School cafeterias are not always known for their tasty, healthy food; however, many children end up buying their lunch in school anyway. A healthy lunch is essential for your child not only for dietary reasons but also because it can provide a solid basis for improved concentration and memory in class, important facets for optimal learning. If you feel a bit confused about what to pack for your child’s lunch, you are not alone.
Children love those processed, pre-packaged lunch kits you can buy in the deli aisle of your supermarket. While it may be easy for you to purchase these kits, they are not a healthy choice because the food inside is full of food dyes, preservatives, sodium, sugar and a variety of chemicals. Chips and snack cakes are additional foods often found in traditional sack lunches kids take to school that are not healthy either.
You know what is healthy and what is not but the challenge is getting your kids on board with different way of eating. The best way to integrate healthier lunches for school is to involve them in the food selection process so they feel they are in control. There are no specific rules when it comes to choosing what to put in your child’s lunch but you should ensure that dairy, starch, protein, vegetables and fruit are somehow incorporated. The fun part is doing it in a tasty, creative way.
Protein Lunch Options
Protein helps build lean muscle mass and is an important dietary component for your child’s school lunch. Slice last night’s leftover chicken breast and put it in a pita or wrap. Boil a few eggs for a tasty tuna fish salad sandwich. Turkey breast, salmon and even beans are options.
Choose starchy foods that also provide the fiber, vitamins and minerals your child needs for energy. White starchy foods like rice, bread, crackers and pasta simply raise blood sugar and make your child feel lethargic half way through the afternoon. Instead, use whole grain breads, rolls or even tortillas for sandwiches or even salads.
Dairy is perhaps one of the easiest things to include in your child’s healthy school lunch. String cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese with fruit or even lowfat dip with veggies are great dairy choices. Kids can purchase white milk from the school cafeteria as a drink.
Vegetables and Fruits
Kids love dipping their food so why not mix a batch of vegetable and fruit dip for the week? When you use yogurt as your base instead of mayonnaise or sour cream, you not only add a dairy component, it is also healthier than pre-made versions. Carrot sticks, celery, peppers, cucumbers and grape tomatoes are popular vegetables dippers. Grapes, orange slices, apples and bananas are small and portable enough for lunch. Bypass dried fruit, fruit roll-ups or fruit gummies as they tend to be high in sugar and have little nutritional value.
If your child does not purchase milk from the cafeteria, bottled water or natural 100% fruit juice are healthy options for their lunch. If you have plenty of healthy foods for your children to choose from, you can rest assured they will always have a healthy lunch. Chances are their newfound healthy choices will also work their way into other areas of life as well.