It’s that time of year again. Time to go school clothes shopping, buy school supplies, and pick out that most important piece of back-to-school equipment – a cool, new lunchbox!
While your child is more concerned about the look of the outside of his or her lunchbox, as a parent, you are more concerned with what will go inside it. Figuring out how to fill it daily, weekly, and monthly with healthy foods your child will actually eat once they are at school can be challenging. Most kids are not inclined to pass up the chips, pop, candy, and processed foods that can often make up the usual lunch fare for school-going children. So, what can you do?
Here are some easy tips to on how to pack a healthy lunch your child will love!
Retrain their brain
Eating healthy food is necessary to help children concentrate and learn at school. However, healthy eating choices are not always easy to make. Try to set a good example for your child with your own lunches. Encourage your child to help choose and prepare their own lunch. Have them make a list of the foods they enjoy. And when they choose healthy foods for their lunch box, praise them lavishly!
Even if they are slow to make good choices or are resistant, it is important to keep offering healthy lunch box choices in a variety of ways, as children learn to eat what is familiar to them. Remember that it may take time to change your child’s food preferences to more healthy choices.
What to pack
There are lots of healthy, delicious choices out there. Kid-pleasing snacks for a school lunch box can include:
- Fruit – fresh fruits are the best choice. Dried fruit or fruit roll-ups are high in sugar, low in fiber, and stick to kid’s teeth, opening the way for tooth decay.
- Vegetables – vegetable sticks are a great choice. Include some of their favorites like carrots, jicama, celery, or cucumbers along with some dip or low-sugar nut butter.
- Protein – such as lean meat slices, hardboiled eggs, peanut, nut, or soy butter. (Some schools have a nut-free policy because of allergies and foods like peanut butter are not allowed. Check with your local school district.)
- Dairy – cheese sticks or yogurt.
- Carbohydrates – whole wheat bread or rolls. Eating the same thing each week can get boring, so keep it interesting by using different things like pita bread, flat bread, bagels, or rice cakes.
- Water or milk – these really are the best choices for growing children. Sodas, fruit drinks, and sports drinks are loaded with sugar. Besides increasing the risk of tooth decay, they are also filling and can edge out the healthier foods your child should be eating.
Tip: Here are some great recipes and ideas for healthy and exciting lunches for your kids.
Keep it cool
Your child’s lunch will probably be stored for several hours before they eat it, so their lunchbox needs to stay cool. Here are some suggestions to help with that:
- Pick an insulated lunch box or pack a freezer pack along with it.
- Make sure food is kept clean during preparation and packing.
- For most food items it’s possible to make the lunch the night before and store it overnight in the fridge. It will stay cooler longer that way.
- Any perishable foods like dairy, eggs, or meats should be eaten within four hours after they are taken from the refrigerator.
Good choices = great results
Having healthy kids who are succeeding at school is certainly worth the extra effort and creativity packing a healthy lunch each day can take. Remember, making healthy school lunches that your kids will eat involves making sensible food choices that focus on flavor and variety. We hope you’ll try out some of the above suggestions and we hope you and your kids have a happy and healthy school year!