When your kids head out the door for a long day at school, they need plenty of healthy, nutritious food to fuel all that mental and physical activity. At the same time, though, school lunches need to contain food kids will actually eat; no parent wants to discover their homemade lunches are being traded or tossed away.
Luckily, it’s much easier than it used to be to find delicious food options that cover the major food groups and provide the protein, carbohydrates, fiber and nutrients kids need to power through the day. Plan the week’s lunches in advance and keep the refrigerator stocked with easy-to-grab ingredients like pre-sliced vegetables and cheese.
Here’s a list of kid-friendly options to choose from.
- Fill a whole-wheat pita pocket with chicken or egg salad (easy on the mayo), or low-fat cheese with red onion, tomato, and avocado.
- Make a simple burrito or taco by filling a tortilla with beans, grated cheese, lettuce and tomato.
- Fill a thermos with noodle or bean soup and include stoneground wheat crackers for dipping.
- Dip broccoli, bell pepper, and cucumber slices into hummus.
- Add strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, sliced peaches or banana to low fat or fat-free plain yogurt.
- Make a peanut (or almond) butter sandwich with sliced bananas on whole-wheat bread.
- Cut a tuna sandwich into fun shapes with your favorite cookie cutters. (Be sure to use whole-wheat bread.)
Banning popular snack foods is likely to backfire, so look for healthier alternatives instead.
- Chips: Choose baked instead of fried.
- Cookies: Choose those made with whole grains.
- Soda or Juice: Flavor water with lemon or lime and a little bit of honey, or make a juice spritzer by mixing equal parts sparkling water and juice.
- Fun combos: Pair red pepper, cucumber and celery sticks with low-fat ranch dressing, or apple slices with cheese sticks.
Involve your kids in lunch planning. Kids are much more likely to eat a lunch they were involved in. Bring them to the store with you to pick out items they like. And as soon as they’re old enough, teach them to help make their own lunches.
Lastly, pack your child’s lunch in an insulated bag and on hot days use reusable ice packs for food safety.