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Tips for packing healthy school lunches

By Nickie Kaetzel • Aug 20, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Many students are returning to school this week. That means getting back into routine, purchasing all the school supplies and prepping for all that your child needs to ensure a productive school year. Does your child pack their lunch? Are you starting to buy the items needed to prepare lunches?

While you want to make sure that you are packing items your child will eat, the ultimate goal is to provide a nutrient-rich meal that provides energy for their brains and bodies during the afternoon. Here are some tips for packing healthy lunches to help you achieve this goal.

* Be sure to stick to the basics. A packed lunch should include a whole grain, a vegetable, a fruit, protein, calcium rich food, and maybe a snack item.

* Think of variety so your child doesn’t get bored with the same old lunch.

* Instead of packing a sandwich every day, think about using wraps. They now come in a variety of flavors and colors making the lunch more fun and exciting.

* Make your own healthier lunchables with whole grain crackers, cheese slices, and deli turkey or ham slices.

*  Add fruit or vegetable kabobs instead of the traditional apple or carrots.

*  Pack dips for fruits and vegetables such as yogurt, low fat ranch, or hummus.

* Vary the sandwiches ingredients — tuna or egg salad, deli meats, peanut butter or other nut butter (if allowed by school with concerns of allergies).

Is your child not eating lunch you packed? Here are some solutions to this.

* Make sure your child enjoys the foods that are packed. Be sure to involve them in the decision making process and ask them what they want for lunch. It’s also important to encourage that they select healthy items.

* Get your child’s feedback and make sure the bread on sandwiches isn’t getting soggy or the foods aren’t getting discolored. This certainly could discourage your child from eating what you packed if they think it looks or tastes “yucky”.

* Does your child have enough time to eat a packed lunch? If not, try making bite-sized, finger foods that are quick and easy to eat. It doesn’t have to require too much extra time, even cutting a sandwich into quarters can help.

Don’t forget food safety.

Remember to keep lunchbox and ice packs clean and germ-free. We don’t want our kids getting sick from their packed lunch. A general rule of thumb is that food should not be left out of refrigeration any longer than two hours. It’s unlikely kids have access to refrigerators at school so other methods will be needed to keep their lunch cold.

* Invest in ice packs and an insulated lunch box

* Try freezing a small bottle of water. As it melts it may encourage your child to drink more water!

* You can freeze GoGurt tubes. It should be thawed by lunch time or for a snack and help keep other items cold.

These are just a few of the ways you can introduce healthier options into your child’s lunch. For more information on healthy lunches, visit www.eatright.org and www.fsis.usda.gov. For more nutrition and healthy living tips, subscribe to the Fisher-Titus Healthy Living Blog at fishertitus.org/health.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Nickie Kaetzel is a registered dietitian nutritionist at Fisher-Titus Medical Center. For help in reaching your health and wellness goals, contact your primary care physician for a referral for outpatient nutrition counseling.

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