Have You Missed Packing Those School Lunches? - MetroFamily Magazine
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Have You Missed Packing Those School Lunches?

by Kim Bilger MPH, RD, LD

Reading Time: 2 minutes 

Don’t let packing your child’s lunch be something you dread. Sending a lunch with your child to school or daycare can be an inexpensive, nutritious alternative to purchasing a lunch and is a great way to teach your child the importance of a healthy meal.

Allow your child to be involved in the shopping and the preparation process, providing guidance for choices along the way. They will be more likely to want something they have helped with. If you are pressed for time in the mornings, pack a lunch the night before as an activity with your child, and don’t forget to store it in the refrigerator overnight!

A well-balanced meal includes a combination of carbohydrate, protein and some fat. Sugar doesn’t last long in the body, so minimizing the amount of sugar in your child’s lunch will keep them from having short burst of high energy followed by quick drop, leaving them feeling tired. Limiting the amount of fat in your child’s lunch will also help keep them from feeling sluggish the rest of the day as a result of being too full.

Here are some ideas for a nutritious, well-balanced lunch:

Sandwiches and Such:

  • Peanut butter & jelly on whole wheat bread {use almond butter or sunbutter for classes that are peanut free}
  • Lean lunch meat, a lowfat cheese slice, light mayo or mustard, lettuce & tomato on whole wheat bread
  • Chicken, tuna, or egg salad made with light mayo on whole wheat bread or with whole wheat crackers
  • Instead of using the prepackaged lunches for kids (which are often high in sodium, fat, & cost!), make your own with lean lunchmeat slices, lowfat cheese slices, and whole wheat crackers
  • Hard boiled egg & whole wheat crackers
  • Lean turkey breast slices rolled around a lowfat string cheese
  • Lean turkey breast slices spread with light cream cheese, rolled up and cut
  • Flour tortilla spread with fat free refried beans & sprinkled with lowfat cheese, rolled up
  • Small, wheat pita pocket filled with lean lunchmeat, lowfat cheese, light mayo or mustard, lettuce & tomato

Savory Sides and Sweets:

  • Lowfat yogurt cup
  • Lowfat pudding cup
  • Fruit cup (canned in juice)
  • Fresh fruit: grapes, melon cubes, orange slices, banana, raisins or other dried fruits, apple or pear slices (sprinkle with lemon juice to reduce browning)
  • Homemade trail mix (nuts, dry cereal, dried fruit) – (don’t overdo the amount!)
  • Lowfat graham crackers or cookies
  • Light popcorn, pretzels or whole grain goldfish crackers
  • Baby carrots, cherry or grape tomatoes, celery or cucumber slices with light dressing
  • Oatmeal raisin cookie

Delicious Drinks:

  • Lowfat or fat free milk
  • 100% fruit juice (limit to 4-6 oz/day)
  • Water

Pack it safe!

  • Wash your hands before preparing the food.
  • Use a cold pack when packing any type of animal product (milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, meats)
  • Use a thermos for hot foods
  • Freeze drinks overnight. They’ll thaw in the lunchbox.
  • Wash out lunchboxes every day or use disposable lunch bags
  • Toss in some moist towelettes for your child to clean their hands before eating (and afterward)

Kim Bilger is a registered dietitian with a passion for helping people optimize their nutritional health.  She lives in Edmond with her husband and three kids who appreciate her love of baking but not always her love of vegetables.

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