Back to School Lunches
Well the kids are back to school (YES!!) ... and that means prepping and making lunches on a daily basis (Not so exciting, lol). I often get people saying to me, "My kids are sick of sandwiches, what else can I pack, or how much should I be packing in their lunch?"
Below are some popular questions I get asked and my answers!
The do's and don'ts about packing a healthy lunch for your kids.
Parents don’t have to pack wheat grass shots and sticks of celery to make their child’s lunch healthy. Many times it is a matter of switching out some products for healthier ones and balancing the lunch better. The best tip I can give parents is to start feeding your child fruits or vegetables at lunch from the get go.
Other tips: Cut up fruits and vegetables and portion out snack foods when you get home from the store, to make packing lunches easier. Pack lunches the night before. I often prep the next night’s dinner at the same time as packing lunches to save a few steps when I get home from work.
Eat this! Not that!
- 100% whole grain or 100% whole grain white bread, pitas or crackers NOT white bread
- No nitrate fresh lunch meat from deli or sliced grilled chicken NOT pre-sliced lunch meat
- Snack foods with less sugar and dyes like pretzels, fruit leathers, graham crackers NOT snack foods with red dye #40 and excess sugar
- 100% fruit juice, milk, water or chocolate milk NOT sugary juice boxes/pop
- Greek yogurt or Lower sugar yogurt NOT sugary yogurts
I suggest aiming for each of the food groups
- Dairy - milk or yogurt (and yes, chocolate milk is fine once a day!)
- Protein - lunch meat on sandwich, ham and cheese rollups, cottage cheese, grilled chicken strips, hard boiled egg, nuts (if allowed at school)
- Produce - baggie of grapes, berries, apple/banana, carrots or green peppers and hummus to dip
- Whole grains - Recommend 100% whole grain bread, wraps or crackers
- Not to say, children can’t have some “fun” lunch items, but try and balance them out. Trust me, teachers DO NOT like children eating a lot of refined carbs and sugar in their lunch!
How do you keep lunch ideas new and interesting, and not pack the same lunch over and over again?
I love the website and lunch planner Momables (momables.com). She has a great book on fun lunches for kids. Switching up the sandwich or PB & J is essential for keeping kids interested in lunch. Here are a few ideas.
- Try roll ups, wraps, or pitas instead of regular bread
- Soup or smoothies in a thermos
- Try making a homemade lunchable - cut up slices of lunchmeat, whole grain crackers, cheese cubes, cut up fruit with a side
What is the best way to keep cold foods cold? (or, is that really necessary?) How long can some foods go without spoiling?
Food safety first! Insulated lunchboxes help maintain food at a safe temperature until lunchtime. Perishable lunch foods, such as cold cut sandwiches and yogurt, can be left out at room temperature for only 2 hours before they may become unsafe to eat (foodsafety.gov). I would suggest a insulated lunchbox and a freezer pack.
By Kelly Devine Rickert, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN
Registered Dietitian/Health Coach, Franciscan WELLCARE