Kids are back in school, and that means it is time to be creative when packing their lunches. When you do pack up lunches, here are some healthy reminders

Pack ‘em healthy

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Kids are back in school, and that means it is time to be creative when packing their lunches. Some kids will have lunch from the school cafeteria, but others will be taking their lunch box. When you do pack up lunches, here are some healthy reminders because lunch time is an important nutritional break in the day. That meal should provide nearly one-third of the nutrition for your children.

Lunch should include a source of protein to meet growth needs:

  • Fish, poultry and lean meats
  • Yogurt and cheese
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Hummus and legumes
  • Tofu

Lunch should include at least one source of starch for get-up-and-go energy:

  • Whole-grain bread, roll, pita pocket, tortilla and crackers
  • Whole-grain rice, pasta or quinoa
  • Crunchy: Cold cereals such as bran chex, whole-grain pretzels, popcorn, etc.

Other nutritious components of brown bag lunches:

  • Fruit and/or vegetables for vitamins and minerals
  • Milk: Dairy, soy or protein-fortified almond
  • Optional: Simple treat or dessert such as animal crackers, Nilla wafers, fig bars, whole-grain cereal bar, pudding cup, etc.

Lunchtime is an important refueling time for kids, so what you pack in their lunches takes some thought.  Kids are building muscles and bones, they are gaining their height, and they need the brain fuel to be sharp in class for the afternoon. A nice variety of foods from day to day will ensure interest in their lunch. 

Pack a frozen-solid ice pack to keep lunch safe, and at night be sure to clean out and wash with warm sudsy water the lunch box or bag so that it is fresh and clean for tomorrow’s lunch.

Recipes to try:

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About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.