Today’s blog is a repost from our 2011 ‘Back to School’ campaign. Dietician Amy Hess-Fischl shares her tips for packing healthy school lunches!
Packing school lunches can be yet another daunting task on your ‘to-do’ list during the week. But it’s an extremely important task, nonetheless. A recent article in USA Today features a teacher who ate school lunches from the cafeteria for a year…and she became ‘fed up’ with what the students are served. So starting your kids off right by packing school lunches with nutritious foods (that taste good, too!) will help them establish healthy eating habits for life.
While an easy go-to lunch might typically include a sandwich on white bread, a bag of chips and cookies, here are some healthy (and more interesting) items for your child’s lunch box. Plus, a lot of these options can be prepared the night before…which means you have one less thing on your ‘to-do’ list during the hectic morning routine.
- Wraps made with whole wheat tortillas, containing either lean cold cuts or low-fat cream cheese topped with veggie slices. Even the classic PB & J (peanut butter & jelly) is healthier in a wheat wrap.
- Mini-burritos made with rice and black beans or refried beans in a tortilla with tomato salsa. These can be heated or eaten cold.
- Whole grain bagels topped with cream cheese-vegetable spread.
- Quesadilla slices made with cheese and chicken or vegetables.
- Cold strips of grilled chicken with honey mustard dip.
- Single portion-sized cups of unsweetened apple sauce or fruit without added sugar.
- Trail mix made with cereals, nuts, pretzels, dried fruit or raisins, and a few chocolate morsels.
- Low-fat cheese cubes and seedless grapes make a delicious side dish for sandwiches or wraps.
- Individual serving-sized packages of low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese or yogurt smoothies.
- Baby carrots, celery sticks or apple slices with dips made from yogurt or low-fat sour cream.
Here are additional recipes for school lunches from Cooking Light. Some of their recipes might also sound good to working parents who are looking for a healthier lunch at the office!
And if your child tends to visit the school vending machines, here are a couple of healthier snack options they can bring from home:
- Baked chips or pretzels are a better choice than high-fat potato chips or cheese snacks.
- Drinks made from water with a splash of cranberry, peach, grape or other fruit juice are healthier than sodas. Excess consumption of pure sugar-laden juices can increase the risk of obesity.
- Low-fat cheese spread on whole wheat crackers.
- Air-popped popcorn flavored with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
- Dried cranberries or cherries are a sweet alternative for kids bored with raisins.
While some schools are now offering healthier alternatives in their vending machines, this article from the New York Times explains that it’s still a “tough sell” for some students.
I hope I’ve given you the tools you need to make healthier options for your child’s lunches and snacks. Today’s Dietitian also offers several more resources about nutrition and school-aged children (scroll to the list of websites on page 62). Enjoy!