From morning carpool to bedtime stories, running a house can be a non-stop juggling routine. Now add on the task of making school lunches. Ugh.
I will be the first to admit that sometimes it’s easy to cut corners. But making lunches doesn’t have to be as time consuming as it seems. There are some simple steps you can take to make healthy lunches for your kid.
Switch from white bread to whole grain: If sandwiches are a staple in your child’s lunch, the easiest way to make a change is to substitute whole grain bread for white. There are many varieties out there to please even the pickiest eater. You can also substitute flour tortillas with wheat ones and white pita with whole grain. Make it fun by filling them with proteins like turkey slices and cheese. If your child prefers warm food in a thermos, you can fill it with brown rice, whole grain pasta and even oatmeal.
Pack a rainbow: Fruits and vegetables are great sources of nutrition. Why not make fruits and vegetables more interesting? Pack green and purple grapes together or colorful berries, dried apricots and mangos. Cut red and orange peppers into strips and send them with a fun dipping sauce like hummus or yogurt. You can also send oranges already peeled and sliced. The prettier the presentation, the higher the chances are your child will reach for it and ask for it again.
Water, water, water: Juice may seem harmless, especially since the labels read things like “packed with fruit.” But juice adds a lot of unnecessary sugar and calories to your child’s diet. Consider sending a bottle of water along with, or instead of, the juice box. Low-fat milk is also a great idea since it provides calcium and protein.
Think about temperature: Would you eat warm yogurt or cold rice? The temperature inside your child’s lunchbox is just as important as what is inside. Keep hot foods warm by sending them in a thermos. Keep cold items like cheese or hardboiled eggs cool by using ice packs. You can also use a refillable water bottle filled with ice cubes to keep things fresh, plus it will provide drinking water at the same time!
Plan ahead: Making a healthy lunch does take some thought, but the morning rush, when everyone’s trying to get out the door, isn’t the best time to get creative. Try to make a routine of packing some items the night before. Cutting up fruit, pre-making sandwiches and boiling whole grain pasta are all time-saving steps. Another good habit is to make weekly shopping lists, so you’re not stuck searching the cupboard for last-minute – and unhealthy – options.
A terrific resource for healthy eating ideas for the entire family is LetsMove.gov, an initiative by First Lady Michelle Obama. The site offers healthy eating and physical activity advice for children.
What kinds of tricks do you use to make easy and healthy lunches for your kids?