By Alyssa Adler
It’s back to school time which means your kids will be going off to a day of classes with their backpacks and lunch boxes in tow. This is a great time to instill young minds not only with math and science but also with healthy eating habits, ones that will be beneficial for them as they grow up into adults.
Food is fuel for the brain and for the body. When at school, a healthy lunch and proper nourishment provide a better learning experience and can also help with performance in school. In general, kids focus better when they are well-fed, so a healthy lunch is a great way to keep the brain stimulated at school.
Here are a few tips for packing a healthy lunch for the kids:
Sandwiches Made Smarter
Changing up the sandwich is a great way to incorporate healthy choices in an exciting way. Using 100% whole-wheat grains provide extra fiber, which is great for the digestive system and cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Swapping the whole-wheat bread for 100% whole-wheat pita pockets or 100% whole-wheat wraps can variety to the lunches. It is important to look for bread that does not have any hydrogenated oils and that are low in saturated fat. All of this information can be found on the ingredient label. Making roll-ups are a great way to have a bread-less lunch, wrapping the veggies and deli meats into 4-5 roll-ups will make it fun for the kids.
For the protein on the sandwich, use low sodium deli meats or even swap it for some leftover grilled chicken or turkey. Instead of mayonnaise and cheese, substitute avocado, mustard or hummus. Do not forget to add lettuce and tomato for filler. The lettuce and tomato are important because they make the sandwich larger and it gives the kids extra veggies. Switching the lettuce and tomato for shredded carrots, cucumbers or zucchini is a good way to change things up too.
Embrace the Leftovers
Using leftovers for lunch the next day is a great way to add variety to lunches! Plus, we all know meals taste better after a day or two in the fridge! Leftover pasta, preferably whole wheat, with some tomato sauce, or soups, or even chili (turkey or chicken chili) kept in a thermos is a great alternative to the daily sandwich. Leftover meat can also be made into kabobs with some extra veggies for a colorful lunch. If you’re packing soup, be careful about the excess sodium. Search the nutrition labels for low sodium options.
It’s Fun to Dunk
Dunking is always enjoyable for the kids and provides a fun way to eat fruits and veggies. Some healthy dunking options for lunch include:
-apple or pear slices to dip in low-fat yogurt or peanut butter
-carrot, celery, or pepper sticks with hummus or salsa
-whole-grain or whole wheat crackers into soups and low-fat dips
Let the Kids Choose
Get the kids involved by letting them choose what to eat for lunch. If the kids are a part of the preparation process they are more inclined to eat what they made. The night before, have them pick out what kind of bread and what veggies to add to the sandwich. In addition, have them choose what kind of fruit or veggie they want to “dip” and have them help assemble their lunch.
Lastly, make the trip to the grocery store a fun learning experience for the kids. Have them check out the different fruits and vegetables and get them intrigued in the whole shopping process. Eating habits are important, especially at an early age, so there is no better time to start.
Alyssa Adler is a Boston University Graduate from Long Island, New York. She was CFYL’s 2016 summer web intern after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition Sciences with a concentration in Dietetics. She has since gone on to earn her Master’s degree and is now a Clinical Nutritionist at Mt. Sinai’s St. Luke’s hospital here in New York City. Alyssa has a food blog called Red Delicious and Nutritious which focuses on healthy eating and living and how decadent foods can be made wholesome and delicious. A woman after our own heart