School's starting, and you want your kids to be healthy--and still eat lunch!
like yogurt, beans and tofu, along with other handy tips. Here are some further tips for fun, flavorful and healthy packed lunches.
Bread & Art
Using rice cakes instead of bread adds crunch to a sandwich. Select cookie cutters to help add shape to the sandwich. Those shapes can help make bread or cheese slices appeal to your child’s imagination and appetite. One week, you might cut bread in the shape of a baseball or tennis racket. The next week, you might try flowers, stars, letters or holiday themes.
Yes to Meat, No to Sweets
It’s important to think about healthy choices. Experts say it is okay to include lean meats on sandwiches, but be sure to cut down on sweets, and increase the amount of vegetables and fruits.
The Nemours Foundation website includes a section on healthy eating with recipes. It also discourages fast food, which is high in calories and sodium.
Other ideas and tips for a healthy lunch sack:
- Try mixing dry cereal with dried fruit and nuts, and vary the mixtures. (look for cereals with low sodium and fat contents).
- Make a skewer of tropical fruits with chunks of pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew, plum, mango and peaches.
- Create veggie towers with grape tomatoes, zucchini circles, pea pods, celery and chunks of red peppers on a bamboo skewer. Include a small container of homemade dressing with chopped herbs such as basil, parsley, oregano and thyme. Get your kids involved- they can even grow a pot of the herbs and can start writing their own recipes.
- Sometimes, a bit of repetition appeals to kids. Have them designate different weekdays for various meals and treats.
- Fruit treats: Hollow out a bit of the center of a strawberry and place a nut inside. Take a raspberry and place a yogurt-covered raisin inside.
- Include slices of apples and shoot for variety. Include a fact sheet about the history and harvesting of apples.
- Cut pieces of celery and spread with peanut butter. Top with raisins.
- Halve a banana lengthwise and spread with peanut butter. Top with Craisins.
Lunch & Learn
The best snack choices for children – and adults, should include color, texture and flavor. Make food prep a family affair with a lunch and learn twist. Involve your kids in making homemade trail mixes, healthy granola bars, and devising “green” packaging for lunch items. Then tuck in a secret and colorful note.
The trick is to keep lunch balanced, colorful, and fun. If you include cheese, cycle in a new type, and include a short note about how it is processed, and where it comes from. Which country makes the most cheese? Which state? Have your child learn the capitals of those countries and states too.
Lunch prep offers an opportunity to interact with your child, while learning new things together. Try new dips from other countries for a geography lesson. Try different colors and textures and rate them. That way, you can simultaneously encourage healthy habits and interactive learning. Opt for a discussion about eating local and different methods for growing food - such as hydroponics. To encourage writing skills, designate your child a food critic and have them rate new recipes. Along the way, your child will learn flexibility and responsibility. Including your child always equates to more one-on-one time, and an open mind toward food.
We’d like to hear your own recipes for success when preparing healthy meals.
Resources to keep you thinking: