Packing a lunch for your kid seems like a pretty basic task, but are you providing them with nutrition they need to get through the day?
With all the “must-haves” for the classroom, it can be easy to forget about the importance of stocking up on the essentials for rounding out a balanced school lunch. Packing a balanced brown bag lunch for your child can save you money and help you monitor what they’re eating.
Lunch’s Main Event
There’s nothing wrong with the tried-and-true PB&J sandwich for lunch, but it is always a good idea to change it up a little and introduce children to something new – especially when it comes to focusing on healthy eating habits. You may think you’ve got a picky eater on your hands, but it may surprise you how much presentation can make a difference.
Whether you’re serving a unique sandwich or wrap, a fresh pasta salad, or a creative salad, the most important thing to remember is that a balanced lunch includes whole grains, beans, nuts, vegetables and/or fruit.
What We Packed
We went with a fish-shaped tuna sandwich with lettuce on whole wheat bread for our lunch’s main attraction. We covered whole grains, so we will be sure to incorporate fruits and veggies for a side or snack.
Instead of being overly concerned with the “healthy” choices of pre-packaged chip bags or fruit gummies, consider more fresh ingredients. Choose sides in terms of variety and freshness. Eating a variety of produce and whole grain foods will keep your kid from feeling sluggish throughout the day.
WHAT WE PACKED
Believe it or not, some of our little ones get tired of baby carrots and ranch dip. We included ½ cup of shelled edamame and ½ cup of mandarin oranges.
Beverages Count Too
A healthy lunch isn’t just about what you eat! It’s also about what you drink. Milk has been a long time favorite for lunch. But for those of you that may choose something a little different, consider water or natural juices. Try to stay away from sugary concentrated juices and sodas.
WHAT WE PACKED
We went with good ole’ fashioned water, but to jazz it up, we suggest letting your child pick out his or her own water bottles. H20 tastes so much better when it’s in a Frozen water bottle.
Save Some Room for a Snack
Steer clear of those easy to throw-in packaged snacks. Again, you want to choose fresh food that will help you balance out your child’s diet. When considering snack ideas, the best thing to remember is that smaller is better.
WHAT WE PACKED
We went with something a little sweet, three tablespoons of dried cranberries. Just enough to tide your child over until his or her next meal.
Our major takeaway when planning what to include in our children’s brown bag lunch is variety. If the lunch you pack doesn’t include a mix of food groups, chances are it’s not properly balanced.
Not sure where to start? Talk to your kids about what they like and don’t like – even ask them to participate once in a while. When you include children in making their lunches, they’re more likely to finish them and can even pick up some healthy eating habits along the way.