The school year is gearing up, and many parents are feeling overwhelmed at the thought of packing healthy lunches every day for their school age children. While it is best to use every opportunity to provide real and healthy foods, packing school lunches does not have to be daunting.
Making sure that the food you pack in school lunches is filling is one of the most important factors. Too many empty calories will have your child feeling hungry again soon after lunch is over. Many students skip breakfast and spend long days at school, often without a chance for a snack before the end of the school day. This makes the nutrients obtained during lunch extra important.
To achieve this, steer clear of foods that have a lot of sugar, sodium, and saturated fats. Instead, opt for foods with a lot of fiber and protein that will help your child stay full for longer periods of time. You can achieve this by switching white bread for whole wheat and whole grain breads, and packing proteins like cheese sticks, chicken breast strips, and tuna or chicken salad with crackers.
If your child loves salty snacks, avoid packing potato chips daily and instead choose carrot chips with hummus, celery or other raw veggies with ranch dip, pretzel sticks, and whole grain crackers. If your child has a sweet tooth, go for dried fruit, fruit crisps, applesauce, fruit leather, and granola bars or trail mix with dark chocolate mixed in.
Steer clear of fruit drinks with minimal juice content and sodas. Instead, pack 100% juice boxes. You can also get a few reusable bottles and pack your own water of juices. If you want something similar to soda, but healthier, try flavored sparkling water.
Presentation is very important and can make a world of difference. Find fun containers to pack your child’s lunch and each part of the meal. You can also find sandwich cutters in different character shapes, make little faces on the food, and more. Try taking your child with you to the store to pick out things for their lunch, so you know you’re buying what they like, and let them pick out a new lunchbox for the year.
Keep in mind that packing healthy foods with not be helpful if your child won’t eat them. You need to find foods that they will enjoy and be willing to have for their lunch, so don’t be afraid to try different things until you find what works. It’s okay to pack a small, unhealthy snack or treat once in a while.