Packing a Healthy School Lunch

Amy Gardner
April 9, 2014

We have made it through this very, very long winter and although summer is in sight, there are still plenty of packed lunches left to put together. If you find yourself or your little one fatiguing from that go-to PB&J, here’s a few ideas to get you through the rest of the school year!

Remember the ABC’s of Packing a Healthy School Lunch:
Avoid lunch “burn out” by packing a variety of lunches
Balance your child’s lunch by including at least 3 food groups
Create a meal plan for the week and prepare lunches ahead of time

Go In With a Plan
-Ask your child for some input regarding what he or she would like for lunch
-Pick up foods you’ll need from the grocery store for the beginning of the school week. Cut up fruits and veggies and pre-portion snacks like baked chips or pretzels in bags before the week starts
-Take the 10-15 minutes to pack your child’s lunch the night before to avoid the morning rush.

Variety is the Spice of Life
Spruce up your child’s usual sandwich with some variety:
-Vary bread choices for sandwiches- try pita pockets, wraps, English muffins, raisin or multi-grain breads or mini-bagels
-For younger kids- cut bread into fun shapes with cookie-cutters to keep lunches fun
-Try “filler” vegetables in sandwiches such as lettuce, tomato, peppers or cucumbers to help fit another serving of veggies into your child’s day
-Consider some unconventional sandwiches such as hummus on a pita, low fat cream cheese and jelly, sunflower butter or veggie and cheese wraps

Break the Sandwich Mold
As long as you provide your child with a balanced lunch it doesn’t always need to be a sandwich.
-Pack cheese and crackers, soup and a wheat roll, single serving cereal with fruit and milk or yogurt with granola as the main portion of your child’s lunch
-Dinner leftovers can be a great source for packing lunches. Add leftover chicken to a salad for the next day or use extra pasta to mix with light dressing, veggies and cheese for a healthy and filling pasta salad.

Mixing up the Sides
-Vary sliced fruits, vegetables, 100% fruit leathers, graham crackers, baked potato chips, granola bars, multi-grain tortilla chips or dried fruit to keep life exciting and offer a variety of different nutrients to your child’s lunch
-Desserts are OK for lunches- but may not need to be there every day. Try some alternative sweets such as yogurt, low fat pudding, fresh fruit or applesauce.

 

If you’re looking for further nutrition recommendations for your child, your self or your family, please see the contact information below for pediatric dietitian Ashley Bade Cronin RD, LDN, CSP to discuss setting up an appointment at one of Metrowest Nutrition’s offices in Northborough, Framingham or Newton.
Ashley Bade Cronin RD, LDN, CSP
ashley@metrowestnutrition.com