It’s that time of year again! School is back in session, and this mom is back on lunch box duty. I must say packing lunches for your kids everyday can be challenging. I think many parents just think their kids are too picky so they stuff whatever the kids want in their lunchbox. When I taught preschool for one session, I had a set of twins who showed up everyday with a butter sandwich on white bread accompanied by an extra-large bag of Cheetos, Oreos, and an extra-large chocolate milk. Needless to say, they crawled the tables most of the day and didn’t pay much attention to anything they were told. As a dietitian, I was appalled, but as a mom, I was worried. I didn’t need any clinical study to tell me that what you child eats can affect their behavior. I heard nothing but excuses from these parents like, “they are just too picky” or “I can’t get them to eat anything but this.” If you don’t regularly expose your child to healthy foods, they will rely on the junk. I don’t think it’s any secret that childhood obesity is an epidemic.
Now, while I don’t approve of the twins lunch choices, the choices were made by the parents. I have two picky eaters at home, so I totally get it. One of my kids wanted nothing but peanut butter everyday for preschool last year. I also find myself running out of ideas for their lunch box. It doesn’t help that nutrition information is thrown at you from many different sources. It’s important to get it right for your kids so they can grow and become happy and healthy adults that have a palate for more than just processed junk food.
Just a few months ago, the USDA unveiled MyPlate. MyPlate replaces the Food Guide Pyramid. It is truly a great tool especially for parents trying to develop healthy eating habits in their kids. The concept is to make half your plate fruit and vegetables with the other half of the plate split between whole grains and protein. This is served with a side dish of dairy. For a mom or dad planning their kids lunch box, this can be super simple. Start by including one fruit and one vegetable in your child’s lunch. Use whole grain breads, crackers, or grains and include a low-fat, low sugar yogurt, reduced fat cottage cheese, low-fat milk or milk alternative, or a low-fat pudding. Lunch box assembly complete!
Well, some of you want more than just a template so here are some strategies for a healthy lunch for your child. Picking a theme works well with little ones. Remember to include a fruit & veggie in their lunch box most days. Parents of kids with food allergies may need to substitute with alternative products. Remember, making healthy lunches takes time and planning.
Under the sea with tuna fish salad in a Thomas 100% whole wheat Pita Pockets or Pepperidge Farm 100% Whole Wheat Goldfish Sandwich Thins, celery to use as a boat, combined with pretzel rods (aka fishing poles), whole grain goldfish, a cup of mandarin oranges, and low-fat milk.
Campout with peanut butter/jelly on Pepperidge Farm 100% Whole Wheat Goldfish Sandwich Thins, raisins, carrots, Cascadian Farms Kids Sized Granola Bar or low-fat chocolate pudding, and 100% juice. Include a bandana as a napkin.
Tea Party with sandwich on Nature’s Own Healthy Multigrain Sandwich Rounds or cold pasta salad, cucumber slices, fresh strawberries, cheese cubes, and 100% fruit punch. Put a nice napkin & disposable plate in their lunch box.
Kabob It with cheese & meat on toothpicks, strawberry, grapes, & pineapple on toothpicks, & grape tomatoes & cucumber on toothpicks. Send dips for the kabobs such as ketchup, yogurt, and ranch dressing. Send low-fat milk , alternative dairy, or 100% juice.
Roll Ups with cheese & bean or chicken/turkey & cream cheese in a tortilla, petite baby carrots, Simply Fruit Roll Ups, & low-fat milk.
Breakfast for Lunch with a whole grain bagel with peanut butter or cream cheese, applesauce, low-fat yogurt, & orange juice.
Fruit & Veggie Plate with low-fat cottage cheese, hummus, Kashi TLC Pita Crisps, carrots, cucumbers, strawberries & blueberries, ranch dressing & yogurt for dips, low fat milk or alternative dairy drink.