Now that you’re aware of the best lunch choices for your kids at school, let’s move on to packing a healthy brown-bag lunch. The same food groups that kids should fill their plates with at school should be packed for them at home. The benefit of sending them off to school with a pre-made lunch, is that they will be more likely to get the balance they need, and you can make them (or they can make themselves) more interesting combos.
Before I get to the choices, there are a few things you should remember:
- Kids like to be involved! Bring them to the supermarket and let them help you pick out the foods they want to try. Within reason of course!
- Don’t give up. It takes children 15 to 20 times to develop a taste for new foods. So if they don’t like something new or different, keep on packing it for them. Eventually they may grow to like it. And if not, then at least you tried!
- Trading meals still happens. Don’t think your kid is eating everything you send with him or her. Children still trade food at school. Ask your kids how they liked whatever you packed for them that day – you should be able to tell if they are telling the truth or not! If you think your kid is trading his/her meals, ask the teacher to keep an eye out and report back, and then talk to your child about it. Perhaps all you need to do is send something different to school.
As for choices, you know what needs to be in the bag: a carb, protein, fruit and/or vegetable (preferably both), dairy, and a drink. Here are some ways to mix it up and keep it fun:
- Use different types of carbs. Instead of whole wheat bread for a sandwich every day, try whole wheat pita, wraps, english muffins. Make a brown rice bowl or whole wheat pasta dish. Or try something completely new like quinoa or wheat berries.
- Change up the protein. Some kids like the same thing every day, but most don’t, and even if they do they need to learn to eat a variety of foods. So switch it up. Good protein sources include grilled chicken breast, roasted turkey breast, edamame, tofu, veggie burgers, turkey burgers, and low-fat cheese slices or string cheese.
- Keep it neat. Bringing lunch to school can become a messy ordeal, so keep it neat for your kids and they’ll be more likely to enjoy it. When it comes to sandwiches, put tomato slices between the meat or cheese slices or wrap them separately so the sandwich bread doesn’t get soggy. Stick to whole fruits like apples, oranges, bananas, nectarines, peaches, and plums, which won’t squish like berries and grapes will. Same for vegetables; baby carrots, celery sticks, and pepper slices are all easy to eat and won’t be mushy when it comes time to eat them.
- Drink wisely. Water and nonfat or low-fat milk are drinks of choice for kids. Fruit juice should be limited because of excess sugar, but if you do send your kids off to school with a juice box, make sure it’s 100% juice.
- Treat them. An occasional treat in the bag will keep kids happy and give them something to look forward to. It may also prevent them from trading their lunch. But don’t make it a daily occurrence and make sure it’s not more than 150 calories.
Remember, lunch is what’s going to get them through their afternoon classes, so they need to have brain energy and not be left feeling fatigued because of too much sugar or fat in their lunch.
What do your kids like to eat for lunch?