Dietitian Shares Tips for Making Nutritious Mid-Day Meals
It is not only back-to-school season, it also back to packing lunches for many parents and students. School lunches are important for children since it gives them the energy they need to make it through the rest of the school day. A healthy, balanced lunch is the best choice for students – as well as mom and dad.
Parents should get children involved with packing their own healthy lunches. It builds responsibility and they may be more likely to eat what is in their lunchbox if they helped choose it. Packing it the night before is also a good idea since it can help alleviate stress during busy mornings.
What should you include in your children’s lunch? Here are 10 ideas:
Variety. Choose from different food types, including fruit and veggies, starch food, protein and dairy. Those choices come together for a balanced, healthy lunch and the different types of food will not bore your kids. If including raw veggies, add some light ranch dressing as a dip.
Pack water. Most kids do not drink enough. If your children can have a water bottle with them during the school day, encourage them to bring one along. A water bottle is a must if they play sports after school or choose not to drink milk with their lunch.
Change it up. Don’t get caught in the same old boring sandwich routine. Instead of using bread, try wraps, pocket bread, flat bread, flat bread crackers or sandwich thins. Choose whole wheat products whenever possible since they have more fiber and help keep you fill longer.
Add a little crunch. Add thinly sliced apples or pears to a chicken sandwich to add crunch and a bit of sweetness to your lunch.
Plan ahead. Pick apples this fall and then make a big batch of homemade applesauce to divide up into smaller portions and include in your lunches.
Try hummus. If your children like hummus, pair it with some pretzels and include in lunch. You can purchase individual hummus packs or buy a larger package and divide into smaller portions. Hummus is good source of protein.
Sweet treat. Add in a few dark chocolate Dove candies or Hershey Kisses as an unexpected treat.
Low-fat ideas. Make chicken salad using plain Greek yogurt rather than mayo to decrease fat and increase protein. Do not forget to use a cold pack when packing lunch items that need refrigeration.
Pop it up. Popcorn is a great snack as long as long as you do not add too much butter and salt.
Dairy goodness. Encourage your children to buy milk everyday to go with their lunch. Milk is a great source of protein, calcium and other vitamins that your children need.
While I mainly focused on children, all of these are great ideas for mom or dad to include in their lunches. If you bring your lunch to work, model healthy choices and show your children what you eat during the day.
Anne Menzies is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca.