Getting our kids to make healthy choices when it comes to food isn’t easy. Making them a part of the process and planning ahead of time might help. Also consider making it a little fun. Healthy lunches are also a great way to reduce the risk of childhood obesity.
I reached out to Erin Corrigan, Clinical Nutrition Manager at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital for some tips on how to make sure you’re packing the perfect lunch for your child. Here are some of her suggestions:
*Prepare the meal the night before. This gives you time to make sure you’ve made healthy choices. Cut enough fresh fruits and vegetables in snack size baggies for the week to make them easy to grab in the mornings.
*Have your kids participate: Make your kids a part of the process by letting them make their own sandwiches with healthy items you’ve chosen. Also, have them pick out the fruit they prefer, or ask them to select the flavor of yogurt. Kids seem to lo love ready-made lunch packs because they get to assemble and “play” with their food, however most are high in sodium and calories. You can make your own by using plastic containers with dividers that can help with portion control and presentation. Include healthy treats like cheese and crackers that allow you take a break from the usual sandwich and consider having a healthy dip like yogurt or hummus for fruit and vegetables.
*Make it fun and let them get creative. Consider letting them decorate their “lunch bag” with stickers or drawings. Cookie cutters also add fun to the lunches by creating shapes with the fruit and cheese.
Here are some of the MUST HAVE items every healthy lunch should include:
a source of lean protein
a fruit or vegetable
at least 3-4 food groups with varying color to balance out nutrients, including a source of calcium, such as yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, or milk
Finally, if your child loves peanut butter but your school is “peanut-free”, no worries. There are many other “butters” on the market. Sunbutter is made from sunflower seeds, No Nuts is made from peas and there are several manufacturers of soy butter. If you have a powerful blender, you can try making your own “butters” out of any seed, such as pumpkin seeds.