Good nutrition is the key to good health for people of all ages but is especially vital for growing children. The foods eaten in childhood not only effect development but also build the habits that will shape choices later in life.
Million of children in the United States are off to a bad start. In fact, less than 10% eat enough fruits and vegetables in their daily meals. Because of this, helping your children to make nutritious choices couldn’t be more important. And a great way to do so is by packing a healthy school lunch.
If you aren’t sure where to start with nutritious lunches, don’t worry, we’re here to help! Outlined below is a guide to making healthy school lunches that your kids will love.
Let’s get started!
Make Small Changes
If your child is used to eating the same thing every day, make small changes over time rather than changing the entire meal at once. For example, the sandwich has always been a school lunch staple, but there are changes you can make to improve the nutrient-density of this lunch option.
Instead of white bread, make their sandwich with whole wheat bread, wraps, or pita pockets. If your child enjoys mayo on their sandwich, add hummus instead! And rather than lunch meat on every sandwich, try mixing it up with leftover chicken.
Speaking of leftovers, why not send your child with a lunch of leftovers from dinner the night before? A thermos or insulated lunchbox can keep their food warm or cold until lunchtime and you never know, your child might love a break from sandwiches!
Homemade soup and spaghetti make great leftover lunch options and pack a much greater punch in terms of nutrition than bread and lunch meat.
Don’t Be Afraid of Finger Foods
Kids love eating with their hands – it gives them an excuse to play with their food! Why not allow them to do so by packing finger foods that they can eat plain or dunk in hummus or salsa?
Depending on their age, children should be eating 1-2 cups of fruit and 1-3 cups of vegetables per day. And while you can
This is an excellent way to introduce more fruits and veggies into their lunchtime meal. Dunking carrot sticks into hummus or apple slices into peanut butter will feel like a fun treat. And there’s no better way to get your children to eat healthier than to make it fun.
Even just packing crackers to dunk into their vegetable soup can make a typically boring lunch enjoyable for kids.
Pack Water or Milk
The majority of children get far too many unhealthy calories from sugary drinks in their diet. To help avoid this, pack only water or milk (or both!) in their lunches.
Drinking enough water is crucial to optimal health, and your children should learn this fact! Remind them to drink water throughout the day, but especially at lunch, even if they don’t feel thirsty.
Water is the best drink your child can consume, but in moderation, milk is also a great option, provided they aren’t lactose intolerant. Milk is packed with nutrients such as vitamin D, protein, and calcium – all the ingredients for strong, healthy bones!
Let Your Children Help
Sometimes all kids want is a little bit of autonomy. Allowing them to be involved in the decision making process with things like school lunches can make a huge difference in their behavior and willingness to eat healthy foods.
Now, you’ll still have the final say, but there are ways to make your child feel that he’s making the decision without giving him total freedom. For example, each lunch should include a piece of fruit. Explain this to your child, then allow him to choose the type of fruit he wants in his lunches that week.
While you can opt for healthy school lunch deliveries, taking the hassle out of packing lunch altogether, making school lunches with your children provides a chance for quality time and teaching opportunities.
Assembling school lunches can be made into a fun part of your night routine! You can teach your children how to build a smart lunch and then let them show off their skills by packing their own.
Ideas for Nutritious School Lunches
Now that you have an idea of how to put together a healthy school lunch, let’s talk about some ideas for what to pack! You can create a list of things that you’re comfortable with your child eating, then sit down with her and allow her to pick a few each week.
Remember, each lunch should include a fruit, vegetable, and protein. Here are some ideas for nutritious and delicious school lunches:
- Hard-boiled eggs, bell pepper slices, mixed berries
- Pasta salad with chicken, baby greens salad, watermelon
- Turkey cheddar roll up, edamame, orange slices
- Crackers and cheese, broccoli florets, blueberries
It’s okay to add a treat in school lunches, as long as the bulk of the meal is made up of nutrient-dense foods. The last thing you want to do is allow your child to eat dessert only for lunch!
Build Good Habits Through Healthy School Lunch
Positive habits start in childhood, which is why packing a healthy school lunch for your children is so important. They’ll learn that healthy foods are delicious and make them feel great, setting them up for success later in life.
When children are used to nutritious meals, they won’t think twice about eating fruits and vegetables, it will be second nature!
Looking for more tips for keeping your children healthy through diet and exercise? Be sure to check out our blog!