It’s that time of year again when the children start back to school. Amidst all the back to school nights and the supply and clothes shopping, comes the uncertainty of what to pack for children in their lunchboxes.
Eating nutritionally balanced meals is very important for children. It helps them get the nutrients their bodies need for growth and development and assists in building healthy habits for the future. Providing a balanced meal can really help children concentrate and perform better throughout the school day. However, it can be difficult to find a variety of healthy, balanced options that children will actually eat. Below are a few guidelines and ideas for packing healthy, balanced lunches for children.
Get the Balance Right:
- Include a carbohydrate source (whole grains are best)
- Include a protein source (both animal and non-animal proteins work)
- Include a fruit and/or vegetable
- Include a calcium-rich food (both dairy and non-dairy sources of calcium work)
- Include a variety of foods each week–different colors of fruits/vegetables, different types of grains, and various protein sources
Lunchbox Ideas–Mix and Match for a Healthy Balance:
- Different types of sandwiches using various wholegrain breads like pita pockets, sandwich thins, rolls, etc. (made with meats, cheese, hummus, peanut butter, etc.)
- Wraps made with meats, cheese and veggies
- Bean and cheese burrito in a whole wheat tortilla
- Pasta salads, including a protein source and lots of veggies
- Bean salads
- Hard boiled eggs
- String cheese
- Soups sent in a Thermos
- Whole grain crackers with cheese or peanut butter
- Pita bread or whole grain crackers with hummus
- Veggie sticks made with celery, carrots, cucumber, bell peppers or others
- Salads made with various veggies
- Fruit salads made with different colored fruits like strawberries, pineapple, kiwi, oranges, bananas, apples and others
- Natural unsweetened applesauce
- Cereal bars (you can make your own using oats, unsweetened muesli cereal, dried fruit and honey)
- Small desserts made with fruit and/or whole grains like oats
- Drinks like water, milk or milk alternatives (soy, almond, rice)
- It’s important to keep pack lunches safe. If the lunch is not refrigerated, after about 2 hours harmful bacteria can start to multiply. If possible, pack the lunch in an insulted lunch box with an ice pack to keep the food cool.
For more information, I found this article (click the link) that gives advice about healthy lunchboxes. It also lists a sample lunchbox menu for different age groups of children/teens.
I’d love to hear some of your ideas for healthy lunchboxes!
Rachel Cope MPH, RC, CD