By Linda Ditch on July 11, 2018
As the start of school approaches, now is the time to start planning those lunchbox meals. Did you fall into the morning-rush trap last year? You know, when everyone’s trying to get out the door, which leads to you throwing less-than-ideal options into the lunchbox. Maybe you reached for one of those pre-boxed lunches that kids love but contain more fat and sodium than nutrition.
Here are some ways to make this year’s lunchbox fare both healthy and tasty. Now is the perfect time to start planning with the kids. Yes! If you get the kids involved, the chances of them eating their lunch increases, and they can take some of the lunch prep responsibility off your shoulders.
Write It Out
First, invest in a dry-erase or chalk board. Then sit down with the kids and come up with a list of healthy options for their lunch. The key components to a healthy lunch are grains, lean protein, fruit and vegetables, and fluids, so write categories on the board to incorporate those components. Then let everyone make suggestions to add to the categories.
Let Them Lead
The kids can pick and choose from the list each day what goes into their lunchbox. Right after dinner is a perfect time to let them make their lunches for the next day since the kitchen is probably a mess from dinner prep. Here are a few ideas to help up the healthy factor of their lunch:
- Sandwiches are typically number one on the lunchbox list. Try making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich more interesting by using unusual nut butters, or replacing the jelly with banana, pineapple slices, apple butter, raisins, pear slices, dried cranberries or shredded coconut. Also, a sandwich always seems more enticing when it is rolled in a wrap. Mix grated carrot, crushed pineapple or any other favorite fruit and vegetable into softened cream cheese, spread it on a tortilla and roll it up.
- Dinner leftovers are also a great lunch option. You can make extra just for that purpose. If you get a thermos to keep the hot foods hot, the kids can enjoy their favorite pasta or soup from dinner. Or, if you have leftovers like roasted chicken, they can be part of a sandwich or salad the next day.
- The kids can make their own pre-packaged lunch packs. Pick up plastic containers with individual compartments and fill them with cut-up squares of lean meat, cheese and whole-grain crackers.
- Kids can also make their own yogurt cups to replace the pre-packaged ones, which can contain a lot of sugar or artificial sweeteners. In a small plastic container, place some frozen fruit, a spoonful of all-fruit spread and plain low-fat yogurt.
- Give each kid their own zippered sandwich bags to fill up with a variety of nuts, dried fruit, popcorn, pretzels and healthy cereals for a snack. This is when you could include a special treat such as candy-coated chocolates or mini-marshmallows.
- What beverage they pack depends a lot on your child’s body type. Water is best, but a normal-weight or underweight child can have 100-percent juice or 2-percent milk. For an overweight child, choose water, water flavored with juice or low-fat milk. If possible, skip the flavored milks and soda pop, which are high in sugar.