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Back to school lunches: what to pack for lunch?

Posted Aug 23 2009 10:55pm

"What?! Already that time again?! Time to go back to school?!" That's probably what your kids are saying although parents are usually more than ready for their kids to go back to their regular schedule of events. Back to school weeks are a busy time and now is a great time to start thinking of and planning healthy, yummy lunches for your children and teens. The better and more you plan, the easier lunch and snack times will be AND the research shows that this planning of healthy foods helps prevent childhood obesity. Here are a few quick tips and suggestions *:

  • Remember that growing, active kids need 2-3 servings of dairy products per days in the form of cheese (stick mozzarella or star-shaped Colby/Jack are always a hit), yogurt (in pouches or small to-go containers in their favorite flavors), and milk (after 2 years old, may drop down to 1%-2% from whole milk).
  • Deli meats such as turkey (with or without cheese) work well for protein
  • Once they are older and it is safe for them to eat crunchy veggies, try the baby carrots. Small grape tomatoes are easy to eat and fun. Edamame in their shell or already shelled is a huge hit (soy is a very healthy source of vitamins and protein).
  • Pack their favorite fruits washed -- small mandarin oranges, peeled naval oranges, whole peaches or apricots, bananas (the very small ones are usually the sweetest), or cluster of grapes.
  • Multi-grain fishies, small pretzels, mini whole grain waffle and crackers, sesame sticks, small box of raisins, or popcorn (made with canola or olive oil and salt).
  • Combination foods: Mix in some peas or tuna with their mac-n-cheese. Good ol' peanut butter and jelly and add a piece of cheese. Pizza with veggies.
  • Small bottle of water and/or small box of 100% juice (4-6 ounces a day is the recommended)

Parents.comandDisney Family Funhave super lists of illustrated, complete healthy lunches and snacks and great ideas for sandwiches as well.

Another important point... it is also vital to your child's well-being that you do leave room for flexibility and let kids be kids at times. If they do want a bag of their favorite not-so-healthy chips or a hot dog at a barbecue or french fries every so often allow them. No one has ever gained a significant amount of weight or been labeled as unhealthy or has decreased their lifespan for that... it is those habits on a daily basis that will get you in the long run, not sporadic "fun" days.

And one very important question... what to do if my child eats at school? Not to fret. The next article will have suggestions for eating at school.

* These are suggestions only, not-necessarily age-specific or appropriate for every child. Please watch carefully for choking hazard or allergies.

Picture by Sophia Winters, PhotoXpress

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