The new school year is just around the corner along with the nightly chore of packing lunches. From getting your child involved in the preparation to finding that perfect balance between healthy and tasty – here are some tips for creating A+ school lunches.
Back to school season is quickly approaching, along with the parental responsibility to create fun and healthy lunches that your child will actually eat! The goal of building a nutritious lunch box is ensuring that the meal will provide your child with enough energy to sustain them throughout the afternoon. Fatigue and irritability associated with a poor lunch may impact your child’s ability to learn, connect with peers or retain important information. Here are three tips for building an A+ lunch box for your child this school year:
- Involve Your Child: Invite your child into the kitchen. Create a list of items that must be included in each meal (leafy greens, one protein, one healthy fat and one whole grain) and allow your child to mix and match. Make healthy options available to your child so they can pack their own school lunches. Spending time with your child in the kitchen, in addition to developing fun memories involving food, may increase the likelihood of your child eating the meal they created. Taking your child to the grocery store may also inspire them to be more engaged in the cooking process. If your child is a picky eater, encourage them to explore the produce section and pick out any foods that spark their curiosity. Lastly, ask your child questions about the school lunch environment and foods they are willing to eat. For example, an easy to eat vegetable wrap or cracker sandwiches may be better alternatives for a child who spends most of their lunch period socializing with friends. Consider sitting down once a week to plan the following week’s lunches. Communication is key.
- Create Healthy Versions of Kid Favorites: Lunchables, Rice Krispies Treats, French fries and Mini Muffins are examples of popular school snacks that can be modified to better fit your child’s nutritional needs. See below for an easy, nutrient-dense French fry modification you can try this school year.
- Keep it Colorful: By adding colorful fruits and vegetables to your child’s lunch, you will increase the eye appeal and nutritional value of the meal. You can also make shapes out of the fruits and vegetables prior to packing them. If your child is excited about the lunch, there is a less likely chance it will see the bottom of a trash can. Include colors and modify the shapes and sizes of your child’s meal to increase lunchtime success.
1 pound of carrots
Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400ºF.
- Peel the carrots and cut them into strips about ¼-inch thick and a few inches long.
- Coat a baking pan with cooking spray and spread the carrots onto it. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Bake 15 minutes. Flip them over and coat them with a bit more cooking spray, salt and pepper; bake another 15 minutes until lightly browned.
Serving size: 1/4 recipe
Calories: 45; Total Fat: 0g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 370mg; Total Carbohydrate: 11g; Dietary Fiber: 3g; Sugars: 5g; Protein: 1g.
Recipe and Nutrition Information Modified From: Eatright.org
By Tara Lavelle, Roper St. Francis volunteer and graduate student in Human Nutrition at Winthrop University