Although many of us from an older generation used to “brown bag” our lunches that doesn’t cut it anymore. Parents and children can easily overlook the necessity for healthy school lunches. Despite attempts to improve nutrition content the school cafeteria with its sloppy joes, pizza and heavily breaded chicken fingers may not be appropriate for overweight children or children with food and dietary sensitivities. It’s time to accept the fact that raising healthy children means they won’t be eating school cafeteria lunches, but instead will need to bring lunch from home. Here are some suggestions for how even the busiest parents can do it.
Having the right containers will help a lot. Be sure to have an insulated lunch box so that food intended to be cold doesn’t end up warm by lunchtime and vice versa. Four small containers and a wide-mouth thermos will usually do the job. It’s a good idea to buy two sets of containers to avoid having to wash them each night.
It’s best to encourage your child to drink water using the wide-mouth thermos. Of course pop and soda should be avoided at all cost. Even juices are not necessarily of good nutrition. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that juice consumption contributes to cavities and gastrointestinal problems for children. Milk can be a common food allergy and create sensitivity for many children.
Source of protein like cubes of baked chicken, turkey or fish are great. You can serve these in small portions and use them randomly over the course of several weeks. Hard-boiled eggs can also be used. Beans kept in the thermos and served with organic tortilla chips are another idea as well as stew and chili.
Better sandwich choices include using whole-wheat bread with lots of grains and almond butter instead of peanut butter. Another alternative is a healthy wrap using whole-grain tortillas with baked turkey or chicken and lettuce, cucumbers, tomato and peppers.
Many kids don’t consider lunch complete without cookies or chips. These must be avoided. They should only be an occasional treat and not a staple. Side dishes may include tasty, crisp vegetables-the greener, the better. Fruit is also healthy but can be a major source of sugar. Try to serve just one fruit serving for every five servings of veggies.
Organically grown foods have been shown to be more nutrient and vitamin dense than foods grown with pesticides. Although organic foods are more expensive the prices are now coming down even though you are paying more you’re getting more in return.
And no one knows better than your own child what they are going to eat so let them help you pack their lunches. Children like to participate this will help them learn what’s healthy and they will be more likely to enjoy their meals. Every Sunday have them help you choose the week’s menu and you both can begin pre-packing those options that can be frozen or stored for a few days.
A balanced diet is more than just a healthy recommendation. It is the building block of your child’s growth and well-being. Remember, it’s your responsibility and not the school cafeteria to provide them with the right food.