Back to School with a Healthy Lunch

With a rise in the number of overweight children, parents need to be extra vigilant when packing their children’s lunches. From their first day in kindergarten through the last day of their senior year, children need nutritious lunches with fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy products to maintain good eating habits that will last for life and even improve their attention span and academic performance.

I like to involve my son in picking out the foods he wants before packing his lunch. This can help you find out what they like, and if they feel a part of the process, they should be more prone to eat it.

Ensure that your children have a variety of foods in their diet that includes whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Use this opportunity to visit MyPlate.gov and learn more about nutrition and healthy choices in each of the food groups that are easy to eat.

I know that my son doesn’t have a lot of time to eat, and he doesn’t want to spend his 20 minutes getting his food ready.  I will usually cut, peel, and slice fruits and vegetables in advance, or buy them ready-to-eat, like baby carrots, sliced apples, raisins, and grapes.  Beverages should be low in sugar and high in nutrients and rather than packing a soda or juice, I place a little bottle of water or a small container of low-fat milk in his lunchbox.

Creative food suggestions for a healthy lunch box:

  • Cut apples and sprinkle them with lemon juice to prevent browning. Add peanut butter on the side for a healthy dipping snack. Celery goes well with peanut butter, too.
  • Use different kinds of breads and sandwiches. Use a pita, a bagel, a roll, or a wrap instead of plain bread, but remember to stick to whole grains.
  • Put vegetable soup in a thermos on cold days.
  • Let your children pick their favorite low-fat yogurt. Add granola to it for a whole-grain crunch.
  • Include sliced cheese for dairy, and pair with whole-grain crackers.
  • Add healthier desserts like trail mix, dried fruit, granola bars, fruit crisps, Jell-O, or low-fat pudding.
  • Don’t forget about safety. For younger children, be sure that the sizes and shapes don’t cause a choking hazard.

Until next time, enjoy the family!    Stefanie

 

Source: Virginia Cooperative Extension

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    Stefanie Hubert

    Stefanie manages all nutrition programming at Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County. An avid cook and advocate for health and wellness at all levels, Stefanie enjoys ... Read Full
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