If you are like most parents, getting the kids back in school is bittersweet. Part of you is happy to get the kids back in a routine after summer break, but the other part of you dreads the routine of activities, homework, and lunch packing. Here are a few tips that might help you to liven up your kids’ lunches with some healthy alternatives to old favorites.
Give your sandwich a makeover
Some kids are happy with the same old PB&J every day for lunch. But if they need a change once in a while, think about packing some more nutrition into their sandwich. Instead of mayonnaise or mustard, spread some hummus on whole-grain bread and add turkey and low-fat cheese. You’ve now created a high-protein, high-fiber sandwich that is sure to keep your little one full until they come home from school.
If you have some leftover turkey bacon from breakfast, make a healthy BLT: place the bacon on some whole-wheat bread, add a few baby spinach leaves, a slice of tomato, and some low-fat cheese. Even a whole grain mini-bagel with low-fat cream cheese is a nice change of pace! If you have a younger child, consider making only a half of a sandwich or using a smaller deli flat so they are able to eat all of it.
When my kids get tired of the typical sandwich, they often ask for what we now call a “snack lunch.” I came up with this after opening lunchboxes that were filled with half-eaten sandwiches. Kids today have such a short time to eat at school—typically only 20-30 minutes. I like to pack a variety of healthy snacks in their lunchboxes so that they can choose what they want to eat in the short time they have for lunch. The rest can come home and can be used for another day’s lunch, if it’s not perishable. Here are some ideas of things that you can pack in small, snack-sized Ziploc bags:
- Dried fruit
- String Cheese
- Whole-grain crackers
- Sliced fruit
If your child has a short time to fill up at lunch, try to choose snacks such as these that are calorically dense—meaning for their small size, they pack a lot of nutrition, including calories, protein, and fiber.
Don’t forget the sides!
Many kids love chips in their lunch. Consider trading in their chips for a healthier snack, such as whole-grain crackers, popcorn, high-fiber granola bars, baby carrots and hummus, yogurt, or sliced fruit. Anything you can do to help save your child time (such as slicing fruit) will help them to eat a nutritious lunch in their short lunch period.
Many schools now have recess before lunch, so the kids come to the cafeteria not only starving, but thirsty. I’ve noticed that the kids usually drink the beverage in their lunch before eating, so make sure they aren’t filling up on a high-sugar juice beverage. Milk is a great source of protein, so it will not only hydrate your thirsty kid, it will also help to fill them up quickly at lunch. If your child is thirsty throughout the day, consider packing a water bottle in their lunchbox, or letting them have a water bottle at their desk to sip on throughout the day.
The bottom line
School lunches are only five of your child’s 21 (or more!) meals each week. Don’t panic if you feel like they aren’t getting all of the nutrition they need at lunchtime. There’s plenty of time for healthy breakfasts, snacks, family dinners, and special weekend meals. If you feel like you are stuck in a rut, try taking your child to the grocery store with you and have them come up with lunch ideas.
Better yet, no matter how young your child is, they can be involved in packing their own lunch. It will give them a sense of pride and help them to learn how to plan a healthy lunch of their own!
Published On: September 03, 2014