The summer is almost over and it’s time to gear up for a new school year.
As you pack your child’s backpack with everything that she needs in the morning, don’t forget to pack the most important item. Lunch.
Packing lunch can help establish healthy eating habits that benefit your child long after the last firefly has flickered. Kids who eat packed lunches generally eat healthier than those who choose their lunch from a cafeteria (burger and fries, anyone?).
However, even the most well-intentioned of us parents can pack foods that are less than healthy in our little one’s lunches. It’s easy to do—food marketers are very savvy at showcasing the good ingredients and hiding the not-so-good ones on packaged food labels.
So what to do? Don’t be discouraged! The great news is that packing lunches can be quick and easy for you, and healthy (and edible!) for your kids.
One of the easiest places to start, and one I often forget, is to simply involve your child in the process. Packing lunches that they won't eat doesn't help anyone (and makes for a long hot afternoon!). First of all, know what your child absolutely will and will not eat. Be realistic.
Once you have a sense of what is going to fly, shop appropriately, aiming to find the healthiest options available. If your child loves cheese, choose a low-fat string cheese to accompany a sandwich made with 100 percent real peanut butter (the ingredients should be peanuts and salt only) on whole grain bread.
Does your child love those fruit cups packed with syrup? Try sending him or her to school with fruit kebobs or apple slices spritzed with lemon juice. Or pack carrot sticks with a healthy ranch dressing (kids love to dip their foods!). They also like foods in snack-size portions because lunch time is more for socializing with friends than it is for eating!
Cut sandwiches in small, bite-sized portions and pack fruits such as sliced peaches or grapes that can be eaten easily and with less mess than whole fruits. A handful of heart-healthy nuts (like walnuts or almonds) and 100 percent whole-wheat pretzels can round-out a tasty—and healthy—lunch!