Does that five-mornings-a-week hurdle send you flying through your cupboards and fridge looking for something nutritious that your kids will eat?
Use this handy checklist to ensure your children are getting a healthy lunch, and one they’ll actually eat. Try to choose foods from each of the five food groups, including protein, fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy:
- turkey or chicken
- tuna (packed in water) or salmon
- ham or roast beef
- cottage cheese or low-fat cheese (string cheese is a good choice)
- hard-cooked eggs
- cooked beans (hot or cold, such as hummus)
Watch out for bologna and salami — they’re high in fat, so try lower-fat or turkey varieties.
Beverages (8 oz.)
- low-fat milk
- 100% fruit juice
Dark, crusty, whole-grain bread is best, but if your child won’t touch it, compromise by using half a slice of white and half a slice of whole wheat. Other whole grains to consider:
- pita pockets
- raisin bread
- small bagels or English muffins
- dry cereal (add to yogurt)
Fruits and veggies
If they’ll eat it, pack it! If you have a hard time getting your child to eat any fruits or vegetables, give him a choice of which fruit and vegetable he would like to pack. “Whether a child likes or dislikes fruits and vegetables, it’s still important to pack in her lunch,” says Silvia Veri, a registered dietitian at the Beaumont Weight Control Center. She suggests:
- cut-up veggies (pepper strips, baby carrots, pea pods, celery) with a little dip (hummus, ranch dressing, natural peanut butter)
- dried fruits, whole fruits or fruit salad
- tossed salad
- cole slaw, raisin or potato salad
Tip: Make fruit or vegetable kabobs with your children. They’ll have a choice about which items go on the skewer, and they may enjoy eating something they’ve made.
Dessert is optional, but your kids might not agree. You can give them a treat, just keep it small:
- bite-sized candy bar
- animal crackers
- a cookie or two
- 100-calorie snack pack
- Make your own “Lunchable” with seven crackers, string cheese, a fruit cup, bag of baby carrots and dip and a 100-calorie snack pack.
- Make butterflies or other interesting shapes out of sandwiches.
- Put milk and juices in fun containers.
- Include gelatin in a variety of shapes and colors as a treat.
Leave a comment with your favorite and healthy ways to fill your child’s lunchbox or ideas to make their lunch a little more fun.