If you are concerned about the food your child’s school is serving, you have a good reason. While they do their best, many school cafeterias have limited resources. So, the food they are serving isn’t necessarily what a parent would consider healthy. Many of the items on school lunch menus are high in starch, sugar, or fat, all undesirable for a healthy meal.
But, if you’re stuffing your child’s lunch box with the tried and true PB&J, are you doing much better? You might be trying, but the homemade lunches you fix aren’t going to do much good if your child doesn’t eat them.
So, you’re left trying to find something that’s both nutritious and desirable. Don’t worry. It’s easier than it appears. Here are a few tips for packing a healthy lunch for your school-aged kids that they’ll actually eat.
Make It a Group Activity
Sure, everyone is busy. But your children are more likely to eat and enjoy their lunch if they have a say in what’s in the box. Spend some time as a family creating a rotating lunch menu that includes main and side items.
Create a chart on a piece of paper that you can write down food ideas. There’s nothing wrong with adding a few treats. But make sure you also ask your kids what fruits and vegetables they would like to eat for lunch and come to an agreement about what gets eaten first.
Create Different Food Groups
You’ll want to have a list of categories (even the schools do this) on your chart. Each week, you can have your kids pick one food item from each category to include in a day’s lunch box. Here are a few examples:
- Sliced turkey or chicken breast
- String cheese or cheese cubes
- Plain yogurt
- Mixed nuts and seeds
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Apple or pear slices
- Clementine (peeled)
- Dried apricots
- Strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries
- Baby carrots
- Celery sticks
- Snap peas
- Bell pepper strips
- Cherry tomatoes
- Homemade muffins
- Pita bread
- Granola bar
- Whole-wheat crackers
- Rye or wheat bread
- Mini bagel
- Low-fat granola
- Small tortillas
Healthy sides and snacks
- Trail mix with dried fruit and nuts
- Air-popped popcorn
- Kale or sweet potato chips
- Pretzels or graham crackers
- Homemade oatmeal raisin cookies
- Whole-grain tortilla chips
- Avocado slices
- Dark chocolate-covered raisins
Don’t Forget a Healthy Drink
Although kids love sugary and carbonated drinks with their meals, it is a good idea to steer clear of these options if you’re trying to give them a healthy lunch. Instead, send water or low-fat, unflavored milk along with your child’s meal. But, if you’re going to send juice, just make sure that it is 100% juice and a small portion (4-6 ounces). Also, you can freeze your child’s drink and use it as an ice pack for their lunch.
Be Aware of Serving Sizes for Kids
Children don’t need to eat as much as adults because they have smaller stomachs and tend to eat smaller amounts regularly. When you pack their healthy lunch, make sure the serving sizes are appropriate.
For example, children ages 4-6 only need about ½ slice of bread or 3-4 crackers to create a serving of grains and ½ cup salad or vegetables for another serving. But a child ages 7-10 should get a full slice of bread and one cup of salad to make an entire serving.
What About Prepared Healthy Lunch Items?
You probably have some leftovers that you’d like to repurpose into healthy lunch items. And there is nothing wrong with doing this, either. Things like cold pasta salad, pinwheel finger sandwiches, and straight-up chicken wings or drumsticks make excellent healthy lunch entrees for kids.
Skip the Processed Snacks
You’ll want to skip the processed snacks in your child’s lunch. Many of these ready-to-eat items contain too much salt or sugar. That said, there is nothing wrong with adding one of these treats about once per week to add some variety to your child’s lunch.
Choose Nick’s of Calvert for Your Healthy Lunch Grocery Items
Now that you have some solid information about packing a healthy lunch for your children, you probably have a hefty grocery list of delicious items to include. Let Nick’s of Calvert help you fill your grocery basket this week with the delicious food that is going to head to school with your kids in the coming days.
We offer high-quality products and top-notch service to customers throughout the area. As your hometown grocery store, you’ll always find the freshest meats and deli items at Nick’s. And we’d be happy to give you a hand if there’s anything you need. Make sure to visit us today.