The school cafeteria has become a place filled with poor diet choices. From franchise fast food offerings to soda machine temptations, today’s kids are faced with a lot of less than healthy choices at lunchtime. So what can parents do? They can pack a healthy lunch! But many parents could use some help – the typical child’s lunchbox is often filled with fat, sugar and salt and lacking healthy fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
Healthy lunchboxes are just one way to help reinforce healthy eating in childhood when eating habits are being formed. Instilling healthy eating habits is more important than ever as child obesity rates have soared in recent years!
The key to a healthy lunchbox is balance. Having a decent protein/carb ratio in your child’s lunchbox will help them finish the day with energy to spare. Here are my top 5 tips for packing a healthier lunchbox.
1. Wipe Out White Bread.
Breads made with whole grains are better sources of fiber and keep your kids feeling full longer. They also have more of other important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium and magnesium. The good news is that it’s easy to find whole grain options at grocery stores for everything from bread to crackers to tortillas. I’m nuts about Rudi’s Bakery. My kids love their breads and they have the soft mouth feel of white bread.
2. Choose Cheese.
Cheese is a good way to give your child a little fat (choose the low fat varieties) and protein. String cheese is a fun snack that you get to play with.
3. Don’t Skimp on Fruit.
Swap fruit for sugary snacks that cause kids’ energy lives to nosedive after launch. Bananas are great for lunchboxes. They are convenient, a great source of potassium and come in their own carrying case. Pack it on the very top and wrap in a napkin for protection. Apples, peeled oranges and grapes make great lunchbox additions as well. Sprinkle cinnamon on apples for extra flavor and disguise the natural browning process.
4. Skip the Chips!
Most kids feel their lunchbox isn’t quite packed unless there are chips aboard. Parents know most store-bought chips are not the healthiest food around. Baked tortilla chips are a good option or even better are baked pita chips, which are easy to make at home.
5. Be Choosey About Beverages.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics drinking too much juice (yes, even 100% fruit juice) can contribute to everything from cavities to childhood obesity, not to mention the discomfort of gas and bloating! Get your child into the good habit of drinking water. Try freezing a bottle of water instead of the usual juice box and flavored drinks – and skip soda altogether. The bottle will keep the lunchbox cold and will be thawed by lunchtime!
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