We are all aware of the increasingly poor options for school provided lunches. This may not necessarily be the schools’ fault. Funding for lunches has become a large problem, especially for healthy foods. In most cases packing a sack lunch for your children is the healthiest option. Or is it? Follow these tips to be sure your child’s lunch is most nutritious.
Kids are extremely active and are in need of well balanced energy. While encouraging fruits and vegetables is excellent, be sure the lunch does not contain only fresh produce. The fiber found in fruits and vegetables will help keep kids full for a short period of time, but they contain so little calories kids will be hungry in the early afternoon. Be sure to include a healthy protein source like beans, legumes, nuts, milk, cheese, or lean meat. Healthy fats will also help meals “last longer.” Incorporate nuts, nut butter, olive oil, or other vegetable oils (as sandwich spreads or salad toppings.)
Keep it Colorful
It might be easy for adults to enjoy a tasty bowl of brown lentil soup without thinking twice about its appearance. Kids on the other hand have difficulty seeing past colors like pea green and bean brown. Choose food items that have bright contrasting colors. Use colors to create designs with food.
Ask Kids’ Opinion
Involve your children in the lunch packing process. Start in the grocery store by asking them which foods they would like. The more new things you introduce, the easier it is for them to eat strange foods. You may find your kids are more adventurous with food than you are! Remember to not give them too many choices, or you will end up with a super full shopping cart, and empty wallet and an exploding refrigerator. Create some mock dishes on the weekend to test new foods.
Homemade is Best
Packing a sack lunch for your kids not only saves money, but promotes good health. Packing a lunch that contains packaged items (like fruit snacks, granola bars, juice boxes, etc.) is not what I am trying to promote with this post. Pre-packaged items usually contain preservatives, are high in sodium and sugar, and are fortified with vitamins and minerals (not to mention the waste of packaging.) Create your own “cute” snacks with cookie cutters. Reuse eco-friendly containers to minimize waste. Incorporate colorful, fresh fruits and vegetables to increase vitamin and mineral content.
Photo Credit to Creative Commons User H4Num4N