There’s a lot to juggle when it comes to making school lunches – you want to prepare something quickly but you also want it to be healthy, hold up well by the time lunch rolls around and fill your child’s belly rather than the trash can in the school cafeteria.

“Parents have a real opportunity to reinforce healthy eating habits when packing lunches for school, but studies have found that most lunches packed by parents contain at least one dessert, one snack item like chips, crackers, or pretzels, and a sugary beverage. Better beverage options would include water, 100% fruit juice, and milk or a milk alternative such as almond or other nut milk. If your child prefers chocolate milk over regular milk, know that while flavored milks do contain added sugar they also contain vitamins and minerals like calcium and Vitamin D and are a good source of protein.”

Theresa Jackson RD, CSOWM, CDN

Clinical Nutrition Manager, Kenmore Mercy Hospital

5 Ways to Get Your Kid Excited About a Healthy Lunch

If you’re stumped on how to get your kids to eat well at school, here are 5 ideas that may help:

  1. Get kids involved. If you get your kids’ input on what goes in their lunch box (within limits), they’re more likely to eat what’s in there. Give them healthy options to choose from and let them be in control of what makes the final cut. You can even meal prep for the entire week if it’s easier to do it all at once.
  2. Make lunch fun. No need to pack a boring sandwich with a piece of fruit every day of the week. Instead, present food in kid-friendly ways. Use a cookie cutter to make sandwiches in fun shapes. Make kebabs with protein and veggies cut into cubes on a stick. Pack the components of make-your-own pizzas.
  3. Invest in kid-friendly containers. Many kids don’t like foods to touch and aren’t excited about eating a mushy sandwich out of a plastic bag or foil wrapper. So choose containers with multiple compartments, like bento boxes, to make lunch more inviting. Fill compartments with foods in a variety of colors and shapes to encourage your child to indulge in what’s inside.
  4. Choose foods you know they like. Lunchtime at school is not the time to insist your child eat something new or that they don’t really like. Instead, focus on healthy options you know they enjoy and save the trial-and-error for when they’re home.
  5. Think well-rounded. To maximize nutrition and keep bellies full, include lean protein (turkey, eggs, low-fat cheese), healthy fat (hummus, avocado, nuts) and complex carbs (whole wheat bread, fruit, veggies) in each meal.

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Date Last Reviewed: July 11, 2017

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Nora Minno, RD, CDN

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