How to Pack a Healthy School Lunch Your Kids Will Love
Getting kids to eat their lunch isn’t always easy, especially if you pack your child’s lunch from home. You spend time making a lunch, only to find the lunch box come home virtually untouched. With the temptation of cafeteria food and friends’ lunches, getting your kids to eat the lunch you packed seems nearly impossible. How can you get them to eat a healthy lunch from home? Pack it full of delicious and secretly nutritious foods that they won’t be able to resist. You can even pack it up the night before with your kids, so they get a chance to have a say in what goes into their lunch.
Include the 4 Magic Ingredients
Every lunch your child has should have protein, carbs, fruits and veggies for a healthy, balanced meal that will keep them full through the afternoon. Not sure how to pack those 4 food groups into every lunch? Check out these suggestions:
1. Protein: Protein keeps your kids fuller for longer and it helps their bones, skin, muscles and cartilage grow strong and healthy. High protein foods include poultry, fish, beans, quinoa, eggs, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, almond butter and Greek yogurt. Try packing a cup of plain Greek yogurt sweetened with local honey and topped with fruit for about 24g of protein per serving. Or, you can make a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread and drizzle that with honey. If your child has a peanut allergy, almond butter is just as good and packs the same 8g of protein per serving as peanut butter.
2. Carbs: While carbs sometimes get a bad rap, they’re still an essential component of the human diet. A healthy amount of carbs is good for the mood, metabolism, memory and more. Choose healthy carbs like whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, quinoa and even air popped popcorn. Healthy sandwiches are a good way to get your kids to eat carbs. Skip the processed lunchmeat and get freshly shaved meat from your deli counter, which also provides good, lean protein. Avoid high fat mayonnaise and use avocado or hummus as a spread instead. Load up the sandwich with fresh lettuce, tomato and onion. If your kids love pasta, pack whole-wheat penne pasta with a healthy homemade pesto sauce.
3. Fruits: Fruits are like nature’s candy. Kids may not take to them as easily as processed sugary sweets like Skittles or Starburst, but all kids are capable of developing a taste for healthy foods. Plus, the health benefits of fruit are nearly endless. Pack fruits your kids can easily enjoy. Include fruits like grapes, sliced strawberries, sliced peaches or nectarines, bananas, apples, peeled oranges, berries or whatever is in season.
4. Veggies: Like fruits, kids may need time to get used to eating fresh. Vegetables are the best foods your kids could possibly eat, so the sooner you can get them started, the better. If your kids eat salad, pack them a small side salad full of healthy greens like spinach or spring mix and top it with tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, zucchini, mushrooms or whatever is in season. Choose low-free dressings or dressings made from extra virgin olive oil instead of a cream base. Or, you can include fruits and veggies into one delicious dish by making a berry medley salad. You can pack carrots, broccoli and celery with a side of hummus instead of an unhealthy dip like ranch dressing or blue cheese.
Always avoid packing processed or frozen foods. These foods have little nutritional value and will not encourage your kids to start developing a healthy palate. If you child has a sweet tooth, pack 1 or 2 squares of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is good for your heart, brain, can help control blood sugar and it’s full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Helping your kids learn healthy eating habits now will benefit them for the rest of their lives – and eventually you’ll see their lunch boxes come home empty.