Getting an A+ in Healthy Back to School Lunches

http://www.meriter.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/School-Lunches_Krista-Kohls-TM-2011-09-07.mp3 Meriter Dietitian, Krista Kohls, discussed healthy school lunches on-air with Star Country’s Tracy and Mike. Click the play button to listen.

It’s time again to start thinking about what to pack in your child’s lunch box or brown bag for school lunches.  Kids’ lunches are an important part of their day at school as they provide energy to help them function, focus and learn.  Kids’ lunches should provide about 1/3 of their nutrition for the entire day.  According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the meal should have a fruit, a vegetable, two servings of grain, two ounces of meat or beans, a serving of dairy and a smidge of healthful fat.  

Some kids are fine with a sandwich for lunch 190 days of the year; however, there are many kids that need variety to stay interested and to keep them away from the a la carte line.  Here are a couple tips to keep your kids interested in a home-packed meal. 

  • First, get your kids involved in making their lunch for school.  Have your kids pick-out healthy items at the grocery store to include in lunches or have kids actually pack their own lunch in the morning. 
  • Secondly, think variety and color.  Kids like food that looks appealing and will catch their eye.  Here are some options to mix up the everyday brown bag lunch:
    • Grilled chicken breast strips or hummus, sliced red pepper, lettuce/spinach and low-fat cheese in whole-wheat pita, a piece of fresh fruit and a carton of low-fat milk.
    • Canned wild salmon or tuna with whole grain crackers (like Tricuits) with low-fat mayo, a bunch of fresh grapes, and a carton of low-fat yogurt.
    • Quick lunchbox pasta salad with or without chicken (WW pasta, veggies, Italian dressing with low-fat cheese), fruit kabobs, and a carton of low-fat milk or cottage cheese.
    • Whole wheat crackers 10-12, peanut butter – 2 Tblsp or avocado, celery sticks, apple or berries, lowfat/nonfat yogurt.

And don’t forget about a beverage.  Water should always be #1.  Second would be low-fat or fat-free milk.  If consuming juices try to choose 100% fruit juice – keeping in mind that juice has the same calories per ounce as soda.  If packing a water bottle or a juice box, freeze it and put it in your child’s lunch box to keep foods cold.  Otherwise, use a cold pack to keep perishable foods cold.

Click here for a one week menu of healthy lunch ideas!

Meriter Medical Group pediatrician, Carleen Hanson, MD, recently wrote about setting realistic expectations for school lunches. Read the article in the Meriter Pediatrics eHouse Call Blog.

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