable soup
• Low-fat Dairy
o Include a low-fat or non-fat yogurt
o Have low-fat cheese slices or string cheese with crackers
o Try a low-fat pudding cup fortified with calcium and vitamin D
o Have a lean turkey, ham, chicken breast or roast beef sandwich
o Top crackers with tuna or chicken breast canned in water
o Spread peanut butter or hummus onto a sandwich, vegetables, or crackers
o Mix beans with low-fat cheese or incorporate them in a salad
o Pack low-fat cottage cheese with fresh fruit
• Healthy Fats
o Nuts & Seeds are easy to pack. Think almonds, peanuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
o Low-fat dips and dressings can help spruce up raw veggies
• Whole Grains
o Choose foods with whole oats, whole rye, or whole wheat listed first on the ingredient list.
o Whole grain bread, sandwich thins, English muffins, mini bagels or tortillas make great additions to a lunch.
o Whole grain crackers or popcorn make for a nice crunchy option
When you are all done ask yourself these two questions:
1. Is there a rainbow of color (preferably not from a fruit roll-up or bag of skittles!)?
2. Are there at least four food groups represented (fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fat)?
If so, you’ve done it— You’ve successfully made a healthy lunch!
My last piece of advice? Just have fun with it! It’s not a chore but rather an opportunity to help your kids develop healthy eating habits and to provide them with the nutrients they need to grow and flourish.
How do you make your kid’s lunches healthy?