Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Back To School Lunchbox

It's the time of year when the kids are off to school.  As a parent of two children I know how hectic the days may be.  I understand how tempting it is to want to give your child money for lunch to purchase cafeteria foods rather than sending your child with a midday brown bag meal.

I'll be honest.  Back in the day, I used to throw random leftovers and anything I thought my son would eat in his lunchbox.  I didn't give much thought about him having a balanced meal.

This may be surprising for some individuals to read considering I am a dietitian.  The truth is that I am also a parent and I understand how chaotic the days become during the school year.

I admit to the times I would grab anything in the refrigerator or freezer (corn dog, pizza, hot pocket) to feed my kids because they had to be fed "now."

But, now I realize the importance of taking time to plan weekly meals. 

In the past, I would put random food items into my son's lunchbox about 10 minutes before I had to  take him to preschool.

This year, I will be planning all meals for the week to ensure my son and daughter are fed healthy lunches.

I know how busy school mornings are and I hate feeling rushed.

School mornings in my household consist of two children complaining how tired they are and dragging their feet to head out the door because they know we are already late! (seriously walking like zombies out of the's a production for sure).

But with a little preparation, it's easy to fill the kids' lunchboxes with healthy foods and you can feel like one proud parent!

It is up to me to provide my kids with healthy food options. 

It may also be confusing to know which foods and beverages are considered "healthy" to pack into the lunchbox. 

Listed below are suggested healthy meal options.

  • Multi-grain bagels, whole-grain English muffins, tortillas and colorful wraps, whole- grain bread slices, crackers and pita pockets are all great options instead of white bread 
  • Light canned tuna fish, chicken, and egg salads mixed with a small amount of mayonnaise
  • Lean, low sodium lunch meats such as ham or turkey
  • Peanut butter or almond butter spread with slices of apples, bananas, raisins, or granola
  • Veggie or turkey burgers topped with a slice of cheese or guacamole
  • Whole-grain English muffin pizza (spaghetti/pizza sauce on each half, sprinkle with shredded cheese and favorite toppings, heat and eat!)
  • Sliced veggies such as carrot sticks, celery, broccoli, tomatoes, colorful peppers and don't forget to pack your child's favorite veggie dip on the side!
  • Sliced fruits including strawberries, grapes, pears, peaches
  • Whole fruits including bananas, blueberries, apples
  • Dried or freeze-dried fruits
  • Applesauce
  • Yogurt
  • Raisins
  • Cottage cheese
  • Baked chips
  • Veggie straws
  • Cheese stick
  • Trail mixes
  • Pita bread and hummus
  • Granola bars
  • Low-fat or fat-free milk
  • Water
  • 100% Fruit juices
  • Water with a splash of fruit juice for extra flavor
  • Avoid soda and high sugar beverages such as fruit punch
By packing a serving of food from the protein group, whole-grain/multi-grain group, fruit and vegetable group, and low-fat dairy group your child will be consuming the essential vitamins and nutrients he or she needs. 

The benefits of children consuming healthy foods is not only important for their long-term optimal health, but also their academic performance. 

Studies have shown that students with poorly rated diets perform lower on standardized tests.  In addition, experts have found that skipping meals or consuming unbalanced meals interferes with concentration at school.

The benefits of packing healthy foods and beverages into your child's lunchbox are endless.  If you haven't given much thought about your child's lunch in the past, start thinking today!   

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