We all know nutritious and safe meals are a priority. Lunch should provide sufficient amounts of calories and nutrients to keep the child well nourished throughout the entire school day. Good nutrition plays an important role in a successful day for a child. Properly fed kids don't happen by accident. Packing a nutritious lunch, which children will actually eat, can be a frustrating challenge.
One of the best ways to get your children to eat what you pack, is to get them involved in the selection of what you send with them. Let kids help prepare sandwiches and fill their own lunch boxes. They will be more likely to consume the entire meal. Some smaller children often like to eat the same things over and over again. Try to incorporate variety, as much as possible. Teaching children how to eat healthy will enable them to establish a foundation of good nutrition and positive lifestyle habits that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Start by preparing and packing safe lunches at home. Use containers specifically designed for carrying food. Wrap sandwiches and other foods tightly in plastic wrap or in sealed plastic bags. Be sure to wash containers and lunch boxes thoroughly with hot soapy water on a regular basis. Discard all used food packaging, plastic bags, paper bags and perishable leftovers.
Keep lunch at a safe temperature. Keep cold foods cold. You can use an ice pack, a frozen bottle of water or a frozen juice box (which should be thawed/should defrost by lunchtime) to keep lunches cold. Use an unbreakable thermos to maintain the proper temperature. You can pre-heat a thermos with hot water before placing food in it.
Don't stress out over making lunch for your children. Do plan ahead. Make sure you have an adequate supply of lunch food items on hand-- to make it through the week. Pack food the night before to avoid the morning rush and avoid making unwise choices. A variety of ready-to-eat items are available to help put together a quick nutritious lunch. To save money, you can purchase larger food quantities and re-package them in your own individual serving size bags.
Use the food guide pyramid to help make lunch selections. Be mindful of portion control and portion size. Include fruits and vegetables, low fat milk, yogurt or cheese, grain choices, low fat meat selections and only a small amount of food from the top of the food pyramid. As the start of school approaches, here are some suggestions on what to pack:Bread, cereal, rice and pasta group
Milk, yogurt and cheese group
- Whole wheat bread
- Whole wheat or regular English muffins
- Pita bread
- Whole wheat crackers
Fruit and vegetable groups
- Low fat milk
- Single serving low fat shelf milk (brick packs)
- String cheese
- Cheese cubes
- Single serving cottage cheese
- Single serving pudding
Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dried beans and nuts group
- Unsweetened Applesauce
- 100% fruit juice
- Cantaloupe, watermelon or honey dew melon cubes
- Small box of raisins
- Baby carrots
- Sugar snap peas
- Celery sticks
- Small bags of ready to eat apples
- Lean sliced turkey or ham
- Chicken legs (drumstick)
- Hard boiled eggs
- Peanut butter
- Pretzels/ Pretzel Sticks
- Rice Cakes
- Graham crackers
- Animal crackers
Good luck this school year packing lunches that are both safe and contribute to a healthy diet. And, don't forget to include a napkin or two for clean up! Finally, you can include some “lunch mail” or a personal note in your child's lunch box, telling them how much you love them and to reinforce just how special they are to you.