Pack a Punch for School Lunch

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In the last decade there have been multiple big changes made to our kids food lunch programs.  Most of these changes have been leading to healthier options.  More whole grains are incorporated into meals, more consistent protein sources, increase in fruit and a huge decrease in sugary beverages.  There are still a few ways that your kids food during school can be healthier.  One of the topics we will talk about is how to make bringing your own lunch from home easier.  Another thing will be how to pack more nutrition into the snacks and lunch provided by the school.

How To Make Packing Lunch Easier!

Packing your kids snacks and lunch can be beneficial in many ways.  It helps your kid have ultimate control over what they are eating.  They get to choose healthier choices from an entire grocery store instead of a small lunch line.  It can be cost-effective depending on where you live. This can help create bonding time between you and your kids.

Know the basics

What should be in your kids lunch?  This is a huge question that parents have.  Hopefully having a basic idea of some things that should be in a healthy lunch can make the process easier.

  • Dairy:  It is recommended that dairy products be a daily part of a child’s diet because of their calcium needs.  Here are some ways that dairy can be incorporated into your kids school lunch:
    • Mini baby bell cheese or string cheese with some whole grain crackers or vegetables for a snack
    • Slice of provolone cheese on a whole wheat and turkey sandwich
    • Greek yogurt for a snack
    • 1% fat Cottage cheese and peaches for a side at lunch
  • Protein: Kids need protein every day in their diet to make sure they are growing healthy muscular structure.  This also helps with making your child feel full and helps control calories. Ways to incorporate protein into school snacks or lunch:
    • Using sliced deli meat on whole wheat sandwiches along with provolone cheese and vegetables.  Turkey or roast beef deli meat are the least processed
    • Tuna fish packets or canned chicken to put on pita bread with a mayo packet and lettuce
    • Homemade chicken tenders.  Or home grilled chicken tenders with dipping sauce
    • Individual hummus packets for a snack served with sliced vegetables
    • An apple with peanut butter
    • Hard boiled eggs or egg salad
    • Egg and English muffin sandwich for lunch
    • 1/4th of a cup of nuts and seeds for a snack
    • A nut and seed bar for a snack
  • Vegetables:  Kids should be getting at least three servings of non-starchy vegetables a day.  There are certain vegetables that DO NOT count as non-starchy: potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, corn.  Most other vegetables will count towards their 3-a-day.  Ways to incorporate vegetables into your kids snacks and lunches.
    • At the beginning of the week cut up a variety of vegetables to be served with things like hummus, peanut butter, cream cheese, ranch dressing.  Have the vegetables in individual bags to grab and go
    • Add lettuce and tomato to any sandwich you make.
    • Pack a side salad to every lunch to help replace things like crackers and french fries.
    • Roasted vegetable and whole grain pasta salad.
  • Fruit: Kids should be getting about 2 servings of fruit a day, not from juice.  Fruits are a great source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. They are also called nature’s candy!
    • Sliced apple or pear with slices of cheese or peanut butter
    • Mixed berries for a snack or as a side
    • Mixed nuts and dried fruit
    • Clementines for a snack or side
  • Whole Grains:  Kids should be getting about 50% of their calories from carbohydrate sources (fruit, grains, starchy vegetables, beans, corn).  As we just discussed some of those calories should be coming from fruit.  Whole grains are also a healthy source of carbohydrates.  Try to limit white flour and refined sugars.
    • Whole grain pasta for pasta salad filled with vegetables
    • Whole grain crackers topped with: hummus, peanut butter or cream cheese
    • Whole grain bread for sandwiches
    • Brown rice stir fry

 

How to Implement This:

Family Time!

Make prepping for school lunch easier by spending time with your kids to pick out recipes and help you cook them.  This will get your kids involved in the process, help cut down on time that has to be spent prepping, ensures that your kids will be more willing to eat the food, you will teach your kids valuable cooking skills to use the rest of their life and it is quality time!

Step 1: Buy a kids lunch cookbook or look up some healthy kid lunch websites and your kids can pick the recipes with you.

Step 2: Take your kids to the grocery store with you once a week to pick out the fruits and vegetables for the week.  Also let them pick out the snacks for the week.

Step 3: Prep the food once you get home.  Have the kids wash all the produce and lay out the Tupperware.  Parents will cut up the produce and have the kids put them in baggies or Tupperware for the week.

At this point you should have some grab and go fruits, vegetables, snacks, dairy.  Now all you have to do is prep the main dish the night before.  If it is a sandwich your kid can put it together.  If you cook a full meal and divide this into smaller portions the kids can grab them the night before and put them in their lunch box along with at least 1 grab and go: fruit, 2 vegetables, 1 dairy.  The quantity should be enough for a lunch and 2 snacks.

Tips:

1.) Grab and go fruits and vegetables can also supplement a lunch provided at school to help replace less healthy options (chips, fries, pretzels, bread sticks).

2.) Don’t have your kids skip breakfast.  These grab and go snacks can be used for breakfast: nut and seed bars, apple with peanut butter, fruit, Greek yogurt.

3.) Invest in a good lunch box

4.) Dedicate one cupboard and one refrigerator drawer just for school lunch products.  This helps your kids know exactly where to go to pick out foods.  It also helps you not eat school lunch foods for other meals.

5.) Prep the lunches the night before so that all you have to do is grab it in the AM.

Here are a few websites with great lunch recipes!

https://www.coupons.com/thegoodstuff/21-vegetarian-lunch-ideas-for-kids/

https://www.mamanatural.com/school-lunch-ideas/

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/22739/healthy-kids/lunch/top/slideshow/our-top-healthy-kids-lunch-ideas-for-school/

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipes/12154/everyday-cooking/family-friendly/back-to-school/lunch-box/?page=2

https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/healthy-school-lunch-ideas/