Getting everyone out the door, dressed, teeth brushed, and lunches packed in time for school can be a challenge. In a rush some parents reach for easy, prepackaged foods that contain empty calories with little nutrition. Your child will feel better and have more energy and focus during the day by eating nutritious whole foods.
Here are 10 tips for creating easy, healthy lunches that your child will enjoy eating.
1. Know the rules. Be mindful of school policies regarding food and waste. Many classrooms are “nut free” due to potential allergies. Some schools are becoming “waste free”.
2. Let your child choose his lunch box. Give options of those that are safe (PVC, lead free) and allow him to pick.
3. Ask your child what he likes in his lunch. You can take him shopping and let him choose healthy items. Sit with your child and plan lunches for the week. Getting children involved and giving choices is empowering!
4. Organize the lunch gear. Have a place in your kitchen where you can store all of the lunch bags, napkins, and drink containers, so you can find things easily.
5. Stock and organize the refrigerator and pantry with healthy options. Always have a variety of fresh fruit and veggies, whole grain breads, healthy spreads, cheeses, and drinks that you can choose, or create easily.
6. Read labels. Some pre-packaged foods are better than others. Items such as cheese sticks and unsweetened applesauce can be quick and healthy options. Choose items without unhealthy ingredients such as trans fats, high fructose corn syrups, additives and preservatives.
7. Offer variety, but not too much food. A variety of colors (red peppers and green grapes), flavors (salty and sweet) and textures (hummus and pretzels) of foods is most appetizing. However do not overwhelm children with oversized portions.
8. Reinvent leftovers. Dinner’s leftovers can be packed while cleaning up the night before. Put a new twist on a food item to make it appealing. Tortellini from dinner can be put on a popsicle stick and packed with sauce for lunch.
9. Prepack and prep when you have time. Many parents do not have time to prepare the lunch in the morning. Use time in the evening to cut and clean fruit and veggies, prepare dips, and portion servings.
10. Provide a “treat”. Everyone likes something special to look forward to. Whether it’s a homemade cookie, a sticker, or a silly note, it can remind your child of home.