Wondering What to Pack for School Lunches?
Here are 15 healthier brown-bag lunch options now available in your supermarket.
What to Pack for Lunch: Entrées continued...
(This is an individual kit including tuna salad and a package of
Pluses: It's a fun way to eat tuna and add some healthy fish
Minuses: It's probably too small of a tuna salad serving for older
children. The sodium level is pretty high (580 mg) considering the kit only
contains 150 calories.
Nutrition information per serving: 150 calories, 9 g protein, 23 g
carbohydrate, 1.5 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 15 mg cholesterol,
1 g fiber, 580 mg sodium.
Bumble Bee Easy Peel Sensations -- Lemon & Pepper Tuna Medley
Serving size: 5-ounce (easy open) cans.
Pluses: It's an easy way to add 21 grams of protein and some fish
omega-3s to lunch.
Minuses: Some kids might not like the grown-up flavors of lemon and
pepper mixed with tuna. You might need to pack something to each with the tuna,
like whole-wheat crackers or a wheat roll.
Nutrition information per serving: 130 calories, 21 g protein, 2 g
carbohydrate, 4 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans, 30 mg cholesterol, 0 g
fiber, 410 mg sodium.
Cheese Sticks (individually wrapped)
Serving size: Safeway Organics line comes in 1-ounce individually
Pluses: Each stick adds 20% of the recommended Daily Value for
calcium and 7 grams of protein.
Minuses: You have to keep this cold until lunch. There's almost
nothing worse than a sweaty cheese stick at lunch.
Nutrition information per serving: 1 Colby cheese stick = 110
calories, 7 g protein, 0 g carbohydrate, 9 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans
fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 0 g fiber, 170 mg sodium.
Eating Right (a Safeway brand) Instant Soups
(There are two flavors that contribute some fiber: Spicy Thai Noodle Soup
and Tomato Basil Pasta Soup.)
Serving size: 1.4- to 1.6-ounce paper cups that you add very hot
Pluses: This is a hot lunch entrée that has nothing to do with two
slices of bread. This product seems to contain few ingredients compared to
other instant soup products. Both soups are low in fat and contain no saturated
fat or trans fat. Each soup contributes at least 2 grams of fiber and 6 grams
Minuses: Each serving has 480 to 600 milligrams sodium (depending on
Nutrition information per serving: 140 to 150 calories, 6 to 7 g
protein, 27 to 30 g carbohydrate, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 0
mg cholesterol, 2 to 3 g fiber, 480 to 600 mg sodium.
What to Pack for Lunch: Drinks
The key to the liquid side of lunch is to pack beverages that either hydrate
your student (water), or help hydrate while also contributing nutrients like
protein, calcium, and vitamin D (low-fat milk) or nutrients like vitamin C and
folic acid (100% orange juice).
If the noon beverage contributes calories but not nutrients (like soda and
sugary fruit drinks), you might want to rethink this lunchbox choice. Recent
studies suggest that liquid calories don't contribute to feeling full as much
as solid-food calories do.
One new lunchbox drink option ismini water bottles. These come in cute
little 8- and 11-ounce plastic bottles (like Aqua Pod brand). They're the
perfect size to freeze and then stick in your child's lunchbox or bag to keep
the other lunch items well chilled until lunchtime.
Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight
Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her
opinions and conclusions are her own.