When your child takes lunch to school, you can be sure that he or she is getting the right kind of nutrition. The healthy choices you make will help keep their energy levels up, and keep them alert, even in the afternoon. A great lunch begins with healthy choices-but the items you select need to be appealing as well. A nutritious lunch will do your child no good if it is traded or thrown away.
The elements of the "perfect lunch" include protein and fiber packed foods for energy, a good quality drink to keep your child hydrated, and some kind of sweet, but healthy snack, so your child doesn't feel deprived. Put these items in an appealing package, and add some fun surprises, and your child will look forward to lunchtime every day. Follow the tips below to get the most out of your packed lunch:
Choose an appealing package. Select a lunchbox or bag that your child will like. You can find lunchboxes with a wide array of fun characters for little kids, or in designer colors and styles for older children. Make sure that the box or bag your choose is durable and easy to clean. It should also be able to hold all of your food choices.
Once you have your lunchbox, start with the main course. If you plan ahead, you can make enough dinner to pack leftovers for lunch the next morning. Choose a main course with fiber and protein, to head off an after lunch energy crash. Consider whole grain pastas and spaghetti, soups, macaroni and cheese (when made with whole grain pasta, this packs protein, fiber, and calcium), or other "hot" foods. If your child prefers a sandwich, try an old fashioned PB& J (with natural peanut butter, and made on whole wheat), tuna, or turkey. Always keep your hot items hot, and your cool items cool when packing lunch to go.
Once you have selected the main course, select a side item to go with it. If you have packed a hot lunch, try whole grain bread or roll as an accompaniment. If you have packed a sandwich as the main course, add some pretzels or whole grain cheese crackers as a side.
Don't overlook the drink-many schools now offer soft drinks and sugary "fruit" beverages alongside the milk. You can bypass the sugary stuff altogether by including a drink of your own with lunch. Bottled water (look for the special "kids" sizes), a juice box (use only the 100% juice, and avoid added sugar or High Fructose Corn Syrup), or a shelf stable milk box (you can find organic milk boxes at the health food store) all make great lunchbox drinks.
Include something sweet with lunch. Consider a piece of fruit like a banana or apple, or a bowl of sliced melon. Mini muffins made with zucchini, blueberries, or pumpkin are sweet and healthy as well. You can also add yogurt or dried fruits to add a touch of sweetness to finish off the meal.
Round out your lunch by occasionally including a note or small surprise like a sticker or small toy. If you do this once a week or so, you child will be excited to open their lunchbox every day. You can also pick up some seasonal or holiday napkins, and include them at the appropriate time. By planning ahead and knowing what nutrients your child needs most, you can be sure that they take-and eat-a healthy lunch each day.