You may soon be preparing your child for school with new clothes and school supplies, but let’s not forget to shop for healthy foods to feed your young ones. Whether they are headed to preschool this year or their senior year of high school, it is important to get your children the right nutrients so they can stay focused and energized throughout the school year.
With childhood obesity on the rise, it is time for parents to take control of their children’s food choices. Packing a lunch each day for your children is a great start. Packing a healthy lunch filled with lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy will ensure your child is getting the nutrition he or she needs without all the extra calories, sodium, and fat.
Here are some ways you can spice up your child’s lunch (and even your own!) while also packing in the nutrients.
- Think outside the box when it comes to preparing sandwiches. Switch up your bread products – try whole grain pitas, bagels, Sandwich Thins, or whole grain tortillas instead of plain white bread. Many brans offer whole grain white products for children who don’t like the grainer products. Aim for at least 3 grams of fiber per serving!
- Add vegetables by adding some to the “sandwich.” On the side, pack some sliced tomato, cucumbers, spinach or lettuce, or even some avocado.
- Aim for a fruit and/or vegetables in every lunch. Try sliced fruit or vegetables with a fun dip, such as yogurt for fruit or light ranch for vegetables.
- Don’t forget to add calcium! Calcium is a much-needed nutrient for growing children. Toss in a yogurt, string cheese stick, slice of cheese on a sandwich, or a carton of low-fat milk.
- For a side item if needed, watch the extra calories in chips and junk food. Instead opt for pretzels, Goldfish crackers, baked chips, or Sun Chips.
- Add a sweet note with a low-fat pudding, Jell-O, Fig Newtons, graham crackers, or pretzels dipped in dark chocolate.
And let’s not forget, sometimes it’s all in the packaging! Try this new spin on lunch boxes called Laptop Lunches. Each lunchbox comes with dishwasher safe, BPA-free plastic containers to package your child’s lunch and side items. No plastic baggies needed!
Packing lunches can take some time but once you get in a routine, lunches should take no more than 10 to 15 minutes of prep time the night before school. By packing your child a healthy lunch (and sometimes afterschool snack as well), you are ensuring your child is getting the right nutrients for his or her growth!
For nutrition or exercise questions, contact:
Kelly Devine, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, CPT
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