Tips & Tricks For A Healthy School Lunch
Starting your kids off right by packing school lunches with nutritious foods that taste good will help them establish healthy eating habits for life. Instead of a sandwich on white bread, bag of chips, and cookies, try some of the following healthy (and more interesting) items for your child’s lunch box:
What to Pack
Carrots are the No. 1 kid-friendly source of vitamin A and beta carotene, two essential nutrients for strong vision in the classroom, strong bones on the playground and a strong immune system for the crowded school bus. Carrots are also a top source of lycopene, a disease-fighting phytonutrient.
The good news is that kids will often eat carrots plain and raw. Cut them into kid-friendly spears, or get creative with the cutting board to keep enticing them.
For a shot of calcium at lunch, nothing beats yogurt, but did you know plain yogurt is also a top source of potassium, a key nutrient for young hearts, muscles and bones? The problem is finding a way to dress yogurt up for a kid-friendly lunch, particularly if you’re avoiding the many yogurts on the market that are overloaded with extra sugars.
One great strategy is to send your kid to school not only with yogurt, but with some of her favorite whole grain cereals and fruits for toppings. Fortified cereals are packed with nutrients and provide a good source of healthy whole grains. And a fruit yogurt topping is one good way to keep healthy fruit in your child’s diet.
Trail mix comes in all forms. The trick is to find a mix that is both healthy and kid-friendly. Experiment to find the right balance for your kid, because it can be a great source of healthy superfoods, like sunflower seeds (the top source of vitamin E), pumpkin seeds (a top source of iron), nuts (a top source of vitamin E and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids) and raisins (a top source of potassium). And remember, chocolate is a superfood too, so don’t be afraid to sprinkle a few chips in to make the mix more enticing.
Vitamin C is a powerful ally for kids trying to ward off or recover from colds. But did you know that kiwis have as much vitamin C as oranges and that red sweet peppers have twice as much of the disease-fighting nutrient?
Great lunch ideas:
• Wraps made with whole wheat tortillas, containing either lean cold cuts or lowfat cream cheese topped with veggie slices. Even the classic PB and J (peanut butter & jelly) is healthier in a wheat wrap.
• Single portion-sized cups of unsweetened apple sauce or fruit without added sugar.
• Trail mix made with cereals, nuts, pretzels, dried fruit or raisins, and a few chocolate morsels.
• Low fat cheese spread on whole wheat crackers.
• Individual serving-sized packages of low fat yogurt, cottage cheese, or yogurt smoothies.
• Baby carrots, celery sticks, or apple slices with dips made from yogurt or low fat sour cream.
• Mini-burritos made with rice and black beans or refried beans in a tortilla with tomato salsa. These can be heated or eaten cold.
• Baked chips or pretzels are a better choice than high-fat potato chips or cheese snacks.
• Drinks made from water with a splash of cranberry, peach, grape, or other fruit juice are healthier than sodas. Excess consumption of pure sugar-laden juices can increase the risk of obesity.
• Whole grain bagels topped with cream cheese-vegetable spread.
• Air-popped popcorn flavored with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
• Low fat cheese cubes and seedless grapes make a delicious side dish for sandwiches or wraps.
• Cold strips of grilled chicken with honey mustard dip.
• Dried cranberries or cherries are a sweet alternative for kids bored with raisins.
• Quesadilla slices made with cheese and chicken or vegetables.
Cheers to healthy kids!