Moms across the county are packing lunches every day as their children head off to school. Are you packing healthy choices? Children form their eating habits at a young age. While you want to provide the healthiest foods possible, balancing good nutrition with the occasional treat is an important life-long skill.
A good lunch is not just important for nutrition's sake, but children will have an easier time staying focused in the classroom when they eat well at lunch. Eating three balanced meals a day also helps support the immune system, which helps children stay well.
It is easier than you think to pack a balanced lunch. Include a variety of wholesome foods, allow your child to help make lunchbox choices, and include an element of fun or surprise.
Here are some ideas to get your little one off to a good start:
1.) Encourage your child to drink low fat white or flavored milk at school every day. Children and teens need three to four servings of milk or dairy a day to get the calcium they need. If your child does not like or tolerate milk, be sure you are providing alternate sources of calcium for strong and healthy bone growth.
2.) A traditional sandwich is always a hit. Choose whole grain breads or buns. Ask your child what he or she would like each week. It is OK if they want peanut butter on whole wheat bread every day, but encourage some variety. Try lean baked ham, turkey, or cheese sandwiches. Include extras like sliced cheese, sliced tomatoes, sprouts, or green bell peppers.
3.) Try a wrap. Use whole-wheat tortillas to make quick wrap sandwiches. Spread a tortilla with some hummus, then add a slice of baked ham and shredded lettuce. Wrap it up and go (Secret: don’t tell your child it’s hummus, just call it a “new sandwich topping!”)
4.) Hard-boiled eggs are great protein sources and easy to eat. They can be shelled ahead of time to save the child time and mess, or sliced onto bread for a sandwich.
5.) Cube leftover meats or cheeses for a “finger food” lunch. Include whole-wheat crackers with them.
6.) Try slicing a banana muffin in half and spreading it with peanut butter for a “muffin sandwich.”
7.) Include a fruit or vegetable. Put fruit salad into a small container and also include a four-ounce cup of yogurt. Tell your child they can use the yogurt as a fruit dip. Use a freezer pack to keep fruits cold and more appetizing.
8.) Include a container of ranch dressing for the baby carrots. It’s better to eat the carrots with dressing than to not eat any carrots at all.
9.) Pack a trail mix of raisins, dried cranberries, and peanuts. Add a few chocolate candies for fun.