7 Tips for Packing Healthy Lunches
Packing Healthy School Lunches is as Easy as 1,2,3…
The back to school season can be hectic, especially for working parents or caregivers. Between getting your kids to the bus, helping them with homework, and taking them to extracurricular activities, it is easy to get stuck in a rut of packing bagged chips, prepackaged deli meat, and fruit drinks. Below are some tips to revitalize the lunch box routine with these healthy, convenient options and tips.
Plan, Plan, Plan
To make sure healthy options are available to pack, take a few minutes on the weekend to plan the meals for the week. After you plan out your meals, make a grocery list. Keep a few key items on hand, like bananas, low-fat yogurt, natural peanut butter, and whole grain tortillas.
Involve the kids
Let your kids help with packing their lunch. This may take a little more time, but it helps them learn how to make healthy choices. Plus, they’ll be more likely to eat what’s packed when they help make the decision. Have them actually prepare the lunch with you too, and don’t forget to have fun with it! Use cookie cutters to make sandwiches into new shapes. Make rainbow fruit kabobs, ants on a log, a low-fat yogurt dip, or try breakfast for lunch. Substitute fruit slices for jelly on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The possibilities are endless. To make lunch extra special, add a note to your child’s lunchbox to let them know that you are thinking about them.
Keep it balanced
A good rule of thumb is to include a food from each food group when packing your lunch. Choose a serving of fruit, low-fat dairy, whole grain, lean protein, and vegetables. This will ensure your child has nutrient dense foods to sustain them throughout a day of learning and activities. Don’t dismiss canned or frozen fruits and vegetables as they are typically picked at peek ripeness.
Start with a fruit and vegetable
Ensure that your kids get a serving of fruit and vegetables at lunch by packing them first. For vegetables, try baby carrots and sliced bell peppers with 1-2 tablespoons of low-fat dressing or hummus. For an easy option, grab unsweetened or single-serving fruits packed in 100% juice, like applesauce, peaches, or mandarin oranges.
Add a serving of low-fat dairy
In addition to fruits, vegetables and a sandwich, include a low-fat dairy food like milk or yogurt. Try freezing single-servings of yogurts for a frozen treat that helps keep the lunch box cool.
Stick with whole grains
Whole grain breads, tortillas, and wraps are perfect for sandwiches.
Choose water or low-fat milk
Children get plenty of sugar from the foods they eat; they don’t need any extra from their drinks! Skip the sugar filled juice boxes and sodas; opt for a water bottle instead. Add fresh fruit, like slices of lemon or strawberries, to the water bottle for a sweet infused taste. Low-fat milk is rich in calcium and protein, which makes it a great alternative to juice.
Jennifer Christman, RD, LDN: As the Clinical Nutrition Manager at Medifast, Inc., Jennifer helps to organize all of the nutrition content that goes into our marketing materials. When she is not busy keeping up on the latest and greatest nutrition information, she is helping to guide our clients and customers on their weight-loss journey. Jennifer brings 10-plus years of experience as a Registered Dietitian and is super passionate about getting you healthy.
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This post originally appeared on our September/October 2015 Magazine