Healthy School Lunch Tips for the Little Ones
School’s officially back in and well underway! Raise your hand if you are a parent with kids in school, who struggles with making lunches? It can be a daunting task: not only trying to find foods those little ones will actually eat, but items that will fit within school guidelines (i.e. nut-free, litter-less, etc.). As a parent, you also want to ensure you’re sending your kiddos out the door with a lunch that is jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to sustain them for their long school day.
Healthy school lunches can be a challenge; however, it is achievable! Below are some go-to ideas when it comes to packing those brown bags up.
Focus on the Four Food Groups
When packing your kiddos lunch, balance is key. Before anything else, make sure you have covered your four basic food groups (dairy, fruits and veggies, proteins, and whole grains); unless your child suffers from a specific food allergy that does not allow you to do so. There are many different options you can choose from when it comes to all four food groups, here are some examples:
- Fruit and Veggies: you can go fresh, frozen, canned, pureed (e.g. applesauce), or baked (think apple chips or kale chips … yum!). The opportunities are endless!
- Protein: Deli meats and beans, hard-boiled eggs (if there are no restrictions at your school), or even grilled/baked chicken are some strong options.
- Dairy: There are plenty of yogurt and cheese food items to reach for, ones that can please even the pickiest of eaters.
- Whole grains: From sandwich bread, to pitas, tortillas, or even pastas; whole grains, at times, can be the sustainable portion of your child’s lunchbox.
Limit Processed Snacks
Yes, it is easy and convenient to grab boxed snacks at the grocery store and simply throw them in your kids lunch; however, these food items tend to be high in sugar, saturated fats, sodium, and won’t help to keep your kids’ energy up throughout the day because they also lack key nutrients children require. Not to mention, they are also far more expensive then if you made something at home. Replace processed fruit candy snacks with some homemade fruit leather; ditch store-bought cookie snacks with no bake energy bites; and add a little veggie and fruit flare to your children’s lunch with ants on a log.
For those parents who have nut-restriction school guidelines when packing lunches, some snack recipes that require peanut butter can be replaced with alternative spread substitutes, including cream cheese, sunflower seed butter, and others. Review the recipes (and substitute options), before making.