Monday, September 10, 2012

Back to School Nutrition Tips - Packing a Healthy Lunch!

We know the best way to positively impact food decisions is to make sure that you provide a nutritious lunch and snacks for your children each day, foods that you know your child will want to eat. Too many times, lunch is packed without the child’s input. While the intentions of packing a healthful lunch are there, your child may get to school, trades your banana for a mini candy bar, eats some of a friend’s chips, and then throws the rest of your lunch away. If you want to help assure that your child will eat what is packed, involve your child in making the lunch.

If you are not able to pack your child an entire lunch, try to provide a few healthy snacks for classroom snack times. Often children go 5 hours between meals in the morning (7 am to noon) and about the same amount of time after lunch (noon to 5 pm). Children are growing and need fuel for both their body and mind. A peanut butter and banana sandwich, cut-up fruits and vegetables, trail mix, and even whole-food-based granola bars are great options if no refrigeration is available. Make sure to follow the snack guidelines set by your child’s school.

Even if you don't have children, we are all children at heart and can benefit from healthy lunches!

Consider the following suggestions while packing a healthy lunch:

-         Cookie cutters – no, not for cookies, but for sandwiches. Kids love shapes, whether it’s a heart around Valentine’s Day or Star midweek. As far as the filling, try hummus, or branch out of the typical PB&J to almond or cashew butter.
-         Serve sandwiches on whole grain tortillas, bagels, or offer a scoop of chickpea ‘chicken’ salad with whole grain crackers. Variety is the spice of life. Yet, with kids, make sure you try it at home first.
-         Use leftovers. If your child ate the chili last night, serve it for lunch in a thermos  or serve room temperature. A lot of children don’t mind if their food isn’t steaming hot.
-         If kids are on a sandwich strike, try bow tie pasta with their favorite sauce. Explore other noodles, even rice noodles with an Asian stir-fry sauce and veggies.
-         Use smaller tortillas with refried beans and salsa for a burrito.

-        Give your child something sweet, like fruit. We are all born liking sweet-tasting foods, so offer your child something that will satisfy this craving, so it is not necessary to go looking for it elsewhere. A box of raisins or even some dried dates/figs are great options.
-         Make whole grain pancakes with blueberries on Sunday and freeze the leftovers. Warm them up and pack for a fun lunch.
-         Serve raw or slightly cooked asparagus spears, carrots, celery, broccoli, etc with a dip such as hummus, salsa, or peanut butter.
-         Offer half a cooked sweet potato, or cube them, with sprinkling of brown sugar.
-         Take advantage of convenience fruits and vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, edamame, snap peas, jicama sticks, fruit kebobs, bananas, pears/apples, etc.
-         Create a trail mix with dried fruits, unsalted nuts, pretzels, and a whole grain cereal.
-         Make a pita pizza using the whole wheat pita as a crust, pouring 1/4 c sauce on top, loading it with favorite vegetables, and baking 6-8min at 400 degrees the night before.

What are some of your favorite lunches to pack and bring to work or school??

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