We all want healthy meals for our children – but in a busy world, achieving this is sometimes easier said than done. Many of us reach for those pre-made lunch kits found in every grocery store, and while convenient, these kits are often not healthy choices. One popular lunch kit has a whopping 1,940 mg of sodium, well above the daily maximum recommended for young children (1,200 mg). With only one gram of fiber, this meal won’t go far toward meeting many of your children’s dietary needs, or even give them the energy they need for a long school day.
Here are some tips to make healthy school lunches convenient without resorting to prepackaged options.
• Prepare and organize school lunches on Sunday for the entire week.
• Ask your children to help out – let them choose favorite fruits, veggies, and sandwich ingredients. Assign them the role of assistant chef.
• Pick fun foods – if kids can squirt it, dip it, or sip it, they will love it.
• Use the rainbow approach – make meals healthy by including veggies of differing colors.
Remember fresh is best. Try to limit prepackaged foods, and include plenty of raw veggies in lunches.
• Pack leftovers from dinner in a thermos.
• Keep in mind that a child’s metabolism is high when he or she is growing and a lunch should provide one-third of the daily intake of vitamins, minerals, and calories for kids.
• A source of protein: meat, eggs, beans, legumes, tofu, or seeds.
• A source of calcium: milk (substitute fortified soy, almond, or rice milk), figs, cheese, yogurt, or tahini.
• Vegetables and fruit, especially dark green veggies: broccoli, spinach, romaine lettuce, as well as orange veggies such as carrots and sweet potatoes.
• Whole grain bread, pasta, rice, oatmeal, or couscous.
Here is a week’s menu to help. Keep in mind that you can add more if your child needs more food. Check with your school to see if there are food restrictions.
• Cubed cooked chicken skewer with grape tomatoes and cucumber wedges
• Salad dressing as a dip
• Cheddar cheese
• Whole grain crackers
• Fruit salad of diced banana and apple with Greek yogurt
• Tuna in a whole grain pita with a little mayonnaise, spinach, and sliced tomato
• Carton of milk with a fun straw
• Sliced peaches
• Stringless snap peas
• Homemade trail mix (multigrain cereal, raisins, almonds, sunflower seeds, pretzel sticks, and dark chocolate chips)
• Whole wheat pita pizza with chicken, diced veggies and cheese
• Unsweetened applesauce
• Cottage cheese
• Salmon sandwich on whole wheat bread with sliced cucumber and alfalfa sprouts
• Baby carrots and celery with hummus
• Greek yogurt
• Whole grain quesadilla made with ground turkey, tomato, peppers, and cheese
• Salsa and sour cream
• Red pepper slices
• Cheese cubes.
Photo from here, with thanks.