Children learn eating habits early on in life, and thankfully, school lunches go a long way to providing balanced nutrition for your child. Unfortunately, if you are like millions of American parents who have a child with food allergies, are concerned about their child’s eating habits, or simply opt to skip the school lunch for the brown bag that you pack yourself, it may be difficult to design a lunch that is nutritionally sound and child-friendly.
In an effort to help children learn healthy eating habits early on, it is important to stay on top of what your children eat every day and provide them with healthy, brain-boosting foods that are fresh and wholesome. It can be a grind to pack a lunch every day, but it is vital that you teach and share with your children the value of choosing fresh, healthy food over processed foods which can be loaded with unnecessary sugars, fats, and stabilizers.
One of the best ways to upgrade your child’s lunch is to invest in a compartmentalized lunch box where their food can be stored separately, and wet foods can remain contained and off of dry ones.
Children are big fans of sandwiches, and all great sandwiches start with the right bread. For healthier bread options, 100% whole wheat breads, pita pockets, rice paper, or tortilla wraps can be switched out to add a whole new level of flavor and fun for your child’s lunch.
Many parents today choose to skip the bread altogether and opt for meat roll-ups, healthy noodles like soba and black sesame, or add a healthy, low-fat grain to their meal like quinoa salad. Veggies are a must-have in any child’s nutritious lunch, and there are some clever ways to get your child to eat them without too much hassle. Staple veggies that any kid will chomp on during lunch include carrot slices, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, edamame, bell peppers, celery sticks, and broccoli.
The easiest way to get kids to happily devour veggies is to serve them up with hummus. The flavor of hummus can be adjusted to suit your child’s tastes, and you can even swap out chickpeas for edamame and make their hummus a fun green color. Other healthy veggie dip options include herbed low-fat Greek yogurt, a low-calorie guacamole, yogurt ranch dip, bean dip, or a fresh salsa. Cheeses and meats are nourishing and provide a lot of good fats, calcium, and protein, but the ratio of meats and cheeses in the lunch box should be one quarter of the meal only. This gives your child the right balance of foods so that you can be sure that they will eat up their veggies and salads too without filling up on the dairy and protein.
No child should be left without a fruit snack in their lunchbox, and kids everywhere enjoy apple slices, fresh pineapple, watermelon, grapes, strawberries, and oranges. Get creative and serve your kids some rainbow fruit skewers or cinnamon and raisin topped apples cubes with their lunch. If your child is a fan of dessert (who isn’t?), you don’t have to rack your brain to find them healthy dessert options. Mini red bean brownies, piece of dark chocolate, or chocolate covered raisins can take the place of cookies and prepackaged cakes that fill your child up with unnecessary sugars.
The best way to build a better lunch for your kids is to build a better lunch with your kids. Children who partake in meal planning and preparation make better food choices, so it is important that they have a hand in creating the plate of food that they’ll consume later in the day. We promise they will look forward to every bite knowing that they helped make smart food choices that will keep them happy and healthy all day long.