9 Tips to Pack a Healthy School Lunch
The excitement of back to school is in the air, and it’s important to also get your kids excited about eating a healthy lunch. With lunch being usually being the only meal that children eat away from home during the school year, don’t let that be a missed opportunity for getting enough nutrition in the day. Even though school lunch programs are supposed to offer the proper nutrition, it’s all too easy for the kiddos to skip the salad bar and miss out on the necessary daily servings of fruits and vegetables, or worse- not even eat because the school lunch is gross! Instead of sending your kid down the lunch line or throwing pre-packaged snacks in a bag, check out these tips on packing a healthy lunch for the school year:
- Check for the food groups. To ensure your kids are getting enough nutrition in the day, each meal should consist of fruits, vegetables, grains (whole grains preferably), protein, and dairy. Get your kids used to seeing this and they’ll even call you out should you forget to pack something from one of the food groups.
- Showcase a variety. Make sure the lunch is full of color not only because it looks more appealing, but also because eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables is healthy since different colors contain different vitamins and health benefits.
- Make a pretty presentation. Sometimes it’s all in how you present it. Cut strawberries into heart shapes or even use a cookie cutter on slices of watermelon. It’s just so much more fun that way and your kids, and even their friends, will look forward to seeing what their lunch looks like each day.
- Portion with partitions. Use containers that have built-in compartments or you can make your own by using cupcake liners or smaller containers nestled in a larger one. This is a great way to control portions and show your child how much of something they can eat- or in the case of a picky eater, how much they have to finish.
- Switch it up. Don’t do the same exact lunch every day. Change it up to give the taste buds a good variety and give everyone something to look forward to.
- Pack lunch as a bunch. Get the family involved in making lunch together. From washing produce to cutting up fruit, many tasks can be completed faster if you work together. Plus, if children make something themselves, they’re more likely to eat it!
- Play with texture. Try using a variety of textures to make eating more interesting. For something crunchy and smooth, try out carrots and hummus, or apple slices with crushed nuts and yogurt.
- Make enough dinner for leftovers. Stray away from the typical sandwich and instead serve up some of last night’s dinner. That leftover teriyaki salmon would taste just as good the next day and remind your child about the family dinner they had the night before.
- Listen to feedback. Ask your kids what they thought of the latest lunch, especially if it’s something new. Be open to suggestions on healthy lunch ideas so that everyone can have some favorites in rotation.
Here are my two examples of what I packed my twin seven year old girls Shayna and Kiera.
The first option is a simple dish of pesto pasta, yogurt with strawberries and dried goji berries, homemade trail mix of raw almonds and chocolate and baby carrots.
My second option is leftovers from dinner, teriyaki salmon, brown rice, dried seaweed sheets, mango and cucumber.
Once you find out what healthy lunches your child loves, just continue to feature those foods and build upon it. With enough thought and planning, packing a healthy lunch can be easy and fun for everyone.