It’s already that time again; time to go back to school! As the summer comes to an end, moms and dads everywhere are busy buying school supplies, catching up on laundry and preparing grocery lists to fill lunchboxes.
Packing lunches sounds like an easy task, but how do you create a well-balanced lunch that your kids will eat? “You can create a balanced lunch by including protein, fat and carbohydrates, while also selecting nutrient dense items, said St. Anthony Clinical Dietitian Daya Cherian. “You should also choose protein sources such as preservative free/low sodium lunch meat, Greek yogurt, cheese, nut butters and beans. These choices contain fat which helps keep kids full for a longer period of time,” she added.
According to St. Anthony Clinical Dietician Alyssa Davis, when trying to prepare a lunch your kids will eat, it is important to include them in the meal planning process. “When kids are involved and have ownership of their lunches and what goes into them, they are more likely to eat and enjoy them,” said Davis.
When making a grocery list, fruits and vegetables are another healthy option you can add to the list. “Most fruits and vegetables require minimal preparation and a quick wash prior to eating. Try pairing baby carrots, celery, grape tomatoes, or broccoli florets with a yogurt-based vegetable dip or hummus,” said St. Anthony Clinical Dietitian Stephanie Beard.
Not only is it important to pack healthy school lunches, but how they are packed is just as important. “Perishable food items should be stored in an insulated lunch box with a chilled freezer pack. Frozen juice boxes are a great way to keep food cold, and it will thaw out by lunch time,” said Cherian. “Hot food items such as soups, chili and stews should be stored in a thermos,” added Beard.
Life is busy and sometimes there isn’t enough time to get that healthy school lunch packed. In these cases there is no need to fret, as there are more healthy options available in school cafeterias. “With the revised National School Lunch Program policies, schools are offering more fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, and low-fat dairy options,” said Cherian. “These policies also reduce calories, saturated fat, and sodium content, so kids have healthier options available if they are unable to bring a healthy packed lunch from home.”