It’s back to school time! While many parents are focused on buying new clothes and school supplies for their kids, they may forget about the importance of buying food to pack a nutritious lunch every day! Eating a well-balanced meal in the middle of the day can help stimulate brain activity, give your child the energy they need for the rest of the day, and help their bodies to continue to grow and stay strong. With so many poor choices out there in vending machines and cafeterias, packing a bagged lunch is a great option that doesn’t necessarily need to break the bank or be too time consuming. Here are some easy ways you can keep your kids healthy with their homemade school lunches:
Fruit: Fruits are an easy addition to any lunch because there is no need for preparation other than washing it. Give your child a small to medium-sized banana, apple or orange or a ½ cup of berries or grapes. All fruits contain carbohydrates which is our main source of fuel, and essential vitamins and minerals to keep our kids healthy!
Vegetable: While many kids don’t love to eat their veggies, focus on the ones they do like. Pack a ½ cup of carrot sticks, celery sticks, bell pepper sticks or raw broccoli; add to this a side (around 2 tablespoons) of hummus for something any child will enjoy!
Protein: While deli meats seem to be an easy choice for parents, they are loaded with sodium and fillers which are neither good nor healthy for your children. Better options are peanut butter, leftover grilled chicken or turkey from last night’s dinner, tuna fish (use plain regular or Greek yogurt instead of mayo) or a handful of nuts. Remember while meat is a nutritious option, not every lunch needs to contain it; vegetarian options can be quick, easy, and inexpensive as well!
Dairy: There are many great options for on-the-go dairy such as squeezable yogurt and string cheese but beware of their sugar and fat content! While a berry-yogurt may sound great, it may be loaded with sugar and additives. Try to buy low fat or nonfat regular or Greek yogurt and add some cinnamon or real fruit for some natural sugar. When you buy cheese, make sure to get low-fat as well. Packing a nonfat milk container is also a great choice for added calcium and vitamins.
Whole Grains: Keep it simple with whole grains. While popcorn and chips may be easy, their fat and sodium content may be extremely high. Try packing 1 cup of air-popped popcorn or half a cup of whole-grain cereal mixed in with some dried fruit or raisins. When making a sandwich forget the white bread; use whole wheat bread, quinoa bread, whole grain tortilla wraps or whole grain pita pockets. While granola bars are a popular choice, focus on ones with reduced sugar content as they can be as unhealthy and calorie dense as candy bars.
Remember to have fun when making your kids’ lunches and get them involved! This way they will learn about healthy eating and expand what they might like. Try not to pack the exact same lunch every day to maximize nutrient variety.
What will your child’s favorite brown bagged lunch contain?