With the unpredictable nature of our day to day lives, preparing and packing a healthy lunch for back to school children can be a difficult task. Finding time to shop and prepare healthy meals can be stressful for some. The food we send with our kids can provide up to 1/3 of their daily intakes of the necessary nutrients. It is important to pack a balanced lunch to make sure they are getting the appropriate nutrition they need to grow up healthy.
Try thinking of each lunch item in terms of the five food groups and making sure they are all present in your child’s lunch.
Dairy – These foods are an excellent source of calcium, which are important for building strong, healthy bones. There are not too many other foods within our diet that contain as much calcium as dairy products.
Fruit – Fruit provides us with vitamins and minerals, fiber and other nutrients that are found in plants that help us to stay healthy.
Vegetables, legumes and beans – Vegetables should be a large part of our daily intakes and should be included in every meal. That includes snacks. They provide vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients that are present in plants to help us stay healthy.
Grains – Should always choose whole grains or high fiber varieties of breads, cereals, rice, pasta, etc. Refined grain products such as biscuits, cakes, cookies can be high in added sugar, sodium, and fat.
Lean meats/poultry, fish, eggs nuts, seeds, and tofu – These foods provide us with protein that is needed to build, maintain, and repair the tissues in our body.
Packing a healthy lunch with limiting empty calories is easy by adding some of the following suggestions in to your child’s lunch:
- Water, a can of low sodium vegetable juice, or 1% milk
- Whole wheat bread, bagels, pita pockets, or tortilla chips
- Individual servings of fresh fruit or canned in water or its own juice
- Low fat yogurt, calcium fortified orange juice, or low fat cheese sticks
- Baked chips/pretzels, breadsticks, popcorn, rice cakes, or other low fat crackers
- Low fat turkey/chicken breast, ham, or roast beef, nut butters
- Graham crackers, low fat trail mix, granola bars, fig bars
- Hummus or bean dip with vegetables
- High fiber breakfast bar
Keep the “occasional” foods such as snack food bars, sweet biscuits, cookies, flavored popcorn and chips out of the lunchbox. They can offer a practical as well as convenient solution for your child’s lunch, they should not replace the core snacks or meals. They should be kept for special occasions.