Back to school means back to packing lunches. While it might be exciting for kids to pick out their brand new lunch box before school starts, parents often dread the thought of figuring out what exactly to put in that lunch box for the next 9 months. Keep in mind that parents should not pack school lunches alone. Increase the odds of your kids actually eating the lunch you pack by getting them involved. Brainstorm ideas together and enlist their help the night before in packing lunch. Keep in mind that a healthy lunch box includes each of the following: a whole grain, fruit, vegetable, lean protein and a low-fat dairy option.
- Mix up the boring sandwich by trying whole wheat wraps, mini bagels, pita pockets, sandwich rounds or corn tortillas. It is very important to choose whole grain products that have more fiber to ensure that lunch will be digested slowly to reduce afternoon hunger cravings and keep blood sugar stable throughout the rest of the school day.
- Keep sliced bananas, apples and pears from turning brown by mixing them with yogurt or dip them in one of the following juices: lemon, lime, orange, pineapple, grapefruit or apple juice.
- Make veggies more appealing by adding a variety of color and including a low-fat dip. Think orange and purple cauliflower with a light raspberry dressing.
- Replace salty chips with mandarin oranges, shelled edamame, bell-pepper strips, air-popped popcorn, cherry tomatoes or sugar snap peas.
- If your kid isn’t a milk fan, try low-fat pudding, yogurt, or string cheese.
- Peanut Butter Banana Burrito: Spread peanut butter on a whole wheat wrap, drizzle with honey and place a whole banana at the edge of the wrap to roll up.
- Turkey Salad Hot Dog: Mix together diced smoked turkey, toasted almonds, halved seedless grapes, thinly chopped celery and light Greek yogurt or light mayo in an airtight container. Pack a whole wheat hot dog bun for your bright child to assemble at lunchtime (the bun will be soggy by lunchtime if assembled beforehand).
- BBQ Chicken Sloppy Joes on a Whole Wheat Bun: Combine leftover cooked chicken with carrots and a few dashes of barbeque sauce. Pack chicken and bun separately.
- Strawberry & Cream Cheese Sandwich: Slice up some strawberries and spread reduced-fat cream cheese on 100% whole wheat bread for a quick and healthy twist on the everyday peanut butter & jelly.
Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.