If you grew up on peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, you may be a bit puzzled on how to pack nutritious healthy lunches for your kids that comply with school rules. As a parent, it is important to help your kids develop healthy eating habits that nourish their growing bodies and establish good food habits that will last a lifetime.
Kids that don’t eat right, or eat enough, often have trouble concentrating in school and their learning abilities can suffer as a result. Packing a healthy lunch and snacks allow the child’s mind and body to refuel and recharge during these important growing years.
The first step, if your child is grade school age or older, is to ask them what they would like to have in their lunches and learn what their friends bring. Discuss which options are healthier and which are best as only an occasional treat. Involving your child in packing a lunch will result in less waste and uneaten food returning home.
A good start for back to school is to invest in some reusable containers that will help keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. An insulated lunch box and ice packs also help. Food packed in reusable containers will not get squished or blend with other foods. While apples and oranges pack well on their own, softer fruits (berries, melon, pears) often need to be cut and placed in a container. Salad is a great option, but buy individual salad packs or pack dressing in a separate small container so the salad does not get soggy. Cut veggies with dip is also fun and delicious.
Hot foods can be stored in a thermos – look for the wider lids and bowl options now available. Pasta and many leftover meals from the night before make great lunches, as do soups, stews and chili. Keep the outdoor weather in mind, opting for hot lunches in the winter and cooler options in warm weather.
For snacks, leave the chips and candy for Halloween and look for healthier alternatives: hummus, yogurt (tubes or individual containers), cheese, whole grain crackers, apple sauce, granola bars, oatmeal bars, celery sticks, baby carrots, grape tomatoes and fruits. Buy and cut veggies when you have more time on the weekend and store them in containers for easy snacking and access all week long. While it costs a bit more than preparing your own, many supermarkets offer pre-washed and cut veggies, or snack packs with apple slices or carrots and dip.
If you are trying to get your kids more interested in eating right and preparing their own foods, visit the Fit For A Feast website with kids nutrition tips and recipes for kids and parents. It is free to view videos, print recipes and learn more about being healthy and active. Kids all over the world are being inspired to eat better and stay more active when they see other kids doing the same.