It’s that time of year – summer is winding down and our focus begins to shift towards back to school and back to routines. You may be wondering, “What do I need to be prepared for this upcoming school year?”, or more importantly, “How do I make sure my child is getting adequate nutrition at school?”
Packing your child’s lunch can ensure optimal nutrition throughout the school day, as opposed to sending money with your child only to wonder what they ate for lunch. When sitting down with your child to plan lunches, utilize these few tips:
Give your child options – letting them select which items they would prefer can increase the chances that those foods will be eaten and not thrown away or traded at lunch for some not-so-great options. One example, ask your child if they would rather have apple slices or a banana in their lunch.
Banish brown bag boredom by keeping it interesting throughout the year. Let your kiddos grocery shop and pick out new, healthy grocery foods to try. Create a mix-and-match guide with your child for each food category (Fruits, Vegetables, Protein, Whole Grains and Dairy). Come up with acceptable options that are both nutritious and something your kids are excited to pack. Most of us (with the exception of picky eaters) don’t like to eat the same thing every day.
Variety is key to well-balanced nutrition, however, don’t worry if your child wants the exact same lunch for a few weeks straight. Work around pickiness by coming up with a list of alternatives. For example, if your child doesn’t like sandwiches, what else might work? Try wraps, cracker sandwiches, bread-free sandwiches (such as a turkey roll), waffle
Make food fun! Try:
Cutting sandwiches and cheese into different shapes using a cookie cutter.
Make kabobs by layering lean meats and cheese on toothpicks. You can also make kabobs layering fruits and vegetables, too! If your child won’t eat fruit and vegetables plain, be sure to send a dip!
Send breakfast for lunch – a whole grain bagel with nut butter (or Sunbutter for allergen friendly), applesauce, low-fat yogurt and orange juice.
Get your child involved in the prepping process. Have them assist you in packing their lunch the night before so they can get excited about making their own food and can look forward to tomorrow’s lunch.
Lastly, celebrate special days – for example, send an all red lunch for Valentine’s Day.