Building a Better School Lunch
Summer has flown by, and whether we are ready to face it or not, it’s time to pack school lunches! Sure, those pre-packaged children’s lunches are convenient, but they aren’t necessarily healthy.
Laura Hsu, AVAC’s Certified Nutritionist, has 9 ideas to make it easier for you to leave the ‘Lunchables’ behind!
In order to help your kids feel better, have more energy, and perform their best in school, it’s best to pack a tasty assortment of nutrient-dense whole foods while reducing their consumption of overly-processed, nutrient-poor foods whenever possible.
Here are some tips and ideas for packing a healthy school lunch that your kids will actually eat.
- If the kids are involved in preparing or packing their lunch (if age appropriate), they will be more interested in eating it, and that could mean less work for you! Just make sure there are healthy options to choose from so that they don’t pack a lunch box full of chips and cookies.
- To boost staying-power, lunches should include protein, fiber from vegetables and fruits, and healthy fats such as nuts and nut butters, olives, whole-milk dairy, and avocado. Protein options include sliced salami and cheese, hard-boiled egg (peeled, cut in half and sprinkled with seasoning), antibiotic- and hormone-free lunch meats, nuts, and seeds.
- Every lunch will ideally include a fresh vegetable, such as raw carrot sticks, cucumber or bell pepper, and fruit. Portable fruit options include kiwi, berries, apple, pear, peach, and banana (unpeeled).
- Keep it fun. Skewer fruit such as grapes, strawberries and melon cubes on a stick. Make pinwheels by spreading peanut butter and jelly, or cream cheese, smoked salmon and cucumber slices on a whole-grain tortilla, roll up and slice. Bento box-style lunchboxes are great for putting a variety of foods into the different compartments.
- Get creative. Make open-face ‘sandwiches’ by spreading hummus onto brown rice cakes and top with sliced tomato and cucumber. Make ants on a log by filling celery sticks with nut butter (or sunbutter), and using raisins, dried cranberries or dried cherries for the ‘ants’. Try wraps instead of sandwiches for something different.
- Utilize short-cuts. Purchase minimally-processed options such as low-sugar yogurt tubes, fruit leather, trail mix packs, meat or cheese sticks, guacamole cups for dipping, dehydrated fruit, seaweed snacks, whole-grain crackers, or baked vegetable chips, to make packing lunch easier.
- Dinner leftovers such as pasta or meatballs can be rewarmed and put in a thermos for an easy lunch. Warm soup in a thermos will be welcoming when the weather starts to cool down.
- Don’t forget about hydration! A reusable water bottle with cold water (maybe with a splash of juice) is best. Organic milk is another good option. Keep in mind that 8 ounces of apple juice has as much sugar as the same amount of cola! Due to that big hit of simple sugar, I don’t recommend juice boxes.
- Check out this post for 20 easy, nutritious, kid-friendly energy ball recipes.
Step away from the Lunchables. You’ve got this!
Laura Hsu, Nutrition Consultant
Almaden Valley Athletic Club®
San Jose, CA 95124
Phone: (408) 596-0379