Start the school year off right with healthy lunches and snacks! Lunches don’t have to be boring, and healthy lunches help energize kids for their afternoons.
Allowing your kids to get involved in the food shopping and the lunch preparation will help keep them interested in their meals. If they help you pick out what they are going to eat, and help you make it, they become more interested in it.
Another way to make lunches fun is to Include many different colors in it. Adding color to lunch will not only make lunch more fun, but it is a great way to add more nutrition into meals.
For example, make a fruit salad with fruits that represent your children’s favorite colors to serve on the side as part of their lunch. To keep lunches balanced, include a protein, whole grain starch, fruit and/or vegetable and a dairy item whenever you can.
With many schools now being nut free, it is important to think beyond the simple peanut butter sandwich. Instead, try sunflower seed butter sandwiches. I recommend making these sandwiches on either whole wheat bread or tortillas, and adding bananas or berries to them.
If you choose to use tortillas instead of bread, you can get creative and cut them into fun shapes. Try pairing the sandwich with a yogurt as a side snack.
Parents often stress if their child does not like sandwiches.
With some creativity non sandwich lunches can be easy. Try bento style lunch boxes that have multiple compartments. These boxes allows you to give variety instead of a sandwich. For example try giving strips of your child’s favorite protein such as grilled chicken, turkey, or hard-boiled eggs with a side of their favorite fruits, vegetables and whole grain crackers. Other sandwich free ideas include a lunch of snack options such as hummus with vegetables, whole grain crackers and a side of fruit and cheese.
Leftovers from dinner also work well. When using leftovers, lunch can look similar to what you had for dinner or completely different. Even if you just use vegetables from dinner, and then add a whole wheat or bean based pasta that would be your whole grain and a protein such as beans to make a simple pasta salad.
Kids often share food with their friends at lunch, and trade snacks. If your child has food allergies, make sure that the school is aware of the food allergies, and that your child knows not to take lunches and snacks from their friends.
It is also important to make sure your child’s lunch still has all the nutrients they need while they are avoiding foods and/or food groups.
For example, if your child has a dairy allergy, it is important that their lunch still provides them with the calcium that they need.
A registered dietitian is able to help you find alternatives for your child, and help you plan balanced meals for them to make sure they get the nutrients they need.
Remember the equation protein + whole grain starch + fruit and/or vegetable + a dairy item whenever you can equals a balanced lunch!
Linzy Ziegelbaum, MS, RD, CDN