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Healthy, Kid-Friendly Lunch Ideas
August is coming to an end. The days are getting shorter, the weather is getting cooler. This can only mean one thing, back to school. Back to a schedule, earlier bed times, new after school activities, homework, and of course, the dreaded preparation of school lunch.
We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but lunch is right up there. Packing your child’s lunch is a great way to make healthy choices to ensure they’re satisfied, stay alert, and have enough energy to get through the rest of the school day. Gone are the days of brown bagged lunches. Now there are insulated bags that will keep hot food hot and cold food cold, also with separate containers to keep food from getting soggy.
Be sure to incorporate something from all the food groups. Here are five ways to create a healthy, well balanced lunch your child will love.
- Pick a protein. Protein is an important part of the meal in order to keep your child satisfied for a longer period of time. Stay away from high fat meats such as bologna, salami, and pastrami and instead choose lower fat alternatives, such as turkey breast, chicken breast, or ham. Get creative! Use the chicken, turkey, or lean ground beef from dinner the night before, try tuna, chicken, or egg salad made with olive oil based mayonnaise, or even throw in a few peeled hard boiled eggs. If you want to go meatless, add in some nuts or any natural nut butter or even mix in some beans or low fat cheese.
- Make them whole grains. Swap out those refined grains like white bread and flour tortillas for the whole grain version. The more fiber, the better. This includes foods such as whole wheat bread, pita, english muffins or bagels, whole grain crackers, whole wheat pasta, whole grain cereal, or brown rice.
- Fruits and vegetables. Make it pretty and include colors of the rainbow to ensure your child is meeting their vitamin and nutrient needs. Have your kids pick 2-3 different colors and include those in their fruits and vegetables. Pack green and purple grapes or colorful berries. Slice red and orange peppers or cut up celery and include baby carrots with a dip such as salsa, hummus, yogurt or guacamole to make it tasty.
- Growing kids, strong bones. Make sure to include a calcium rich food, all of which are high in protein as well. Add low fat greek yogurt or cottage cheese. Try to avoid the fruited yogurt, as it adds extra sugar. Instead, buy the plain and add your own fruit, making it rich in fiber too! Try string cheese or low fat cheese cubes, or have your child buy a low fat milk carton or pack shelf-stable milk.
- Don’t forget to keep them hydrated. Water, water, water. Avoid soda or any sports drinks. Forego the juice, even if it says “100% or no sugar added” and eat the fruit instead! Sugary beverages add a lot of unnecessary sugar and calories to your child’s diet, filling them up and leaving them less hungry for healthy food.
Get your child involved! Encourage your child to go grocery shopping with you. Involving your child in the decision-making process is an important way to teach them how to plan, shop, and help prepare their foods! Make a list of what he or she likes so it’s never a guessing game. Be creative and think outside the (lunch) box. Happy planning!