Pack the Perfect School Lunch

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:

packing a school lunchProteins (1 – 2 oz.)

  • 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
  • water

Grains

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:

  • crackers
  • rolls
  • pita pockets
  • raisin bread
  • small bagels or English muffins
  • dry cereal (add to yogurt)
  • popcorn

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.

Treats

Dessert is optional, but your kids might not agree. You can give them a treat, just keep it small:

  • pretzels
  • yogurt
  • pudding
  • bite-sized candy bar
  • animal crackers
  • a cookie or two
  • 100-calorie snack pack

Fun ideas:

  • 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.

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