Monday, August 17, 2015

Pack a quick, easy & healthy school lunch

As the school year approaches, parents may find themselves busy again and wondering how to keep their kids healthy while they hit the school cafeteria.  Although public schools have come a long way with school lunches, they still may not measure up to parental standards when it comes to a fresh, balanced meal.   However, it can be difficult to find the time to pack a healthy lunch at home.  Here are some tips that may help to make your child’s lunch healthier and easier on you (or them) to put together. 
kids eating healthy while at school.
·         Review the school lunch menu with your child and see if there are options on certain days that are agreeable to you both in terms of health value and foods that your child likes.  Circle these options as days where you won’t have to pack a lunch. 
  •  Be sure that a lunch you pack offers something from each food group; 
  • Grains/starches, which might include whole grain bread for sandwiches, healthy whole grain snack crackers (Wheat Thins, Triscuits), popcorn.
  • Fruit – any fresh fruit, unsweetened applesauce or fruit that is canned in juice (not syrup).
  • Vegetables – carrots, celery sticks, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes.  Pack some light dip or hummus for dipping.
  • Protein – this could be sandwich meat (turkey, tuna fish – avoid processed lunch meats such as bologna & salami) or it could nut butter in a sandwich (if the school allows) or it might even be a string cheese stick or a few slices of cheese. 
  • Keep sugary snacks to a minimum. 
  • Prep lunches for the week on Sunday.  Cut up any veggies or fruits that need cutting.  You can have separate bins in your refrigerator and cabinets for each lunch component.  In the bins, place baggies with single portions of each food in baggies or containers.  Label each bin with the food group i.e. “School Lunch Fruits,” “School Lunch Veggies.”  Going a step further, you can even freeze sandwiches;  Just be sure not to freeze fresh vegetables and fruits and if you do use mayonnaise or mustard, place it between the meat or cheese slices to prevent the bread from getting soggy.  This makes lunches come together in a snap and your child can even throw together his/her own lunch, picking a food from each bin.
  • Don’t forget the ice pack!  Keeping foods cold is important, especially meats and cheeses, to prevent food-borne illness.  
  • Always make it a point to provide a healthy after-school snack!
Hopefully these tips take some of the rushing around out of your schedule and put your mind at ease about providing a healthy school lunch in a manageable fashion!