School Lunches, Healthy Choices
Packing up a healthy school lunch is easy with these tasty tips.
When you're busy getting kids ready for school in the morning, a healthy school lunch can get lost in the shuffle. You may think your child's lunch rates an "A," when in reality, it doesn't make the grade.
Yet a few simple changes can turn lackluster school lunches into healthy midday meals your child will actually eat.
Healthy School Lunches: The Basics
"Parents can pack the 'perfect' meal, but if their child won't eat it, it's not right for them," says Sandra Nissenberg, MS, RD, author of Brown Bag Success: Making Healthy Lunches Your Kids Won't Trade.
To make sure your kids eat the school lunch they take, have a talk. Find out their food preferences: what they need and when they need it. For example, what's best for the morning snack? Or the afternoon pick-me-up? Then think outside the lunch box with these mealtime tips from the nutrition experts.
Banish Bread Boredom. Trade your child's typical bread choice for:
- Whole-grain pita
- Raisin bread
- Mini or full-size bagels
- Colorful sandwich wraps
- Whole-grain hot dog or hamburger buns, or whole-grain white versions
Focus on Fillings. Tantalize taste buds by infusing interest into ordinary sandwiches:
- Stir chopped celery, cashews, or water chestnuts into tuna or chicken salad.
- Spread cranberry sauce on sliced, cooked turkey or chicken.
- Add shredded carrots or dried fruit to any nut butter or sunflower seed butter sandwich on whole-grain bread.
- Spread a whole-wheat tortilla with hummus; add a tablespoon or two of tabouli; and sprinkle with reduced-fat feta cheese and chopped cherry tomatoes.
- Try a banana "hot dog": Pack a whole-grain hot dog bun spread with almond butter or sunflower seed butter, and a medium banana. Just before eating, your child can peel the banana and place it in the bun for eating.
Search for Sandwich Alternatives: No sandwich? No problem. These combinations get high marks as balanced meals.
- Whole-grain crackers, string cheese, single-serve applesauce, low-fat milk
- Whole-grain roll, hard-boiled egg or two (peel at home), baby carrots, low-fat milk
- Carton of yogurt, whole-grain crackers, fruit
Hummus, whole-grain crackers or pretzels, celery sticks, low-fat milk
- Reduced-sodium condensed tomato soup made with milk instead of water with cooked macaroni or other grain stirred in; fruit, and carton of yogurt
- Reduced-sodium canned lentil soup, whole-grain roll, baby carrots, carton of 100% orange juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D
- Fruit salad topped with yogurt and sprinkled with whole-grain cereal (package cereal and fruit separately to avoid sogginess)
- Fruit and cheese kabobs: Alternate chunks of fruit with small cheese cubes. Serve with whole-grain roll and 1% low-fat milk or 100% fruit juice.
- Cooked tortellini tossed with grated Parmesan cheese and cooked (good hot or cold), diced vegetables, fruit, 1% low-fat milk