Healthy Lunches Kids Actually Eat
It’s a busy time for parents as kids head back to school, especially when it comes to your child’s health. For many parents that means worrying about what their picky kids are eating, too. Unfortunately, many school lunches are filled with processed ingredients and empty calories. While you want to pack healthy food for your kids, it’s also important to make lunches that they actually eat. Here are a few tips for packing lunches that make both you and your kids happy.
Keep it interesting.
To keep your kids eating healthy, pack fun and interesting food. Think beyond just sandwiches and a bag of chips. Here are a few ideas that go beyond the ordinary and aren’t hard or time consuming to make:
- Quesadillas – start with two tortillas and add cheese, healthy spreads or low-fat deli meats and cut into wedges
- Dips and vegetables (hummus, guacamole, ranch dressing)
- Roll ups – just use tortillas or flat bread to add interest to a turkey sandwich
- Kabobs! – put fruit or cheese on a flat wooden skewer to make them fun
- Apple slices and peanut butter, if allowed in school, or a nut-free alternative such as sunflower seed butter
- Tortilla chips and salsa
These same rules apply for healthy after school snacks, too.
The more color you can add to a lunch, the better. Colorful foods usually are healthier (except those orange-colored chips!) and more visually interesting. In fact, eating colorful foods can be an easy way to get a complete range of the vitamins and minerals young bodies need to grow. So, add baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, sliced peppers or fresh fruit as a side – or even the main course with a fun dip such as hummus, salsa, low-fat ranch dressing or yogurt.
Sack the sack.
Parents may remember paper bag lunches or super hero lunch boxes, but today there are lots of smart choices to carry lunches that keep food at the right temperature and tasting fresh. One big trend is bento boxes which keep foods separated, help with portion control and make meal prep easier. Plus, you can find lots of fun recipes made specifically for these nifty containers.
Don’t forget older kids.
When it comes to packing lunches, we tend to think of younger kids. But don’t forget high school students who may be tempted by unhealthy choices offered in the a la-carte line. They may also not want their parents packing their lunch for them. Let them do it by keeping food that is easy to grab on their way out the door. Pre-sliced fruits and vegetables are a snap to add to a book bag. There are also many pre-packaged items you can keep on hand, such as low-fat cheese, individual servings of hummus and guacamole, that aren’t overly processed or loaded with fat and calories.
Keep it simple.
There are countless recipes online for back-to-school lunches that would make the biggest celebrity chefs jealous. Before you know it, you can spend hundreds of dollars and all your free time making the ideal Pinterest-worthy lunches. But very few people can keep that up all year long. Keep lunch prep simple with healthy prepacked choices such as unsweetened applesauce, granola bars, yogurt or string cheese. Cutting up fruit and vegetables when you have time makes putting a lunch together easy, too. Don’t wait until that morning to assemble lunches. Making them the night before, or several days’ worth at once, makes the entire process much simpler.
Know your kids!
Visit most schools at lunch time and you will be shocked to see the amount of food that is thrown away. You aren’t helping anyone by packing food they don’t like. If your son is picky and won’t eat broccoli with your family at dinner, he’s not going to eat it with his friends at lunch either. So, keep their favorites in mind, but with a healthy twist. For example, instead of choosing leftover pizza, spread tomato sauce on a pita or whole-wheat tortilla, add low-fat cheese and some turkey pepperoni – or better yet put all the ingredients in a lunch box and let them assemble it themselves. The more involved they are in choosing and making their lunches, the more likely they are to actually eat them!
Reviewed by: Teykia Deveaux, MD, Cameron Pediatrics
Dr. Deveaux is now accepting new patients. Call for an appointment today at 260-667-5690.