Packing a healthy lunch for your child can be a challenge, especially as weeks roll on and you want to avoid the same thing over and over. Ensuring they are fueling their bodies with the right nutrients helps support their growth and learning.
Here are some tips for packing a healthy lunch for school so that it doesn’t have to be as big of a chore as it sometimes feels.
- Include a variety of foods: Encourage your child to try new foods and include a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and dairy in their lunch.
- Make it visually appealing: Children are more likely to eat food that looks fun. Try cutting fruits and vegetables into different shapes, or arranging food items in a colorful and creative way.
- Encourage healthy snacks: Include healthy snacks in your child’s lunch, such as cut-up fruits and vegetables, whole grain crackers, or yogurt. Too many sugary snacks can lead to drowsiness and lack of focus after lunch.
- Pack perishable items well: Make sure perishable items like sandwiches and fruits are packed in bags or sealed containers to keep them fresh. Using an insulated lunch box and an ice pack greatly increases the options available for what you can pack.
- Get your child involved: Let your child help pack their lunch, as this can make them more interested in what they are eating. Encourage them to choose the items they want to include and give them the freedom to make healthy choices.
- Make it convenient: Pack items that are easy to eat and don’t require utensils, such as finger foods and fruits. This can make lunchtime easier for your child and reduce the amount of waste generated. If you do include utensils, use silverware rather than plastic forks and spoons. Having to constantly buy disposable utensils adds up and is yet one more thing to keep track of.
- Be mindful of portion sizes: Be mindful of portion sizes when packing your child’s lunch. Encourage your child to eat slowly and pay attention to when they tend to get hungry. That will help you find the right balance between packing enough to keep them satiated all day without overeating.
- Plan ahead: Plan your child’s lunch the night before or earlier in the week to ensure that you have all the supplies you need. This can help you save time and reduce stress in the morning.
Here are some healthy lunch ideas for your child’s first year of school:
- Whole grain sandwich with lean protein, such as turkey or chicken, and a variety of vegetables.
- Veggie wrap with hummus, cheese, and a variety of vegetables.
- Salad with lean protein, such as grilled chicken or tofu, and a variety of vegetables.
- Pasta salad with whole grain pasta, lean protein, such as chicken or turkey, and a variety of vegetables.
- Fruit and yogurt parfait with whole grain granola and fresh fruit.
- Whole grain crackers with cheese and fruit.
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain bread with a variety of fruits.
How Lean Protein Food Benefits Your Child
Lean proteins such as chicken, fish, tofu, and beans can be incredibly beneficial for kids when included in their lunch.
Here are some reasons why:
Proteins are essential building blocks of the body and play a crucial role in growth and development. Sufficient protein ensures improved growth and development for strong bones and muscles.
In terms of mitigating hunger, proteins are slowly digested. This provides children with a steady source of energy throughout the day, rather than foods that create a short burst of energy and then a lull. This can help them stay focused and alert in school, even into the afternoon. This also reduces the likelihood of overeating, and helps to maintain a healthy weight.
Protein-rich food aids the brain’s neurotransmitters that are essential for focus and memory.
Some lean proteins, such as chicken, also contain important vitamins and minerals that reinforce your child’s immune system. Tofu and beans are also good sources of essential nutrients like iron and zinc.
Some easy things you can do to incorporate lean protein into your child’s lunch include:
- Add a serving of chicken or fish
- Try adding tofu to a salad or sandwich for an extra boost
- Make burritos or wraps with beans
Why Yogurt Is A Great Lunch Option For Kids
Apart from the fact that yogurt is also a good source of clean protein, it’s also helpful for proper digestion. Yogurt contains probiotics that improve gut health and ultimately strengthen the immune system as a result.
Yogurt is convenient and portable, available in squeeze packs that don’t require a spoon as well as 4oz–6oz containers. As long as you keep it cold inside the lunch box, it’s tasty and healthy without being overly sweet.
If you are concerned about sugar, you can use plain (unflavored) yogurt instead and then add diced fruit to it. That will give it some flavor without as much sugar as some yogurt manufacturers use.
And of course, as a dairy product, yogurt is a good source of calcium. Adequate levels of calcium each day are a crucial part of healthy bones and teeth!