The summer sun may still be hot but school is just around the corner! Providing your child with well-balanced, nutritious meals is essential to keeping them energized throughout the day, and performing at their best academically. Although many school lunch programs are taking steps to provide healthier options, research still shows that menus in most school lunch programs are too high in saturated fat and cholesterol and too low in fruits and veggies. For this reason, packing lunch for your child may be the best bet to ensuring they have a nutritious meal to fuel them for the rest of the day.
With busy schedules and hectic mornings, packing lunch every day may seem like a nuisance- but it doesn’t have to be! A great way to save time is to write down a little ‘lunch menu’ for the week; ask the kids to help you do this to get them excited about preparing their own meals. If you are able to plan ahead, you won’t have to worry about running out in the middle of your busy week for groceries.
When planning meals, focus on lean proteins, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and veggies. Remember that lots of colors= lots of nutrients so encourage the kids to make their meals as colorful as they can!
Here are some healthful lunch ideas to consider:
• Sandwich made with low sodium cold-cuts of turkey or ham on whole wheat bread or wrap. Substitute hummus for mayo and add lettuce and tomato. Serve with plain yogurt and strawberries.
• Tuna fish made with fresh salsa, avocado, and small handful of craisins for a touch of sweetness. Serve with whole grain crackers for scooping, baby carrots, and an apple.
• Chicken fingers made by breading with corn flakes and baking. Serve with side of broccoli and carrots with low-fat ranch for dipping.
• Chickpea salad made with chickpeas, tabouli, avocado, and tomatoes. Serve with whole grain crackers, grapes, and piece of low-fat string cheese.
• ‘Mini pizzas’ made with tomato sauce, low-fat mozzarella cheese, spinach, and served on a whole wheat pita. Serve with fresh pineapple.
• Whole grain pasta salad made with olive oil, roasted red peppers, broccoli, and topped with tofu. Drizzle with low-fat Italian dressing. Add herbs like cilantro and basil.
• Roasted bell peppers stuffed with quinoa, onion, chopped carrots, and drizzled with olive oil. Serve with fruit salad.
Get creative and remember to involve the kids in the cooking process! If you’re short on time in the AM, try preparing lunch the night before or making alongside with dinner. For beverages, skip the juice and soda- they’re way too high in sugar! Water, coconut water, and low fat dairy are better options.