Providing your child with healthy lunches that won’t come back uneaten can be a challenge for many parents. A balanced lunch should include foods from all five food groups, so that it can supply the protein, fat, and carbohydrates to keep up your child’s energy and focus throughout the school day. There are many ways you can keep lunches interesting, without compromising on nutritional value.
One way is to get your kids involved in packing their own lunches, and allow them to make some decisions on what goes in their lunch. This can start even before the night before school – take your child grocery shopping with you and let them help you make choices on what goes into the cart, within reason. Spend some time in the produce section with them and let them look, feel, and smell different fruits and vegetables. Designate a “Lunch Packing Station” in your kitchen and have your kids help portion foods and select different items for each day of the week.
If you have time, consider making your own snacks and limiting processed snacks, which can lack nutrients and be high in processed sugar, sodium, and saturated fats. Snacks like no bake energy bites, fruit and vegetable skewers, and ants on a log are just a few examples of fun and healthy snacks that will keep your child’s energy up throughout the day. Your kids can even help make the snacks that will go in their lunch for the next day.
Along with a balanced lunch, remind your child to stay hydrated during the school day. Let them pick out a favorite water bottle and encourage them to drink the whole thing twice at school – a fun challenge is a good way for kids to feel motivated to drink more water.
Represent The Food Groups
Make sure your child’s lunch is balanced and choose one food from each of the following categories while packing their lunch:
- Fruits: apples, pears, berries, bananas, melon, applesauce (with no added sugar)
- Vegetables: spinach, carrots, peas, broccoli, cucumber, red bell pepper, corn
- Grains: whole grain bread, brown rice, popcorn (without butter), quinoa, whole wheat pasta
- Protein: chicken, turkey, lean beef, black beans, chickpeas, tofu
- Dairy: low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese
Sources: HealthyEating.org. Lifework Strategies, Adventist HealthCare. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.