How To Plan Healthy School Lunches
With the return of school and a full fall schedule, many families find themselves running from one activity to the next. Busy schedules make eating healthy more important than ever. Rather than giving up and filling up on fast food and unhealthy snacks, try a few of these simple tips to keep your family healthy and well-fueled.
1. Keep Lunches Simple.
While we may all aspire to provide beautiful bento boxes and Pinterest inspired cut-out sandwiches for our little one’s brown bags, these can quickly become overwhelming on a daily basis. Arrange your child’s lunches around the macro-nutrients they need to remain focused and nourished through the afternoon. A balanced lunch should include a protein source, produce (preferably a fruit and a vegetable), and a healthy carbohydrate or treat. Once you have a good handful of options that work for you and your child, a little time spent prepping food at the beginning of the week, will see you through to the weekend.
2. Don’t Forget the Protein.
Protein is essential to giving your child needed energy for afternoon or evening activities, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick to sandwiches every day. Nuts and nut butters, if allowed at your school, are a great addition to your child’s lunch box. Other child friendly, protein rich foods include homemade snack mix, hummus, cottage cheese, yogurt, and even cold pizza. This fruit dip will also be a hit! Include at least one high protein food in your child’s lunch to give them needed energy for growth and muscle development.
3. Try Breakfast for Lunch.
You don’t have to stick to sandwiches and roll-ups when packing a brown bag. Many breakfast foods make nutritious meals and snacks on the go. Yogurt and granola or cereal is an easy favorite. Pancakes or muffins with fresh fruit are both nutritious and child friendly and can be made healthier when supplemented with higher protein flours or nut butters. Even homemade oatmeal cookies are a great way to sneak protein and fiber into your child’s mid-day meal.
4. Break Away from Baby Carrots.
While those snack sized bags of baby carrots are a convenient way to round out lunch with a serving of veggies, there are more nutritious and tastier veggies out there. Try sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, or strips of red bell pepper for child friendly alternatives that pack well. Pick a bunch of these or get them at your farmer’s market while they are in season and prep them in smaller sized snack bags for simple grab and go options.
5. Remember to Try This At Home.
While packing healthy meals is the first step, it doesn’t do your child any good if the food ends up in the trash can. Introduce these foods to your child when you’re together by incorporating them into snacks at home, in the car, or family meals. Involve your child in food preparation by washing veggies and fruit and placing them into containers. Keep these prepped foods visible in your refrigerator so that you and your family have plenty of options for quick and healthy snacks and lunches.
About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.