As a parent, you are probably concerned as to whether or not your children are making nutritious choices when they are eating lunch at school. Thankfully, you can have a little more influence over what your children will be eating at lunchtime if they take their lunch from home. Helping your children by packing their school lunches can also give you an opportunity to guide them toward making healthy eating choices.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are helping your children put together their school lunches:
- Let your children help choose the foods that will be put in their lunches. This starts with a trip to the grocery store with your children. Try to guide them towards selecting healthier food items, such as whole wheat bread, reduced fat cheeses and yogurt, lean cuts of deli meat, and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Make your children’s sandwiches fun. Instead of putting a boring sandwich in the lunchbox, try making the sandwich on a whole-wheat bagel or in a pita pocket. For younger children, use cookie cutters to trim the sandwich into fun shapes, such as stars or fish.
- Look to leftovers for inspiration. Leftovers can help reduce wasted food and save time as well. If you have some slices of cheese pizza left over from dinner, use them for lunch the next day. Add in a side salad with some reduced fat dressing and lunch is ready!
- Be creative when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Try placing some shredded carrots on a chicken salad sandwich or sprinkling raisins on a peanut butter bagel. Pack some carrot and cucumber slices with a small container of reduced fat Ranch dressing. Chop some celery stalks into bite-sized pieces and spread a little peanut butter on them.
- Since children need calcium in order to help build strong bones, be sure to include foods that are excellent sources of calcium, such as yogurt, cheese slices, and calcium-fortified 100% fruit juices.
- If your children like pasta, try packing some pasta salad made from fun shapes like shells or wagon wheels. Mix in plenty of fresh vegetables such as red and green peppers, onions and tomatoes to add nutrition and taste.
- Instead of putting cookies or a piece of cake in for a snack, try putting more nutritious, yet tasty snacks in your children’s lunchboxes. Pretzel sticks, granola bars, unbuttered popcorn, and trail mixes can all add flavor and fun to a school lunch.
- Always remember to pack perishable items, such as dairy-based products, salads and meats, in an insulated lunch bag with an ice pack inside. This will keep your children’s food cold until they are ready to eat.